Z Nation: Season Two Finale – Last Murphy Standing (Review)

The season two finale of Z Nation felt like a lot of things and, like other episodes in this season was a brilliant mix of genres and themes. At the end, rather than the last man standing, it is Murphy who stands alone, not deserted, but on his own with some newly created Cassandra-type minions.

Z Nation - Season 2

The season two finale of Z Nation felt like a lot of things and, like other episodes in this season was a brilliant mix of genres and themes. At the end, rather than the last man standing, it is Murphy who stands alone, not deserted, but on his own with some newly created Cassandra-type minions.

Warren, Addy, Doc and new “hanger-on” Escorpion (Emilio Rivera) stand at the beach and look on as “The Murphy” heads to shore from the sinking submarine with a boat full of his newest slaves.

Disturbingly, 10K is missing, although when last seen the wounded sniper looked to be getting away from the sub. Things have come full circle, La Reina (Gina Gershon) arrives with the remnants of the Zeros and demands Murphy after which a prolonged firefight takes place which has Roberta’s group against the wall.

Escorpion saves the day, by his timely return after escaping all those Zs he fell into earlier.  Death almost comes to several of our heroes, Addy  (Anastasia Baranova), Doc, Roberta (Kellita Smith) and 10K.  10K takes a large caliber bullet to the torso and when the CDC arrive, in the form of a naval sub commander, the ship’s doctor and  the female scientist that Murphy threatened to bite all the way back in the season one pilot, they take Murphy and 10k to the vessel.

DJ Qualls’ character Citizen Z leaves the NORAD facility with his canine pal and heads across the frozen wasteland. Towards the end of the finale he stands waiting, looking almost like a Z as another figure approaches him.

Z Nation - Season 2

Like other episodes, this one had plenty of humor, as well as  a number of pop culture references. The whole “Murphy” in a dress gag ended with a  shot of Doc and he standing together with Doc holding a crowbar.  This obvious reference to the “American Gothic” painting  by Grant Wood is funny. (Granted it is a crowbar and the two are standing on the wrong sides, but reference it has to be, this is Z Nation after all…)

Later on, after the dust has settled and Murphy is out in the submarine, Addy and Roberta seem to be doing a little “Zombieland” schtick when Escorpion offers them a ride in his black SUV. The two women hesitate and Addy tells Warren that they can always kill him and take his vehicle later.

One last bit of “homage” material (although I could be reading way too much into it) appears to be a nod and wink to the Japanese survival horror video game Siren Blood Curse. After Vasquez decides not to kill Escorpion, he stays behind in the diner/cafe. Taking his cherished  family photo and putting it in a bandana, he then fashions the clothe  into a headband.

After tying the band off, he comes out of the eatery and starts attacking the Zero Zs. The bandanna headband is very reminiscent of the teenage hero’s headgear  from Siren who attacks  Shibito at the end of the survival horror game in a “bonus” round.

Heading back to the finale, we find that  Murphy’s dress  disappears and he re-emerges in his “Michael Jackson” outfit from last week, sans hat.   It is obvious that the dress was just there to set up the Grant Wood reference.

Memorable moments:

The final fight between Roberta Warren and La Reina.  This was brilliantly choreographed, right up to the saving of the Lieutenant by Rivera’s character.

Addy’s fight with the masked minion, the crotch shot (with her broken bat) and Roberta’s killing of the Zero.

Murphy approaching the scientist, whom he recognizes, and her lack of recognition which prompts him to scream out what he told the doctor in the season one pilot, “I will hunt you down and eat your brains.”

Dr. Kurian being turned into the Z Nation version of Topo Gigio, although his head never does get to say, “Close the door it’s cold!”

Murphy in the submarine finding himself surrounded by more blue-eyed men than if he were at a Frank Sinatra look-a-like contest.

The boat ride with Murphy’s newest “Cassandra’s” complete with big bite marks on their faces.

Z Nation - Season 2

It is not clear whether Emilio Rivera will be joining as a member of Team Warren or not. As it stands so far, the finale does not have the ominous overtones of last season’s. Not everyone looks to be one step from death. Possible casualties include 10K, Vasquez and Citizen Z.

