This Z Nation review contains spoilers.
Z Nation Season 3 Episode 3
After last week’s Season 3 premiere of Syfy’s Z Nation bent over backwards to establish new factions within the roughly six-year-old zombie apocalypse that the characters reside in. The latest episode took things a step further by laying some pretty overt character groundwork, while still peppering in the perfunctory villain of the week.
We open on Murphy (Keith Allan), who is leading Dr. Merch (Lisa Coronado), 10 K (Nat Zang) and a couple of red shirts that he’d bitten and hypnotized to the place where he hopes to build his a new world order. Murphy wants to jump start planet earth by making everyone into, what he calls, “blends.” Where does he choose to start this dystopia? Well Spokane, Washington, of course. Not only is it where the show films, but it’s apparently where the character is originally from.
OK, I’m willing to buy that Murphy wants to set up shop in the Museum of Progress and that he’s in love with Spokane. When we’re talking about strange things that happen on Z Nation, this is the very tip of the iceberg. Instead, this story was more about the morality of Murphy and his powers to blend people into zombie/human hybrids. The character actually makes a lot of sense when he talks about utilizing his powers of mind control to rebuild a world that’s immune to the zombie virus. However, the fact that each person would be under his direct control poses quite the ethical conundrum. Or, at least it would if Murphy wasn’t toying with his new prisoner, and fan favorite character, 10K.
It was revealed last week that the sniper was bitten by Murphy, and now he’s openly defiant of him, without being able to physically stop himself from doing what the blue messiah says. It’s tough to see and it proves that, for all Murphy’s pontificating about saving the world, he’s still just a straight up Bond villain. Every season needs a big bad I guess. However, considering the relatively successful leaps the show took in Season 2 to humanize the Murphy, his villainy is a bit one dimensional a little too soon.
Meanwhile, Citizen Z (DJ Qualls) is still hanging out with his new friends in the middle of the arctic. The parents are funny and the daughter is flirty. Eventually he learns that they’re running out of food, which stands to reason since they exist on a frozen tundra. I wish I had more to say about the Citizen Z storyline, but so far this season it’s a bit stale. What made the character great was that he was the team’s eye in the sky at his hip base of operations for the NSA. Now that he’s just a guy existing in an area without zombies, frankly, I’m not interested. He reminds me of the island flashbacks on The CW’s Arrow, but that’s another conversation. He did, however hear word from Operation Bite Mark for the first time in a while, which leads us to our main story of the night.
The team is low on supplies after their bout with the Zeros, the Chinese, Murphy and the Enders. As happens on this show, they find their way to a small town looking for logistical supplies. They see a postal worker, inexplicably still in uniform after all these years, trapped in his truck by a horde of Zs. The team approaches and quickly notices that the surrounding zombies aren’t interested in them, which is a first. They only have eyes for their trusty civil servant. He introduces himself as Walter J. Becker before insisting that the group doesn’t give mercy to any of the turned townsfolk. So, with a shifty postman, weird morals and a seemingly supernatural ability to attract zombies, the team is obviously skeptical.
At this point, it seemed like this is going to be an irredeemably wacky episode. I was prepared to write another recap about how the show missed another opportunity to really write something original within the tired zombie genre in favor of some silly subplot involving more pseudo magic and an unrealistic setting. Then the third act shut me right the hell up.
After getting cross with Becker about his relationship to the zombies, he tells them that he wants them out of his shelter, but that he’ll give them food first. All they need to do is accompany him to a creepy basement where it’s all kept. Obviously this is a trap, but things got scary when they started to look around the old post office and notice that everyone there had been shot in the head before turning zombie. Suddenly the phrase “going postal” started to float around my brain when it became clear that Becker went a little nutty. It turns out he actually hated being a postal worker. It’s a pretty thankless job when you think about it. He sees all their love letters, birthday cards and invitations to parties. Meanwhile, he’s just the guy who steps in dog shit and gets yelled at when people’s paychecks are late. Now, however, they’re zombies, and he’s the most popular guy in town. But that means he’ll need to keep them fed if he wants them alive and constantly giving him attention. For the second time this episode, I found myself wrestling with some real philosophical dilemmas regarding the post-zombie world.
Sadly for the postman, he didn’t know that he’s dealing with a handful of the zombie apocalypse’s biggest badasses … and Hector (Emilio Rivera). They survive his trap but the team’s newest member, Dr. Sun Mei (Sydney Viengluang), gets captured by Becker. He gives his speech about why he killed everyone on Day One, and how it’s an odd sense of vengeance that keeps them attracted to him above all others. Fortunately, Mei turns the tables and manages to sick his beloved townspeople on him in one of the most brutal and violent comeuppances for a serial killer in recent memory.
Overall, I’m torn about this episode. While it didn’t do much to drive the larger plot forward, with the exception of establishing Murphy’s base, it did have an effective twist at the end that brought zombie apocalypse psychosis to a place I’d never seen before. However, it took a long and strange road to get there that one could argue was a waste of a good amount of episode realestate. That’s kind of the main issue with Z Nation in general – a lot of great ideas with only OK execution. Having said that, we’re in the middle of Season 3 and I’ll be watching diligently next week, so they must be doing something right.