Z Nation Season 3 Episode 13: Duel Review

The highs were high, but the lows were really low on the latest episode of Z Nation.

This Z Nation review contains spoilers.

Z Nation Season 3 Episode 13

With only a few episodes left before Z Nation takes its final bow for Season 3, some real climactic conflicts needed to be resolved this week, which is exactly what happened in “Duel.” As its title would imply, the focus was on a cat and mouse game between two of the toughest survivors the apocalypse has to offer, but the prize that they were competing over wasn’t necessarily the best.

After an entire season of self-contained stories for Murphy, Warren, Doc, and 10K, it was finally time to give Addy and her Z-Whacker an hour of their own. When last we left the intrepid badass, she had been knocked out by the mysterious Zona operative known only as The Man. The team had encountered him before when they failed to protect a small colony, so Addy came into the battle with a grudge. However, him capturing Murphy’s rapidly-ageing daughter, Lucy, was a bridge too far.

With Murphy building a blend army in Spokane, Washington, Addy believes that cooperation from Lucy is the only hope that people have to save humanity with a cure. As a result, she’s motivated to take on The Man directly, which she did at almost every conceivable turn. The episode did a great job of setting up a good motivation for Addy to continue to throw herself at her far superior opponent, knowing full well she’d likely lose. We’ve seen the hero grow leaps and bounds as a warrior since the series began, and especially since losing Mack at the beginning of Season 2. However, The Man is some kind of relentlessly trained results-driving machine. There were genuine moments of fear for this Day 1 member of Operation Bite Mark as her face was turned into hamburger meat and her shoulder was slowly (and I mean slowly) popped out of its socket. He even drowned her for goodness’ sake!

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Still, every time she found herself standing toe-to-toe with The Man, she fought. Luckily, he continually refused to just end her. Having said that, Addy had numerous chances of her own to give her unconscious foe the old double-tap but didn’t, so maybe there’s some mutual respect (stupidity?) between them.

While Addy’s badass moments certainly took the front and center of this installment, her big sister moments shined the brightest. Setting aside, for a moment, how crazy the entirety of Lucy’s character is, Addy found herself in a position to convince a child to stop playing around, a preteen to dress empowered and a regular teen to find her own inner strength – all in the span of one episode. Fans may recognize Addy as the one who masterfully wields the spiked baseball bat, but she felt like more of a grounded character than ever when she was helping Lucy grow up.

It was a great way of making the audience eat its vegetables in an episode that could have otherwise just been an exercise in watching a beautiful girl get the hell beat out of her by Mr. Clean. Although it’s strange to see the beacon of high stakes be a young girl painted blue, the emotional relentlessness of the character trying to rescue Lucy from the powers that be at Zona was heavy. Additionally, it all made her eventual reunion with Doc, who was pedaling his way through this episode, 10 times more fulfilling.

OK, remember how I said that we were going to set aside the insanity of Lucy’s character for a moment? That moment is over. This episode had a lot of fantastic things to work with, but Lucy has entirely too much going on that makes it hard to really understand why the other people on the show even give a damn. For starters, the series is attempting to do some kind of growing up rapidly storyline, sending her through the trials and tribulations of puberty all in one road trip. However, she’s only a couple years old, which means her intelligence can only go so high. She’s just a bratty teen by the end of the episode with no concept of what makes a teen so demanding. Additionally, she looks at all the zombies as her friends, and mind controls them to threaten people, but is never quite able to use them to stop herself from being kidnapped by The Man. She even shares her father’s propensity for getting upset when the Zs are killed, which is a bummer, but only the tip of the iceberg. 

This episode introduced a device to the show in which Lucy may or may not be able to read the zombies’ minds. If true, it would mean that the zombies are capable of thought as well as remembering who they were before they turned. This is hugely problematic for a show that hangs its hat every week on violence amongst these seemingly mindless creatures. One of the most fan-beloved characters is named after the fact that he plans on killing 10,000 zombies – and he usually racks up those numbers with pretty impressive and morbid violence. If we suddenly establish that these zombies could be saved, or that they’re still human beings inside, it really colors the whole series, as well as people’s enjoyment of its violence in the future. The thing that makes the zombie genre so special is the fact that they’re essentially cannon fodder for badass survivors to come and wipe out without mercy (despite what all the characters say). Seeing them engage in a tea party and hearing about the people that they used to love would be a huge betrayal of that gimmick.

Overall, this was one of the stronger episodes of Z Nation, but the parts that were low were really, really low. If we’re being 100 percent honest with ourselves, the reason it hit such a low is because the mythos surrounding the plot’s epicenter, Lucy, is so vaguely defined. It’s allowed to meander because it doesn’t quite know where it’s going. It’s determined to be confusing because she’s supposed to have mystery. In the end, fans simply get a hodgepodge of plot magic that may or may not come into play later on down the line. Until those questions can be answered, and the rules of how Lucy works can be defined, we’re all in for a bit of a head scratcher as we move headlong into Season 4.

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3.5 out of 5