Sunday, October 5, 2014

Z Nation, Season 1, Episode 4: Full Metal Zombie

Amish zombies

Addy says “really? REALLY?!” I have to agree. Oh Z-Nation. And 10k can kill more zombies with a catapult than most with a gun

We have some pseudo-science explanation for why everyone is infected (even if you’re not bitten, if you die you come back), Z Nation at this point no-one expects you to make sense. We have an attempt at a poignant reveal as 10k describes having to kill his dad and whether zombies are alive (and can they be dead if they still want something? How can they be dead if you can kill them?) then, because this is Z Nation we also have rationed toilet paper (well, even in a zombie apocalypse, you still have to go).

They drive on – and are stopped by zombie roadblock complete with people disguised as zombies. That’s pretty crafty – or would be if Warren weren’t in the habit of ploughing right through zombies (which, alas, she decides not to do on this occasion). There’s a tense moment when they demand the truck and, after a show down and a dangerously ambiguous statement, Garnett agrees to give up the truck.

Which means they end up in a wrecked mini and catch up with the thieves trying to rob a family. They run and intervene and then, hilariously, the cute little family guns all the thieves down (two little kids with guns) – it’s another robbery! Now the cute family has the truck, but at least the gang has a lot of guns now.

And further down the road they find the truck stopped and that cute little family being eaten by zombies. Seriously it’s going to take them years to reach California at this point. Garnette “we’ve got to get off this road.”

Citizen Z, at his little arctic NSA base, expositions, well, everything in case we forgot. He also uses creepy NSA spying tech to mine social networks to identify Addy. Which is when Garnett calls him – using a fast-food drive through. There follows Citizen Z’s slightly creepy crush on Addy (actually, not slightly at all) and him telling them where there may be a helicopter.

They arrive at the military building and have to bribe their way in past the soldier with Doc’s medication (remember he’s a drug dealer, not a doctor – but then, the soldier doesn’t need to pills for medical purposes). For added bonus, the General appears to be rather detached from reality, believing he’s directing an army against an enemy – and no, not the zombies.

Doc does get to go up though because the general says he has a wounded man who needs help. The wounded man turns out to be the general himself who has a terrible wound on his leg – Doc tells him it’s gangrenous and he’s going to die. The General doesn’t appreciate this since his last medic said the same and he pushes the doc through a ventilation duct. He gets caught in pipes and hangs there – the previous guy, now dead and zombified, also hanging. Doc tries to pacify it with cannabis. No, really. And yes, we get a stoned zombie.

The rest of the gang hears Doc screaming so takes the guard hostage and forces their way in, leaving 10k outside to have an awkward flashback about his dad.

The group has the lift open on the wrong floor due to random general shenanigans, which gets their kidnapped guard eaten and Murphy running off because he’s scared of lifts and zombies. Mack, Cassandra and Addy stay at the lift (and kill a zombie while the lights flash to try and make it creepy) while Garnett and Warren go running after Murphy. Murphy does hear Doc though so when they’re all together again they can go look for him

But first there’s a huge, nearly immune zombie and a grenade. Because Z Nation. But they drop the zombie down an air duct when he explodes – the same air duct Doc was in.

The gang finds the general who pulls a bazooka (no, really. A bazooka. The bad guy pulls a bazooka) which doesn’t work, thankfully. He also has a conference table with lots of corpses sat round it. The general hears their mission and is happy to fly them to California!

Except the helicopter is, of course, a wreck. It doesn’t even have rotor blades. The general tries to vocalise the loss that led to his insanity in a terrible acted attempt at angst before being conveniently zombied to death

They all prepare to leave in the truck without Doc – when a Doc staggers out. They think he’s a zombie and Warren tries to offer “mercy” when he curses her for shooting at him. His bloody and charred but alive. Of course he is – because Z Nation

Citizen Z adds Addy’s face to the fictional woman chats to himself with using the computer. Yes, it’s definitely creepy and stalkerish. I think this is supposed to show Citizen Z’s creeping instability due to extreme isolation but the pulling of Addy into the mix throws in some stalker creepiness that isn’t necessary

I could say that Z Nation is making a bold point about how even the most straight laced and conventional looking of people are forced to desperate measures – but I don’t think Z Nation tries for that level. I think they just thought it’d be hilarious to have the group robbed by the Waltons – and, to be fair, it was. This is the essence of Z Nation robbed twice and a zombie attack on a road and it’s all used for a gag.

I think the whole soulful angst flashback thing with 10k is a mistake though and Doc’s grief over his lost child. Z Nation is too much of a ridiculous comedy to handle these attempted storylines – the acting isn’t really good enough and they just sit really oddly on the same show that has the stoned zombie and semi-jokes about Doc dying. It feels confused, lost and I wait through the whole scenes for the punch line that doesn’t come and then it all feels kind of weird. This show can try for deep and meaningful or comedic – I’m not saying it isn’t possible to pull off both – but I don’t think it’s possible for Z Nation to do it. There’s too much searching for the punchline to pull off anything as serious as this

That searching for the punch line is damaging in other ways – like Citizen Z’s unsettling attention on Addy. And the treatment of mental illness, the general is played for laughs, Murphy’s PTSD is just a constant method to make him cause trouble and be hated by the group – and while Citizen Z may be the only actor there capable of actually selling the way isolation is damaging him (and he does) we then get the Addy addition which is both creepy and suggestive that we’re heading for another punch line.