Z Nation is a joint project between Syfy and Asylum Studios. Yes, the same Asylum studios that brings you films like Sharknado, decided to bring you a new TV series centered around the zombie apocalypse. The premise, a man named Murphy was injected with a vaccine, moments before he was bit. Now that Murphy’s managed to survive he’s on his way to a lab that can analyze his blood so that a cure can be given to everyone. It is a very basic plot that is strongly remniscent of The Last of Us. Let’s be honest, Z Nation was much of what many expected it to be. It was campy and not really serious. There were outlandish situations and Z Nation felt like it belonged on it’s channel. Yet there was something lying beneath the surface. For all the camp and cheese and moments of low quality, we were delivered up really solid character moments and moments that shined through the show.
We’ll start there then. Z Nation was effective when it comes to delivering both camp and seriousness. One would think that the balance wouldn’t balance very well, yet somehow they managed it. One moment you’d watch a silly zombie kill and Doc uttering something truly ridiculous in response, then you’d have some intense moment. Much of the series went on like this straddling a line between being all campy goodness and being a The Walking Dead knock off. The camp was pure fun too. Early on in the season we got an idea of how outlandish things were going to get. For example in the first episode, “Puppies and Kittens” the group found a baby. The baby was never bit, but got some glorious zombie gunk all over it. By the end of the episode, we literally saw a zombie baby zip about through a garage as one of the most dangerous threats on the show. If that wasn’t enough for you, nearly every episode offered up something to gape at. One of my favorites came in “Sisters of Mercy” when we learned that the women fed the men that wronged them to a zombie bear. You weren’t supposed to think about all the risks of keeping a zombie bear in a barnhouse, especially when they had such a safe homestead.
The show wasn’t afraid to take risks when it came to story telling. Time and time again the show actually proved that it may have been a bit campy, but they did have a story to tell and they weren’t going to play it wild. Characters just didn’t die off for the sake of dying off, but characters also weren’t safe just because they were part of the group. While Harold Perrineau’s death at the end of the first episode was shocking, but expected if you knew about the actor, it was the first indication that this wasn’t going to be a clean journey. His death thrust the other characters into a position that they never wanted to be in. They were forced now to carry out this mission to get Murphy to California, if they didn’t they were letting down humanity. Yet, they could have backed out. Fast forward to midseason and we found ourselves wallowing in yet another death. The death of yet another leader was heartwrenching in “Resurrection Z“. Where we didn’t get the chance to really know our first leader, we got to know Garnett. Worse, we got to see Garnett finally start to get something he wanted. While that should have been a screaming indicator that nothing good was to come it was still difficult to deal with. More importantly, taking Garnett out of the equation forced the show into new territory. The characters needed to find a new dynamic and they needed to decide if it was really all worth it. Not a hard decision. Also taking Garnett who’d been a strong force on the show until then, was like ripping the rug from under your feet. Imagine if The Walking Dead killed Rick in episode 4 of the first season, that’s what happened when we lost Garnett. We lost our leader and it felt aimless.
As for the serious that was delivered by most of the other characters namely Addy and Warren. Each of them proved to have a lot more depth than any of the other characters. Where 10k wanted to come off as deep, Addy was actually troubled. But first let’s focus on Warren. The death of Garnett hit Warren the most. For a long time they were friends, long before this journey began, and from their behavior their attraction was something a long time brewing. Being on the road, giving Garnett a cause, drove Warren to finally move on their feelings. When they finally hooked up, he died. It was a major blow for Warren, thus her spin out in the following episode, “Welcome to the Fu-Bar” was reasonable. She became a drunken mess, attempting to drown her sorrows. Watching her shut down was done rather effectively. You felt bad for her and it felt genuine that she was feeling something rather than going on as though the person she cared for most, didn’t just die. They were well played moments, especially as Warren went from shutting down to choosing to fight for what Garnett thought was right. She carried on in his memory and to not let his death be in vain. Then there was Addy, a troubled girl, hiding things away, particularly that she had to kill her family. She locked the memories away and we saw them come to light in “Die Zombie Die… Again“. While the episode was tedious, the emotional content was top notch as we saw Addy break down, her troubles finally resurfacing. That left her in a vulnerable position so when the “Sisters of Mercy” finally crossed her path, she gave into them. They promised her a safe place, one where she didn’t need to be afraid, where she didn’t have to see those she loved die, she took it.
Murphy’s transformation was the heart of the show driving everything. Literally, if Murphy didn’t exist then where would be no show. The goal was to get him to California and find a cure in his blood. However, the more we watched of the show, the more Murphy began to change. In the beginning, he was just an annoying man with nasty bite scars on his stomach and chest. That was the only evidence that he was different. However that began to change. His skin began to take on a deathly pallor, literally making him look like he blended in with the other zombies. Heck, the zombies didn’t even see him as a threat. Instead, he could move through them as though he wasn’t living flesh. We saw that at one point he developed a desire to bite flesh, but his bites had a much different effect than a zombie. For one, when he bit a man in “Welcome to the Fu-Bar” despite the man being shot in the chest, he didn’t turn unlike the others. Granted we didn’t have long before he was shot in the head, but it was the first indication that not only was Murphy looking and behaving differently, but he was different. Cassandra’s turn in “Doctor of the Dead” solidified that. Murphy also seems to be able to control the living who have his germs in their systems as we saw in “Murphy’s Law” as we saw him control them like mind control. Not to mention that he may have a baby among the Sisters of Mercy, Murphy continued to change and surprise in the most interesting ways. His mystery was much of what could inspire someone to keep coming back.
Z Nation was picked up for a second season a while back. it’s a no brainer really considering that it was relatively cheap and has what seems to be a fairly loyal fanbase. Obviously that wouldn’t have happened if there weren’t some great moments scattered throughout the season resulting in a show that was less disaster and more fun than one may have thought going into it. That said, the predicament the group is left in at the end of it’s first season’s final episode is one that isn’t too reassuring. Murphy reverted back to his scared selfish behavior setting off warheads aimed at the facility the group was all in and at Citizen Z’s base. It’s not too reassuring when you think of it. The bombs are coming and I can’t exactly see how they are going to get out of this unless someone manages to remotely turn off the warheads. Ultimately this has to happen because you can’t just kill off the one character the whole show is about. Then again they could if they really wanted to considering Murphy may have a kid out there, this his bloodline would go on. Honestly, we don’t know what will happen or how much time will pass, but we do know that there are a lot of characters we’ve come to know over the past few months that may just die. We also learned that Mack is still actually alive out there.
What did you think of the season?