*Spoilers for the earlier seasons of Z-Nation*
Z-Nation is Syfy’s Zombcalypse TV series that first aired in 2010 on Halloween Night. The very first episode (staring Harold Perrineau from LOST – the only real known person in the show other than DJ Qualls from Road Trip) was a bit of a mixture. It started off quite good, being a more fan-filled take on the Zombie apocalypse over The Walking Dead’s very serious tone, however, the end of the episode featured a zombie baby, and it was fucking terrible. Instantly lots of people were put off by this, almost including myself, and decided to tune out. For some unknown reason, maybe it was out of hopes that it would get better, decided to continue to watch it, and you know what? It did actually get much better. The zombie baby thing was awful, but now looking back, it is not any worse than some of the stuff they have featured on Z-Nation over the 4 years that it has been on TV.
Each season has gotten better than the last, with a bigger budget every time, seeing more improvements in both the quality of the CGI, the story, and what wacky situation the rag tag team of survivors found themselves in (from a Zombie Tornado, to a big ball of Zombies rolling around the Arizonan desert, plant like zombies, and zombies that don’t seem to be able to be killed by any other means that disintegration). It was not without its pointless episodes where the writers would think up something “fun” for the survivors to get themselves caught up in, and if you take that episode out, then it was not affected the overall story of the show or the season one single bit. It was nothing but a waste of complete time. It was in these episodes that I found myself tuning out.
When the show focused on the main story of the season it was trying to tell, then it really did shine quite well. Each season featured a rather interesting storyline that lead nicely into the next, and the same is carried on over to season 4.
So the basic storyline of the show is that Murphy; a former prisoner and lab experiment, is immune to the zombie virus, which has spread over the humanity over the last few years, leading only small groups of survivors left, along with every possible weirdo/cult/or crazed lunatic you can think of, alive in the wasteland. Murphy’s blood is supposedly the cure to everything and a group of survivors; lead by Warren (a badass female ex-soldier) are to traverse the apocalypse of America to get him where he needs to go. But it turns out that the experiments given to Murphy have altered him and giving him abilities that develop over the show. This goes from sensing nearby zombies, to being able to control them. Also, it is eventually discovered, that if Murphy bites someone, they become immune to the zombies, but become under his control.
One thing that I really like about Z-Nation is that you witnessed Murphy’s transformation over the course of the seasons. He started to become more zombie like, then seemed to metamorphosed into some kind of zombie messiah. You can see his character becoming more evil toward humans and more sympathetic to the undead.
Eventually season 3, which is the high point of the season in my eyes – and I will cover as to why in more detail in a moment, because Murphy broke away from the group (after it was discovered that nearly everything the survivors had been fighting for over the last few years was a lie) and formed his on community of ‘blends’; people bit by Murphy… as well as some zombies. He became the seasons main antagonist, other than this unknown group called Zona who were trying to acquire Murphy for his blood, and Murphy shined as the season’s villain. It made perfect sense as the first few seasons you have been present to this change of character for it to explode into this big showdown where he turns against the group and the group must now face him and the army he has amassed. It just made sense.
Unfortunately, rather than kill Murphy off, they decided to bring him back to the light side and helped him fight his personal demons (as well as reuniting him with his estranged half zombie/blend/new messiah, daughter – which is too long to explain) and Murphy gave up his villain role for one joining the group once more to take on the mysterious Zona (which we only know are a group of rich snobs living on a remote technologically advance island somewhere).
It was quite good how Murphy started to lose his abilities, as well as his skin colour (he was blue, which grew over the course of the show) and turn more human as the season went on, so I guess it sort of works. It seems the writers did not want to kill him off because, to be fair, he probably is one of the best characters in the show. However, killing him there also worked well because it saw a good finish to his character’s story arc, instead he is returned to the group in the same way that he wandered with them in seasons 1 and 2, and the status-quo is returned, making it seem like everyone just forgot he was the main villain hell-bent on total world domination.
However, at the end of season 3, everything went a bit chaotic, to the point where I am not 100% what the hell happened and we jump into season 4.
Season 4 takes place 2 years after the events of season 3, which means that it has been 8 years since the first outbreak. Murphy is living amongst the residence of Zona, living posh lives of tennis and tea parties, with Warren held in a coma.
