Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched the series premiere of CBS’s new summer thriller Zoo and intend to, stop reading now. Here are just some of the thoughts I had while watching the first episode, which found Botswana-based American zoologist Jackson Oz (James Wolk) discovering that his late father’s controversial theory that animals would one day turn on humans wasn’t so crazy after all.
1. Jackson’s dog is named Murdock, presumably after The A-Team’s Howling Mad Murdock. He senses something’s off. He better not die.
2. How convenient that the young boy in the tent decides to watch a video of Jackson’s dad rambling about a “defiant pupil” today, so we can have some exposition.
3. Jackson, we learn, is hungover, which is the quickest way to establish that he leads a carefree life. That, and the stubble (which actually looks perfectly groomed).
4. Jackson’s buddy, Abraham Kenyatta (Game of Thrones’s Nonso Anozie), tells us the radio “at Simon’s camp” must be on the blink because he hasn’t been able to reach him for two days. (Clearly everyone there is dead.)
5. Jackson and Abraham scare off some hunter who has a $200,000 license to kill a black rhino by playing James Brown’s “Sex Machine.” This hunter should obviously be killed by a rhino at some point during the series. Also, you don’t mess with Abraham.
6. The action switches to Los Angeles, where two drunk dudes pause to piss in an alley. I’m immediately OK with them dying. One notices the two lions above him, growling. And the other guy says nothing? How loud does he piss?
7. The opening credits are The Walking Dead meets Sleepy Hollow. I fear they’re taking this more seriously than I want them to.
8. Those two lions had killed the trainer who’d known them since they were cubs and escaped from a zoo. Some journalist, Jamie Campbell (Kristen Connolly), wants to blame their aggression on a change in food.
9. Ooh, Reid Scott from Veep is playing one of her superiors. She’s probably sleeping with him. He didn’t hurl an insult. Disappointing.
10. The editor that’s not Reid Scott busts Jamie for writing a blog under the pen name The Girl With the Genie Tattoo (eye roll) because she’s the only person who uses the word [Googles spelling] “pettifoggery.“
11. This Game of Thrones dude is good at exposition: Yes, we get it, Jackson likes animals because they’re predictable, and they don’t kill themselves LIKE HIS DAD.
12. The radio is working at Simon’s camp, as expected. Everyone’s missing. What a waste of pancakes. This dining center looks way nicer than the guests’ rooms do from the outside. Should I go glamping?
13. This camera they find has a battery that still works when it’s been left on for DAYS? It shows there was some kind of animal attack. How does the prop master make lion dung? Or since they had real lions, did they go method?
14. We see the genie tattoo, in case there was any doubt in your mind that Jamie is a sleuth who doesn’t care about corporate synergy. Reid Scott was dating her and didn’t defend her. They’re breaking up. So I guess I don’t need to bother to learn his character’s name.
15. Ugh, Jamie starts asking some zoo executive questions before she even takes out her notepad, and when she does have it out, she writes down, like, two words. Granted, she just lost her job, but even those of us who blog need to quote accurately, dear.
16. Cats are being abducted in the neighborhood. Who names their cat Cupcake?
17. So what if many lions walked into the camp single-file? They all landed all four of their paws in exactly the same spots?
18. OK, this is genuinely scary when Jackson is in the tall grass while Abraham goes to check out the tour bus. Why couldn’t this blond chick, Chloe Tousignant (Nora Arnezeder), speak to Jackson before she pounced on him? Jackson just leaves Abraham, who sounded like he got off some rounds. That’s a cool shot, seeing just the lines made when the lions run in the tall grass. Are they gonna be smarter and stronger, Deep Blue Sea-style?
19. Of course the girl has to trip and fall.
20. She explains the attack to Jackson but not how she managed to live while everyone else in her 15-person party died. Weird. She must be his love interest.
21. Jamie just walks right into some exhibit to talk to a veterinary pathologist, Mitch Morgan, played by the fabulous Billy Burke. He’s the type of actor who can have a wink in his eye and still give a scene weight. That’s some nice casting. Again, she barely uses her notebook. I expected Burke’s character to be more eccentric. He prefers animals to humans. Who doesn’t at this point?
22. They’re talking about D-grade beef raised near pesticides being fed to the lions or something. Blah, blah, blah.
23. This is interesting, and, I assume researched: There have been only nine cases of unprovoked lion attacks on humans in zoos in 141 years. More people die from choking on hot dogs. But what constitutes a provoked lion attack in a zoo?
24. It’s time for Chloe’s backstory: She’s on her honeymoon, alone. Five weeks before the wedding, she learned her groom was having an affair. So she’s going to have trust issues, and Simon has Peter Pan Syndrome. Love by episode 10?
25. The car breaks down! It’s six miles to the radio at Simon’s camp. Chloe doesn’t want to leave the car; Jackson, who knows they must, admits he can’t think of anything he’d like to do less: "Free will is what separates us from the animals. Free will and this truck,” Chloe says, as no one ever really would.
26. "I know one thing about lions…” You’re a zoologist giving tours, Jackson, you should know more than one. But it doesn’t matter, because apparently he’s lying when he tries to assure her that the lions won’t do a long trek in search of dinner after feeding. That sounded reasonable to me, but Chloe’s bulls–t-o-meter is better than mine because she’s a woman scorned. She can read Jackson. They have a connection. They’re going to walk for it because Jackson does know it’s strange to have five male lions hanging out together.
27. Jamie gave Mitch her card. I’m already shipping them.
28. Jackson is chivalrous. He tells Chloe to get behind him when they come face-to-face with a lion before stumbling down a large hill. That looked awfully rocky for them to survive, but then again, have you seen barnacle goslings free-fall 400 feet off a ledge before they can fly? Nature can be horrifying and breathtaking at the same time.
29. Oh, defiant pupil, as in eye not student!
30. Reid Scott got Jamie’s job back for her — if she’s willing to shut down her blog that gets 24,000 readers.
31. Mitch texted Jamie that he found the cats. The intrigue.
32. Jackson gets arrested for obstructing lawful hunting, just as Chloe was beginning to bat her eyes. Will she always be in that dusty white button down? You’re at the lodge, Chloe. Change.
33. The kid is watching Jackson’s dad’s video again. So as humans ruin the earth, will animals sit back and let it happen or will they rise up? Interesting…
34. THE CATS ARE ALL IN A TREE. OUTSIDE A SCHOOL. AND DAY CAMP STARTS TOMORROW. Do they want to take the children out for fussing to pet them all these years or protect them? Or, do they know that the school is a great place to hunker down (you’ve got food and water, doors that lock, bathrooms), so it’s an ideal place to be when other animals rise up?
35. WHY ARE THE LIONS KEEPING ABRAHAM ALIVE IN A TREE?! Do they know he’s one of the good guys trying to preserve their habitat and they want to keep him safe from other predators while he heals? (They had to rough him up because he was shooting at them, you see.) Or, are they simply full and rationing their food?
Judging from this photo from the next episode, Abraham does escape relatively unscathed. Literally, just a scratch?
What did you think of the Zoo premiere? Will you return for more? I, for one, want to see how Abraham gets out of the tree, how Jackson’s stubble stays groomed, and what those cats are up to.
Zoo airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CBS.