Z Nation: Duel – The Long Day of Addison Carver (Review) [Update]

Addy vs The Man in Duel

[Update] IMDb lists Dan Merchant as the director and writer for this episode. Twitter begs to differ as it lists Jennifer Derwingson, aka @Jenider (Who actually resembles Anastasia Baranova a bit…hmmm.) Mike’s Film Talk would like to apologize for any confusion caused by IMDb getting their facts wrong.

Z Nation‘s penultimate episode was edge of the seat viewing. “Duel” pitted Addison Carver against The Man as they both battled for control of Lucy. Once again the show manages to show just how tough its female warriors really are and even The Man could not make Addy stop.

“Duel” was a real mixed bag with the main focus being the battle between Baranova’s Addy and Gatt’s The Man.  There were some comic moments that had nothing to do with either character. Doc seeing himself and 10K, aka Thomas, arriving in a DeLorean a’la “Back to the Future” was just priceless.

The Man proved once again that he may be the toughest errand boy around but he is not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to dealing with Lucy. The kid rapidly grows up a number of years to become a chocolate craving teen who starts her menses at the wrong time.

Zona’s errand boy still has not made the connection of stress equalling change in Murphy’s offspring.

“Duel” is a real “mano a mano” fight right to the bitter end. Addy, like a Timex, takes a kicking and keeps on ticking. Even going so far as to slam her dislocated shoulder into a tree to pop it back into place.  Going full-on Martin Riggs is impressive, as is the woman’s single minded determination to save Lucy from Zona.

Addy Carver’s longest day begins at the shipyard where the 10 year old Lucy is throwing flaming matches at pools of petrol. She is surrounded by her Z friends and The Man is nowhere to be seen. This quickly changes and the two adults do battle over the child.

Lucy runs off and the Z’s take after both combatants. Addy ends up trapped on a burning boat and The Man winds up with Lucy. This cycle is repeated, although at one time it is Addy who retains temporary custody of Murphy’s daughter.

The title of this episode has a double meaning.  It is not just the battle between The Man and Addy, but it also refers to the fight between Lucy, both ages, and her temporary “keepers.” There is less straightforward comedy in this segment.

Dan Merchant who wrote and directed this episode allows Doc to have the full on comic moment while allowing the situation of a steadily adapting Lucy take on the less obvious amusing moments.

10 year old Lucy storming out of the clothes shop when Addy’s version of events concerning her mother angers the little blue girl and later The Man trying to awkwardly explain that Lucy is not dying despite all that blue blood ends badly for him. (Another sly gag written in here, Lucy is, after all royalty therefore her blood would be blue…)

There can be little doubt that as The Man continues to stress Lucy out, she will soon leave teen-dom and enter adulthood.  This penultimate episode seems to be headed that way. With a season finale titled “Everybody Dies in the End” it sounds like very few people will be standing when the Z dust settles.

A running theme through this bloody and painful battle of wills and people is the revelation that the Z’s think.   Addy believes, mistakenly, that Lucy is making up names and giving the Z’s a backstory.

While Addy does not observe it, Lucy gets advice from a Z while trying to steal The Man’s wheels. Clearly the zombies do have thoughts and can communicate with the special girl.  Like her father, Lucy can control the Z’s.

Unlike Murphy, however, she can read their minds. Murphy can communicate a bit with the zombies but not nearly as well as his daughter can.

“Duel” follows Addy, who follows The Man and Lucy, and Doc follows them both. At the end of the episode, after Carver takes the woman’s car, She meets up with Doc.  The Man has headed east and as Doc was biking west the two were bound to meet up.

Anastasia Baranova totally kicks arse in this episode. The actress proves that she is not afraid to “ugly-up” for her art and by the end of this segment, Addy looks like 10 miles of bad road.  The Man has not pulled his punches and neither has Baranova’s character.

Despite her resolve and innate toughness however, Addy is scarred. She is not beaten despite her wounds and now that she and Doc have reunited, they may well rescue Lucy from The Man.

“Duel” was a brilliant episode. There were elements of Cool Hand Luke in the battle between The Man and Addy but the cleverest bit of the episode had to be Lucy biting the Z arm and “turning” it. The limb shows both Addy and Doc which direction to follow.

