It seems rather fitting that another episode which steps out of the realm of Z Nation‘s usual schlocky, yet so addictively, fun delivery should also feature the exit of a character that featured in another “out of step” episode. Die Zombie Die…Again was a Mack and Addy episode which surpassed the entirety of season one. It featured a sobering moment where Addy remembers something that she had repressed.
All pretty impressively straight forward and a brilliantly presented piece of drama. The segment was presented as a repetitive dream cycle that could not be broken until the truth was revealed and initially it looked like the dream was Mack’s and not Addy’s. The Asylum’s version of Groundhog Day a la video gaming; the dream felt like a last generation video game, and the result was one heck of a standout episode.
*If you have not seen “The White Light” yet stop reading now.*
The death of Mack is surprisingly shocking and, like the episode where Garnett (Tom Everett Scott) dies, a deviation from the usual humor-filled delivery of the series. Just as Garnett is suddenly turned into a zombie in Resurrection Z (and Roberta “gives the Sergeant mercy” ) Mack’s death reminds us that the show is horror and that the comedy in the show is meant to be of the deepest black.
Written and directed by John Hyams, The White Light has an Incident at Owl Creek, aka Occurrence at Owl Creek feel to it. Clearly this is Hyams’ homage to French auteur Robert Enrico and it works beautifully. Another homage appears to be made to Wild Bunch director Sam Peckinpah with the inclusion of the “hillbilly” bounty hunters in the episode’s story line.
In The White Light the team are still trying to capture Murphy who runs from all who approach as Citizen Z’s broadcast has made it “open season” on Murphy. As the entire town of Cheyenne, Wyoming turns into a giant shooting gallery, Roberta and her group focus on their target and staying alive.
Bounty hunter, Vasquez played by Matt Cedeño keeps cropping up, just as he did in the first episode, and by the end looks to be the replacement for Mack.
There are a number of surrealistic moments in the episode.
Perhaps none more so than the scene with Doc (Russell Hodgkinson) where he has a fight to the death with the hillbilly sniper. As the sniper overpowers Doc and begins throttling the life out of him, Doc has an out-of-body experience. As his spectral body floats toward the ceiling, he spies a knife on top of the bookshelf next to his physical body.
Doc’s body floats up and he asks, “Is this it? My last rodeo.” After murmuring something about still being room temperature, he notices the weapon. “Oh hey! There’s a knife on top of the shelf!” He shouts to his inert body on the floor, “Hey man! Get that thing!” His near-death self, still being choked, slams his hand into the shelf knocking the knife off. Grabbing it, Doc shoves the blade into the hillbilly’s neck, killing him.
Surreal perfection that could only happen to Hodgkinson’s character.
The white light referred to appears to the characters as they are about to die. Citizen Z, Addy, Mack (who does actually die) 10K, Roberta, all have an experience similar to the French short film’s main protagonist in “Owl Creek.” Amid all these near death moments with accompanying visions that are specific to that character there are still comedic moments.
Murphy running away with a group of zombies emulating his every move, and being followed by his personal attack weapon Cassandra (Pisay Pao). The mob of zombies follows Murphy into a block of apartments and he turns to them in exasperation. “You guys ever consider how annoying this might be?” Of course Keith Allan’s character realizes mid-tirade that one of those following him around looks like him.
Setting the “lookalike” up in his clothes the decoy Murphy draws the bounty hunters off the scent. Cassandra later attacks Vasquez, who gets the drop on the “fake” Murphy, and she proves that like a Timex watch, this little “not zombie” can take a licking and keep on ticking.
All of the gang face death. Citizen Z ends up taking on a zombie with a baseball bat and pistol and still almost loses. Addy is ambushed by a zombie and Mack intercedes almost too late. 10K has a close encounter with a rocket launcher round, Doc with the hillbilly sniper, Roberta with another of the hillbilly bounty hunters, and later Mack dies in a stairwell surrounded by zombies.
Vasquez saves Warren from her near death experience and Addy can only give Mack mercy with a bullet after finally unlocking the door to the stairs.
This episode had plenty of intense moments, including one where it looks like Murphy decides to end it all. After Addy returns from her encounter with Mack, she attacks the savior of humanity and it takes a lot of force to get her off him.
Before Mack dies and Murphy jumps, the segment “does a Doom” where the two protagonists face zombies in the dark. Armed with flashlights (torches) and guns this bit of the show harks back to the video game “in the dark” intensity of Doom.
*Sidenote* During the “death scene” this viewer cried. Be warned; Hyams takes his gloves off for this episode and punches for the kidneys. Tissues will be needed, and the tears do not stop there, after Addy beats the hell out of Murphy, Roberta asks about Mack and this equates to “sob city.”
The gang are back together sans Mack but plus Vasquez. The episode ends as Roberta Warren starts up the van’s engine and the vehicle starts moving.
Mad props go to Anastasia Baranova and Michael Welch. These two knocked it out of the park this week. Baranova rocked it as the infuriated and grief stricken Addy and Welch was moving as the dying Mack. A gong or two should head to these two actors come Emmy time.
Kudos to John Hyams who took the game to a whole new level with this episode. Z Nation is not one of those programs designed to make one laugh and cry, but The White Light, while paying tribute to a couple of iconic filmmakers managed to do a Heineken (managing to reach parts that other episodes in the show have not).
Z Nation airs Fridays on SyFy as part of SyFy Friday. Keep an eye on this The Asylum offering, it just keeps getting better.