While not as much of a cliff-hanger as last year, there are still many things to consider. As of now, it seems that Murphy may be intent on building an army and that the next victim of the show, when it returns next year will be a toss up between “Z” and 10K.

Another constant, in the second season has been Zona, first encountered on the RoZwell episode with Missi Pyle and Doug Jones. The mysterious organization is mentioned again and again. In the finale it is revealed that Zona is funding the “Murphy cure.”

The score on this season finale was full of an almost menacing ambiance, reminiscent to the Ennio Morricone score used on John Carpenter’s The Thing. Citizen Z’s message to the group that the CDC facility had been compromised means that the west coast is no longer a viable location for making vaccine.

Director John Hyams takes the series out on a higher note than the season one finale.  Things look very doubtful for 10K, Citizen Z and Vasquez. Murphy may still be standing at the end of the episode (steering the small craft with his newly created minions) but Doc, Roberta and Addy have a new pal and look ready to rock and roll in the zombie apocalypse.

Kudos to Kellita Smith, Anastasia Baranova, Russell Hodgkinson, Nat Kang, Matt Cedeño, Keith Allan, DJ Qualls and Emilio Rivera (who may or may not return next season).  Z Nation will be missed until season three.  Until then, thank goodness for “on-demand.” 

 

Z Nation: Audios Muchachos (Review)

Last week on Z Nation, Vasquez was one injection away from becoming Murphy’s slave. In Audios Muchachos Warren steps in and saves the mercenary by suggesting that Dr. Kurian (Donald Corren) be injected with the vaccine instead. As the doctor protests, Murphy sits watching the proceedings with obvious delight while eating popcorn and drinking wine.

Screen shot

Last week on Z Nation, Vasquez was one injection away from becoming Murphy’s slave. In Audios Muchachos Warren steps in and saves the mercenary by suggesting that Dr. Kurian (Donald Corren) be injected with the vaccine instead.  As the doctor protests, Murphy sits watching the proceedings with obvious delight while  eating popcorn and drinking wine. The expression on his face says it all, to Murphy, this is better than television. 

It appears that the vaccine works, as Kurian survives not just the injection but the “test” as well; a box with some zombified creature that bites the doctor pretty enthusiastically.  Things become interesting for the gang when La Reina (Gina Gershon), after getting her injection, tells Kurian to give the cure to Warren next.

Murphy steps in and offers to give Roberta the shot himself.  La Reina agrees and Murphy gives the shot without ever breaking skin.  Kurian is then ordered to inject the rest of the Zeros and all, except for Escorpion (Emilio Rivera) who goes to beat Vasquez some more, get the vaccine.

La Reina’s right-hand man learns that the “mercenary” is the DEA agent whose family he killed.  Later though, he lies to the Zeros leader and says that all of the group, including Warren, are part of a plot to kill La Reina.

Keith Allan gets to take Murphy to new levels in this episode of Z Nation.  Gleefully controlling Kurian, “Whoops did I do that?” Later, he shows off to Roberta by controlling the doctor effortlessly.  After the “would you like a drink” scene, Murphy manipulates La Reina and orders Warren to kill Escorpion.

In between Murphy’s controlling Kurian and talking for La Reina, Roberta splits up the remaining group. Doc, Addy and 10K are to find Vasquez and Roberta is in charge of Murphy.

Standout moments:

Murphy watching Kurian at the start of the episode, grinning between mouthfuls of popcorn and clearly very entertained by the doctor’s predicament.

Murphy controlling La Reina, talking for her and clearly gesturing for her, the arm flailing when Warren forces him to back down is a classic Murphy gesture.

Escorpion and Vasquez with their big battle at the end of the episode.

Warren and Murphy continuing their bonding exercise, these two are slowly coming to respect one another. Clearly Murphy likes being ordered around by a strong woman. Roberta is coming to feel more compassion and in the process is starting to understand “The Murphy” and the two enjoy a little give and take exchange:

Roberta: “What the hell is wrong with him?”

Murphy: Jesus Warren! Give a guy a heart attack!”

Roberta: “Really? You can still have a heart attack?”

The Doc and Addy interchange:

Addy:  “My brains, 10K’s gun  and Doc’s…”

Doc: “Dumb luck? Good Karma? Funky mojo?”

