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