Z Nation: Escorpion and the Red Hand – Revolt (Review)

Z Nation - Season 3

Z Nation  “Escorpion and the Red Hand” forces Hector to look closely at his past and 10K makes a break for freedom. In this episode, Addy has a toothache and Warren almost meets her maker. The Red Hand gang  trap Warren and her rag-tag group of survivors. They then learn the attackers are run by Escorpion, Hector’s old handle.

This other Escorpion also has a tattoo of a young boy on his forearm. Who is this “pretender?”  It is possible that we may never find out but these Red Handers may show up again.

Z Nation this week focusses on Hector’s past haunting him through this other Escorpion. It also follows Dr. Merch and 10K’s bid to escape Murphy’s  control.

A subplot has Addy  almost dying from an infected tooth. Despite the fact that the woman looks like warmed over death, she manages to fight off attempts to pull the molar that is killing her.

Doc and Sun Mei both have their work cut out for them as they try to save Addy.  But the red-head is tough, she even headbutts Sun Mei while being held down by her two friends.

Parts of this episode can be seen as another homage to Occurrence at Owl Creek  by French auteur Robert Enrico.  10K’s dash for freedom is all muted sound and heavy breathing as he runs through the wooded area. There is a bridge, running water and a desperate leap off the structure.

This all very reminiscent of the Enrico short film and it may be an indication that 10K is lost. The protagonist in that film certainly does not survive…

(The first homage to Enrico’s film was last season’s The White Light. That was the episode where Mack dies and it was a tear jerker.)

“Escorpion and the Red Hands,” like the rest of season three, is a bit of a downer.  There is very little humor here. Although there are sly twists; the climatic battle in the novelty toy warehouse for instance. Murphy’s “I can feel myself slipping away” was amusing as was his half-hearted “I’m sorry for your loss” speech to Wesson.  (“She can be part of the Z guard” was actually chuckle worthy.)

Addy’s predicament was blackly amusing but any attempts at humor were done via sight gags; like Murphy reading Niccolò Machiavelli’s  The Prince before Merch kills herself in the Z moat.

Another ever so slight comic touch was the “clapping monkey” visual at the novelty warehouse explosion sequence. The toy had been spotted earlier in the episode foreshadowing its importance for the explosive Red Hand attack.

There were a lot of close calls in this episode of Z Nation.  Hector almost gets killed by three Z’s who catch him off guard as he tries to rouse Lt. Warren.  The fearless leader herself almost dies in one heart-stopping moment when the Z-bomb explodes practically in her face.

(Nothing keeps Warren down for long however. Even dazed and confused she squeezes off rounds at the Z’s attacking Hector and kills two. If viewers want strong female characters they need look no further than Z Nation’s Addy and Roberta Warren.)

Over at the Murphy camp, or castle, 10K finally learns from Merch that he is a Murphy “Blend.” The scientist has developed a vaccine that will counteract Murphy’s control.  Unfortunately Murphy figures out the plan and re-infects Merch. He goes to do the same to 10K who escapes by leaping through a second story window.

At the town, where the Red Hand’s are killing everyone for theft, Hector goes through some serious soul searching. Warren finally convinces the former Zero gang member that they need him. She stresses that his skill at killing makes him invaluable.

As Hector/Escorpion admitted in an earlier episode, “I have always been my own apocalypse.”

The episode ends with 10K leaping in the water, Merch killing herself in the Z moat, Murphy screaming “no” and Warren convincing Hector that he needs to stick around. Addy also has one less tooth.  The camera zooms in on the word “FEAR” written over a hole in the warehouse wall.

The big question has to do with 10K and that long jump. Will he survive the fall? It is possible as the character seems to have a “nine lives” thing going on.  Although, 10K has lost his rifle and that does not bode well at all if he does  manage to survive the leap.

Kudos to all the players this week:  Kellita Smith continues to rock it as Lt. Warren. Keith Allen takes Murphy to brilliant heights in this episode and Emilio Rivera rules in this episode. He completely sold Hector’s angst and inner turmoil about the other Escorpion and his bloody past.

Z Nation airs Fridays on SyFy. Tune in and follow this alternative to TWD. It may be less tongue-in-cheek this year but it is still one hell of a ride.

CAST:

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.

Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens – A Sharknado Too Far (Review)

 Sharknado: The 4th Awakens - Season 2016

It is hard to believe that the same production company that gives us  Z Nation can continue to  produce such irredeemable rubbish. In Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens the plot is that no sharknadoes have been spotted for five years. Sadly this is not the case in our world.

The Asylum churns these cheese-fests out like so many Babybels.  With substandard gags, acting, stunts and FX the bloom has gone off this teeth filled rose. Perhaps the only thing left  to do is play “spot the cameo” where z-list celebs can be found in their dozens.

It is amazing how many actors actually appear in these things. From David Faustino to Alexandra Paul (who literally looks no different from her “Baywatch” days) the scope was pretty amazing, more so that the actual movie. (At one point it even looked like Melissa Joan Hart was consumed by a flying shark, but her name is not in the credits. So Melissa, was that you?)

Reality “stars” made appearances also. Even Dog the Bounty Hunter, aka Duane “Dog”Chapman and his wife have a small set piece as proprietors of a chainsaw store.

Even Carrot Top made a cameo.  (Like Gottlieb he was also on the Jim Gaffigan Show “The Trial” episode.)

As these “movies” continue to punish those bored enough to watch, the search for “stars” to appear must be hitting rock bottom. Performers so far past their “use by” date popped up in number four.  Poor old Wayne Newton, a fixture in Las Vegas since time out of mind, looked like a Spitting Image puppet version of himself. (Quite sad really.)

Sharknado: The 4th Awakens - Season 2016
Wayne Newton. Is that really you?

Cheryl Tiegs, a personal favorite from back in the day, proved that despite still looking fabulous should have been left to play a silent role. To be succinct, acting is not the lady’s forte.

Others were as funny as the material allowed them to be. Stacey Dash was suitably “witchy” as was her character’s demise. Gilbert Gottfried was, perhaps, the best cameo as he bellowed out “COW-NADO” and so on. (Although not as funny as his cameo on The Jim Gaffigan Show “The Trial.” His “AFFLECK” was truly hysterical.)

Some cameos made no real sense. For instance, Jedward. Does anyone this side of the pond care or even know who these X-Factor twins are?  A minor sensation in 2009 – they came sixth in the competition – is was puzzling to see them included in the movie. The Asylum are either fans or the cameo well has dried up in the US.

One cameo was purely business related. Steve Guttenberg, another personal favorite, stopped by to plug his upcoming SyFy film “2 Lava 2 Lantula! ” Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens is not the first installment to do this, Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No gave a plug to The Asylum’s “Z Nation.” The beautiful and talented Kellita Smith appeared as her character in Sgt. Warren and zombies were alluded to.

Sidenote: It looked like another sort of cameo appears  in the movie. At one point, one of the ‘nado’s whirled past the arch in St Louis, Missouri. It smashes the top of the arch and it suddenly looks like the damaged article in another SyFy series  Defiance. The show was cancelled. But, is this a hint that it will be returning withJulie Benz and co?

The main plot dealt with Las Vegas, where a real-life party was held to aid animal charities so at least some good came from this movie, and a shark themed hotel casino.  A giant sandstorm releases the sharks within and the new threat waltzes across the US.

Tara Reid‘s character did not die, she was resurrected by her father played by Gary Busey.  Ian Ziering returned to play Fin Shepard, yet again. (Surely the pay cannot be that good? Ziering must want to do something else by now.)

There really is no discernible plot for this (hopefully) last offering from the Sharknado franchise.  It consists of set pieces slapped together at random. It seems that even writer Thunder Levin is tiring of this mess he created.

The film ends with all the previously eaten Shepard friends and family are rescued by Fin’s son with his tiny chainsaw.  (An odd scene that uses the device of those matryoshka nesting dolls but with sharks…and a whale.)  As the family reunite Fin spots Nova Clark (Cassandra Scerbo) – she was in Sharknado 1 and 3 – atop the Eiffel Tower. 

Sharknado: The 4th Awakens - Season 2016
Jedward…Really??

Does this mean there will be a Sharknado 5? One with an international slant? For the love of all that represents good taste, please no.  Another TV movie with deliberately bad FX, a skeleton storyline and more bad acting than one wet paper bag could possibly hold is too much to bear.

The first one  only became “popular”  when derogatory tweets during the movies broadcast thrust it into the publics eye line. Please SyFy, stop now.

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.