Thursday, January 3, 2019

Z Nation: Season 5, Episode 13: End of Everything

It is the season finale of Z Nation and, sadly, the utter finale of Z Nation though I have a lot of thoughts on that to digest in the Requiem

Sun Mei died last episode and her brains have been passed on to Red to keep safe. Which she does. All episode. Bye Red, do you want a cushion for that plot box?

George is having one of her moments of struggle and doubt, struggle over what everyone has had to endure for Altura, if what it will achieve will be worth it or even be possible. If they are good enough for Altura and if she can keep going. This is an excellent emotional moment and perfect for George because she’s just endured torture. That should leave a mark - that should leave psychological marks. That should take some time to recover from it. And of course Warren gives her an excellent pep talk

Which… I get because Warren is a leader but at the same time Warren being George’s crutch has happened for far too long.

The bad guys continues being evil with Estes being all paranoid and Pandora using lots of sexiness to fight back. Including in front of Sun Mei’s corpse. Classy.

He has gathered all his militia and all his volunteers to send them to the staging ground identified by George… Pandora is so very very sure that she broke George

She is wrong… there isn’t an army of Talkers there. There’s 10k, Doc, Addie and Murphy all having awesome little character moments earlier. But now there’s Doc with a loud speaker making gun noises drawing them all in. And then 10k looking on, from a distance. Now, what can one sniper, even one as ridiculously good as 10k do against an army?

Weeellll, this is the apocalypse. And the show has belatedly remembered the real enemy out there isn’t Talkers or humans - it’s zombies. And how one human dead turns into a biting infectious zombie and how one sniper taking out 4 or 5 men in a tightly packed group can pretty much kill them all

I would think that this would cause 10k, Doc or George a little consternation? I mean they just caused a not-small massacre: that was Altura’s entire militia and a number of volunteers. That’s got to be a significant percentage of the population killed.

Estes and Pandora have a freak out over their entire army being destroyed when Addie and Murphy arrive with a lot of conscious Talkers… all here and ready to vote. With sympathisers at every gate to to let in more Talkers. See it’s election day and Estes expected all of the Talkers not to be there so the paranoid living humans could then vote for security and his Supreme Leaderness. Except the problem with no real alternative and, at the same time, threat of bombing means most the humans have stayed at home. Curse those low turn outs, scourge of democracies and dictators who are doing dictatorship wrong.

Now with lots of Talkers flooding in they can all cast ballots (because Estes has still left peace justice democracy and a constitution on the ballot?) and the living who were willing to see their loved ones kicked out decided to… just let the Talkers in now? Apparently?

Anyway, this is happening

Meanwhile Estes and Pandora run away chased by the good guys and Cooper is here! Yes, Warren’s sort of love interest from the beginning of the series. He’s here to remind Warren that he loves her and… put a pin in that Cooper, currently saving the world, ‘kay

But for reasons Murphy is going to stay and glare at him so Warren and George can go on to their big confrontation on their own. This involves confronting Estes and he doing the proper supervillain thing and explaining his big bad plan

So he has to kill the Talkers because they eat Lithium to stay “alive” and eventually they will run out (Sun Mei’s quote aside) and eventually they’ll have to kill them all. Which would sort of have a plan except we’ve already seen that zombie brains can feed Talkers, there’s a load of zombies and it take relatively tiny amounts of brains to keep them human. And hey if you have to kill them all you could wait until they’re mindless monsters rather than… well… jump the gun? Also I seriously doubt his estimate of how much lithium there is in the country because… yeah, there’s a lot more than what they’ve found. It’s not that rare.

Perhaps recognising that “kill them now so we don’t have to MAYBE kill them later” is a dubious motivation the writers have a second motivation for him- the planet. See to keep Altura working and being eco-friendly, they need solar power and batteries to work when the sun is down and these batteries need to made from Lithium so we can’t possibly feed them to Talkers - we have to annihilate all the Talkers so we can run a green economy! Yes to granola! No to fragile loved ones!