The other clever bit has The Man being “run down” by Lucy only to emerge from beneath the vehicle when she stops for Addy.

For Addy and Doc, it all boils down to Delta-X-Ray-Delta and completing the mission.  The season finale may find the band back together again for the last battle between Murphy, Zona and Warren’s team.

Z Nation airs Fridays on SyFy.  Tune in and get ready for the season three finale, which will premiere 15 December.

CAST:

Guest starring Caitlin Carmichael as 14 year old Lucy and  Beatrice Corley as 10 year old Lucy.

Z Nation: They Grow Up So Quickly – Lucy (Recap/Review)

Z Nation - Season 3

In Z Nation “They Grow Up So Quickly” Addy and Doc meet a surprisingly big Lucy and her “keepers” and 10K gets  a name change. We learn  why Lucy has gotten bigger in such a short period of time and Doc tells Murphy’s daughter a fairytale version of her birth.

At Murphytown 10K undergoes a sort of brainwashing exercise with Murphy. He has his named changed to Thomas and has to play the “life game” with Murphy controlling him.

After the game, which leaves him with numerous cuts on his fingers. Murphy wraps 10K’s hand and then gives him an vaccine injector that can return him to  normal.  10K cannot use it, most likely because Murphy is controlling him, and “Thomas” then gets a special assignment.

In terms of controlling, the bigger than normal Lucy, controls Z’s easily.  At the farmhouse where Murphy left baby Lucy, she has a yard full of Z’s to play with. She can also control her “parents” aka Ma and Pa Kettle. Murphy turned the couple in season two.

The Kettle’s want to kill Doc and Addy after Doc gets the password wrong, it was not Smurf. Although to give Doc credit that was a good guess. Lucy, who has been controlling the questioning, wants to play with her new friends so their lives are spared.

It is discovered that whenever Lucy gets excited she suddenly grows older. Later, when playing “hide and seek” with Doc being “it” she is attacked by an Ender. Addy leaps to Lucy’s defense and beats back the savage woman.

This is the first time Lucy has seen an Ender.

Before the attack, Doc, who Lucy made “it” for her game, is attacked by a Raggedy Ann Z and is almost bitten. He manages to kill the Z with a rock and Lucy is upset. She has never seen a dead Z. She runs off and is then almost attacked by the Ender.

After the game, Lucy wants to learn all about how her mother and father met. Doc spins a yarn that starts with the blueberry pie that Lucy’s mother brought to Murphy.

In short order and with a lot of glistening over of the facts, Doc regales Lucy with a love story of epic proportions.  Lucy also asks how mommy’s and Daddy’s make babies. Doc’s answer is that it is just like baking a pie, a blueberry pie.

Lucy then believes that is why she is blue.

The tale ends, after Doc turns up in a court jester’s outfit, with the events of Zombaby! except in Doc’s version Selena goes off to rest in a “faraway land” instead of what really happened.

As Doc and Addy load up the car with Lucy in the backseat, they realize that the Kettle’s are not ready. Doc goes to find the couple. They have been  stabbed and tied to some chairs. After Doc releases them, the angry pair chase him back to the car.

Doc finds Addy laying on the ground with a head wound and The Man in the car with Lucy. The Man drives off with Murphy’s daughter in the backseat.

The Kettles arrive just as Doc is assessing Addy’s condition.  Doc manages to dispatch Pa Kettle with one of the most creative deaths on Z Nation. He shoves a lit road flare into the blend’s head.

Ma Kettle then leaps on Doc and Addy gets creative kill number two when she takes out the enraged Ma with a garden gnome.  Meanwhile The Man is learning that Lucy is a handful.

Doing her best impression of the Looney Tunes mouse Sniffles (he could talk nonstop) Lucy talks nonstop and The Man shoots her with a taser. Lucy loves it and demands to have it done again.

She wants to see Addy and The Man tells her she is dead. Lucy starts screaming and they echo in Murphy who wakes up screaming as well.  When The Man puts a bag over Lucy’s head, Murphy begins gasping for breath.

After the bag is removed, Lucy has suddenly aged another five years and she tells The Man that when her father finds out what has happened The Man will be in trouble.

