Z Nation: The Murphy “Is It Really Me You’re Looking For?” (Review)

Z Nation - Season 2

The Asylum and SyFy present season two of Z Nation and episode 2.1 The Murphy, could have been titled “Is It Really Me You’re Looking For?” as Citizen Z decides that a BOLO on the savior of the human race is the only way to get Murphy to the CDC.  As Murphy is approached by at least two “bounty hunters,” Z did advertise that the facility would pay a huge reward for the delivery of Murphy, it looks like Roberta Warren and her little band will have some serious competition for the delivery  of mankind’s last hope.

The Murphy opens with some great slo-mo shots of the survivors watching the holocaust of nuclear destruction as it happens. Doc, 10K, Roberta and Murphy watch the warhead descend and the mushroom cloud rise. As the lab escapees watch their world being destroyed, Citizen Z stands transfixed as a missile intercepts his approaching warhead.

*Sidenote* Great homage to the last Indiana Jones film (“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), where Harrison Ford climbs into a refrigerator to escape the nuclear detonation. Of course this being Z Nation the character who emulates Indy’s move does not survive.

Shortly after the midair explosion melts the surrounding zombie horde, and those on a crashed plane, Z will post his plea for survivors of the apocalypse to get Murphy to save mankind. He also fights off the newly thawed zombies and after almost being bitten, starts to regroup.

Z Nation - Season 2
Citizen Z, aka D J Qualls.

The episode opens and later  follows Roberta as she treks for water and food. We see Murphy as he sets up a new little nest for himself and his zombie pals. Addy and Mack actually get back together, but not together…He, rather understandably is not overly enthusiastic to see his former flame. After riding up on an ATV, Mack asks a silent Addy what happened.

She explains that the 13 year-old boy banished back in Sisters of Mercy from the all female camp  (“men are animals,” explains Sappho leader Kelly McGillis [who looks stunning in the episode]) realized that he’d been “had” and came back to burn down the whole man-hating camp. As Addy puts it

“He came back and set the whole place on fire…and released the zombie bear.”

As Mack limps back to the ATV, he says to Addy, “You comin’ or not.”  Addy turns, to the background noise of the zombie bear’s roars and mounts the vehicle. As they move away from the destroyed camp, another survivor, apart from Addy and the bear appears. Murphy’s one-night stand from the Sisters of Mercy  heavily pregnant with his “love-child.”

Z Nation - Season 2
Mack and Addy together again…sort of.

*Sidenote*It is nice to see that Addy (Anastasia Baranova) has a different hair dresser, or lost that horrible deadlock wig. While the new hairstyle is a bit odd, anything would be better than that season one “do.” 

Murphy in a short pink kimono and bunny house slippers is the comic high piece in terms of clothing for the savior of mankind. Although his suit, sharkskin, could be seen to be almost as comic. Not surprisingly, Murphy has picked a XXX strip joint as his base of operation and Cassandra has come back to stand by “her man.” (Murphy saved her life in season one.)

Another comic bit is the “new” Cassandra surveying her attire (picked out by Murphy of course) and as he asks her what she thinks of her new “duds” a zombie comes up and starts caressing the gold lame-wearing part-zombie that Cassandra has become.  Before this scene,  she saves Murphy from becoming a redneck bounty hunter’s captive. (Comic gold is Keith Allan’s whole interaction with the taser toting redneck, from his initial “Nope” to him quivering on the floor as Cassandra runs the bounty hunter through.)

Z Nation - Season 2
Pisay Pao as Cassandra, gold lame never looked so good.

Warren, Doc and 10K manage to make it to a scrap yard of vehicles. She goes off to find water and food. Citizen Z’s message about Murphy plays on a loop and Addy and Mack try to find other survivors. The airwaves seem to be full of news about Murphy, both in Spanish and “oriental.” Roberta gets ready to dispense mercy to herself when she hears screaming.

Roberta saves a young girl (Sarah-Eve Gazitt), whose cries for help stop her from shooting herself, and the grateful youngster takes Warren home to meet the parents and her sibling. Kellita Smith proves that not only can she do great “passing out,” she can out-Rambo anyone on the show. 