Ok, look, I greatly praise Estes desire to make a better, greener future. But the population of the world is pretty much less than a million people at this point? At least as far as we can tell. And they’re not using a whole lot of industry here… global warming is not a pressing issue any more… burn some damn coal. Or set up a wind turbine! The wind still blows at night! We’ve seen the dam already for that matter! This is not a reasonable motivation.

So he explains all this and Warren is recording it and Citizen Z is broadcasting this live to everyone who collectively gasp “ZOMG HE’S EVIL!!!! All of our prejudices are now invalid, let us not murder the Talkers we were rounding up and massacring a few days ago!” Because this is how prejudice works.

Anyway, he is FOILED! And more he’s just said Talkers are like totally totally icky and Pandora heard him! And this sinister characters has just learned that the guy who hates all Talkers hates, her, a Talker. She decides to blow up all the things, as one does.

This has Warren working with Estes to try and not blow everything up while George and Pandora have Blatant Character Moments in case anyone was asleep through all the previous character building. So, simplified: Pandora is evil and hates hates hates herself because she’s a Talker and is ugly underneath that mask and thinks it’s terribad awful. In case you missed that the woman who always wore a mask and denied being a Talker, hates being a Talker. While George refuses to kill her and tries (and fails) to save her… because she’s George and she cares

Except, y’know, about the entire armed forces of Altura who are dead who no-one seems to care about.

And Warren gets shot. And I’m just kind of irritated about this - Cooper’s come back expressly to fill in that Warren actually died when he first met her and she’s actually a super Talker because black Rain/Zona/this is the last season who cares? I assume this was setting up for a new season of plot hooks but as it stands, the reintroduction of Cooper (especially when he says “hey you’re dead, I voted, don’t be a stranger, buh-bye”) and her being shot at all feels pointless. Why have her “killed” when it gives us exactly, like, 3 minutes of tension. And then hand waves the whole thing. Why…?

I think this whole ending just kind of emphasises how much Z Nation didn’t intend to end this season...

Similarly, Red climbs out of her plot hole to hand Sun Mei’s brain to Murphy who eats it and then gets… kind of sinister? This hasn’t been flagged at all - if anything all season we’ve emphasised Murphy’s heart of gold. So where has this come from? Especially in the middle of this whole happily ever after everyone else is living

But that lack of foreshadow - and the complete character about turn really means I can’t blame the failing of this season on the fact the show was cancelled before it got to explain stuff. Especially since the cancellation wasn’t apparently planned until quite late in the season. In fact, I rather think the weakness of season 5 led to the cancellation far more than the cancellation causing season 5 to be weak

Ultimately this series was hugely rebooted with the beginning of the season and the Black Rain - but it wasn’t exactly done well. We went from a world where humanity was on the very brink of extinction and barely scavenging an existence to suddenly having a whole network of settlements we didn’t know about. This fundamental world building changes that weren’t really supported and end up hurting a lot of previous characterisation

All of this compounds with a storyline which is pretty weak - a society is rushed into, Pandora is a 2 dimensional nothing of a character, we breeze through other settlements without ever really explaining why Altura rules them all, Estes’s motivation is nonsensical. Hey and remember he had a tie to Zona? What was that plot hook for?

I feel like the writers finished the last season not knowing what to do and then some other writers came in and wanted to tell their OWN story but it wasn’t really related to Z Nation in any way it just had zombies. And we had a plot line that wasn’t zany ENOUGH for the plot holes not to matter, and not structured enough not to be justified without zaniness.

Representation wise, Z Nation has always been surprisingly strong with Warren as indisputed lead, awesome character and generally amazing character. She has managed to bring a steely core to a whacky show that somehow made it all work - and somehow made this season worse because she was pushed back for George to step into the spotlight, even if she did get her own romance. Kaia was effortlessly awesome in any scene she was in and Sun Mei was excellent if somewhat troped and unnecessarily killed. But all were pushed somewhat to step back. Multiple awesome female characters is an excellent element of this show and cannot be denied - but Pandora-the-unnecessarily-sexy-evil-one I could do without.

We have no LGBTQ characters this season or, well, ever unless we count a single episode trainwreck of comic relief.