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; 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 Zang) leaps 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.
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