Sunday, September 21, 2014

Z Nation, Season 1, Episode 2: Fracking Zombies

Y’know, after the Zombie Baby of last week, I’m not even sure what they’re going to do this week. But I have a curious sense of… morbid curiosity

The very annoying Simon (no I cannot call him Citizen Z and keep a straight face) who is now a radio DJ and quite possibly all that is left of the NSA manages to contact Mount Wilson, the place in California the gang’s trying to get the annoying Murphy to. They’re being overrun by zombies and the only thing Simon can do is helpfully fry their power (which is… helpful. Apparently) but in doing so he may have also fried their files and all their work. If they don’t have backups. C’mon, no backups?

After which he gets no responses and starts to go just a little zany, presumably from isolation. Or because, this show. He starts to fall apart a little with it – until he see a dog sled arriving. People! He’s overjoyed before he realises this may not be a good thing. But it’s ok the guy is dead (Simon puts a bullet in his brain just in case) though his huskie isn’t. Citizen Z now has a pet.

And a zombie huskie. Yes, a zombie huskie to fight. Basically take the scene last week with a baby hiding in a room and change it to a dog hiding in a room. Yes the zombie hides, no it doesn’t make sense. Simon ends up killing it with a wooden stick rather than have it kill the only living thing he’s seen for a year. Afterwards he injects the first real emotion into the show with his tearful joy/despair about being alive.

The gang, meanwhile, is ploughing their way down the road through packs of zombies in a convoy lead by a big armoured truck and Warren is having WAAAAY too much fun. Though it does mean stopping for fuel and maintenance and killing zombie that is mangled into the wheel well. Time to search for fuel, Addy continuing to record everything for the future (her explanation is they may be the last generation of humans. Which… doesn’t strike me as an argument for recording anything. Who is she recording for, visiting aliens?) Murphy is still an over the top arsehole and the mystery sniper hitch-hiker is called “10K” for the number of zombies he intends to kill. Oh, Z Nation, cheesier than fondue.

They run into a survivor, a biker they passed earlier who offers the location of more petrol in exchange for a ride. To the refinery or, as Murphy dubs it, the zombie factory – because it’s crawling with zombies attracted by the noise of the pump. Also, zombies are so flammable they can’t use guns (I think simply saying the petrol was flammable would make more sense). To draw the zombies away, Cassandra has a music box.

No… really… zombies are attached to high pitch music. Apparently. It’s Z Nation, don’t think too hard guys. She and the new guy (dubbed Travis because why not) are on distraction duty where we learn she used to be called Sunshine, be part of something called “the family” and Travis was sent to bring her back.

Mangling their own way through zombies Addy and Mac discuss their motivation but Addy would quite like a vaccine which keeps the dead dead. This actually comes close to being a real, serious discussion about hope and a reason to live so Mac says “damn you’re sexy when you get all philosophical”.

They jam the noisy machine (poor Addy has to sacrifice her shiny new club) while Cassandra uses her music box so they gang can fill a tanker full of petrol. Travis continues to threaten her – saying he’ll tell everyone “what you are.” He tries to tase her to kidnap her but it doesn’t work – she says “I’m used to it” and throws him to the zombies. Travis is eaten

Meanwhile Doc (who isn’t a doctor, he’s a drug dealer in case we missed that) talks to Murphy who tries to spin the idea that he volunteered to help save the human race. When zombies appear, he panics (he has a desperate fear of them after being so badly bitten) and Doc tries to calm him down as the zombies knock on the car – Doc leads them away (and Murphy locks the car door. Nice). As the zombies swarm, 10k uses a catapult to increase his kill count. No, really.

Meanwhile the petrol tank (which is absolutely full of zombies because of course it is) starts making distressing noises with the machine jammed – and bursts open. Spilling petrol covered zombies everywhere. They would drive off but Murphy, in his panic, drives the car he’s in into the middle of them.

Garnett steps up to be a big damn hero (of course- but I have to laugh at him trying to knock out the panicking Murphy only to find it’s actually kind of hard to knock a man out), getting him clear before the inevitable explosion, dramatic burning zombies and super-duper-cheesey gunning them down.

They explosion destroyed the tanker though, so no petrol. But the explosion is noticed by Simon on his satellite who calls them on the nearby phone to tell them that not only do they have to get to California but that Simon has lost all contact with the lab. His advice is literally “go west until you hit the ocean”. Helpful

Just to add the glorious cap on the cheesiness, a random explosion conveniently returns Addy’s club. And yes it embeds in a zombie’s head, of course it does. And while everyone was playing around, not only did 10k save them from zombies multiple times, he also filled a couple of cans of petrol.

Travis’s biker friends find Travis’s body – and Cassandra’s music box.

Do I have to keep drawing the comparisons here? Yes yes I do. If The Walking Dead had a man stuck in an arctic lab, able to see half the country because of the NSA resources but able to do very little about it then we would have EPIC ANGST OF EPICNESS. It would be a tragic, soul wrenching examination into helplessness. Z Nation has a late night weird DJ who gets a pet dog. Which kind of sums up the difference between these shows from the very beginning. Less pathos and angst, more zombie babies, laughing while you squish zombies and getting zombies stuck in the wheel. The thing is, this kind of works – and I say just plug in the B movie and roll with it – every time we almost have a serious moment – like Simon fraying at the edges in Northern Light or Addy and Mac discussing hope, the writers throw in another fondue moment (sexy philosophy! Zombie huskies!). The writers seem to know what they have here and are doing their very best to drive it home – this isn’t a serious zombie drama. This isn’t angst and pathos and the agony of the human condition. This is cheap thrills and silliness. This isn’t Discovery, it’s TLC, this isn’t a documentary, it’s reality TV – run with it.

I think Z Nation would be more cheesey zaney fun if the acting was… better. Now in some ways bad melodrama adds to the zaniness, but the acting isn’t that kind of bad. It’s not purposefully-bad-for-silly-b-movie. It’s sadly-bad-because-no-talent. Especially Garnett. I cringe every time he speaks

And yet, I find myself kind of liking it still – and feeling guilty for liking something this bad.