This Z Nation review contains spoilers.
Z Nation Season 3 Episode 5
I’m always surprised when a show like Z Nation, which is supposed to just satisfy my desire to see zombies get their heads caved in, forces me to eat my vegetables with an in-depth episode that really wrestles with some heavy philosophical issues. Enter Season 3, episode 5, titled “Little Red and The Wolfz,” which rushed the viewer headlong into the show’s most intricate and often bizarre plotline.
Last week’s episode ended on a surprisingly heartbreaking cliffhanger that saw Dr. Merch (Lisa Coronado) inject herself with a vaccine that no longer made her immune to the zombies. It was a pretty interesting way for a character to commit suicide, and the stakes were pretty high given that she’s the only one that has come close to synthesizing a vaccine for the zombie virus. Now, it’s up to Murphy (Keith Allen), who finally fully stepped into his new role by calling himself God, to figure out how to save the world all on his own. This is no easy feat now that the pressure is on after adopting a small army of apostles.
The episode opened with these apostles bringing the remaining body parts of Merch back upstairs to his Spokane lair so that he could try and figure out why she died. It quickly becomes clear that Murphy is unable, or unwilling, to admit that she killed herself to avoid being one of his personal flying monkeys. After all, people submitting to his mind control in order to become immune to zombies is kind of the whole crux of his world-saving plan. So, we’re now dealing with a blue-skinned half-zombie with mind control powers shouting for answers from a dismembered corpse. It’s at this point that any rational person would grab the remote and switch over to something else. I admit, this is outrageous to the point of madness and almost entirely unrelatable. Having said that, those that would change the channel would have missed the hell out.
For the past two seasons, Allen has played Murphy as a figure that’s reluctant to be a savior, because he knew it would just mean letting people smarter than him probe him and prod him in a sterile scientific lab. That’s why he’s been such a colossal pain in the ass at every turn. Now, after taking back his own life and becoming a god in his own right, the traditionally flippant character is forced to take himself seriously, and the results are downright captivating.
Literally, Murphy spent the whole episode locked in a room with the body of Merch and his feelings. The clever through-line of the episode saw a very dejected and disgruntled messiah demanding answers from the corpse, for things locked away in her deceased brain. As we know, Murphy isn’t immune to the allure of human brains, but he fights the urge to debase himself like that. Instead, he focuses on trying to synthesize a cure for himself – keep in mind he’s a con artist, not a scientist. But hey, desperate times, right?
Eventually, after trying his best to understand Merch’s research as a layman, he politely nibbles on her brains and figures out how to make the cure all by his lonesome. Apparently eating other people’s brains gives you their knowledge… Who knew? Just like that, Murphy has his Plan A back and no longer needs the injections that 10K (Nat Zang) stole. Speaking of which…
When last we left the sharp shooter, he’d jumped off a bridge into the rapid waters of the Spokane River in an attempt to avoid going back to Murphy. When we find him in episode 5, he’s wounded, but still trucking. For real, far too much episode real estate was devoted to watching him run through the woods. It was almost comically boring at points, but am I really going to go after the show’s editor?
He’s being chased by Will Chaffin (Aaron Trainor), who we all thought was a one-off character designed to show Murphy’s newfound benevolence, but apparently, he’s the lead general and voice of the blend movement. Thanks to his methodical tracking, he runs down the wounded 10K and takes him prisoner while they search for the bag full of moot injections that he lost.
While they reluctantly do more pacing through the wild, the inevitable conversation about free will comes up. 10K, obviously, advocates for freedom to think for yourself, even if it means living in constant fear of the Zs. Will, on the other hand, is very much enjoying the fact that he can walk right through a horde of zombies, especially if the only cost to him is that he has to follow Murphy’s vision to build a utopia with running water and electricity. Frankly, it was here that I found myself with my mouth agape realizing that I’m suddenly on the pro-mind control side of the argument. Honestly, the episode forced us to watch 10K struggle, slosh and fight his way through the world for about a half hour, only to end up on his way back to Murphy. So, when this guy comes along and gives his “it’s not all that bad speech,” both 10K and the viewer were very inclined to listen.
Let’s just play a game: Would you rather be forced to help rebuild society, safe from zombies, or go your own way knowing that monsters are literally always out there trying to kill you? The fact that this is even a debatable question speaks a lot to the crazy yet fun concepts that Z Nation has created.
Despite where you land on that topic, we can all agree that seeing 10K go back into servitude is not what any wants. Instead, he seizes the first opportunity to escape. While the rest of the world grapples with the philosophy behind blending, fan-favorite 10K is, has been and always will be a self-motivated badass – and for that we salute him.
As Murphy notes, 10K being alive means he’ll inevitably find his way back to Warren (Kellita Smith) and he’ll have to use his new army of apostles to fend off whatever she, Operation Bite Mark and the other forces they can scrounge up have coming his way. The stage is set for a battle people, and if that doesn’t excite you, I can’t help you.
I’ve been saying for a while that Z Nation needs to stop winking at the audience and actually mush on with the confidence that its crazy world can have high stakes, and this episode proves that. To make the easy comparison to The Walking Dead, which catches a lot of flak for being too slow and wasting the fun landscape of a zombie apocalypse with soap opera drama, Z Nation suffers from the opposite problem. It has a bit too much fun and the result is strange episodes about mind control and subplots where they tease aliens. The question is, which series will meet the audience halfway between drama and fun first? Tonight, Z Nation may have taken the lead.