Z Nation Two Hour Season 3 Open: No Mercy (Preview)

Z Nation 10K and Murphy

After a long summer of waiting, Z Nation is back. Premiering on September 16 with a two-hour long  offering from The Asylum. Season three opens with No Mercy. It is a play on words? A gesture to the theme song?

Or is it an elaborate tease?

The over two hour long “movie” sees the gang diverted yet again. (When are they not?) At the risk of getting dangerously close to spoiler city, it should be pointed out that this episode is “non-linear.”

When last seen, Murphy and his ragtag group, Roberta Warren, Addy, 10K, Doc and the mercenary Vasquez were, to put it mildly, a little disheveled. No Mercy opens the new season with all guns blazing and enough homages to sink a film festival.

Written by Daniel and Karl Schaefer; directed by Abram Cox (who has directed a number of Z Nation episodes, including Party With the Zeros and Zombie Baby Daddy, No Mercy  sees a couple of familiar faces (after a fashion) return and Doc takes on a new sort of role.

This episode really is “homage heaven” and glimpses of Mad Max (the original’s not the new one) High Plains Drifter and Assault on Precinct 13 are among the many nods and winks to existing films.

There is even a nod to Kirk Douglas. On top of all that big screen love, a certain other zombie television show is given a wink or two in this episode.

A couple of characters are missing, although anyone watching teaser trailers for season three of Z Nation will know not to be alarmed.  A trailer for season three has been up on YouTube for two weeks.

One of the characters from season two makes a surprise appearance:

Season three opens with a step sideways, as it were, a tale that looks to be a tad out of sequence.  There is, however, a new adversary, or nemesis, that Warren’s group may have to face more than once.

Kellita Smith has not allowed Roberta Warren to lose any of that bite in-between seasons. Keith Allan has taken time to fine-tune Murphy and Nat Zang has lost nothing  during the obligatory series break.

Russell Hodgkinson continues to add layers to Doc and Anastasia Baranova manages to get more beautiful and kick arse with each new season.  

This opening salvo manages to tickle the funny bone a few times and there is at least one scene that is more than a bit heart breaking. Oh yes, there will be tears.

No Mercy  is a splendid open for the new season of Z Nation.  Our heroes stop to help a group of people and learn more about this post apocalyptic world and themselves.

This season of Z Nation  will consist of 15 episodes and will appear on SyFy Friday nights at 9/8c. There is a new cast member Joseph Gatt (Game of Thrones, Teen Wolf) and DJ Qualls will be back as Citizen Z as well. 

Kudos to creators Craig Engler and Karl Schaefer who have gotten the newest season off to a brilliant start. These two have turned this  project into “must see TV.” 

Z Nation airs Fridays on SyFy starting on September 16.

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: Day One – It’s a Z World After All (Review)

A lot of things are made clear in Z Nation Day One and after the end credits roll, it seems that it is a Z world after all. With beaucoup backstory everything about DJ Qualls’ character “Citizen Z” becomes abundantly clear.

Z Nation - Season 2

A lot of things are made clear in Z Nation Day One and after the end credits roll, it seems that it is a Z world after all.  With beaucoup backstory everything about DJ Qualls’ character “Citizen Z” becomes abundantly clear.  Not just the Z man either, although with Mack and Addy’s backstory we finally learn how they met and became a “couple.” (Addy’s backstory was dealt with more fully in season one.)

In this episode, we learn what the surviving members of the “Murphy” gang were doing on “Day One.”  As it typical with this series, episodes change pace, delivery and even genre (to a degree) throughout the season.  From an hour long homage to French auteur Robert Enrico (Z Nation White Light) to Mad Max: Fury Road ( Z Nation Zombie Road), this series vacillates between fullout comedy, tongue in cheek humor and a poignancy that requires the liberal use of tissues. 

As the backstories are revealed this week, there are moments of that tongue in cheek delivery, but with a bittersweet twist. After learning that they are standing amongst the ruins of Disneyland (and amazingly the matterhorn ride is still standing) Addy points out that “It’s a Small World” would have been right over “there.”

Doc (As the group move on): “It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears…”

There are other “present day moments” that mark who is what in the “here and now.   One thing that is clarified is Lt. Warren’s present role. Apart from being the strong positive role model, Roberta is also the mother of the group.

She is the one who tells the truth;  it is going to hurt and there is nothing anyone can do about it. In her exchange with Murphy, where he confesses that he can no longer dream, Warren lays it on the line, like the mommy of the group that she has become, at least in this instance, her information  is not sugar coated.

