Z Nation: Party With the Zeros (Review)

After last week’s Native American tribute, along with a nod to Hannibal Lector…Z Nation this week revisits the Zeros and the gang end up attending a party, in their and Murphy’s honor.

Gina Gershon as La Reina with a minion...

After last week’s Native American tribute, along with a nod to Hannibal Lector…Z Nation this week revisits the Zeros and the gang end up attending a party, in their and Murphy’s honor. A familiar face turns up,  Dr. Kurian (Donald Corren), who was last seen in Batch 47 being taken away by Escorpion (Emilio Rivera) and his henchmen.  Although the entire episode is quite serious, compared to last week’s show, and the ending a real cliffhanger, there are some comic moments.

The episode begins with   Vasquez shooting through a door, marked “Training” and clearing a path through a huge group of Z’s.  Lt. Warren, Doc and Addy help a wounded Murphy through a Mexican compound full of zombies. Apparently Murphy is still recovering from being shot in Corporate Retreat.

After being cornered, the gang check their ammunition levels and Warren tells Murphy to act like the “Zombie Messiah” he is supposed to be and produce a miracle. Cue the Zeros coming to the rescue as Murphy weakly tells the group that there are too many Z’s to control.  Escorpion opens a door in the wall and tells Warren and the rest to come in.

Z Nation: Party With the Zeros marks a higher level of subtlety from previous episodes.  It also self references previous episodes, most importantly the episode RoZwell and the mysterious “Zona.” Escorpion questions Vasquez toward the this installment and asks who they are working for, after listing “obvious” choices like the Russians or Chinese, he then asks:

“Those rich b*stards in Zona?”

Guest star Gina Gershon (Killer Joe, Red Oaks) is “La Reina de los Muertos, Queen of the Zeros Cartel” who offers to either pay Roberta and her group the CDC bounty or welcome them into the Zeros gang. What follows is an initiation, but only after Warren spares Kurian’s life. The “examination” has the group fighting off a zombie horde and surviving.

Stand out moments:

Stand out moment number one is during the build up to the zombie cage battle in the dark. After being given some rudimentary weapons by the Zeros, Warren chooses a knuckle duster and knife, the Murphy leader “zeroes” in on Escorpion and mimics the legendary Bruce Lee with a thumb brush to the nose.  (On a cool scale, with 10 being the pinnacle of coolness, this ranks an 11. #TeamWarrenOwnsEscorpion)

Stand out moment number two occurs when Murphy, after being reluctantly reunited with Dr. Kurian, has a “Marx Brothers Duck Soup” interaction with a Cassandra type Z created with his blood by Kurian.  The doctor injects the “volunteer” who then turns. The new Z immediately goes for Murphy who controls the creature.

What then happens is a brief “Z see, Z do” scene which culminates in a  very brief recreation of the classic “mirror scene” from the 1933 Marx Bros film.

Stand out moment number three is the “Z piñata scene”  where Zeros gang members are “breaking” the party favor open to get bags of drugs instead of small toys and sweets.

Honorary Mention:

The Vasquez execution attempt of Escorpion. The slow motion “dance” between the mercenary and the Lieutenant works beautifully. As the three players, one who is unaware of his role in this waltz, finish, La Reina believes that Warren has saved her life and Roberta becomes a member of the “royal” circle.

Plot Hole:

Earlier, in the previous episode of Down the Mississippi Escorpion tries 10K, Sketchy and Skeezy for stealing from the redneck zombie traders. Despite being “up close and personal” enough to pass a sentence of death on the three, Escorpion fails to recognize the sniper in this episode. Considering that this storyline has the Zeros following The Murphy and his group of protectors, which is used to explain a myriad of plot threads, it makes no real sense that the Zero enforcer would not recognize 10K.

Cliffhanger:

Kurian, is working  on a ploy to escape La Reina and the Zeros. He is using Murphy’s blood to create more “Cassandra” hybrids that Murphy can exclusively control.  After announcing that he has developed a vaccine, Kurian demands he test it…on Vasquez, cue one hypodermic needle being slowly moved to the DEA agent/mercenary’s neck.

