Zoo ends with an episode titled “The Great Big Hill of Hope,” but dares to suggest that “hope” will spring from an irritatingly catchy 1990s pop song. However, there are baboons, survivalist goons, a really cute old pug, and evan a few mild surprises. Spoilers follow!
We begin “Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean,” as the title card tells us, since the plane carrying every Zoo team member (except Chloe, who’s safe back in DC with government operative/deux ex machina Amelia Sage) has plunged into the drink en route from Africa. (DAMN YOU BIRDS!)
The water is blood red, since we’re seeing it from the POV of Jamie, who’s gravely injured but somehow alive after the crash. A strange man sails by and plucks her from the water; she awakens separated from everyone and everything familiar, including the leopard cub the team acquired at great peril, aka the creature that just might save the human race from being wiped out by angry-ass animals. Jamie’s pretty sure the old dude is Misery-level creepy—he doesn’t speak English and his isolated house is surrounded by a very tall fence— but when she makes a break for it, she realizes (thanks to the snarling wild animals lurking in the snowy forest beyond his property) that he was trying to protect her, not harm her.
Next, we see a battered Jackson on videotape, telling us that 47 lives were lost in the crash “along with the cure ... so we need to find an alternative. Something we’ve overlooked.” DAMN YOU BIRDS! The video zips forward a month, from September to October 2015, and a less-battered and more-chipper Jackson offers updates on the new international team he and Chloe (now with above-board credentials) are currently leading.
By December, the cork board behind him is full of notes and diagrams, and he more than slightly resembles his late father, who was also fond of recording his scattered discoveries along the way. Important crisis managers and scientists have taken over his team, Jackson reveals, and have even made a return trip to Zambia to find more leopards ... and he’s been shoved aside. The mystery viewer of these increasingly unhinged diary entries? Jackson himself, looking rather despondent.
Mitch is in a bar (of course he is), doing an interview, but he’s reluctant to say anything about Reiden Global ... and he especially doesn’t want to comment to the reporter on rumors that Reiden cut a deal with the government to share the Mother Cell (which is “now famous,” so the world is in on the secret, apparently) in hopes of developing a cure. We learn that nobody’s come up with a catchy name for the animal attacks; Mitch suggests “the Beast Rebellion,” which we soon learn is still very much in effect these several months later.
The reporter presses further, wondering if Mitch and “the other three” (so, Chloe, Abe, and Jackson, since everyone thinks Jamie is dead) signed non-disclosure agreements so they wouldn’t be held accountable for any crimes they’d committed while trying to save the world. He won’t answer that, and he also has no reply to her final question: “Is all hope, in fact, lost?”
We catch up with Abe, who’s now working as what Mitch refers to as an “urban transport thug”—a bodyguard-for-hire for anyone who needs to traverse DC’s beast-filled streets. The bodyguard HQ is like a the bunker of a survivalist who likes to party, filled with menacing yet chipper giants sporting rubber-banded beards, who describe successful missions as “Got the bride to the church on time,” listen to Queen, and have their pick of giant guns from the selection hanging on the walls. Abe’s “pacifist beliefs” (he’ll only wield a tranquilizer gun) make him a bit of oddity among this crew, but he’s a pro nonetheless.
And Chloe is now Amelia Sage’s right-hand woman, advising her that killing all the animals is hardly, uh, practical. Sage agrees, but reminds Chloe that they’ll need an alternative, and fast; 17,000 people have died worldwide, and the number is only going to get higher. There’s word from Zambia, and the word is good at first: the team has managed to capture a leopard. But then, over the radio, Chloe hears an all-too-familiar screeching sound, and the DC crew can see a hellishly massive swarm about to swarm onto their team in the field. DAMN YOU BIRDS!
Miraculously, they survive, and Disheveled-And-Maybe-Cracking-Up Jackson gleefully tells his video camera all about it.
At this point, the “science” on Zoo has given up any semblance of reality, so let’s just say that Jackson is skeptical of the government’s “airborne solution” idea to spread the cure. But fortunately, he hasn’t lost all of his marbles (yet). He’s still the kind of hero that will help out his wheelchair-bound neighbor, who lost a leg to the Beast Rebellion and is cynical enough to tell Jackson he doesn’t think said Rebellion is enough to convince humankind that they should be a lot better about sharing the planet.
