Well that was the end. Our Zoo is officially over and, along with all of you; I must now find another TV series to get attached to. That’s how it works. TV gives us something entertaining, fun and at times gripping, but in a few short weeks it’s gone and, depending on the series, may not return for another year if at all.
But that’s the price we pay as TV lovers. I highly doubt that Our Zoo will come back for a second series, although I could see some ways in which they could bring it back, as a single series it gave us a good origin story to Chester Zoo that fitted together brilliantly.
It’s not to say that the ending wasn’t as obvious as it was when the series began. I hesitate to say spoiler warning, but it’s not much of a spoiler really. Chester Zoo opens. We know this as the series was advertised as “The Story of Chester Zoo”. It’d be quite weird to have said that and then gone and finished the series with the zoo never opening. It’d also make Chester Zoo’s website quite suspicious for a non-existent zoo. But I digress and I shall now get on with the obligatory overview.
The day of the appeal is quickly advancing and, after his aviary is sabotaged, George hot-headedly refuses the legal assistance of Neville Kelly (Jason Done), resolving to go it alone and represent himself at the hearing, much to Liz’s chagrin. While trying to studying up on law, and using Albert’s pension money to do it, Reverend Webb is recruiting Upton residents to speak against George and his family, making the Mottershead’s hope seem all but lost, with only Lady Katherine Longmore resolutely standing beside the family.
But with the case looking bleak with barely any support, Liz goes behind George’s back to hire Mr Kelly and, when the day of the hearing comes, tells George that his easily angered temperament is not something they can trust in the hearing. With the odds against them, they must face down Ronald Tipping (Jason Watkins) of Chester Council, Camilla Radler, Reverend Webb and the majority of Upton in order to get approval.
Well after the third paragraph you might be wondering: what was the point of the obligatory overview? You know the outcome so what was the point of knowing the build up? The point is it doesn’t matter.
I knew the ending by episode one, as I’m sure many of you did who probably haven’t been to Chester Zoo or may not have even knew of its existence before the series started, but you all knew the ending. The ending isn’t the point, it’s the drama and the fact it can keep you invested in the story is what matters. It’s the content not the final flourish, although that’s nice too.
I must admit, while George has been a bit of an anger management problem over the series, not made any better due to the paranoia he feels, seeing everyone in Upton as against him, his easily provoked nature has certainly come to the fore this episode. During the first twenty minutes it was hard to remain on his side as he foolhardily tried to do everything himself, against all counsel both legal and familial.
But in the end George returns to his more likeable state by the episodes conclusion and handles himself well during the hearing. Lee Ingleby handles the role very well, both alienating you by his gung-ho attitude to the appeal hearing and his measured, and even conciliatory stance when he calms down, while all the while maintaining the spark of wanting to do something extraordinary.
I have to give a lot of praise to Liz White and her portrayal of Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Mottershead as once again she became the powerful matriarch that we all knew she could be. She does not what is best for George’s ego, but for the family and the zoo, in getting Mr Kelly to represent the Mottershead’s, and in great style no less. I must admit her negotiation scene put a smirk on my face, as well as her clear indignation at being belittled by Mr Tipping despite showing her business knowledge which was even defended by their banker Mr Fenchwood (Jonathon Cullen).
One brilliant although admittedly small part in this series was that of Sophia Myles as Lady Katherine. Her performance in the hearing was exemplary and the way she made Mr Tipping squirm was truly magnificent. It might only be me but seeing that odious man (brilliantly portrayed by Watkins by the way) was a bit of a highlight for me.
While Myles has appeared in atrocious films like Transformers: Age of Extinction, her performance was reminiscent of a Doctor Who episode I actually like as Madame de Pompadour in “The Girl in the Fireplace”. For this episode, she commanded attention in what was probably her best performance of the series. While Myles was been more of a using prodding stick for the Mottershead’s adventure, her appearance at the hearing left us in no doubt that she doesn’t need other people to be able to throw a knockout blow.
Now I have to admit something here that I thought I wouldn’t be saying at all. I felt sorry for Camilla Radler. There, I said it. I didn’t think it was possible but the way she was torn off a strip during the appeal made for a viewing with mixed emotions.
While the spiteful, lying woman deserved to be taken down a peg, the way it was done, and so publically, made my feelings of resentment towards her crawl into a ball and slightly wither inside me. Kudos to Hayley Carmichael, as well as Jason Done, for bringing out the true nature of Camilla Radler and making me regret some of my hate.
Stephen Campbell Moore also gave quite a nuanced performance as the equally hateful Reverend. The bile directed at George was almost tangible, as well as his disdainful attitude towards most of the Mottersheads, yet the love he clearly possesses for Liz was also clear as glass. He is not a simple character, opposing George more than the zoo but also getting emotionally attached to Liz in the process. He keeps trying to be the voice of reason despite the fact that his inner demon of hatred and jealousy has strangled that voice and now uses its face to fool his brain into thinking he has a voice of reason guiding his action.
Finally I’ll come to Billy and Frankie. Sorry other characters and actors, you were all good but not overtly important enough to get a huge mention in this review. But don’t worry, you all still acted very well!
Again, while they had small parts in this series, Ralf Little and Faye Brookes had brilliant onscreen chemistry as well as significant parts to play in the hearing. In their own ways they are just as important to the overall story as the Mottershead’s are and they play their parts well. If there is a second series, I guess on how the zoo progresses in its early years, I would like to see more of them as they’ve become such a watchable couple.
The episode was full of tension, biting comments from both sides and, when the need arose, cuteness and light comedy. It was a brilliant way to finish off the series and I hope more people, as I expect they will, will visit Chester Zoo as a result of this charming, cosy sort of drama.
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