Addy (Nods once): “We can get him.”

Kurian losing his head.

10K and his “El Camino” and the dusty drive into the Z Nation sunset and his leaning out of the moving vehicle to shoot a drone from the sky, all set to Scott Metzler’s Sock Full of Quarters performed by WOLF!.

Annoying bits:

Vasquez being suspended at different heights during his Escorpion beatings.  At least half the time the ropes holding his arms were too long allowing the actor a chance to dance limbo if he so chose.  This lack of attention to detail overshadowed the two men’s impressive interaction together during the interrogations scenes.

When Murphy is “talking for La Reina” as the camera shifts later in the scene so that Murphy and Warren are talking to each other, instead of via La Reina, each time the camera shows Roberta, from Murphy’s POV,  Gershon is seen sitting on her throne with arms crossed.

As the camera focuses on her comic “Murphy speak,” she gesticulates as Murphy but each time the camera moves back to Roberta and Murphy (for that POV/close up shot), La Reina is once again sitting arms crossed.  Continuity error? Someone falling asleep in the editing room? Who ever let this happen should be put in the cage that first Vasquez and then Escorpion inhabit with the chained zombie.

Thoughts:

This episode can be counted as the one having the most “how cool is that scenes.” Apart from the above mentioned stand out moments, there was Kurian having a Ghost Ship or Resident Evil “head-slip.” Another  was a brilliant bit of comedic acting from Gina Gershon as La Reina when, after getting the injection, she sits on her throne, legs up and growls: “I feel strooonng. Don’t you feel strong?” All the while holding two golden chicken claws in her hands.

Warren and Murphy share an El Camino at the end.  This clearly indicates a shift in the group dynamic. Murphy, who slo-mo punches Roberta in the shoulder when she asks why he did not inject her, “I like you just as you are,” he says.  Murphy even says that he will continue to California despite having an army of “blends.”

Warren is quick to point out that this is not such a great idea, “Yeah because you could control Cassandra so well.”  As it turns out he does not get a chance to control his blends, at least not for long,  but does get to finally influence a horde of Z’s to kill the group chasing them from the Zeros’ lair.

Mad props to Emilio Rivera who just kills it in this episode and kudos to Matt Cedeño for proving that his chops are up to the job of acting with Rivera, despite the faux pas with the ropes.  Kellita Smith and Anastasia Baranova continue to prove that strong women are sexy as hell and the rest of this cast put the “E” in ensemble. 

Abram Cox, directing his fourth episode of the series shows that he has got that touch, in spite of the afore-mentioned “boo-boos.” There are two episodes left in this season and with that big twist at the end:

Kurian’s head: “It’s you…y-you’re alive.”

As La Reina’s two hands reach down and grab Kurian’s head up and away from the dead bodies on the floor.

No doubt, the queen of the Zeros is going to be heading out after Murphy and the gang.  Z Nation airs Fridays on SyFy tune in and see where the show heads next and whether or not Citizen Z will make an appearance before the end of season 2.

 

Z Nation: Down the Mississippi – The Return of Sketchy & Skeezy

Z Nation - Season 2

In Z Nation this week; Down the Mississippi, John Hyams writes and directs the episode that sees the return of Sketchy and Skeezy, Doc’s old pals, who outfitted  Addy in the first episode with the Z whacker she still carries. Once again, Hyams rocks it with a homage, or two or three, proving that not only can he impress with a touch of gravitas (White Light) but also with sublime black comedy.

Murphy still has a lot of issues with 10K in this Mark Twain/Deliverance riff. The group are still trying to deliver the increasingly irate Murphy to California and after killing Cassandra last week, The Murphy is not pleased with the young man with the gun.

Hyams crams as many homages/riffs as possible in this episode, tinges of Support Your Local Gunfighter, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, even The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, (think Tuco, a rope and Blondie with a rifle).

On top of all the nods and winks to the western genre, Escorpion and the Zeroes reappear. The leader of the cartel arrives later in the episode to preside over a trial carrying a golf club and complaining that he almost broke 80 before being interrupted. Emilio Rivera, as Escorpion is absolutely brilliant, he plays the role perfectly, and somberly, straight and just kills it. 