Jackson says he hopes that’s not the case, and heads out into Wild Kingdom to refill the ill man’s prescription, wielding a baseball bat and an iPhone, the latter of which he uses to record more of his ramblings about how to distribute the cure. But a baseball bat ... and certainly not a cell phone ... are no match for the pissed-off animals he encounters: cats, dogs, and some baboons (!!!), escaped from the zoo and ready to rumble.
Also roaming the streets, albeit from the relative safety of an SUV: Abe, ferrying his client from Point A to B. But when the man requests an unscheduled stop, a side street yields a sighting of another one of those escaped zoo animals everyone keeps talking about. HI!
They continue on to a restaurant that’s been operating in secret, serving meat to customers who aren’t afraid to anger any animals by doing so. Abe’s client is a man with cancer who’s concerned his treatment will affect his sense of taste, so he’s determined to eat a decadent meal while he still can.
Also living decadently ... in his own bummed-out way ... is Mitch, who’s lurking in a bar bemoaning the jukebox’s lack of Soundgarden when three jerkholes swan in, giddy over the money they’re raking in thanks to the current state of global chaos. First Mitch prevents them from shooting the bartender’s aging pug (who’s miraculously not infected), then he lectures them on love. Then he picks a fight. He’s bummed out over Jamie, y’all.
If nobody can figure out how to spread the cure, we learn via a soothing A/V presentation, the government’s Plan B is to recreate all of the animals on Earth using untainted DNA. “Project Noah” (hey, we see what you did there) promises to restore the Earth’s animal populations to thriving levels in, oh, six to 10 years. This project, of course, is funded by Reiden Global, whose slogan is “Our most precious resource is you.” Aw, shucks.
Jackson, having dodged baboons and whatnots, reaches the pharmacy and has a lightbulb moment when he hears another customer grousing about the increase in mosquito bites he’s been getting since all this animal-attack business. OMG MOSQUITO CAN BE USED TO DISTRIBUTE THE CURE! He hustles to tell Chloe, but Sage breaks the news that it’s too late. The magical Zambian leopard was found to have roamed onto Reiden-controlled land. It’s contaminated, and it can’t be used to create the cure.
But just when all hope seems lost ... Abe’s client, who has heard the broken man tell tales of deliberately breaking ties with all his friends, assures him there are always “RTC: reasons to continue.” Then the singer in the restaurant breaks into “What’s Up” by Four Non-Blondes, except in Spanglish, and everyone at all the other tables starts singing along. Somehow inspired and not bleeding from the ears, Abe goes to visit Jackson.
The old friends catch up, insult cat lovers, and discuss the impending “cull,” which they both dread. And Abe shares an important lesson, learned from the dying man, the steak, and the song: “These are not the days to retreat from those you care about.” Abe believes a cure is still possible.
AND IT IS, ya see, because the old guy who rescued Jamie, who we thought was scary at first, also rescued the original cub, who’s now a full-grown leopard.
Oh, and the old guy’s radness doesn’t end there, because he also has a PHONE, which he finally produces for Jamie to use to call Mitch. (He drunkenly answers the phone “Mitch Morgan, totally awesome scientist.”)
HOORAY! Everything is totally awesome! Mitch, Jackson, and Chloe pile into Abe’s urban attack vehicle, heading to a boat that will take them to Jamie and the magic leopard. (Nobody wants to get on a plane, understandably.) Everyone is beaming and excited. We’re gettin’ the band back together!
But there’s something rather alarming in the way. Oh dear. It’s a flash mob of cranky and exotic animals, including trumpeting elephants, hissing big cats, and at least one chest-beating gorilla. They rear back and POUNCE!
And that’s it. That’s the last scene. There’s no disseminating of a cure; no ultimate takedown of Reiden; no pondering that once all humans are taken care of, the animals will go back to eating each other; no word that Mitch’s daughter is cured (after all he went through, she better be!); and weirdest of all ... no indication that Jackson and Chloe are still romantically linked. After all the build-up, even.
Was this a season-ending cliffhanger that’s an obvious set-up for some kind of dystopian season two (not yet announced, by the way)? Or perhaps more realistically ... was this the only way a show this ridiculous could possibly have ended?