Rivera (who is best known to television viewers as Marcus Alvarez in Sons of Anarchy) continues to rock as the Zero enforcer/middle management “right-hand” man to La Reina. Gershon turns her guest starring role into something memorable as well. Her power mad leader of the cartel can be seen as an ethereal relation to the female leader (in Ray Donovan) of the  Armenian  mob, Mrs Minassian (played brilliantly by Grace Zabriskie).

By the time the end credits roll on Z Nation: Party With the Zeros, Murphy confesses he likes being treated like a  Saint, although he should be wary of the honor Saints, after all, have to be dead to have been bestowed this status and Vasquez looks as though he will  become a new “Cassandra.”

There are three episodes left in this season on SyFy, the series airs on Fridays, and despite the titles all sounding a bit “final” The Asylum show will be back in 2016. Tune in and see whether or not Matt Cedeño‘s character become’s Murphy’s newest pet.

Rosewood: Fashionistas and Fasciitiss (Review)

Pictured above are: Morris Chestnut (Rosie), Jaina Lee Ortiz as Villa and guest star Taye Diggs, as Rosewood’s competition with the woman detective in the middle. Rosewood: Fashionistas and Fasciitiss may have a storyline about murder in the Miami fashion industry, but the episode is really about love and relationships.

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Pictured above are: Morris Chestnut (Rosie), Jaina Lee Ortiz as Villa and guest star Taye Diggs, as Rosewood’s competition with the woman detective in the middle. Rosewood: Fashionistas and Fasciitiss may have a storyline about murder in the Miami fashion industry, but the episode  is really about love and relationships. 

Long time fans of Diggs may remember that he was the only other survivor (along with Ali Larter) to make it out of the House on Haunted Hill, back in 1999.  They may also remember his role as Winston Shakespeare in the 1998 film How Stella Got Her Groove BackIf this trip down memory lane seems irrelevant to this episode of Rosewood, where Taye plays Dr Mike Boyce, Rosie’s best friend and completion for the attention of Villa, re-watch the episode.

Rosewood’s mother, who just announced in a previous episode, along with dad, that their marriage was over, has started dating and it is mentioned, not a few times, that:

“Stella’s getting her groove back…”

Coincidence? Not likely. The writing in this show is tight, clever and entertaining.  This is clearly a nod and wink to the guest star, who may or may not become a recurring character.  Show creatorTodd Harthan has put a lot into making this show resonant with crisp and amusing dialogue and parallel plot lines.

Hard work has gone into making Chestnut’s character, and indeed the rest of the characters, feel like a three dimensional man.  With lines that feel unscripted, which is what happens when that serendipitous mix of right actor and director combine with spot on dialogue, the entire cast of characters all feel like folks who could really exist in Miami, or anywhere else U.S.A.

Matt Cedeño (Z Nation, Power) is the suspect, who is cleared, who is  the business partner of Rosie’s childhood friend and emerging fashionista Gigi (Emayatzy Corinealdi). Matt is a regular on SyFy Channel’s Z Nation as the mercenary Vasquez and this cameo proves that his chops enable the actor to deliver what ever the role.

The main episodic plot, of someone trying to murder Gigi with bacteria,  runs along side Pippy and  TMI having relationship problems, Rosie getting jealous (sort of) about Villa and Mike being attracted to one another and Donna “getting her grove back” by spreading her wings and joining the dating site Tinder. 

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Villa and Rosie, “It’s not a date…”

Taye’s character is called in to consult on Gigi’s poisoning symptoms. By the time the end credits roll, the crime is solved, Pippy and TMI have resolved their issues,  Rosie and his sister learn to deal with their mother’s new freedom and Annalise Villa takes a chance on Dr Mike.

This series is a great combination of mystery, drama, with a touch of procedural,  and gentle comedy. Dr Rosewood,  is a glib and sophisticated M.E. whose wit makes him a figure that the audience warm to immediately.  The entire cast of the show are also capable of similar feelings of warmth and acceptance by the audience.

Chestnut, who played the somewhat annoying character of Agent Rice on the TNT Sean Bean vehicle Legends has taken his character of  Dr. Beaumont Rosewood, Jr., aka Rosie, and shown that he can do something more than play a law enforcement official with tunnel vision. Morris is also a regular on the second season of Legends and his character on that show has evolved as well.