Murphy’s tastelessness hits a new high, or low, as we are treated to two stripper zombies that he has taught to “make out” with one another. As the two female zombies kiss, they get carried away and flesh is taken. “Ladies, ladies!” Murphy admonishes his two performers, “We talked about this.” A clear reference to the face-eating “zombie” in the real news who was devouring a man’s face when the police arrived in 2012.

As usual, Allan’s character gets the lion’s share of good lines. From “zombie whispering,” to “Come along Mr. I’m so bad-a**.” (The best line, bar none, is Murphy’s unapologetic response to Roberta about almost killing them and the nuclear issue, “Didn’t you get the memo? The apocalypse means never having to say you’re sorry.”) Allan’s delivery makes these gems work brilliantly, although the humor would be lost a bit if the rest of the cast did not play straight-man to his comic “hero.”

*Sidenote* Not that the others in the show do not have their own comic moments, but when Murphy is the set piece in scenes, his comedy takes precedence. 

Z Nation - Season 2
Roberta Warren water bags and reunion.

By the end of the episode the whole team are back together. Mack and Addy have met back up with Doc and 10K at the scrap yard; another splendidly comic moment, “3,999,” shouts 10K as we see Doc waving through a dead zombie’s empty eye socket that the sniper shooting teen has just dispatched, saving Mack.

Z Nation must be the only  show on television that can flawlessly mix brilliant slow motion camera work, check out the montage at the beginning that ends with the camera tight on Kellita’s face as the truck rolls (literally) into the tunnel, with a zombie pole dancer performing while Murphy does his Bob Hope impression (clock the golf club) at the strip club.

(Not to mention including an  exploding zombie and a fire extinguisher.)

So the band is back together, minus Murphy, while his baby momma, with her womb pointing offspring close in on the savior of humanity.  The Asylum manage to walk a fine line between schlock and priceless moments, completely unlike any of the Sharknado films they also produce.

Z Nation is part of SyFy Fridays. Do not miss this funny and irreverent look at the apocalypse.




Dark Matter: Episode Seven (review)

Sara in Dark Matter
Last week in Dark Matter, episode six had Five taking an extended walk down memory lane and revealing a lot more about her crew mates. Episode seven follows on from that peek at those stored remembrances, which, apart from showing just how Six got to the party, cleared up the matter of that forgotten passcode; Maplethorpe which was a former teacher of Six’s and according to him, in the memory, completely unforgettable.

Once in the vault the crew discover weapons, lots of money, an entertainment android and a woman in stasis. Thus far in Dark Matter, each episode serves to reveal a little bit more about each mercenary. Four, for example, was the son of the Ishida Emperor and was framed for his murder; part of episode six’s reveal. Another layer exposed in that episode was that Five was not in a good place when she stowed away on the ship; she was a pick pocket extraordinaire living rough with a lot of other mini-Fagin’s.

This week it is Three’s turn under the microscope. Like each episode so far, his is the main story but there are other facets of the crew that come to light, One and Two with their apparent history and hesitant steps toward a possible reunion are also looked at. The Android, as usual, plays comic relief and Zoie Palmer should get an Emmy gong for her childlike and very literal robot with a heart.

Android could well be a distant relative to the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz but her role is similar to Five’s. She has a definite purpose. What it may be is not too clear at the moment, but like everyone else’s history on board, it too will be discovered.

Five has the code echoing around in her head and she runs through the ship shouting that she knows the code. One comes into Two’s room to pass on a status report and the woman gets dressed while he awkwardly makes his report. He is most definitely interested in the leader and tells Two that they have a damaged relationship. When she laughingly repeats his allegation, he says he meant relay switch. At the end of their conversation, he gets his signals mixed and decides she is flirting with him.

Six interrupts their “discussion” to say that Five knows the code to “the mystery room.”

After the crew open the door the woman found in stasis is held in observation and Android discovers that the woman is dying of Tataryn disease. The Android explains that there is no cure. Three wants to put her back in stasis and Two says they need to question the woman. One and Six find the entertainment Android and One decides to put her together.

One is quite taken with the new robot and he gets Five to “turn her on…I mean activate her.” The new Android is named Wendy and she talks with an Aussie accent and turns out to know a lot about the culinary arts.

Android wakes the woman and we learn that her name is Sara and when she wakes up, Sara recognizes Three immediately. “Marcus, she says throwing her arms around the surprised mercenary. He and Two explain about the stasis pod problem and the wiped memories.