The first 2 episodes of this season are very interesting as they show us the mysterious Zona (which I think was first mentioned in season 2) and the mysterious man who runs the place, who is almost pinned as the season’s main antagonist… however it is revealed that it is not. Turns out the blood used from Murphy for a cure eventually turned everyone in to flesh craving humans and Zona goes tits up before they are able to unleash their master plan of The Reset (which appeared to be something along the lines of wiping every living thing off the face of the planet, other than the people of Zona, and starting again).
Warren and Murphy escape and meet up with the group, who have just been dicking about for the last 2 years uneventfully, and go on a brand new mission to, bare with me, follow Warren’s mysterious dreams with talk of a strange black object in the sky over a world of fire and brimstone. So it is clearly related to the Zona’s Reset, but we have no idea how.
That is the basic premise of the season and when the show sticks to the storyline, it is actually really good, even though it is just a variant of the storylines of seasons 1 and 2, but more often than not, the show decides to follow this mad story that is started and finished in the same episode with the characters moving on afterwards. There were a few good episodes in the middle, such as the return to a location from the previous season that turns out to be mega important to the story, as well as the death of one of the characters, but normally the show decided to give us episodes that just felt pointless. One episode where a couple of characters are trapped in a barbers, and another one where Warren is forced to marry someone from a group that have ripped off the Insane Clown Posse, were boring and did nothing for getting us through the main plot. I found myself tuning out of these episodes, looking at my phone or maybe even actually getting on with some work.
In fact there were probably only about 6 episodes out of the 13 in the season which were relevant to solving the secrets, or helped push us forward in terms of storyline. Which is never a good thing.
Thankfully the show quickly removes the character Abby, who was pegged as some badass zombie killing fem-fatale, but actually was just incredibly annoying how the writers kept adding new things to her (such as an eye-patch or an electric baton) to try make her more appealing.
DJ Qualls as “Citizen Z” also is barely in it, featuring in about 3 episodes, which was also ideal as his character is a bit irrelevant at this point, yet they always find ways of bringing him back. In fact any episode solely focused on him or his Inuit family are incredibly dull and uninteresting.
This season introduced new character to join the group, who I believe was just called Sarge? I am not sure. But she is some ex-marine who is very unmemorable and actually quite annoying. In a group with such large personalities, such as 10K, Doc or Murphy, she really struggles to get up with the big boys in my eyes (and no… not because she is a girl. It is just coincidence that I only mentioned boys and she is one of the only girls).
Strangely characters who seemed really important last season (10K’s missus, the Chinese officer who was in the entirety of last season, as well as Abby mentioned earlier) are all absent this time around, and I am left unsure if they will ever return (hopefully Abby won’t).
This season also left a lot of questions unanswered from the finale of last year because it decided to make a 2 year jump without telling us barely anything.
Where the hell is The Man? Is he dead or will he be coming back? He seemed like quite an interesting character to just do away with.
The episodes relevant to the main plot were really interesting and having just watched the 2 hour season finale, I did find myself intrigued near enough the whole way through.
Much like season 3, season 4 ended on a note that could go one of two ways. If the show doesn’t get renewed for a 5th season, then it is a good finisher as we can make up our own minds what happened, however, if it does (which at the time of writing I actually have just found out that it was been renewed), then it has a lot of explaining to do (which this season actually failed to do following on from last year’s).
The single memorable death in the middle of the season felt a bit of a waste, especially considering how important that character was last season, and I did feel that returning the show back to its tried and tested roots was a proper step back, rather than pushing forward like it did in season 3.
Z-Nation will never be The Walking Dead, so it needs to develop its own ways to make it stand out. The writers believe that it is wacky one shot episodes that do nothing for the main plot, but the truth in the matter is that they should focus on their season’s storyline and push the boundaries to make this show completely different from anything that came before. Sure keep the fun, especially from characters like Doc, but lose the random pointless episodes.
Thankfully the show has been renewed for a 5th season (which would do well to serve as its last before it goes on far too long), so it has another shot of recreating what made the third season so unique and different from the rest, not to mention we might actually see what happens when 10K reaches his goal of killing ten thousand zombies… if he doesn’t die or ascends to heaven, then I am going to be livid. It is one of the main season I even watch this show.