A very angry Addy is following Lucy and The Man and Thomas, aka 10K leaves on his mission for Murphy.

This episode brought back some of the more fanciful and comic moments of Z Nation. There was a lot more of the quirky humor that the show became known for in the first two seasons.

Some of the funnier moments were very brief. For example, Addy not understanding Pig Latin and Lucy’s reaction to being tased. (That was such a “Dinosaurs” moment, as in the Baby Dinosaur “Not the momma” Again…)

There was no sign of Roberta and her downsized crew. Citizen Z and Kaya were also silent although Doc is going to attempt contact so presumably in the next episode, Simon will make an appearance.

As amusing as this episode was, it was heartbreaking to see 10K turn into Thomas. On the flip side, The Man may have met have met his match in , not so, little Lucy.

Z Nation airs Fridays on SyFy and is a brilliant alternative to TWD. Tune in and trip out with this post apocalyptic party.

CAST:

Guest starring  D.C. Douglas as Pa Kettle,  Kim Little as Ma Kettle, Sara Coates as Serena,  Madelyn Grace as five year old Lucy and Bea Corley as 10 year old Lucy.

Z Nation: Corporate Retreat – Simply Sublime (Review)

Z Nation opens with what could be a homage to the Supremacy MMA trailer from a few years back, or a sly nod to Tony Scott’s violence filled moment between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper in True Romance, but regardless of which, Corporate Retreat;

Z Nation - Season 2Z Nation opens with what could be a homage to the Supremacy MMA trailer from a few years back, or a sly nod to Tony Scott’s violence filled moment between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper in True Romance, but regardless of which, Corporate Retreat; episode 211 starts off with a dream like nightmarish quality that would have made NBC’s creative team on  Hannibal proud.

In fact, the entire episode could be a sort of twisted take on the Hannibal Lector character with Anthony Michael Hall as the corporate retreat facilitator – Gideon Gould –  who has similar traits to Lector. In other words, he can psychoanalyze people with a scary ease, which he does to the Murphy group when they join the white collar crowd trapped in a hotel.

Although there are more themes going on here than a nod to the verse of Hannibal Lector. There is a sort of Lord of the Rings feel, with the “talking stick” the ostracizing of one of the corporate group which runs parallel to the whole “I’m okay, you’re okay, lets have a meeting and facilitate some change” philosophy. There could even be a touch of Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17; with the zombies as Nazis….

Of course the real punchline is that Hall’s character is so strong willed that he keeps the group captive and nothing really changes because the facilitator system does not allow for change. (The biggest change being that members of the retreat kept voting to leave the hotel and losing.)

The storyline has Murphy being shot and the bullet traveling through his body and “creating” a male version of Cassandra, Addy’s Sapphic side is explored once again as corporate retreat member Dana (Jana Lee Hamblin) puts the moves on Anastasia Baranova‘s character and the bat wielding heroine responds.

Murphy goes into a “comatose” state where his dreams influence the zombie horde surrounding the retreat and by the end of the episode the group leave the hotel and release the trapped members who were under Gideon’s control.

It is interesting to re-watch the violence, and zombie, filled slow motion sequence at the start of the episode. All the group are mixing it up with a large amount of zombies in a forest that appears to be on fire. (With the exception of Murphy.)  Each character has a moment that clarifies who they are in a nutshell.

Addy, after killing a Z, shouts for Warren (her Sapphic side coming to the fore) and Warren, after killing a Z with her machete, is saved by Vasquez. The latter scene speaks volumes about the chemistry between the mercenary and Roberta.

As Vasquez levels his pistol at Warren, her eyes register dismay.  After he fires and kills the Z behind her, Roberta’s expression changes, becomes warm and (as shown in the previous episode) she is clearly becoming attracted to Vasquez.

Doc is surrounded by Z’s and 10K (Nat Zangleaps onto a mound of rocks and starts sniping the creatures down until one is left. The zombie is heading for Doc as the bullet goes through its brain and ricochets off of a medallion on Doc’s chest.

The new trajectory of the bullet  kills another zombie and Doc excitedly holds up four fingers to indicate the amount of kills for his young friend. The ties between these two have strengthened even further as this interaction shows.