Sketchy and Skeezy (Mark Carr and Doug Dawson respectively) both come across as a combination of Butch and Sundance and the two ne’er-do-wells who lead Pinocchio astray. The two film-flam men may not sing and dance but Sketchy does both when acting as his own council at the town later on.

Apart from Hyams’ many homages, this episode is mostly about Nat Zang’s character 10K.  He is separated from the group when the boat they confiscate runs into a zombie jam.  After ending up on the wrong side of the Mississippi river he runs into Sketchy who tells him Skeezy is dead, as well as Murphy.

After almost giving Skeezy mercy, the three are approached by a group of locals who believe that Sketchy’s friend is The Murphy and allows him to bite them. The trio then steal the dentistry van that the two men used to kill a couple of travelers at the start of the episode.

*Sidenote*The van reads “DERTISTRY” at the start of “Down the Mississippi” but later, in Burr Town it is spelled correctly “DENTISTRY.” Whether this is an in-joke or just a continuity error is unclear.

10K runs into another pretty young woman, this makes several that have caught the young man’s eye, this Southern flower packs a pistol, however, and almost shoots the sniper before he can explain what he is doing in Burr Town.  While his two temporary travel buddies are busy drinking and telling tales, 10K tells the young widow about his friends and Murphy.

While this episode is all about 10K, it also allows Doc (Russell Hodgkinson) to show some levels of compassion, backbone and temper. When Vasquez refuses to contemplate searching for the missing 10K Doc gets ready to take the mercenary on. Only the strong willed Roberta Warren (Kellita Smith) keeps things from escalating.

It should be pointed out that Warren, despite what Vasquez is apparently  starting to believe, runs the group. She is the leader and when the mercenary gets too big for his combat boots, Roberta reins him in.  The only time that Roberta does back down from any of the group is when Doc insists upon taking a canoe down river to look for 10K.

While at Burr Town, the two deadly dental techs show up and the three amigos are put on trial for stealing the van and the zombies in the back of it. Later on, while Sketchy is “summing up” the locals who allowed Skeezy to bite them also show up to point accusatory fingers at the trio.

Down the Mississippi does a number of things. It allows writer and director John Hyams to cram as many homages as possible into the episode and it reveals the group dynamic of the survivors. At the start of the episode, Murphy (Keith Allan) is angry with 10K for killing Cassandra (Pisay Pao) and can barely keep from attacking the youth.

Z Nation - Season 2

Later on, when they are waiting on the bridge an almost tearful Doc murmurs his apologies to the “kid” and turns to leave. As he passes Murphy the savior of the world tells Doc he is sorry. Before Doc can get into the car, the young lady who almost shoots 10K earlier arrives to let the group know where he is.

The gang head to Burr Town and save the trio from hanging. (Rivera’s performance is brilliant. From “These fools,” to “you’re guilty blood,” the actor sells it effortlessly.) The result of this episode is that even Vasquez may eventually learn to “watch out for each other” as Doc says. If a furious Murphy can keep connected with his “friends” the mercenary can definitely learn to.

As the trap doors are sprung, shots are fired and the three convicted prisoners escape and the Southern belle gives her husband mercy.  At the end of the episode, Sketchy and Skeezy re-enacte the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the little group of survivors move on.

Z Nation does humor very well, not too surprising as the show’s creators do not take the show too seriously. For example, the opening credits for this episode had a nasal chorus of “Give Mercy” over the new Z Nation sign.  This tongue-in-cheek delivery sets the viewer up for those sucker punches that the series creator’s love so much.

It also helps add that touch of surprising tenderness, as when Addy tells Doc she needs him. Z Nation airs Fridays on SyFy and is halfway through the second season. Tune in and see what transpires next or just to see if Citizen Z (DJ Quallssuddenly shows up. Show creators Craig Engler and Karl Schaefer are continuing to deliver, as are the cast and crew.

This series just keeps getting better and better. Do not miss the fun and the pathos.

Z Nation: Batch 47 – Harvesting Z Weed

Murphy and the guys react to baby Murphy

After last week’s episode of Z Nation, where Citizen Z was conspicuous in his absence, Batch 47 sees DJ Qualls back on form trying to keep the group headed in the right direction. Along with Citizen Z’s return, this episode features not one but two guest stars and the return of Dr Kurian along with Pie Girl, aka Serena, who has been searching for her baby daddy.

