Consider the state of the world right now. The world sucks, man. It sucks in ways both mundane and profound, in ways that are deserved and not. It has always sucked, but it sucks so much more now than it has in some time.
Now consider a weird, unspoken truth about Zoo: That world sucks even more. There aren’t any kids! There are murderous were-beasts waiting to erupt from the depths! There is no West Coast! Tokyo has been wiped off the freaking map. Zoo has a nearly pathological compulsion to make things get as bad as it can for its cast of characters. There hasn’t been a single season of Zoo that left the world better than it found it — in fact, every season of this show has chronicled an outright global catastrophe, where victory often entails the world being screwed in a slightly different way than it would have been otherwise.
Season three is no exception, one in which “The Barrier” closes out by pivoting from one crisis into another. The beacons have activated around the world, with 12 of 13 broadcasting their hybrid-summoning signals, and 48 minutes remain on the clock before we reach a critical mass of rampaging hybrids. The only solution? Diverting power from all of the beacons to just one in St. Louis, which Mitch does to buy time, theorizing that the IADG barrier will hold long enough for him to work out a solution while sparing the rest of the world, which would see mass devastation because of a hybrid attack. Also, without telling anyone but Jamie, Mitch has Logan take Clem away from IADG HQ because he can’t risk humanity’s last hope dying along with the wall.
Of course, this puts Mitch at odds with everyone else for making such reckless decisions without them, but the alternative was launching missile strikes at every city with a beacon and that would have been considerably worse. (Sending Clem away, however, was a bad, selfish, decision, as we will see.) And so a massive hoard of hybrids storm the wall in an unrelenting assault, with Jackson and an unconscious Sam arriving just ahead of them, and I can’t stop laughing, because the world is about to get steamrolled by mutant hyenas.
All told, “The Barrier” is actually a pretty straightforward affair. As all of the hybrids are called to the St. Louis beacon and throw themselves against the wall, the Zoo Crew comes up with a solution: Jackson — who, thanks to his weird hybrid telepathy, is the only one who can get close enough to the powerful barrier that kills anyone else who gets near a beacon — will attach a device that allows Mitch to remotely access the beacon and shut it down. Dariela and Abe will help fend off the hybrids that have started to overrun the facility and threaten to take its power supply offline, and Mitch and Jamie will stand by, waiting to take the St. Louis beacon offline the moment Jackson delivers his package.
And they do it! It’s not easy, but the Zoo Crew is able to band together and shut down the St. Louis beacon, saving the United States from a hybrid apocalypse.
Except for one tiny wrinkle, and a less tiny complication.
The first has to do with a guy named Tony. Tony is an IADG agent. You don’t really know him, since he’s only shown up this season to say stuff like, “Yes, sir” and “Come with me, miss.” Anyway, Tony has a dag that, sadly, gets mauled by a hybrid. After the assault, Tony is alone, eulogizing his canine partner, when suddenly the dag comes back to life and eats him.
WE GOT ZOMBIE PETS ON THIS SHOW, GUYS.
Less fun is that complication I told you about: Logan and Clem, on their way east from the Wall, are beset by a flock of hybrid vultures that completely lay waste to their convoy and STRAIGHT-UP CHOMP LOGAN TO DEATH.
Logan is dead! I know I complained about him a lot but jeez. That’s really mean! I didn’t want him gone like this! But … thank you.
Even meaner: Abigail Westbrook knocking Clem out and kidnapping her baby.
So now we have the Zoo Crew, giddy about saving the world, thinking humanity’s future has been safely evacuated — until Clem rolls up in a Jeep to tell them how screwed they really are. And then Abigail Westbrook calls Jackson and tells her brother the score: They can have Clem’s baby back if her hybrids can roam free, past the wall, all over the United States and the world.
For Jackson, there is no choice, so he makes one for the Zoo Crew. He takes a tablet — the same tablet that Jamie used to control Zoo Force One — and starts the plane up, sending it speeding toward the wall. His decision splits the Zoo Crew, with Mitch and Jackson once again at odds but the group failing to come up with a better solution. So Jackson says what might be Zoo’s mantra: “One problem at a time.”
And then the plane crashes through the wall, and Zoo’s third season comes to an end.
In this third — and perhaps last, since every episode that airs feels like a miracle — season, Zoo has been an outrageous exercise in network television absurdism. It has the bones of any number of shows named after acronyms, but with mad aspirations to create the most absurd version of the apocalypse imaginable. It burned through more plot than a 5-year-old hopped up on pixie sticks and fidget spinners, and ruled itself with the fearlessness of a toddler in a fighter jet.
Of course, in its last moments you could also find the mature, thoughtful — and, believe it or not, relevant — show that Zoo arguably was at its core: a show about how you survive in a world gone mad. There’s a lot of truth in rogue zoologist Dr. Jackson Oz’s answer, and it’s a truth I actually believe in pretty strongly: You take it on, one problem at a time.