The year is 1965 and we are in the same amusement park that was once brimming with life and laughter. Zozo, of course, had his own stall, where the game was won if you could bring him down by shooting a ball at him. But he took it like a champ.
Still recovering from the blows, his eyes fall on Nina, an authentic Balinese doll and the love of his life. Across at the Bali Hai stall, she danced with majestic rhythm and grace. Zozo fell instantly for her. Nina seems interested too. Later that night, Nina comes up to Zozo. Unfortunately, he is fixed on a spring and hence cannot move. But that is no bar to Nina who holds his hands and the two share a romantic dance.
In 1970, though, fate takes a dark turn for the clown. The same girl, whom we saw being mesmerized by Nina’s dancing, comes to the park’s auction with her piggy bank. And just like that, as the hammer falls down, the love of Zozo’s life is snatched away from him. All he can do is watch her go. Years go by and the park closes down, coming to its present state.
No one takes Zozo away and he spends all those years alone, in the same spot. One day, the ceiling over him falls on him and he is freed. With some fine stitching work, he is able to sew legs for himself. Since that day, he has never stopped looking for her.
The journey brought him to Rosie, whom he fixed up and made his partner. Together, they traversed miles as they looked for Nina. When nothing comes to pass, Zozo slowly loses hope. Gradually, the love and warmth in his heart are replaced by a more sinister, vile force. We even see him kill a stuffed rhinoceros for “misleading” him toward Nina.
Zozo notices his change and rues the soul he has become. He leaves Rosie behind, refusing to drag her down with him. But she finds him back at Flossie’s, where Zozo hoped to find Nina. All Zozo can remember of Nina is her face and the sound of her jingle, which he hears once Ollie walks in.
Post that, we jump to the present, where Zozo has tied up Ollie and tortures him for answers. Rosie feigns her interest in torturing Ollie on Zozo’s behalf, knowing that he will never let the bunny go, even if he doesn’t get the answers he is looking for. He is overcome by the dark shadow of her absence that will not let go of him. She bemoans the lost soul Zozo has become and tells Ollie he was different when she first met him.
She instead frees Ollie and he returns the favor by telling her the best memory of his life: the snow day. Rosie beckons Ollie to remember the signpost they saw before they turned toward the park. Ollie remembers it as Billy’s school – the black spot on the map.
Parallelly, Jim realizes Billy isn’t home and he does not know where he has gone. A car truck pulls up to the park and races behind Billy. It is on a rainy day too, indicating it might be the same night. Zozo gives Ollie the chase when he discovers Rosie has let him go.
Rosie is not too far behind and fights Zozo. She is thrown off the Swan Car Ollie is escaping on; so is the bunny. That is how he ends up in the water – the very first scene in episode 1.
The Episode Review
I am amazed at the depth of the storytelling and the nuanced brains behind this project. Whoever tried to paint it as a kid’s show was certainly out of their mind! This is remarkable, moving cinema in the purest, sincerest forms. Using the shape and form of an unexpected vessel, Shannon Tindle has tied together a wholesome narrative that does so much with so little.
In Episode 3, we see a responsible backstory for Zozo, a character most of us had fallen out with after episode 2’s twist ending. And like the rest of the show, it is heart wrenching. William Joyce’s source material is so good, Tindle’s job is to just keep things simple and believe in its strength. She masterfully extracts the most touching parts from it and adds some of her own magic.
The entire flashback from Zozo’s perspective and in Tim Blake Nelson’s grainy voiceover is some of the best cinema I have seen on Netflix. It beseeches us to ask: why can’t they do it on a more regular basis?
The many moving parts of Lost Ollie’s story are coming together in a frightening finale. We still do not know if Ollie and Billy will ever be reunited but know this much that they’re close and now lady luck has to work her magic to make it happen.