I’ve developed a hypothesis about Keith Allan. It goes a little something like this: The actor, who plays Murphy on Z Nation, is an exceptionally gifted dramatic actor. He COULD be a fine comedic actor as well, but that’s not something we’re ever going to get to discover (not on this show anyway) because the jokes are so heavy-handed Allan is forced into doing backflips to make the dense suckers land.
Over the past three weeks, the show has definitely moved into a more serious dramatic tone. There’s nothing I don’t love about that. Anything on television that can balance honest-to-god gut-wrenching moments along with radioactive zombies deserves my unadulterated adoration. That said, it does make the stark difference in quality between the show’s dramatic and comedic beats harder to stomach.
Although I didn’t believe for one second that Murphy was parting ways with operation bite mark for good, you wouldn’t have known that watching my face crumple as Murphy gave his silent farewell before boarding the vodka-powered chopper. Something changed for Murphy, and I’d mark it as being that deeply unsettling moment three weeks back when he reunited that family in certain death. His refusal this week to grant Amelia mercy (and to refuse to allow any of the others to do it either) was equally touching and equally problematic. The woman spent the bulk of the episode making it clear how the idea of becoming a zombie was nightmarish to her. That Murphy denied her mercy was, in this sense, deeply cruel. But Allan made it more complex than that. Murphy is learning to empathize for the first time ever maybe in his life — and his empathy is universal. It isn’t just for the people surrounding him, it’s the for aimless, searching, and ultimately very goofy, zombies around him. Murphy can see the sadness of both scenarios and in a way this makes him more open-minded than anyone else on the journey.
Less effective this week was 10K working out (or, more appropriately failing to work out) his daddy issues with reclusive nuke expert, Homer Stubbins (arguably the greatest name of any character anywhere). 10K lost a dad, Homer lost a son – this would have been enough underlining of their relationship as it stood when the duo was forced to go back inside and shut down the reactor. But the overwrought dialogue made what could have been as emotionally jarring as anything involving Murphy this week sink like a ball of lead. That said, it was nice to spend some time with 10K, who has been criminally underused so far this season as a character. There’s a lot more with him to mine, and while the dad stuff is sad, I’m more curious about the life of a young person whose memories only extend as far as the start of the apocalypse.