Murphy: “They’re gonna hurt me. You know that, right?”

Roberta: “I won’t let that happen.”

Murphy: “You can’t stop it if you’re not there.”

Roberta: “Murphy, this is the apocalypse. Look, I can’t tell you it’s not gonna hurt. The truth is eventually we’re all gonna get hurt. There isn’t a happy ending for any of us. But you… You are the one person that can change that. You got to do it alone. Even if it hurts.” 

This is some pretty poignant stuff here. Hearing Warren tell Murphy the truth switches the sympathy vote from the reluctant hero to the woman who is in charge of getting the saviors of humanity to California. Roberta says, basically, that every single one of them is going to be hurt and that this is all going to end in tears, yet she continues her mission.

The logic of the damned.

These are the moments in Z Nation that make it hard to believe that The Asylum produce this . (this star studio produces Sharknado ad nauseam) Amazing as this is, they have made a show that includes scenes that rise the series looks sideways  at the zombie apocalypse. The how approaches the post apocalyptic world  with wit, humor and a certain amount of sarcasm.  Apart from being an alternative to AMC  with their zombie offering of The Walking Dead, which began life as a Robert Kirkman comic book, Z Nation  focusses on almost pure entertainment from a skewed prospective. Funny, irreverent with the odd sucker punch (i.e. Mack’s surprising death.)

The backstories in this episode  reveal much. Such as just how the weedy Citizen Z becomes the eye in the sky, how he got into the “military” and why he is such a lousy shot.  We learn that Addy has always been bloodthirsty (check out her reactions at the hockey game where she and Mack (Michael Welch) meet, not cute, but…brute, if you will.

Doc, the proverbial “stoner” was actually  a five years clean drug counsellor, who held internal dialogues with himself. As well as getting excited when he does something neat, for example, when throwing the Z off his “patient” he asks the prone man:

“Hang on! Did you see that?”

Z Nation - Season 2
Doc…Five years clean….

Murphy, we learn, was in prison for postal fraud and when Day One occurred and, not surprisingly,  he looked out for number one first. Albeit in a sort of horrified, “this is not really happening” way.

10K is shown as a younger boy in short pants and carrying a couple of fish back from the river. The Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn allegory is all too clear. Nat Zang is also allowed a tiny comic moment where he runs into a tree escaping from the Z infested woods.

The pinnacle of the flashback sequences; the one that sticks in the mind long after watching it, is Vasquez’s.

Like the rest, it explains  much about the former DEA agent turned mercenary and gives another “nod and wink” to an iconic genre film, Ringu, aka The Ring.  As  Vasquez stands, weeping, in front of his dead family in their respective caskets, he hears sounds. After shouting to the funeral staff about rats, another man in the facility attacks him.

The attacker is a Z. Vasquez kills the creature and then watches in horror as his dead wife and daughter clamber out of their coffins and crawl towards him as newly created zombies.  As the man screams and screams, his wife crawls toward him, hair down in her face like Sadako from the well…

A wonderful touch.

While the flashbacks play out and the team head closer to their rendezvous, Citizen Z learns that his system has been hacked and he spends the entire episode tracking down the hacker. Once he finds the source of the hack he also learns they have been keeping an eye on Murphy’s whereabouts through Z”s network. He destroys his system.

Z Nation ends with a nod to The Walking Dead, with an allusion or two to other classic films as they approach the California GPS location.  Roberta takes Vasquez toward what appears to be “greasy spoon.” Inside sits “Auntie” a smiling woman who offers them tea while holding a derringer under the counter.

(Auntie is played by character actress Jayne Taini, who more recently has been playing Harriet Greenberg on Ray Donovan.)

The similarity to the “barbecue” lady in TWD (who is in season four where Rick’s group finally reach Terminus) is clear and as unnerving as it is funny.  Z Nation has one more episode left;  Day One being the penultimate of season two, and with the added twist of Murphy being tracked (from Hawaii) and the odd “restaurant” where the lady behind the counter has a silenced machine gun,  the finale should  go out with a bang.

Kudos to Kellita Smith who touched the heart with her speech to Murphy.  On a sidenote, it was nice to see Michael Welch again, minus the scruff and apparently a few pounds lighter in the “Addy meets Mack” flashback sequence.

Z Nation - Season 2
Mack and Addy, cute meets brute…

The season finale airs December 18 on SyFy. Tune in and see what these latest plot twists will bring.

 

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: 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.