Z Nation: Zombie Road – Fury Road on Z Weed

Cassandra and Murphy.

This weeks sees Z Nation leaving the sadder aspect of transporting Murphy to the CDC, i.e. the death of  Mack (Michael Welch) behind and heading back into almost full blown homage territory. Zombie Road, written and directed by Dan Marchant (the man who wrote the best episode of season one, Die Zombie Die…Again) this is an apparent tip of the hat to Mad Max: Fury Road  on quualudes or Z Weed.

The group, sans Mack but with newest member Vasquez, move out and come across a “wagon train.” Doc names this tune in one with his rhetorical “Is this some kind of post-apocalyptic wagon train.” Roberta responds with another western reference “Well, it ain’t the 3:10 to Yuma.”

While the style of the vehicular  “train” is pure Mad Max,  along with the attacking hoards of bandits, the pacing is more like a western (which to be honest is the underlying genre of any of the Mad Max films) although more of the vintage variety versus the high octane delivery of “Fury Road.”  The episode may be titled as a sort of nod and wink to the George Miller Australian film, but it does feel more like a combination The Hallelujah  Trail/The Way West/Fury Road mash up.  (With a touch of Cheech & Chong based humor.)

Keith Allan gets to shine in this episode after his character along with Doc get high on Z Weed, grown  with dead zombie compost…Dude! When the “wagon master” tells off his new passengers along with the somewhat less than “with it” existing member of the train,  Wrecking Ball, Allan gets in some yucks with his “excuse me stewardess, will there be snacks on this flight” quip.

Before the gang bump into the zombie train, there is a splendidly comic moment where Vazquez, acting as the Alpha male, shoves Murphy forward saying “Move.”  Murphy wheels around and says, “you are not the boss of me.” Pointing to Warren, who has moved forward to intercede, Murphy says, “She is.”

Roberta tells Vasquez that she can handle this and pushing Murphy forward she tells him “Move.” After a short pause, Murphy gestures grandly toward the ground and responds, “Gladly.”  Soon after the little band spy the wagon train.

The train is on it’s way to Edmonton when the group step in to help the travelers out.  A new breed of zombie is introduced  into the Z Nation verse; Blasters. Custer says to Warren that these were killed by the atomic blast and hunt in packs.

These radioactive zombies are scarily fast, almost comically so in some instances, and seem to almost “peck” the face off their victims.This obvious reference to the “zombie face eating” incident in Florida.  While the style of attack is pretty darned freaky to watch, and the aftermath is no picnic either, the  fear factor is cut down a bit by the nod and wink to this 2012 incident. Still, these lightning fast creatures are alarming.

Even 10K has trouble bringing these supersonic zombies down.  There is one moment when a wounded Blaster looks to be rubbing it’s bottom on the ground after being shot and one more where a zombie is “running’ bum down.  Murphy learns, to his chagrin, that these new creatures cannot be controlled.

According to another character, these zombies’ brains were melted by the radiation hence there is no point of contact.  This could be why Murphy cannot control the new breed of zombie. Add to this, the “white noise” sound that Murphy hears when trying to contact the zombies, these new monsters are pretty impressive. They do seem to have a leader regardless of the melted brain theory.

At one point a single  Blaster, wearing a long, once-white, lab coat attacks and apparently controls the other zombies.   It looks suspiciously like Dr. Kurian from season one’s finale; who is seen climbing into the fridge as the start of season two’s open.

10K is getting increasingly jealous of Murphy and Cassandra while, at the same time, being concerned as to just “what’ she  has become. Although at one point it looks like 10K may have a fan that is not part zombie or under the control of Murphy. This, however, does not last as repeated Blaster zombie attacks, combined with roaming bandit attacks leaves the young lady dead.

The casualties this week are all centered on the wagon train denizens on their way to Edmonton.  Addy comes dangerously close to joining Mack and Cassandra learns that Z Weed seems to “sort her out.”  Despite the rather slow pace of the vehicles in the train, the  show moves forward quite nicely with its accompaniment of quasi Native American drum beats along with a bass tonal background.

William Sadler is the wagon master, Sam Custer, and  radiation is slowly killing the man while his character tries to get his people to safety. With a touch of Ward Bond in his attitude the leader of the train slow loses his grip on sanity and his ability to lead diminishes as well.

The new zombie threat puts everyone, including Murphy, on the menu and cranks the tension up nicely. Vasquez appears to be slowly leaning toward the less “mercenary” side of things and there appears to be a mutual attraction between the bounty hunter and Roberta Warren.

Zombie Road is a nice slow down from  the intensity of last week’s episode.  The Mad Max attack on the car, with Doc and Wrecking Ball, is low octane; with the vehicle’s moving slowly and the action being almost pedestrian, but it works nicely. The punch line for this gag is Cassandra leaping on the attackers and munching (See what we did there?) on the ambushers.

Line of the episode award goes to guest star Sadler. Explaining to Roberta and Vasquez who Wrecking Ball is (Custer’s nephew) Sam tells the two that “The cheese slid off that cracker long ago.” Priceless.

The Murphy  group, who join the larger wagon train, are the only survivors after the Blaster attacks and the repeated bandit action. In the end they decide to head toward the Z Weed factory mentioned by Wrecking Ball. Murphy, who stole the Charger escapes with Cassandra and Custer’s nephew, and they too are headed for the weed manufacturing plant.

There was no Citizen Z storyline this week and the main group had plenty to keep the viewer entertained without DJ Qualls . It will be interesting to see if Wrecking Ball makes it to the factory, Cassandra does not seem to be too impressed with their passenger. Hopefully next week Citizen Z’s adventures will be revealed.

Z Nation airs Fridays on SyFy, a great alternative to all things The Walking Dead and great entertainment. Amazingly, The Asylum have proven that Sharknado is not their only party trick. Catch this one, it is great television, getting better with each episode.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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