Sunday, October 12, 2014

Z Nation, Season 1, Episode 5: Home Sweet Zombie

The gang has found a nice quiet house in Southern Illinois and everyone is being disturbingly or domestic (with edgy elements – betting on prescription pills). All is peaceful but Citizen Z comes on the radio to warm about incoming storms.

Of course the peaceful domesticity is just a shallow skim – the house is protected by an electric fence which Warren flips zombies off and when Mac and Addy look for a bed they have to skip over a room full of corpses (and that, for people on the run, being fully naked to have sex is actually a novelty).

Points to the side snark as well – Garnett (referring to Mac and Addy) “I can’t remember the last time I snuck off with someone.” Warren “I can’t remember the last time I wanted to.” Which I translate as “hell no, don’t even think about it. Not going to happen.” They think of the past, their lost families and Garnett suggests they drop by Warren’s home town on the way – but she doesn’t see the point, everything there (including Antoine her ex) is gone.  She never got to say goodbye before she left with the National Guard.

Addy also has some flashback angst as the storm gets closer (we have the jewellery triggering a memory cliché). And the storm knocks out the electric fence. Time to run and fight and make dramatic one liners

Citizen Z is drunk and even more random than usual – reporting that a huge Tornado is on the way. His warning is heard by multiple survivor groups (he seems to have a following).

The group argues about what to do (Warren – ignoring “some punk with a satellite”? Seriously? What nonsense is this?). Eventually with the storm rolling in they have no choice but to shelter in Warren’s home town (that’s some horrible abuse of Chekov’s gun right there).

Warren sees the memory wall that has been put up, pictures and messages about missing people, or people looking for lost family; she sees a lot of people she knew including Antoine, still waiting for her. Murphy is, predictably, unpleasant about it.

They make it to Warren’s house (it has a storm cellar) and Murphy continues to be a horrible person while Warren deals with sudden powerful memories. They find someone else has also taken shelter there – a woman and a badly injured man, sent by a fireman who may be Antoine. Murphy continues to be a terrible person. Most of the gang goes for supplies before the storm hits – leaving a few behind (and instructions to Mac to watch the wounded guy in case he turns).

Addy continues to have flash backs. And so does Murphy – only Murphy’s come with his teeth changing colour and maybe his eyes – and his hair falling out. Maybe the serum only delayed the effect of the zombie bites?

While Warren takes Garnett on a trip down memory lane. Seriously describing her first kiss while they kill zombies. They grab supplies at the fire department but don’t find anyone there – though they do find Antoine’s locker, complete with a letter Warren sent from the battle of New Jersey (presumably zombie war). Touching moment interrupted by ZOMBIE FIREMEN! They’re wearing helmets which complicates things a bit. They kill the zombies – alas including Antoine’s best friend a second before Garnett puts an axe through his head.

Back at the house, Murphy is confused and has lost all his hair – and Doc decides to heal the concussed guy by drilling into his skull. Yes with a drill. An electric drill. And it’s awful, so very very awful.

It is now time for the Zomnado. Yes yes it is. We knew it was coming. The gang gathers in Warren’s house except 10k and Cassandra – and Warren gets out her wedding album and wedding ring and sits reading the album – blocking the door to the storm cellar, not letting the others out or going to safety herself. This looks like a kind of passive suicide, he refusing to seek safety even as Garnett yells at her from the cellar.

A zombie is blasted into the storm cellar and they leave Murphy to deal with it – he pokes it, seeming to commune with it until Mac loses patience and stabs it – Murphy looks tearful as he says “mercy”. He even hugs its body for comfort when the storm hits

Cassandra and 10k shelter in a car during the story, Cassandra panicking and grabbing 10k’s leg (which seems to be his primary concern – at least before the car ends up on it’s roof).

The storm hits, doing lots of damage to the house – through it we see a man in a fireman’s uniform emerge and hold Warren who says “I waited for you.”

In the aftermath, Garnett leaves the cellar and finds the house destroyed – he finds Warren under her turned over chair. She’s alive – and apparently unharmed (I’m shocked, I was so expecting her to be dead). After Garnett Addy joins in hugging Warren. Even guy who got his head drilled is alive. Doc even raids his stash of morphine and gives it up to him to help with the pain; they don’t join the group though.

Warren tells Garnett that she’s basically had some closure from the whole experience and they head off – in a fire engine (which may be the worst choice for a vehicle).

Ok… that was unexpected. When I heard that this was going to be the zom-nado episode I expected the worst – or most typical –of Z-Nation. I expected cheese. I expected the ridiculous. I expected the silly

And we didn’t get it. Not even a little. Murphy has pretty much opened a whole new possible plot line and was sold with some real disturbing conflict. Doc actually did a great job of stepping up and being an actual medic even while confused. Warren threw her all at the emotion, pain and loss of this episode with Garnett also backing it up. It was rather excellent – ok, they’re not the best actors in the world still, but they had a good un up at this one.

I also liked that we got to see Warren be emotional and vulnerable and hurting and desperately sad – since we’ve seen her be strong and tough and angry a lot.

I also was impressed by the casual acceptance of trauma on the show. Addy is clearly having issues and she explains to Mac “zombies” and he understands – and gives her space and concern and support. “Zombies” is the only explanation because they’ve all been there and rather than saying “suck it up and deal” they make room for people having these problems. The same with Warren, when Addy and Garnett found her alive, they weren’t angry or outraged or shocked; Garnett even accepts that she doesn’t want to come into the cellar and accepts her right to choose to end it if she does. Instead, they’re releaved, happy – and understanding. Trauma and the effects of trauma are normalised for them and they all make room for that – without

Of course, that clashes badly with the general treatment of Murphy and shows that HIS trauma, in particular, is considered part and parcel of his “worst man in the world” shtick.

That all leaves me a little curious as to where this is going. Up until now I’ve said that Z Nation has cast itself as almost the anti-Walking Dead it was a show that didn’t really do emotional drama. It was silly. It had shoddy continuity. And it was fun – very very very fun in a I-can’t-believe-I’m-watching-it kind of way. It had zombies and gore and action and zom-nado’s and zombie babies and weird generals who think they’re directing an army and stones zombies… it didn’t have angst or moping or introspection or moral choices.

So where do we go from here? And how well can the angst and the silly be married together?