Sara tells about how she met “Marcus” and that she knows what he is, a criminal and a mercenary, Three apparently was wounded on her planet. Sara treated his wounds and he apparently fell in love with the woman. They learn that she is dying and he took her on board and put her into stasis to save her life.

While this episode went deep under Three’s crusty and obnoxious exterior, the subplot dealt with Wendy, who apart form having a killer body and personality, also had an ulterior motive of revenge programmed by Cyrus King. Her deadly mission was set because the mercenaries killed his men “before memory loss” and he now wants their ship flown into a star.

Dark Matter this week dealt with a few issues, one of which was Android jealousy, at one point Zoie Palmer’s Android affects several different accents, Irish, Australian, English, Scottish and, somewhat hysterically, Jamaican; “Don’t worry about it Mon” she tells One after trying out a few. After a short conversation with Five, who had her hair done by Wendy, Android decides to welcome the new member of the crew, only to be shot for her trouble.

By the end of the episode, Three turns out to have a mushy interior, even if he does not remember it and Two finally hooks up with One. The backstory of Marcus and Sara was touching and cute. The fact that Three had found someone who accepted him for who he was only to have it threatened by a incurable disease explains a lot about where his character is at now. Granted he cannot remember it, but some knowledge must exist somewhere in his mind. After all, it was Three who insisted that Sara be woken up and he also demanded that she be put back in stasis after learning that she was dying.

There were many comical moments in the episode. The hysterically funny “dunking the cosmic donut” reference, which fascinated Six, One and Three, the orgasmic dining scene and Four’s massage from Wendy all hit the right notes. One’s decision to try out the entertainment Android and his mixed signals with the leader of the group as well as The Android’s attempt to get praise for fixing the ship’s cooling systems all made this week’s episode a real chuckle fest.

The power of the writing of this series is not just the comedic moments however. The real magic is the writer’s aptitude at effortlessly mixing amusing events with tear inducing parts of the story. There can not be many who did not at least get a lump in their throat when Sara succumbs to the disease.

Each episode is reveals more about the crew and each character is becoming well rounded and three dimensional as a result. Zoie Palmer is becoming more endearing with each episode as are the rest of the crew. Anthony Lemke rocks it this week with his heel with heart story and the entire cast are hitting their stride performance wise. Kudos to guest star Ruby Rose and to the writers who came up with the fight sequences at the end; both with and without head.

Dark Matter is part of SyFy Fridays and is compelling viewing. Do not miss this show.

Dominion: Second Season Viva Vega

Dominion SyFy publicity poster
Anthony Head, with an American accent, has managed to survive what seemed to have been certain death in season one of Dominion as he is back for the second season in Vega. The series was developed as a sort of carry over from the 2010 feature film Legion, starring Dennis Quaid, Lucas Black, and Tyrese Gibson. While the film may have been somewhat forgettable, except for the scene in the roadside cafe with the little old lady “demon,” it has translated pretty well, albeit loosely, to television.

Filmed in South Africa, hence Head being able to used his English stage name and not his “Buffy” one of Anthony Stewart Head (a SAG American actor with the same name had precedence over Tony in the USA), the series is set in “Vega” the remnants of Las Vegas and features an ongoing war between survivors of humanity and archangels. Gabriel and Michael are opposing factions and the whole show features some oddities that stick out. Black eyed “Dog’s of Heaven” or “eight-balls” with their lack of pupil are pretty creepy looking.

These eight balls are lower angels who are aligned with Gabriel and sound a little like Golem when they speak. Regardless of who fights with who, Head’s character Senator David Whele is the Secretary of Commerce, which means he runs the city. In season one his goal and fixation was to take over as the head of Vega, taking control from General Edward Riesen.

Neighbors alumnus Alan Dale played Riesen who leaves Vega by the season one finale. *On a sidenote* Dale played family head Jim Robinson in the Australian soap Neighbors and like other stars from that show moved on to have a prolific career in other television shows and film. The Kiwi actor is well known for bringing his own brand of natural gravitas to any role he plays.

