This Z Nation review contains spoilers.
Z Nation Season 3 Episode 3
It seems last week’s two-hour premiere of Syfy’s Z Nation, which took place chronologically in the middle of Season 2, wasn’t really our premiere. “New Mission,” on the other hand, dropped us right back into the action where Season 2 left off, and I mean to the exact moment. Finally, we get to know who this new foreign military faction is and, of course, if 10K (Nat Zang) is alive or perished in the submarine… OK, we all knew he’s alive, but how?!
If this episode had a theme, it was the drawing of new season 3 factions. Z Nation has always been a show about a group of intrepid heroes trying to save humanity by delivering the somehow immune Murphy (Keith Allan) to what was left of the U.S. government and the CDC. The season 2 finale, to its credit, actually did a fantastic job of showing that the government institutions the people of the modern world know are completely gone in the wake of the zombie apocalypse. At the time, it just seemed like a hodge-podge of loose threads to be tied up later and I have to give it to the season opener for tying them up quite a nicely.
First, let’s get the big question out of the way. When Murphy blew up the nuclear submarine after discovering that the people of the “utopia” Zona were planning to use his blood to make a cure just for the 1 percent of society, he took some hostages by biting them. As devoted fans will know, this puts them under his mind control spell. 10K, who spent all of last season vehemently fighting against the concept of Murphy’s new bite-mark hypnosis powers, is revealed to have been laying down in the life raft that helped Murphy and his drones escape. He has questions and seems to act normal, but there’s an unmistakable look in his eyes that seems to say “I’ll do whatever Murphy says,” – Not a good sign. When they discover a horde of zombies eating each other due to the lack of remaining humans in the U.S., it becomes clear that Murphy’s plan is to rebuild the world in his image. He’ll do this with a bunch of half-human-half-zombie “blends” that bend to his will.
Meanwhile, Warren and the rest of Operation Bite Mark have been accosted by a military faction that’s revealed to be what’s left of the best surviving minds in China. Like everyone in this freaking show, they’re there to find Murphy and make a vaccine for the zombie virus out of his blood. They inform Operation Bite Mark that they’ve put all of their remaining resources into this military excursion, so it has to go well.
Yeah, it doesn’t.
With our heroes as their reluctant allies, the Chinese faction enters a warehouse to find some scientific supplies that were air-dropped in. The only problem is that it’s surrounded by both Zs and a new group of human marauders known as “Enders.” They’re savages who’s brains have been fried due to, well, circumstance really. The Chinese die comically horrible deaths leaving only their leader/scientist alive, I smell a new main character!
Previously, Z Nation has flirted with developing factions like the infamous Zeros cartel in season 2, and a handful of survivor tribes of the week. However, in this episode alone we see Murphy develop the Blends, Enders emerge, Zona reappear and Operation Bite Mark take them all on. All that’s not even mentioning the ever-looming presence of zombies, which have their own sub-categories.
The thing that makes this show so much fun, and often excuses its low-quality, is the fact that it lights up the same part of people’s brains as The Walking Dead, minus all the parts of that make the latter series boring. If TWD is a show about people trying to find themselves at the end of the world, Z Nation is a show about people trying to find gasoline at the end of the world, and if those cold-hard logistics don’t appeal to you, you’re doing zombies wrong. The addition of these various factions is, of course, a little silly, but it’s also a lot of fun.
When it’s all said and done, Murphy gets to the supplies first and confronts Warren and the gang with his plan to rebuild the world in his image. Obviously, being one of his zombie fly girls doesn’t sit well with the likes of Warren, and she draws her weapon on the Murphy. He signals 10K, who snipes the gun right out of her hand, revealing that he’s alive to his old friends, but not quite right. What’s this? 10K fighting on Murphy’s side? Following his orders? You guessed it folks, Murphy didn’t rescue the ranger, he bit him on the back of the neck making him one of his manipulated monkeys as well. Say it isn’t so! The fan-favorite character is not but a hypnotized henchman now? I have to admit, it’s a twist I didn’t see coming simply because I didn’t want it to be true. That’s not an emotion I would have credited this show with the ability to conjure!
The episode ends with the classic season premiere setup in which Warren, being the only remaining voice of reason the world has left, tells Murphy that her plan is to track him down and have their new Chinese scientist friend make a world-wide vaccine from his blood. Murphy scoffs and points to the blood-thirsty Enders arguing that they’re the remaining “humanity” she’s risking her life to protect. Seriously, for a show that has tackled aliens, stripper zombies, baby zombies, killing people with cheese, and mind control, I found myself diving to some deep philosophical wells at this moment. As mentioned last week, this show has the potential to really play with the concept of the end of the world if it just decides to take itself seriously sometimes, and “New Mission” is a fantastic example of that.
With 10K’s fate hanging in the balance and factions like Blends, Operation Bite Mark, Zona, the Chinese, Enders and, possibly, Zeros still in the mix, I honestly find myself excited to see what Syfy throws at us next week.