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: 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: 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: Zombaby! These Three Kings

Z Nation - Season 2

Z Nation with “Zombaby!” have delivered  that highly requested zombie  baby that fans have  been begging for ever since season one, episode one. Now The Asylum have come up with the baby goods  and the tyke is an infant “Wednesday Addams lookalike.”   Not that this happens too quickly, first Serena and rest have to get through a Wisconsin cheese day parade of zombies.

Doc has a bit of cheese from  the world’s biggest wheel of cheese and the same object is used to dispatch a load of zombies. “Like Philly” Roberta says and when Vazquez questions it, Doc tells him to watch.  This episode is a perfect blend of comedy and tragedy, dealing with Serena’s pregnancy, Murphy’s reluctant participation and anthrax.

There is also a sort of Malcolm in the Middle hamster in the ball action going on with the giant cheese wheel still rolling across the Wisconsin landscape with an ever increasing amount of zombies grabbed by the wheel. In essence a cross between Dewey’s hamster and a snowball made of cheese…

Zombaby! also introduces sheep zombies, goat zombies, camel zombies, horse and mule zombies and anthrax filled zombies with head’s that explode in a puff of white deadly dust.  There are also Mennonite zombies, Billy Boy condoms (“Don’t be stoopid” Addy says to 10K later in the episode.) and a zombie hoard who all arrive to witness the birth of Lucy, the “first of her kind.”

This episode was one, for and by the ladies being written byJennifer Derwingson and directed by  Rachel Goldenberg. Serena’s pregnancy, the continual projectile vomiting, the screaming, the “monkey noises” while doing the breathing exercises were all very funny, as was Murphy’s reaction to all the above.  Both ladies who delivered one of the oddest, and strangely funny, episodes of Z Nation, did so with a style that impressed. 

There was also the “pregnant” woman rage scene where Serena shoots a machine gun clip of bullets at two ambushers while screaming insults. Hysterically funny.

The two storylines, three counting the shadowy presence of the cartel who still want Murphy, blended together beautifully.  The Mennonites with the rationed drug to combat the anthrax, the possibility of 10K and Addy dying because they inhaled the powder and Murphy actually bonding with his baby momma and the newly born infant, “Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do,” worked perfectly.

On top of all the things going on in the foreground, there was the “three kings” gag with the camel, horse, mule and wisemen zombies following the “star.”  Which made perfect sense as a joke, and plot thread because, well…look at the setup  of the episode.

Z Nation - Season 2
Okay, now everybody sing, “We three kings…”

Roberta says, when they arrive at the Mennonite community, “let’s move on there is no room at this inn.” When Serena’s water spectacularly  breaks, they hustle the mother into a barn. Bales of hay make up the birthing area and, well you get the idea.

Very, very funny and obviously a clue as to the importance and relevance  of baby Lucy. Sadly, amid all this humorous peripheral zombie action, Addy and 10K are dying as there is not enough of the drug because the religious community are rationing it out. Serena gives birth, but the baby is tired of waiting and climbs out of the womb.

Things were never going to turn out well for “Pie Girl” and after Lucy come clambering out of the birth canal, mom turns zombie and Roberta has to give the new mother mercy.

*Sidenote* Pisay Pao steals every single scene she is in. Her Cassandra “not zombie” has become a feral creature who, when not sniffing Mennonite women with bowls of water, rests on quivering haunches. Murphy’s creation/pet has become more animal than zombie and each time she appears one watches transfixed, waiting to see what she will do. Pao is just brilliant.

Kellita Smith, as Roberta Warren, goes through some defining moments in this episode, as does Keith Allan’s Murphy, and her character becomes that bit harder. After discussing the issue of 10K and Addy possibly dying because of the rationing, Warren decides to take all the drug from the Mennonites to save her two group members.

There is no doubt that this decision will haunt Roberta and may signal a karmic reaction later on.  Before the end credits rolled, Murphy names the baby, Addy and 10K recover, and the latter gets a box of Billy Boy condoms with the promise from Addy that he will not die a virgin, that “girl” is out there somewhere.

We also learn that Lucy is “Plan B” if anything happens to Murphy.  The Asylum have stepped up their game for Z Nation‘s second season. The humor is still there (after Addy tells 10K “Don’t be stupid” Vazquez points to Murphy and the baby and says, “Yeah not like that guy.” He then asks, “how did that happen anyway?” Doc responds, “Man you gotta understand…there was pie.”) only tighter and that little bit slyer than before.

Z Nation airs Fridays on SyFy and now features a baby that looks like a zombie version of a baby Wednesday Addams.  Tune in and see what Lucy and Murphy get up to next and there may just be pie.

Z Nation: Zombie Road – Fury Road on Z Weed

Cassandra and Murphy.

This weeks sees Z Nation leaving the sadder aspect of transporting Murphy to the CDC, i.e. the death of  Mack (Michael Welch) behind and heading back into almost full blown homage territory. Zombie Road, written and directed by Dan Marchant (the man who wrote the best episode of season one, Die Zombie Die…Again) this is an apparent tip of the hat to Mad Max: Fury Road  on quualudes or Z Weed.

The group, sans Mack but with newest member Vasquez, move out and come across a “wagon train.” Doc names this tune in one with his rhetorical “Is this some kind of post-apocalyptic wagon train.” Roberta responds with another western reference “Well, it ain’t the 3:10 to Yuma.”

