Monday, October 29, 2018

Z Nation, Season 5, Episode 4: Pacifica

In Altura, Estes is leading the funeral series for the dead after the attack. They have a fascinating funeral rite of preserving the blood of the dead in a wall for all time so their DNA is kept for all eternity

10k and Red attends the ceremony, but 10k is deeply traumatised by the loss of his hand and the loss of his ability to shoot. He’s withdrawn, angry, snappish and demands impossible things like Sun Mei sewing his preserved hand back on - or that he get a prosthetic - any prosthetic - that will allow him to pull a trigger. Red tries to get him out of his funk but can’t - and 10k won’t even look at the stump of his wrist (which does not seem to be healing well)

Sun Mei is still experimenting on Talkers to isolate what causes them to be Talkers… including one deeply traumatised Talker (which has some uncomfortable messaging about it being better to be dead than living as he is - which is uncomfortable since his injuries have removed his legs: the idea that this kind of disability is not worth living is problematic. Yes he’s grieving for his dead family - which means he has ever reason to wish for death himself - but it does not fit for other people to think someone who is GRIEVING is better off dead). She is still not making any progress - but she is doing some odd experiments on the blood at the wall

She also has a time limit - Estes warns her that if they don’t find a way to deal with the Talkers and synthesise more brains they may run out of Biscuits - and zombies need to be treated like zombies, whether they can talk or not.

I do think someone needs to tell us where these biscuits come from - where are they coming from, how are they made? And why are they not being delivered? Is there a shortage? We need more answers

Ominously, Estes is also speaking to the other outpost leaders - and there are more rumours about other outposts being attacked

Warren & co are heading to Pacifica, another outpost and one where Citizen Z and Kaia have set up there home. It’s a former university campus and has a large library of books. George describes it in extremely glowing terms and when they run into Henry, one of her former professors who also lives there, he adds that it’s a wonderful equality utopia

Warren is more cynical about this. She’s also increasingly doubtful about George’s unerring faith in Dante’s innocence but diplomatically simply points out if the vigilantes find him it won’t matter and they need to get him first - they also find a dead Talker, who has had their brains eaten

When they arrive it seems Warren’s cynicism is right. Initially it looks good with Warren & co meeting Kaia for the first time and Citizen Z and Kaia’s child and seeing there’s a Talker child in the nursery. And Pacifica has a beautiful mural that traces all the people and families of the people who live there - living, dead, zombie and talker.

And then they find out that a town meeting has been called - one that is human only, no Talkers allowed with two factions - those who hate the Talkers and those who value their Talker friends and family. George and Warren go in to speak passionate peace and justice and equality, countwering every argument that the Talkers are dangerous (by the rhetoric in the room, so are the humans) that they can’t be trusted (pretty sure the Talkers don’t trust them either). George leads with a lot of hope - while Warren shoots the ceiling to get some quiet so she can throw her own passionate speech about the kind of country they want to build. I think there’s a definitely difference in tone between the two: George speaks personally about these people, these people she knows, about friends and family and neighbours. While Warren, perhaps aware that friends and family and neighbours can and do turn on you and not knowing these people, speaks less on how good people are and more on what they want to build, what future they want. George is personal and aspirational, Warren more focused on them making something better than what they are

People calm down but there’s no grand changes of heart and Beth, one of the humans, removes her child from the creche because there is a Talker there, much to Kaia’s disapproval and disgust

They turn in for the night with George insisting that she’s holding on to hope and building something better and Warren continuing to be impressed by her and giving her hope and support when George admits how tired she is - as Warren puts it, you keep fighting because you know no-one else is going to. And how they didn’t get to doubt because hesitation is death

But the next day they discover the Talkers have left Pacifica (I can’t say I blame them?) to hide in the forest. Beth and her cronies are still there showing the exact hate behind why they left. Despite this, George insists they’re safe in Pacifica than in the wilds - Kaia is doubtful

But Warren, Doc and Henry head out to try and find them - and run into a captain from Altura looking for Dante. He insists that Dante needs to be brought to a court (Estes has appointed himself a judge) for breaking the law and that the law says that all Talkers should be quarantined and that any human help hiding them is also a criminal. This shows Estes stretching his power to Pacifica but, as George questions - what law? Who gets to make law? The whole constitution and laws they were voting on failed when the bomb went off - so who is making these laws and what right do they have to do so?

Ohhhh the hours of philosophy on “what is law?” that can come from this. Of course, the simple answer is, even if they’re not laws, rules are made by those in power - and Estes has the power

This gives them another incentive to find Dante asap - and they look for the symbol of the Talker groups (a kind of three rayed sun) to find them - but as they’re tracking a large horde of zombies attacks (they seem to be spurred into it by someone with a cattle prod. Warren also notes all the zombies were from the same place) and they have to fight

In the fight, Henry is bitten - but he hides it.

And as they finish they hear that Pacifica is under attack. They hurry back, Warren urging George to be careful, and find a dying Beth telling them that a horde of zombies attacked. Which sounds bad - but there’s also a lot of explosions which doesn’t strike me as a zombie attack

From a rise over the city, Dante and his Talkers watch

I do like that Warren and Kaia, two women of colour, are the ones who are just a little cynical about the whole idea of a perfectly egalitarian society. When George says “this isn’t us” Warren quietly says that it is “exactly us” because she has every reason to be leery about the idea that people value equality and justice et al. Because yeah, no. Really no. At the same time Warren is equally clearly invested in having this equal society - because creating a new world that lives up to these ideals is something WOC are going to be far more invested in seeing. George brings hope - but Warren has a distinct cynical determination to both make this world happen but tempered by a very real understanding of how terrible people actually are

However, while I think it’s well done and Z Nation has only drawn direct parallels between anti-talker prejudice and, say, racism or homophobia a few times, there are still those shades and we still have an issue that Talkers, without their biscuits, are dangerous zombies which, as we’ve said multiple times before, means parallels between them and say, POC or LGBTQ people are fraught.

I do like the depiction of 10k and his grief - because developing a new disability, especially one that drastically changes your lifestyle and certainly your self-identity is a grieving process. Ultimately, 10k is defined by how he well he can fire a gun - this is who he is, this is even what his name means - it was actually jarring to hear Red call him Tommy. It’s understandable that he would be deeply shaken by this.