This Z Nation review contains spoilers.
Z Nation Season 3 Episode 7
For a while, I’ve been a big advocate for Syfy’s Z Nation to abandon the on purpose camp and opt, instead to lean into its own bonkers mythos and feel confident in the fact that it’s doing things with the zombie genre that simply haven’t been done before. Sure the plotlines often involve mind control, super-weapons and things of that nature, but they’re means to a larger end.
This was evident most of all in Season 3, episode 7, “Welcome to Murphytown.” All season long, factions have been developing within the zombified landscape of the United States, and they all came together in this stage-setting episode that, for once, abandoned the campy parody-of-the-week aspect of the show and, instead, swam in its self-contained high stakes.
Some may say that I’m being too generous to a show like Z Nation, which often prides itself on being so bad that fans merely hate-watch it. However, I find there’s more to it than that, especially if you’re willing to meet it half way. This episode opened with a sweet moment in which Operation Bite Mark reunited with their previously lost cohorts Doc (Russell Hodgkinson) and 10K (Nat Zang).
Maybe I’m a sucker for a good character reunion, but it’s the small moments in this show when the characters seem like a genuine team/family that make the bananas moments of fighting zombie spiders worthwhile. By the way, Warren (Kellita Smith) and Addy (Anastasia Baranova) offhandedly mentioned that they’ve been off fighting zombie spiders during the two episodes they’ve been MIA. Although it played fast and loose with the science behind the zombie virus, this kind of thing helps shape the post-apocalyptic America as the cartoonish hellscape that it is on this show. If you can’t get past the leap of logic, or even laugh at it, you shouldn’t be here.
Now, with 10K back on the team, he informs them about Murphy (Keith Allen) and his new world order being built in Spokane. Meanwhile, The Red Hand is operating really close to the team, killing most of the humans that they are near. Warren decides that it’s finally time to take the fight to Murphy – after all, he and his army of blends are the biggest threat to the planet at the moment. However, it’s at this point that I need to step in and ask, and I mean really ask, “are they?!”
Here’s what the Murphy has going on in Washington: He inoculates you with a vaccine, zombies are no longer attracted to you, you may be susceptible to his mind control powers, which he has no desire to really use anymore. Maybe I’m the textbook definition of a cult follower, but that exchange doesn’t seem that bad. Especially when there’s electricity and running water.
The episode showed this juxtaposition incredibly well when Murphy’s henchmen were able to sit around as a family and eat steak meat without fear for the first time since the apocalypse, while Operation Bite Mark was frying up crickets over a campfire. All protein is NOT created equal my friends. So, for the first time in the history of Z Nation, I find myself wondering who the villain is supposed to be.
One would imagine that the answer to this question is simple – zombies. However, with Murphy making them more docile creatures, relative to living humans, they become a tool that’s no-so-bad, albeit a little grotesque. Then it was rogue factions that aimed to stop Murphy from being used to create a cure to the zombie virus. Now that Murphy is the one leading that charge, everyone insists that his vision for the future is evil because, frankly, he’s kind of an ass and eats brains. However, Operation Bite Mark’s goal right now feels a lot like that of the people they’ve been combating for the past two and a half seasons.
Right now, Z Nation is in a weird plot area where it’s very unclear who we’re supposed to be rooting for. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, depending on how the show ends up wrapping up this storyline. With only a handful of episodes left and Warren finally on Murphy’s doorstep, it seems like these decisions will need to be made sooner rather than later.
Honestly, I’d be OK with it if we focused a little bit more on this binary conflict between Operation Bite Mark and Murphy. However, we’re still in a place where factions like Zona, possibly the Chinese, The Red Hands and Blasters are cogs in the ever-bloating machine that is Z Nation. It’s unclear how, or if, they will factor into the impending showdown, but if it’s not flawless, the Syfy series is in danger of jumping the shark, which is saying a lot for a series that is nothing if not a collection of shark-jumping moments.