This Z Nation review contains spoilers.
Oh man. So, it turns out that Z Nation has totally won me over. Just when I thought I had the show perfectly summed up, it unwraps further delicacies for me to sample. This being a SyFy show, they also aren’t afraid of self-awareness. That’s why when this week’s episode centered around a volatile storm including a tornado full of zombies, I stood up and slow clapped when a character managed to quietly and seriously deliver the line “Well it’s not sharks.”
SyFy knows their audience, and their audience are smart, affable nerds who enjoy laughing at meta-references to other SyFy original programming. It’s a good time to be alive.
Unless you’re Murphy, that is. Let’s discuss how Murphy has quietly become my focal point from each week to the next. Last week we saw his soft blubbery underbelly when he thought he’d lost his card-playing buddy Doc. This week, when confronted with a mirror for the first time in who knows how long, Murphy quietly appraises the horrific scars the zombie attack left of him. This doesn’t lead him to a breaking point, but slowly realizing he’s losing hanks of hair, his teeth are falling out, and that his eyes are radically changing send Murphy in a private vortex of panic. He emerges from the bathroom, head and beard shaved.
Just like Doc’s encounter last week, Murphy is being forced to acknowledge that his own relationships with the zombies is more complex than he originally thought. When told to put down an errant zombie (an off-shoot from the incoming tornado, naturally) Murphy hesitates. He can’t seem to make the kill. This in and of itself isn’t shocking — Murphy has painted quite the picture of himself as a coward. But the quick cuts between Murphy’s face and the zombie’s case tell a compelling story: Something is happening to Murphy and it is being deftly done.
Addy and Roberta both deal with demons of their own this week, though sadly their arcs were either telegraphed emotionally or not fully explored. I’m holding out hope that Addy’s seeming flashes of PTSD are a story we’ll hear more about next week. But unfortunately I think Roberta’s visit to her hometown and truncated hunt for her husband is a one-off story. Which is a bummer, because Roberta deserves better than to have another character, mid-zombie punch loudly announce, “Wow, that’s the first time you’ve shared something personal Roberta.”
She’s a tough cookie, to be true, but we never got that sense that she was feeling closed off or suicidal until this week. Her attempt to take her own life and her seeming complete about face regarding whether to live or to die seemed harried and way too easy.