In Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, the director uses stark imagery and showcases humanity at its most despairing to show us the destructive spiritual and physical power that war has on mankind. Tonight’s episode of Z Nation was called “Full Metal Zombie,” primarily because the gang spent most of their time dealing with a general who had lost his goddamn mind. Which is exactly what happened in Full Metal Jacket, only not at all, really.
Joking aside, the episode did pry open an interesting can of worms. Tonight’s story was full of human beings whose essential goodness had been destroyed by dealing with the Zombie virus. Kids helping their parents murder and plunder, a power-crazed dying General, mad-men wielding zombies as weapons — who are the real monsters? It’s an obvious question, but an important one to take on, and it seems like the show is game for that.
That said, unmasking the terrible things a zombie apocalypse can reveal inside people is never going to be as potent as say, a film about soldiers during the Vietnam War. That’s because — whatever your personal beliefs are — we are not currently nor have we ever had to battle zombies to the death in order to defend our right to survive. You could make the argument that one war is like any other, but I’m going to have to go ahead and come out with it: Killing hordes of the undead is very, very different than killing people who simply have a different worldview than you and your government do.
What was more interesting to me than the rather expected “are the zombies the monsters or are we” line of thought was the first inklings among the crew that there might be any hesitation or doubt as to what their “mercy” killings are doing. Until now each head-shot and bludgeoning has been perfunctory, almost joyful in the completion of the violent act. Tonight we saw both the assassin hesitate and miss, and Doc briefly bond (and get stoned) with a zombie in an air shaft. Obviously, the two moments were very different in tone — one was tragic the other comedic — but in content they were just two sides of one coin. Our killer’s mission to avenge his father is called into question when he is haunted by his father’s pride in him and what that means. Doc, on the other hand, shares a startling stoned moment of realizing that he and the zombie were not so different at one point, since both were doctors.
I could do without Citizen Z (whose role as nerdy, vaguely prurient mouthpiece is starting to grate), but that gripe aside the show is turning into something campy but not entirely irrelevant, which I thought was the direction it was headed. It’s great to see a show strive for something, and Z is definitely going after it and with a light touch to boot. Now my expectations are high which helps no one! So continue being awesome, show!