After the slo-mo introductory scene, the episode continues the group dynamic theme as Hall’s character, corporate retreat facilitator Gould,  does a spot on analysis of the “Save Murphy” gang.

Doc (Russell Hodgkinson) has some splendid moments with his “mad scientist” type tests; using Murphy’s blood to treat the new “Cassandra.” There are also great moments with the white collar crowd back-biting one another and the general “office” worker discord between the survivors and their “guru” Gideon.

Hall is great as the facilitator who took charge of the corporate retreat group and ultimately became a sort of benevolent dictator.  There are four episodes left in this SyFy series but the good news is that Z Nation will be back next year.

Until the end of season two, viewers need to watch, and re-watch the episodes on offer and enjoy the simply sublime offerings of show creators Craig Engler and Karl Shaefer.  This episode’s opening sequence, courtesy of director Jodi Binstock and writer Micho Rutare, shows why this series just keeps getting better and better.

Forget The Walking Dead, at least till Sunday, and enjoy Z Nation, a great alternative to increasingly faux gravitas…Tune in and see which members of the Murphy gang make it into season three.

Z Nation: RoZwell Doug Jones and Missi Pyle Treat (Review)

Z Nation - Season 2

Z Nation: RoZwell can be seen as a homage to not only Galaxy Quest, where Missi Pyle appeared as Thermian alien Laliari,  but also to The X-Files.  With Doug Jones’ character, Dan Scully, another reference on top of Roberta Warren (Kellita Smith) mentioning the show when they find the sliced and diced zombie,  obviously named after Dana Scully from the FOX  television series and the films, the homage is clear.

Heading back to Galaxy Quest, a character tells Vasquez (Matt Cedeño) that a man from Riverside, Iowa arrived at the “exodus”  thinking he was a starship captain. In the 1999 comedy science fiction film, Tim Allen plays Jason Nesmith, who, in the movie,  plays Cmdr. Peter Quincey Taggart; captain of a spaceship, a’la Captain Kirk of Star Trek.

The plot of “GQ” is that actor Nesmith goes with his TV crew into outer space and becomes a real starship captain versus just acting like one, in one scene where the Thermians, that Nesmith calls “termites or dalmatians” feed Allen’s character a steak, and he says it tastes like “corn-fed Iowa beef” the implication being that Nesmith, the actor,  is from that state.

This episode of Z Nation, even with its obvious references to the Chris Carter cult favorite, does lean more toward a Galaxy Quest/Star Trek homage. While Doug Jones may not have been in any episodes of Star Trek, or any of the films, the actor had played aliens numerous times, the most recent being Cochise in TNT’s Falling Skies.

The FX in Rozwell are clunky and sporadic with the  use of CG, something  most likely done on purpose, to copy the old and cheap special effects back on the 1960s Star Trek and the film that pays a brilliant homage to the Trek verse and its fans, Galaxy Quest.  At the start of the episode, Bernadette, played by Missi Pyle , is running from a zombie.

This action plays against the New Mexico desert on a dark road at night. Set  to the Jason Gallagher song Powerless, which is presumably on the eight-track tape, labeled “SuperMix,”  that Murphy’s group are listening to. Pyle’s character is saved by a bright light the cuts the chasing zombie into serval pieces. The shot of the “Z” being chopped up shows it now has two heads, which it did not before the bright light starts slicing and after, when the sectioned zombie is given mercy by 10K, the second head is gone.

Later in the show, when Bernadette takes the group down into the bowels of the secret Air Force base, a corrugated metal shield slams down over a window as the room turns into a giant elevator. As the room heads down, the metal shield vanishes and reappears several times.

Z Nation - Season 2

Of course, this is Z Nation and at least one other homage, or nod and wink is given to another “alien film franchise” PredatorThe helmet worn by Scully in the show does not look like the ones worn by the predators in the films, but is released (opened) in a similar fashion. A hissing of air and the front is pulled off, like a mask, revealing the occupants visage after removal.