While the style of the vehicular  “train” is pure Mad Max,  along with the attacking hoards of bandits, the pacing is more like a western (which to be honest is the underlying genre of any of the Mad Max films) although more of the vintage variety versus the high octane delivery of “Fury Road.”  The episode may be titled as a sort of nod and wink to the George Miller Australian film, but it does feel more like a combination The Hallelujah  Trail/The Way West/Fury Road mash up.  (With a touch of Cheech & Chong based humor.)

Keith Allan gets to shine in this episode after his character along with Doc get high on Z Weed, grown  with dead zombie compost…Dude! When the “wagon master” tells off his new passengers along with the somewhat less than “with it” existing member of the train,  Wrecking Ball, Allan gets in some yucks with his “excuse me stewardess, will there be snacks on this flight” quip.

Before the gang bump into the zombie train, there is a splendidly comic moment where Vazquez, acting as the Alpha male, shoves Murphy forward saying “Move.”  Murphy wheels around and says, “you are not the boss of me.” Pointing to Warren, who has moved forward to intercede, Murphy says, “She is.”

Roberta tells Vasquez that she can handle this and pushing Murphy forward she tells him “Move.” After a short pause, Murphy gestures grandly toward the ground and responds, “Gladly.”  Soon after the little band spy the wagon train.

The train is on it’s way to Edmonton when the group step in to help the travelers out.  A new breed of zombie is introduced  into the Z Nation verse; Blasters. Custer says to Warren that these were killed by the atomic blast and hunt in packs.

These radioactive zombies are scarily fast, almost comically so in some instances, and seem to almost “peck” the face off their victims.This obvious reference to the “zombie face eating” incident in Florida.  While the style of attack is pretty darned freaky to watch, and the aftermath is no picnic either, the  fear factor is cut down a bit by the nod and wink to this 2012 incident. Still, these lightning fast creatures are alarming.

Even 10K has trouble bringing these supersonic zombies down.  There is one moment when a wounded Blaster looks to be rubbing it’s bottom on the ground after being shot and one more where a zombie is “running’ bum down.  Murphy learns, to his chagrin, that these new creatures cannot be controlled.

According to another character, these zombies’ brains were melted by the radiation hence there is no point of contact.  This could be why Murphy cannot control the new breed of zombie. Add to this, the “white noise” sound that Murphy hears when trying to contact the zombies, these new monsters are pretty impressive. They do seem to have a leader regardless of the melted brain theory.

At one point a single  Blaster, wearing a long, once-white, lab coat attacks and apparently controls the other zombies.   It looks suspiciously like Dr. Kurian from season one’s finale; who is seen climbing into the fridge as the start of season two’s open.

10K is getting increasingly jealous of Murphy and Cassandra while, at the same time, being concerned as to just “what’ she  has become. Although at one point it looks like 10K may have a fan that is not part zombie or under the control of Murphy. This, however, does not last as repeated Blaster zombie attacks, combined with roaming bandit attacks leaves the young lady dead.

The casualties this week are all centered on the wagon train denizens on their way to Edmonton.  Addy comes dangerously close to joining Mack and Cassandra learns that Z Weed seems to “sort her out.”  Despite the rather slow pace of the vehicles in the train, the  show moves forward quite nicely with its accompaniment of quasi Native American drum beats along with a bass tonal background.

William Sadler is the wagon master, Sam Custer, and  radiation is slowly killing the man while his character tries to get his people to safety. With a touch of Ward Bond in his attitude the leader of the train slow loses his grip on sanity and his ability to lead diminishes as well.

The new zombie threat puts everyone, including Murphy, on the menu and cranks the tension up nicely. Vasquez appears to be slowly leaning toward the less “mercenary” side of things and there appears to be a mutual attraction between the bounty hunter and Roberta Warren.

Zombie Road is a nice slow down from  the intensity of last week’s episode.  The Mad Max attack on the car, with Doc and Wrecking Ball, is low octane; with the vehicle’s moving slowly and the action being almost pedestrian, but it works nicely. The punch line for this gag is Cassandra leaping on the attackers and munching (See what we did there?) on the ambushers.

Line of the episode award goes to guest star Sadler. Explaining to Roberta and Vasquez who Wrecking Ball is (Custer’s nephew) Sam tells the two that “The cheese slid off that cracker long ago.” Priceless.

The Murphy  group, who join the larger wagon train, are the only survivors after the Blaster attacks and the repeated bandit action. In the end they decide to head toward the Z Weed factory mentioned by Wrecking Ball. Murphy, who stole the Charger escapes with Cassandra and Custer’s nephew, and they too are headed for the weed manufacturing plant.

There was no Citizen Z storyline this week and the main group had plenty to keep the viewer entertained without DJ Qualls . It will be interesting to see if Wrecking Ball makes it to the factory, Cassandra does not seem to be too impressed with their passenger. Hopefully next week Citizen Z’s adventures will be revealed.

Z Nation airs Fridays on SyFy, a great alternative to all things The Walking Dead and great entertainment. Amazingly, The Asylum have proven that Sharknado is not their only party trick. Catch this one, it is great television, getting better with each episode.

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