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.
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.
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.