All that is missing is someone telling Jones’ character that he is an  “ugly mother****er.” Still, the faceplate does resemble a predator helmet.  Missi Pyle, as Bernadette is spacey and off kilter. All smiles and softly focussed gazes while she speaks about the aliens who talk to her through the light. (Is this yet another homage moment? ABC’s The Whispers featured an alien who spoke to kids through the light…)

As Roberta and her crew head towards RoZwell and provisions in their VW Thing and it’s swinging ’70s eight-track tape, the group come across the mutilated zombie and 10K gives it mercy.  Apart from the retro sounding music on the tape, the episode’s score is a combination of oriental and metal drum rhythms.

In the scene where Warren (Kellita Smith) calls out “Never mind aliens. Puppies and kittens, people.” This is a clear reference to season one’s pilot episode and this seems to signal a return to a more business like Roberta.  There is not so much compassion for Murphy as in last week’s episode and she kills the two zombies her end before Vasquez can bring his gun up.

10K takes care of the two approaching him and the entire set piece takes place against the musical clash of metallic drums.  Later, as the group follow Bernadette down to the secret underground facility, and when they leave, the music feels like a tinny version of Inception‘s foreboding score towards the end of that film.

Homages aside, there are great moments, that may or may not be nods and winks to other science fiction films/shows.  Addy (Anastasia Baranova) standing in front of a holographic computer screen, a’la Iron Man, aka Tony Stark, playing with the folders and moving them is a stand out moment. As is the jokey exchange between Addy and Warren:

Addy: “It’s a Unix system. I know this.”

Warren: “Really?”

Addy: “No. I went to art school.”

Warren: “Okay, well can you use it to contact Citizen Z?”

A nice gag and the first time the series has mentioned Citizen Z in ages.  Over and above the Citizen Z reference, Murphy (Keith Allan) has a great little bit where he asks about how odd it is that aliens “mostly speak in English…mostly.” As usual with Murphy, it is all in the phrasing and pronunciation.

Memorable moments:

Roberta Warren taking the “Men in Black” type weapon (Yet another homage?) and blasting the UFO out of the night sky. 

Doug Jones dying as the “not alien” pilot of the spaceship who wants to take Bernadette back to ZONA. 

Honorable mentions:

Dan Scully telling Murphy and the gang that Pluto is not a planet at all but a hollowed out spaceship.

Doc (Russell Hodgkinson)  warning Murphy to be careful: “Murphy, don’t do it! Don’t go! They’re gonna probe you for sure! And not in a good way!”

The second season of Z Nation continues to “up its game,” RoZwell carries on with the show’s creators’ homages. Karl Schaefer and Craig Engler also keep up the tongue-in-cheek delivery that makes this series so much fun to watch.  Murphy’s assertion that there are no aliens throughout is great stuff, especially with his grudging acceptance of zombies.

 

Z Nation - Season 2
Addy with a “Are we there yet look”.

Z Nation has been given the green light for a third season, proof that the show is gaining in popularity and understanding. This alternative version of the zombie apocalypse is addictive viewing as well as great  fun and should not be missed. The Asylum have out done themselves with this one. Tune in and catch The Murphy and his gang…

 

Z Nation: The Collector – George R.R. Martin, Homages and Humor (Review)

Z Nation - Season 2

Z Nation this week in The Collector is a brilliant mixture of homages and humor, in other words like many other episodes of the second season although this one has George R.R. Martin. This one, however, stands above the rest in terms of total weirdness and Anastasia Baranova gets the two best lines in the whole episode.

At the start of The Collector, Murphy is in the back of the car the group commandeered in the last episode. With an inexplicable cowboy hat on his head, Murphy is laying down and Doc attempts to get Murphy to help  forage for food. Murphy can see his friend’s brain pulsating through his skull. As he starts to rise, Murphy wakes up…

The two go into the forest to find food and Roberta Warren honks the horn for them to return. After Doc warns Murphy not to eat the bark of the skinny trees, (“How does Ewell Gibbons do it?”) he heads to the car but Murphy is drawn to a brain suspended over the forest floor. Reaching for the dangling organ, he falls into a trap.

With his previous record of escape attempts the group believe that Murphy has taken off again, not realizing that he has been captured by The Collector (Tom Beyer). As they begin their search, Addy grumbles about the situation:

“I’m gonna be really pissed if my last words are ‘Murphy where are you?'”

