This Z Nation review contains spoilers.
Z Nation Season 3 Episode 11
Although Syfy’s Z Nation is never a show that demands to be taken seriously, every once in awhile, it takes a big swing for the fence. Many times throughout Season 3, these high-concept stories-of-the-week have failed to land, but “Doc’s Angels” is a welcomed exception.
Not only did this episode find a way to go next level with the degree of morbid being brought to the table, but it solidified Doc (Russell Hodgkinson) as the definitive star of Season 3. Especially if the measure of a show’s star is his or her screen time. This is basically Doc’s third stand-alone episode of the year, and it’s a smart move on behalf of the show’s creators. As Z Nation finds its footing as a cartoonish live-action comic book, characters like the hippie former therapist are essential tools in the narrative toolbelt. Combine thrilling stories with Hodgkinson’s perfect tongue-in-cheek performance, and you’ve finally got yourself a show worth bookmarking.
“Docs Angels” picks up where last week’s confusing outing left off, with Doc and Addy splitting up and the former on his way to explore a radio tower. Throughout the seasons, Z Nation has been bringing viewers small glimpses of Enders. These are human beings that have survived the almost decade-long zombie apocalypse, but have allowed their brains to turn to mush in the process. They’re feral, dangerous and a pretty rad way to hammer home the “humans are the real threat” gestalt that was the core message of The Walking Dead Season 2… and 3, 4, part of 5, 6, and 7 thus far. The Enders pose an interesting question, just what kind of people are left alive in this world?
Doc makes his way to the radio tower and stumbles upon three very gorgeous women named Linda (Debra Wilson), Sarah (Annette Toutonghi), and Camilla (Nadine Valezquez). They’re hippies in their own right, seemingly surviving the apocalypse on organically grown food, a defense of garden zombies and some good old fashion sisterhood… seemingly. It quickly becomes clear, as they fawn over Doc and argue over who can be the most hospitable, that something strange is going on. Our hero even senses that something is amiss, but shrugs it off thinking that he’s only there until the morning when their radio is recharged. However, when things get pushed over the edge and all three women are beckoning him into the coolest/scariest foursome in TV history, he acquiesces. The character visited his trusty inner monologue and determines that, risks aside, it’s the apocalypse – so you get while the getting is good.
It’s pretty obvious at this point that there’s some kind of black widow-style twist looming over the narrative’s head, and with almost 50 percent of the episodes real estate eaten up by this angst, one finds him or herself thinking that this twist had better be pretty freaking intense. Luckily, the series didn’t disappoint. A sobering morning-after look by Doc reveals that the ladies aren’t living off of the land as much as they’re living off their fellow man. That is to say, lamp shades are made of human flesh, as well as the sofa. Even the clothes Doc wears are lined with human hair, and he eventually questions the “vegan” dinner he gobbled up the night prior.
So, the ladies are murderous psychopaths, but everyone saw that coming. What turned “Doc’s Angels” up to 11 was his confrontation with the ladies, once armed with his new findings. He entered the house to find his three lovely suitors wearing their scariest human-flesh mask that you ever did see. That’s right, they went full Texas Chainsaw Massacre and chased him around their horrific little fun house. Our hero was only able to escape with the help of some prisoners in the basement who were seemingly being harvested for hair, flesh and, somehow, weed. It’s at this point that the episode’s slow beginning starts to become forgivable, given that a place Doc called his literal heaven the night before is now a pretty uncomfortable and genuinely terrifying place for both him and the viewer to be in. Honestly, shout out to Debra Wilson for leading the pack. Who knew the former MadTV star had these kind of horror chops?
It seems the show opening by reminding us of Enders was a bit of a bait and switch. Just when you think you’ve been confronted with the worst of humanity, in the thick of the zombie apocalypse, one of the intrepid members of Operation Bite Mark finds himself facing horrors that are genuinely too messed up to really fathom. I mean, the weed prisoner was silly, but one could totally see how a twisted-enough mind could come up with the hair and flesh harvesting strategy… it’s messed up, but efficient.
This was an above average episode. It’s worth acknowledging that, for Z Nation, really heavy and genuinely gritty stories cannot be the regular. If they tried to abandon the mind control and other such aspects that make this show so cooky, it’d be cannibalized by the myriad of other zombie series’ out there. That’s why, it’s important to recognize these pieces of genuinely impressive comedy/horror TV moments. I highly doubt next week’s episode will top this Doc-heavy fair, but I’m likely not the only one willing to give it a shot.