Z Nation Season 3, Episode 9: Heart of Darkness Review

This week's episode of Z Nation answers a central question for season three.

This Z Nation review contains spoilers.

Z Nation Season 3, Episode 9

Syfy’s Z Nation is a stupid show. It makes no attempt to convince viewers otherwise, and it’s not exactly swinging for an Emmy nod. Presumably, you know what you’re in for when you flip on your TV and tune into the zombie series. However, that doesn’t mean that some storylines are immune to being unacceptably stupid.

Enter season three, episode nine, “Heart of Darkness.” Last week got us back to basics with a story-of-the-week plot that focused on two of the series’ most charming characters. Because fans enjoyed it, they were forced to eat their vegetables this week and stomach some bending over backwards so that the show could justify its least sensical plotline. This week’s installment finally answered the throughline question of the season, who is the mysterious Escorpion impersonator behind the new faction The Red Hand? Turns out, the answer was impossibly simple for those paying close enough attention, but I’d be lying if I said I was in that category.

Now that Warren (Kellita Smith) knows Murphy (Keith Allen) is planning to start a new world order based out of, all places, Spokane, Washington, the mission is clear. She launches a brief stealth incursion inside his compound, but nearly gets caught. With it clear that Operation Bite Mark will need more than its current numbers to stop Murphy’s new army, she decides to see if she can make nice with this new Escorpion.

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This is a pretty stupid plan, given that she’s traveling with the real Escorpion, now the reformed criminal Hector (Emilio Rivera). You see, we were introduced to Hector in Season 2 as the key antagonist. He killed the wife and daughter of the  gang’s previous cohort, Vasquez (Matt Cedeno). Vasquez joined the mission to get Murphy to the CDC, but was really seeking the man that killed his family.

A bloody showdown occurred in which Vasquez bested his foe. However, Hector returned a shockingly new man at the eleventh hour, which Warren was entirely too on board with. Bob’s your uncle, Hector stayed for season three and Vasquez literally disappeared into the wilderness.

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Anyway, the gang successfully finds their way to the hideout of The Red Hand, and hopefully you’ve done a better job paying attention than I did this season because, yeah, it’s Vasquez. Obviously it’s Vasquez, it makes literally no sense for it to be anyone but Vasquez. Who else would want to adopt the name of Escorpion as well as his relatively secret backstory? It’s hard to tell where the line of obtuseness on my part ends and where the cleverness on the show’s part begins. Perhaps it’s the fact that Z Nation spends such little time taking itself seriously, that when it decides to address a dangling thread, no one sees it coming because, frankly, if it started making a point to do that with every dangling thread, the show would need to last another 14 seasons.

The question then becomes, why has the broken former D.A. agent decided to adopt the moniker of his greatest enemy? Well, sadly that question doesn’t get answered. You see, he seems to have some kind of amnesia. Vasquez completely believes that he is Escorpion and always has been. He’s even got the exact same trademark tattoo on his forearm that Hector does. However, when Vasquez ends up killing Hector, only to be put down by Warren, he reveals with his last words that he remembers everything, including his own identity. So, he was pretending the whole time? It was a coping mechanism? His amnesia wore off in that exact moment? Why did he bother with the tattoo? Nothing makes sense, and a character that was with us for the entirety of last season is dead in the biggest anti-climax since The Sopranos.

At this point, I have to just acknowledge that I smell a rat. This plotline was riddled with holes, even for Z Nation. This should force one to wonder if maybe the minds behind the series were admitting defeat with the Vasquez/Escorpion storyline. It never fully worked and it was incredibly important to get those two characters off the board if they’re going to move forward with this already plot-heavy and bloated third season. We’re all completely sick of hearing about Hector’s past, and Vasquez’s lack of presence this season wasn’t necessarily missed enough for his return to be welcomed. So a final showdown was fun to watch, especially since it was the only action scene worth writing home about this entire episode.

Sadly, it looks like we’re not quite done with Hector, despite the fact that this is his second or third death and he was previously, and I cannot stress this enough, a child murderer. Before dying, he gets injected with a special vaccine and opens his eyes in the final moment before the credits.

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I’m reminded of season five of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, when Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) was introduced and promptly received almost as much screen time as the title character. Dawn was insufferably and didn’t fit anywhere into the larger narrative and mythos of the otherwise phenomenal show. Fans wished someone would have a sit down with creator Joss Whedon and politely explain to him that no one likes Dawn as much as he does. Same story with Raiden in Metal Gear Solid, Gertrude Moon in Frasier, Morgan in The Walking Dead, Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Sam Healy from Orange is the New Black. They’re all characters that never get good storylines, but somehow always have storylines.

So, while I may not be the first, let me be the latest to say directly to Z Nation creators Karl Schaefer and Craig Engler the following: Look, you came up with a great villain, and Emilio Rivera does an OK job, but he doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the characters despite your absolute best efforts. Maybe it’s time to finally let Escorpion, Hector and the Zeros rest in peace?


2 out of 5