Z Nation: Philly Feast Review

Tonight's Z Nation cements the new series as one to keep watching, as we move beyond early televised cannibalism.

When it comes to giving new TV a shot, I tell anyone who will listen that you owe every show that might have the spark of potential three episodes. That’s because the pilot, no matter what form makes it to air, wasn’t written for you; it was written for dudes in suits who don’t understand story. Thus the two subsequent episodes are bound to be a mad shuffle of trying to set the pace for the story that the show’s team wasn’t sure they’d be able to tell until they were given that glorious greenlight.

Tonight was Z Nation’s third episode, and I think it’s fair to say that by the end of tonight’s installment, I had a sense of what this show looks like and it looks like something I’m interested in watching more of and then some. This is a show that thrives on hope, and that’s what distinguishes it from other contemporary zombie fodder. The jocular tone and slowly (but solidly) developing human relationships have commingled to create an ensemble dynamic that I care about. It’s like if the cast of The Office found themselves fending off a zombie apocalypse — it’s hilarious and engaging, and scary because it’s familiar to us.

I was skeptical at the end of last week’s episode about Cassandra’s story, and I have to admit it: I was wrong. The gripping Texas Chainsaw Massacre style tale of the cult that claimed ownership over Cassandra was exactly the right mixture of ghastly, horrific, and humanizing — where she herself was concerned. It’s rare TV makes me jump or cover my eyes, but tonight’s episode managed to find me doing both.

I love the intense (but still comic) gore factor. But even more than that, I loved the way Cassandra’s confession about her past only served to bind her more tightly to her new end-of-the-world survivor family. I think it was a smart choice to make this cannibalistic cult a one and done storyline. The creepiness would wear off after an episode, and the business of just staying along is conflict enough for the gang. I’m hoping that with each city, they encounter another tie to their past. But that is because I am a nerd.

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4 out of 5