Things in Vega were pretty shaken up by the end of season one and season two now sees the General’s daughter in charge, Lady Claire (played by Roxanne McKee) and she will be tough act to follow. Michael, the angel who took sides against Gabriel (Carl Beukes), is played by Tom Wisdom who has moved up from English soap icon Coronation Street and the British airline dramedy Mile High to play an angel with first billing in Dominion.

The show is English heavy, although Beukes is actually a “local” being from Johannesburg, and while not all American accents are created equal, Dominion with its “God is not dead, He’s just left” plot mechanic, moves at a good pace and reveals are entertaining, shocking and bordering on Shakespearean.

Season Two may have lost Alan Dale’s character, but the remaining performers who have returned have lost nothing between seasons. The series is a splendid mix of supernatural and science fiction, horror and hokum, and (as mentioned above) features just a touch of William Shakespeare. It is interesting that despite that touch of science fiction, the show is not part of SyFy Fridays and airs Thursdays, like a sort of hors d’oeuvre before the Friday line up.

Killjoys: Vessel (recap and review)

D'Av and the vessels in Killjoys
Killjoys could be called the SyFy version of “bubblegum pop,” but it is not. The show really is not that “middle of the road” nor does it fit that category of inoffensive material aimed at the masses. Last week’s episode, Harvest dealt with several different characters who worked outside the box and rules; illegal drug manufacture, slave labor and a doctor who practices her own version of the hippocratic oath. This week, Killjoys, in Vessel, broaches people being treated as chattel and a ruling organization that is too elite for the vulgarity of childbirth. It also looks at religious zealousness and shows just how little worth women in certain quadrants of this world have, i.e. Leith.

D’Av gets his first warrant, albeit a very liquidized one, and the team are approached by the “inbred” (Dutch’s wording) and oligarchical organization known as the Nine who want a surrogate pregnant mother moved to Qresh in order to fill out the Nine with a legitimate heir born on that planet.

In this dystopian future world land is all and only the richest and most powerful own it. The Nine own more than any other group and they rule the Quad where the RAC and the Killjoys live and work. Dutch takes on the assignment and D’avin Jacobi gets his level four approval outranking his little brother John.

The three head to a “nunnery” where the vessels are held by “nuns with guns” and once there, they learn that they have been followed. Moments after they arrive, Qresh troops infiltrate the building and try to take the pregnant girl by force. The Leith girls all turn out to be pretty empowered females despite their “calling.” The group arm up and head out to transfer the expecting mother to Qresh.

There are some pretty impressive moments in the episode. The pregnant girl overpowering the Mother Superior; who turns out to be a treacherous witch, Jenny martyr’s herself breaking the enemy enough for the remaining girls to escape, and D’Av’s apparent ability to bond with all the girls in what seems like seconds.

There is one moment in the tunnel which is annoying and makes no real sense. Seconds after entering the escape route, the mother is stabbed by one of the other side despite everyone having weapons at the ready. Still, it was in the script and used to up the stakes in the storyline.

By the end of the episode, Dutch has managed to make an enemy of Delle Seyah Kendry (played with exquisite coldness by Mayko Nguyen) and let the audience learn a little bit more about her backstory. D’Avin and John agree to treat their boss as family with the rule that D’Av is not meant to “plow” their sister.

Under the guise of old fashioned action television, Killjoys addresses some social issues and provides some pretty powerful empowered female characters. In this future world, women seem to have the upper-hand. Dutch is the strong and capable leader of the team, her boss is also a female and the world’s more important jobs are all held by impressively powerful women.

Both John and D’Avin appear to appreciate the powerful female’s they encounter and work for. Not all men in this world do and it is amusing to see these neanderthal’s get put in their place. The show may not be a purposeful flagship for feminism, but it could be. Providing women who rule this world, even the “chattel” in this episode are strong willed women, pretty impressive stuff.

The action filled and fast paced, yet low budgeted, production is another of the SyFy Fridays line up and the Canadian export is pure entertainment. It should also be noted that despite the weekly dose of violence, the show is totally PG with the exception of the “blood bag” filled with the first warrant of the show, the gore in this series is low key and slightly old fashioned…but damned entertaining.

Not quite “mindless” entertainment but close enough. This is not “bubblegum pop” TV, it cannot be since a talented cast plus fun scripts and an underlying backstory yet to be revealed equals great television. Well done SyFy, we can almost forgive you for Sharknado…

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