To the Reset!
On Z Nation Season 4 Episode 1, the whole world post Z is turned on its head, courtesy of a two year time jump.
Z Nation has always been the the little engine that could. It started as an out and out parody of the zombie genre, with slapstick kills and hilarious Z's: from Elvis Z's, Abe Lincoln Z's, even a gigantic rolling cheese wheel with zombies stuck to it.
That comes as no surprise, since it's the brainchild of The Asylum, purveyor of the Sharknado film series, among other schlocky offerings.
The difference between Z Nation and the other Asylum properties is the subversive, sly storytelling it employs. The show has never been given the proper credit for how clever it is.
The cast is also top notch: Kellita Smith is wonderful as Lt. Roberta Warren, the leader of the rag tag group of survivors, who is an all around boss bitch.
Keith Allen, who plays "The Murphy," the only human to survive a zombie bite, does a great job being the self centered antihero.
While it started as comedy horror hybrid, it has evolved into a fairly serious survival story, with surprisingly deep ruminations on life, death, and what it means to be human.
I would urge people to give Z Nation a shot: The Walking Dead has morphed into a Game of Thrones battle of warring factions, getting away from the pulse pounding survival drama that enthralled millions in earlier seasons.
Fear The Walking Dead never did it for me: it played more like an after school special with walkers. Almost the entire cast is patently unlikable, which made watching it a sad slog for me.
OK, enough of the soapbox: on to the review.
Time jumps are a well-worn trope, but in this case, it actually works. It serves as a reset for the characters and the storyline, which itself involves something called "The Reset."
Something Z Nation does well is take a well-known scene from another movie or show and riff on it, giving it their own fresh take.
Warren's awakening in the lab was right out of the Resident Evil films, and Kellita looked pretty awesome for someone who was in a coma for 2 years.
Warren's vision of fire and destruction gave added weight to what could have been a throwaway scene.
Murphy: Well, look who's back in town.
Murphy: Holy zompocalypse, I can't believe it. I never thought you'd wake up.
Something is definitely up with her: the long blonde hair was a shocker, as was her being in a strange cocoon. Since she was hit by the bullet that went through Murphy at the end of last season, some of his blood went into her.
Part of Murphy's evolution included his skin turning blue before eventually going back to normal, followed by his hair turning white. We also learned last season that he actually died from the Z attack before being reborn.
Since we haven't seen Warren in 2 years, did she in fact die and become reborn like Murphy? Did her skin turn blue inside the cocoon before going back to her normal skin color?
Her hair being white might mean she's following the same pattern Murphy went through before reverting back to the pre Z look he has now.
Murphy is the straw that stirs the drink, but the heart and soul of the show is Roberta Warren.
Playing the straight woman to all the insanity going on around her, Kellita does a fantastic job portraying the smart, driven leader her motley crew needs to survive.
Murphy acts like he cares about no one but himself, but he has always had a deep respect and love for Warren: he knows she only has his best interests at heart.
While it was totally crazy, Murphy impregnating a crazy cult member with the first Z/human hybrid baby was also a crucial point in his character's development.
Lucy (who grew from a baby to a full grown woman in less than a year -- I told you it was crazy) got Murphy in touch with what really matters in life, and it gave much more depth to his character.
Lucy being kidnapped by the Zona troops is truly troubling. I'm sure Murphy doesn't know about it, so when he finds out it won't be pretty.
I assume they are going to experiment on her since her blood is probably very important to the survival of the Zona elites. Once they have her in their clutches, Murphy's safety is immediately called into question.
Despite Murphy's comments to Warren, the other survivors are in fact alive. Rumors of the "Newmerica" settlement seem very sketchy, but those left on a Z ridden planet will go for any chance at survival they can get.
Now is the time for all good men to kill some puppies and kittens.Doc
This brought to mind the old Ronald Reagan joke about the nine most terrifying words you could hear: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."
When crazy Marines like Lt. Mueller start hugging the refugees, that's cause for worry. I'm excited to see Henry Rollins joining the cast.
The rest of the Warren led survivors (except the captured Lucy and Addy) eventually find each other at a Marine outpost, all waiting to get to Newmerica.
Until Warren and Murphy figure out a way to escape from Zona, it looks like the story will chug along on two tracks.
The main thrust of the episode, however, involves the horrifying dreams and visions Warren keeps having.
The apocalyptic landscape, scorched by fire, was right out of Terminator 2, and it sets the tone for the entire season I expect. The sky of fire, with a giant devil ray flying among the flames, was an amazingly evocative image.
Things might have happened to Warren before she was cocooned, or she may have witnessed things that the Zona scientists have tried to wipe from her memory.
It seems she has every right to be suspicious. Her story is very compelling: she is now a soldier without a mission.
Her difficulty in dealing with that sudden change of circumstance is something every vet has had to deal with throughout time, and Kellita is doing a great job showing the emotional turmoil she's going through.
The Founder's ominous comments about a "reset" of the human race sent chills down Warren's spine, as did this little comment:
We'll want you in the gene pool.The Founder [to Warren]
Does Murphy know more about what's going on than he is willing to admit? I wouldn't be surprised.
Dr. Teller coming out of nowhere, telling them to come with him at the end means something is definitely rotten in Pleasantville.
Mr. Sunshine, the very Bond-like lackey, was shown doing some experiments on Z body parts with a gas that burns the Z flesh to cinders.
So we know Warren has either seen what's going on or has developed some kind of sixth sense during her time in the cocoon.
She is always one to trust her gut, so I have no doubt she will do everything in her power to stop what she sees as the murder of the future.
- We discover that Addy lost an eye since the last time we saw her: she also had a Z bite on her hand. What was up with that? Hmm.
- After a kill shot on one of the Z's, the camera zoomed into the supposedly dead Z and we see the fingers on one hand move. Does this mean the Z's are evolving as well? Are they becoming more difficult to kill?
- The story of 5K disappearing inside a murder of crows was very strange. I don't think we've seen the last of 5K.
And The Murphy gives us the "Line of the Night":
Murphy [to Warren]: They've got everything here. Except zombies. And the clap: they got rid of the clap. I love this place!
I loved the change in tone and overall direction the series is taking. It has always been smart and snarky, but the focus on a new enemy who may, in fact, destroy the world gives the show some real stakes to play with.
That's my take: tell me yours. Do you like the new direction? Are you digging Warren's blonde locks? Any theories about her visions? Let me know in the comments section.
And if you are new to the show, by all means, binge watch Z Nation online to see how this great show has evolved to one of the best shows going over the last three plus seasons.