Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Zoo - Episode One , a "Tail " of two mysteries!



"For centuries, mankind has been the dominant species. We domesticated animals, locked them up, killed them for sport. But what if all across the globe, the animals decided no more? What if they finally decided to fight back? "
 
 
This James Patterson adaptation caught my eye immediately, my social conscience has been pricking for as long as I can remember about how we, as stewards of this planet are doing a pretty poor job.  The idea that nature might quite literally fight back is an intriguing one and one that I am sure an as accomplished storyteller as Patterson will have exploited to full dramatic effect.
 
The premise here is relatively simple: 
 
A spate of animal attacks upon humans are occurring all over the world (well Botswana and the USA anyway!). Noticeably at first it is the Lions who begin to act out of character for the feline species. The rather wonderfully named  Jackson Oz, an American zoologist whose own interest is piqued after tragic events on  the Delta where  he offers safari tours.  

When a whole tour group, along with the cousin of his own friend and colleague is attacked  by a pride of males hunting En Masses and leaving behind only one French female survivor, he is determined to investigate.  I noticed that there did not appear to be any lionesses in the group when the attack happened and so felt mildly smug that Jackson parroted my thought as he explained to the young French survivor that this many males together was unheard of! All these years of watching David Attenborough have paid off!


 
The behaviour of these wild Lions is strangely mirrored by captive lions  in Los Angeles when two male siblings escape the Zoo and go on the rampage killing several people before being shot dead. A reporter is  drawn to the story believing that biotechnology  Company Reiden Global is to blame as they have provided substandard feed to this zoo and many others that may have been contaminated by pesticides and might account for this sudden change in behavioural patterns. As soon as I saw this plotline, my mind was SCREAMING Soylent Green and Mad cow, the former a story of state censured cannibalism, and the latter the result of a cyclical feed regime but the part Reiden has in this particular  story has yet to be fully explored and how it relates to wild Lions and the domesticated cats that appear to be going missing across the city is still to be defined. The conspiracy theorist in me  questions every motivation and analyses it all with a cynical mind.
 
There were a fair few stereotypes at play , which is a shame as there is much scope here for greatness. Jackson as embittered Son of brilliant but (Maybe ) deluded expert in the field,  is  (of Course) running away from familial conflict by hiding in the wilderness and  being a bit of a loose cannon  himself; is  in fact a plot device that has been done before.  Luckily though  he is played by an actor who is  very likeable and his chemistry with the ever  delightful Nonso Anozie as guide Abraham was nicely played. 


Similarly , idealistic young female Reporter with an axe to grind against corporate bad guys  and a nose for trouble is also something we see often. I have not made up my mind if I like Jamie yet and the secret affair with her superior seems a stale way to set up a tension at the paper where she works, the corporately pressured editor  was trope enough for my liking. 
 


Thank Heavens for  Billy Burke who, as ever, inhabits pathologist Mitch Morgan entirely. He  is playing world weary scientist who puts more store in the science than relationships with a honesty that I have come to expect from the best thing to come from the Twilight franchise. His ability to underplay with subtlety is important in a show where action set pieces are bound to feature heavily. His scenes with Jamie particularly towards the end of this first episode are great and I hope to see much more of this self conscious interaction in future episodes.
 
The Photography is stunning, particularly in the Botswana scenes and the scenes with Lions  are definitely  thrilling. When the five lions advance at full charge through the long grass, you feel the adrenaline ramp up. I also was very pleased with the title sequence where the liquid content of Animals eyes reflect the cityscape or  grasslands and the score was beautiful. I often feel you can tell a lot about a show by the care taken with it's title music.


 

As a pilot episode this was good, but not outstanding, I  enjoyed it on it's merits. The end two scenes were suitably creepy enough to ensure viewers tune in for episode two at the very least. My knowledge of lions is minimal, but  in domestic cats, bringing home live prey normally means showing mummy or daddy how clever you are, so what on earth would be the parental force for five full grown Male lions? 

I will watch again, the draw of Burke and the larger than life presence of Anozie is enough for me and I am interested to see how far down the government conspiracy road this one will go before it gets too silly or veers off into the fantastical , but that I am finding pat plot devices so soon in the run is a shame and may mean my enjoyment waning if it does not take flight in its own right as we progress. I sincerely hope it does, as this could be the highlight of my weekend !
 

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