Rosewood airs Wednesdays on FOX. Tune in and watch a drama and mystery that will warm the heart and make the viewer smile.  So far, each episode of the first season has been enjoyable, entertaining and amusing.  While the network has ordered a full season of the series, there has been no word of whether the show will be renewed.  Hopefully this great ensemble piece will be allowed to return.

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: We Were Nowhere Near the Grand Canyon (Review)

Murphy and Warren...

Z Nation: We Were Nowhere Near the Grand Canyon starts with a dream, Kellita Smith, as Roberta Warren, has a suggestive dream about Vasquez (Matt Cedeño). The two are fighting a horde of Z’s and after they clean them out, the two get into a clench, Warren on top of the mercenary, and he turns into a zombie. The clear allusion to her romantic involvement, and its tragic conclusion, with Garnett (Tom Everett Scott) in season one signposts that perhaps Roberta is getting too attached to Vasquez. 

Her comic “scoot” away from Vasquez after waking from her dream and the quick “sleep-drool” check are brilliant.  The episode goes on to reunite the viewer and the team with DJ Qualls‘ character Citizen Z, who has been practicing with his hand gun and becoming quite proficient with that weapon.

Z Nation has been all about homages, westerns and dancing with death on an intimate and disturbing level this season. After previous episodes paying respect to classic and iconic films like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Incident at Owl Creek, the show’s creators move solidly into “indian” territory in the genre for this segment.

To be fair, the inclusion of a Native American “setting” was to be expected, the team are traveling through Arizona, near the Grand Canyon and the inference, at the start, of Windtalkers (Roberta speaks to the “locals” in their “native tongue” is clever.

This episode though is not Dances with Wolves or even Cheyenne Autumn (both classic films dealing with Native American issues and their lifestyle) nor is it a rendering of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. It is, however, another facet of The Asylum series’ tongue-in-cheek delivery combined with Schaefer’s and Engler’s cleverness in this season’s  running western  theme.

Z Nation this week deals with the looming, and eventual overrunning, threat of a huge Z horde which is stampeding across the countryside  and destroying everything in its path. Doc (Russell Hodgkinson) is the hero this week who uses his peyote enhanced brain to mimic an old tribal buffalo hunting method to save the day.

Standout moment:

This week, the “standout moment” is trifold and is comprised of moments. Casting Native American actress Tonantzin Carmelo as the “medicine woman” who is into pain management,  using all Native American,  bar one,  performers as the main protagonists that the group interact with and the reemergence of Citizen Z, aka Northern Light all make up a monumental moment for the episode. 

*Sidenote*

Tonantzin Carmelo was the voice of Kendra Daniels in the 2008 video game Dead Space, which scared grown men silly and made her a sensation. This gorgeous woman has worked steadily in the industry and her performance as Kuruk shows why.  Eddie Spears also appears in the episode, as Red Hawk, aka Gordon and “Native Canadian” actress Tinsel Korey, who is, apparently surrounded with charges of being a pretend “native.”  It is Korey who counts as the “bar one” in the Native American cast.

Faux tribal charges aside, the episode sees the welcome return of Citizen Z and his hooking back up with the gang and Roberta talking him through using a rocket launcher.  Doc proves that his brain works much better under the influence of peyote and Warren looks to be forming an attachment  to Vasquez…

Hodgkinson continues to make Doc a treat in every episode, whether going out of his mind with worry over 10K or blissfully stoned and reading Indian etchings with Kuruk, Russell makes his “over the hill” stoner a character to adore.  He is like a combination of Tommy Chong and that favorite childhood uncle (not the creepy one) who was great fun to be around.

Kellita Smith, in her speech to Murphy at the end of the episode gets the second stand out moment award. After reminding Murphy that he will have to make a choice, and then tenderly wiping his solitary tear away, she then gets to make the last western genre reference of “Let’s saddle up.”

*Sidenote number two* 

Warren is, thus far, the perfect woman in Z Nation, compassionate, strong, and determined, not to mention damned handy with the growing machete she carries.  Roberta would be the gal to saddle up with in a zombie apocalypse…

Z Nation ends on a slightly hopeful note and Doc get the line of the title, telling Kuruk that “If anyone asks, we were nowhere near the Grand Canyon.” The series airs on SyFy Friday nights, tune in and enjoy the homages, humor  and the Z homicides.