Sunday, September 28, 2014

Z Nation, Season 1, Episode 3: Philly Feast

Flashback to Cassandra’s past in Philadelphia when she was called Sunshine and used as a prostitute – or, it seems, used as bait for men which she and some men would then beat and rob. They’re led by a cultish father-figure who calls Cassandra one of his “children” and punishes her with a stun gun – which I think is supposed to explain how ineffective one was against her last episode.

In the present that’s where the gang is heading on a random, ill-defined scavenging mission. There they pick up the liberty bell. No, really, they find a truck someone was using to try and get the Liberty Bell out of Philadelphia, find it has fuel so decide to take it. They then accidentally use it to squish a whole load of zombies when they have a car accident.

Oh Z Nation so many times I can’t decide whether you’re awesome or ridiculous.

Flip to Cassandra’s cult leader and he and his family are sitting down to a meagre dinner cult leader gets substantially more of course) – the cult leader having a big speech about what a family they are and how Sunshine is missing while everyone kind of stares deadly into space (especially the woman he calls their mother). One of their family returns to say he’s found Sunshine.

Back to the gang who splits up to search for resources; Cassandra sees the cult members and manages to run, using zombies to distract her attacker – but the cult leader has spotted Addy. She manages to use a radio to get through to Citizen Z – right before getting kidnapped. Mack finds Addy gone and has a bit of a melodramatic freak out (Z Nation will never be known for the quality of its acting). Mack doesn’t have time to talk to Citizen Z and runs off looking for Addy.

At the cult the Cult leader tries to convince Addy what a good guy he is with organ music and “Mother” staring at the ceiling like a dead woman. There’s also a lot of candles. It is cringingly awful yet kind of hilarious. He introduces himself as Tobias so at least I don’t have to keep calling him “Cult Leader”.

Cassandra returns to the group and since Mack and Warren recognised some of the Cult from last episode they question her about it – Mack with a gun and melodramatic threats and Garnett trying to play a terribly acted good cop. Warren also pulls a gun since the Good Cop is so unconvincing. More terrible acting follows before she finally tells them everything. Uber melodrama follows before we finally learn that the meat the Cult keeps eating is actually the meat of their victims – they’re cannibals.

Which Addy discovers when she finds the Cult’s butcher room and still living, but sliced and diced, victim – and a whole storage room full of victims in the back. My there must be a lot of passers by. She runs out screaming into Tobia’s arms.

This being Z Nation we switch to Murphy making a terrible joke about eating a pig bit by bit. Cassandra explains that the victims have to be alive – because the zombie virus means that the dead would just rise. And we get a condensed version of the usual “here’s a good man driven to evil” speech with Tobias losing it after his wife became ill.

Back to the cult where we see Tobias carving meat of a living and aware man’s leg. Aaaargh, did not need to see that. Cult Leader tries to get Addy to make Momma happy and eat the raw meat cut from the man’s leg and Addy just hyperventilates with her mouth sealed shut – and this is where the acting is just perfect because there is not enough “NO!?” in the world

Dinner is interrupted by Garenett at the gates trying to be menacing (he’s really really bad at it) and 10K shooting (he’s really really good at it). Unfortunately Tobias has a really big gun and no real will to live so a shoot out isn’t likely to work. Seeing this, Cassandra gives herself up in exchange for Addy (very noble but I’ve seen no indication that this would be part of her character – but, hey, worrying about characterisation on this show seems silly).

As the group gathers to leave, Addy can’t accept that they’re going to leave Cassandra with the Cult. We have what would be an awesome conversation about Cassandra being a cannibal, to her being imprisoned and doing what she had to – except all delivered by really bad acting. Warren also supports Addy throwing in both female solidarity and awful acting.

Time for a plan – a whacky plan. Which involves sending Doc to pose as a client for Cassandra while the rest of the gang attracts zombies to follow them by playing loud music over the radio (courtesy of Citizen Z). And, yes, it’s Ride of the Valkyries, of course it’s Ride of the Valkyries. With the distraction Doc kills one of the men with a tiny hidden gun and Cassandra tases the cult leader in the mouth.

The loudspeaker music truck slams through the gates, trailing an army of zombies behind it and 10K snipes the man on the 50 calibre machine gun (the camera following the bullet through the man’s mouth, of course then hitting some explosives because why not?). Cassandra and Doc get in the truck which drives off, the zombies deciding not to follow it any more because REASONS. The surviving cult members get zombied.

We close with Citizen Z being cringeworthy, of course.

Z Nation squished zombies with the Liberty Bell. Other shows may think about losing family and never knowing peace or safety, Z Nation has 10k who doesn’t remember porn. Some shows could spin cannibalism into a major horrific commentary on the evil people are driven to in an apocalypse – especially with lines like “you don’t pick who you survive with”. Z Nation has a cult with weird dead eyed Mother and organ music and Murphy laughing at a joke about a 3 legged pig. I think Z Nation is definitely embracing its cheesiness in this episode and just running with it. Get your existential angst elsewhere, get your grieving and moping and “woe society” deep character issues on another show – here we have zombie squishing, awful dialogue and the odd bit of random stuff that doesn’t make sense but no-one’s even going to pretend that matters.

I don’t even think it’s the acting, I think the director just doesn’t want big angsty moments – I think they’re deliberately hamming up the acting then soaking it in cheese to make something big, unhealthy and fun rather than risk any of the scenes going deeper

Honestly, I don’t even know any more if I’m laughing with this show or at this show. I think the latter, but I’m laughing