Murphy, in the meantime, is being examined by The Collector and is doomed to become one of his “interactive” exhibits. The madman is setting up a Z museum, which already has one “celebrity zombie” in George R.R Martin, complete with two zombie assistants. Zombie George has a pen strapped to his hand so he can still sign book copies.

*Sidenote: This episode has a number of references to other films and one other television show (Z Nation has referenced this AMC TV show before) The Walking Dead. When explaining to Murphy how he was “there” when things went down at a Comic Con and the “Game of Thrones” author was turned into a zombie, The Collector says “some dirty guy with a crossbow tried to help George escape…got eaten.” Clearly a nod to Daryl Dixon, aka Norman Reedus from TWD.*

The Collector’s exhibits include the zombie animals, a Phyto zombie and a blaster zombie. Perhaps the best  bit of the episode are the homage moments. Beyer’s character refers to Murphy as “bright eyes” a clear nod to Planet of the Apes after catching Murphy with a animal control wire, just as they do in the original film. Later, when The Collector is forcing Murphy to bite 10K, he shocks him and Murphy says, “I’m working here.” Another reference to the Midnight Cowboy, “I’m walkin’ here…”

As the group go house to house searching for the missing Murphy, Addy and Doc have a brilliantly comic exchange. Going up to the next  house the pair pause in front of the door. Doc says:

“On three…One, Tw…”

(Addy kicks open the door and a zombie rushes out attacking Doc)

Doc: (under the zombie that Addy has mercy-d with her bat) “I said on three!”

Addy: (Exasperated) If we do a three count at every house we’re gonna be here all day.”

Z Nation - Season 2
Z Nation’s answer to Talking Dead…

This is a busy episode, Dan Merchant has thrown a lot of business in this one. The “talkshow” where The Collector questions Murphy is another wink to The Walking Dead referencing the AMC’s “after” show talking heads series, “The Talking Dead” (Z Nation’s version is called “Dead Live”). Beyer’s character wears what appear to be a “kendo outfit” that looks not to dissimilar to the outfit worn by Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai. 

Stepping away from all the homages evident in this episode there is also a splendid sense of irony at play. Murphy and 10K have had a huge falling out since the young man killed Cassandra. As the group finish their door to door search for Murphy they end up in town and it is 10K who stumbles across Murphy and his comic con obsessed captor.

Apart from the heavy irony in the episode, it appears that Roberta Warren (Kellita Smith) is getting attached to, or at least a lot more compassionate toward,   Murphy when she promises him that she will not leave him alone when they get to California.

Observations:

In the last two episodes, Warren has been in the periphery of scenes with little to do. Is this a forewarning that the leader may become zombie fodder in the near future? Addy, on the other hand,  has been pretty prevalent, in this episode she is the most vocal and active. It is Addy who  finds the “breadcrumbs” left by 10K.  Roberta’s compassion toward Murphy may be a sign of bad things to come.

With the inclusion of Vasquez, Warren has had to assert her authority a number of times. The group as a whole have become quite close, although no one is as close as Doc and 10K.  Murphy is slowly becoming, it seems, more zombie as the show moves on.  His preoccupation with brains and his enthusiastic, if forced, repast of the organ is not a good sign.

Z Nation is a series that vacillates between the absurd to the sublime, sometimes in the same episode and The Collector is one such case.  From the comic con collector’s film posters (that gave a chronological time scale of the zombie film) to his clear focus on the monetary aspect of “after the apocalypse” The Collector was obviously a steady patron of the comic con world.

Z Nation - Season 2
Murphy attacks “Last Samurai” aka The Collector

Priceless moments like the muscle memory of Martin who will, apparently go through the motions of signing books throughout eternity and Murphy’s clothes, laid out after his hot shower, that looked like a sort of  “Final Fantasy” cosplay  outfit made this a brilliant and entertaining episode.

There was also the whole “press a button make Murphy scream” schtick that just never got old…

The series airs Fridays on SyFy and just improves with each new episode. Z Nation has also just won the coolest series ever award by having George R.R. Martin guest star as his own zombie.  Tune in and see what happens to the Murphy gang next…And keep an eye on that knife of Warren’s. Is it getting bigger with each episode? Answers down below, or on a postcard…