The return to the more comic side of Z Nation sees Dileep Rao (Drag Me to Hell, Inception) as Odegard, (the one who stumbled across the z weed) and who discovered the existence of batch 47; a substance rumored to be a herbal cure for the zombie virus. Odegard works for the Zeroes, the cartel that funded Dr. Kurian (Donald Corren) and distributes the zombie grown marijuana.

Head of the “new more user friendly” Zeroes is Sons of Anarchy‘s Emilio Rivera who played Marcus Alvarez in the popular series and is Hector Alvarez in Z Nation. Escorpion’s former employee Kurian survived his “Indiana Jones” escape from the nuclear blast but not without some damage. As Murphy puts it:

“Why should I trust an irradiated mad scientist with an ear that looks like Elvis?”

As Warren and Murphy reach the complex, Odegard has harvesters competing to find and collect batch 47, a feat that is rather deadly in that the zombie compost is full of “Fido Zombies” which are all interconnected via the plants. At the start of the episode two volunteer harvesters die before the opening credits roll.

Doc gets another good line this week as the show enters back into black, and flat-out broad comedy, with his tired complaint to Murphy about having to keep running after the savior of humanity.

“Seriously dude, I’m getting tired of chasing your bony ass all over this apocalypse.”

However, Doc is not the only one chasing Murphy’s bony ass. Serena who appeared early in the season has been looking for her “Baby Daddy Murphy” and their “baba” seems pretty excited when they bump into the gang, and  Murphy at the end of the episode. For those fans who have waiting for more zombabies, their wish has been granted.

Although this zombaby is still in residing in Serena’s ever expanding tummy…for now.

Before Murphy’s Pie Girl returns, there are plenty of z weed gags. Cassandra inhaling from Odegard’s vape and after exhaling then sighing “This is some good sh*t” she offers the inhaler back to him. “That’s okay,” he says with obvious distaste, “you can have that one.”

Later, when Hector “Escorpion” injects batch 47 up Odegard’s nose, the future employee of the month feels no pain initially. “I feel good!” Unfortunately the feel good feeling wears off quickly and he becomes a fido zombie.

This episode sees the introduction of another type of zombie.  Last week had Blaster Zombies and this week we see Fido Zombies. As the second season continues we can be sure that more variations will be trotted out by series creator Karl Schafer.

The humor was, once again, brilliant. Murphy finding the plot where batch 46 is, holding the remains of more Fido Zombies. “I can still feel them,” he says. Another excellent touch was that every time one of the zombies were injured, Murphy felt it. When Vasquez leaps on the “head” Fido and stabs it repeatedly  in the head, Murphy feels it all.

There is a secondary story, in this week’s Z Nation, where a harvester is trying to find the herbal cure for her charge, a girl who calls her mom. Mariah is left behind at the end giving batch 47 leaves to the child to chew. Jessica Bork plays the role and the woman looks uncannily like a young Kate Jackson and despite the fact it was a cameo, she impresses in the part.

Murphy and Cassandra at the Z weed factory
Murphy and Cassandra about to become four…

Kurian is taken away by Hector and the Zeroes and Murphy is once again with Warren and the gang. When Serena shows up with a very active “baba” Murphy, he and the rest of the group are pretty freaked out by the “pushy” infant she is still carrying. As Doc says, Serena (Sara Coates) looks about 10 month’s pregnant. Whether  Cassandra (Pisay Pao) will  be  put out by the arrival of Serena remains to be seen.

Alexander Selling, who has been the cinematographer for 18 episodes of Z Nation  directed this one,  his first time  in the chair for the series, and he does an excellent job. This was a “busy” episode with a lot of gags, including the headless Fido’s on the table, and Selling acquitted himself admirably.

The Asylum continue to up their game with Z Nation.  The double dose of guest stars brought a lot to the zombie table and Rao ruled the episode.  The series airs as part of SyFy Friday and is an addictive experience.  Do not miss this alternative apocalyptic zombie setting to The Walking Dead.