Z Nation (Season 2)

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After the devastating series of events that furthered the slow extinction of humanity, our small band of survivors find themselves in an even more precarious position, one made more dire by the bounty Citizen Z placed on Murphy’s head.

Normally, this would be the part of my review where I make an observation about how something affected me as a member of the living dead, but I need to issue a small warning here instead. I always try my best to avoid spoiling things for my readers. There’s nothing worse than sitting down to read a review and having key points spoiled for you. Doesn’t matter if it’s a book, a movie, a video game, or a television show, not many people read a review to have everything spelled out for them. It just ruins the enjoyment if you already know what’s coming, and I do not want to be the person that does the ruining for you; I’ll leave that for the one friend everyone has who takes the phrase “I haven’t seen it yet so please don’t spoil it for me” to be a suggestion. So, if you haven’t seen the first season of Z Nation, you’re going to want to avoid reading any further. My review for the first season was a lot easier to keep spoiler free, but in reviewing season two, certain things are going to slip concerning first season events. Since I’d prefer people fully enjoy season one, and part of that enjoyment is not knowing what’s going to happen, I’m giving you this warning. Someone could probably make a list of everything wrong with the undead, and inconsiderate would be nowhere on that list. I even say sorry every time I bite someone, they most likely can’t hear it over all the screaming, but it’s still a valid point.

Read At Your Own Risk

Things just never seem to go right for our stalwart group of survivors. After narrowly avoiding the nuclear blast that resulted from Murphy’s escape in the season one finale, the Z Nation group is on the move once again, only now they’ve got a lot more trouble following them. Thanks to Murphy trying to make a run for it, a frantic Citizen Z was forced to place a bounty on the half man/half zombie hybrid. Anyone that can capture him alive and bring him to the California CDC lab that’s waiting on his blood will be given a hefty reward for their troubles. Though everyone’s favorite, post-apocalyptic DJ only meant to ensure Murphy was unable to run and hide, the desperate act pits a slew of bounty hunters up against our determined survivors who now not only have to find Murphy, they have to fight off everyone else looking for him as well, including Mexican cartel the Zeros who are looking to establish their own type of order in the ruins of the old world. On top of the living threats, it quickly becomes apparent that there are more than one type of zombie roaming the wasteland, some more deadly than others. With living and undead threats surrounding them, nuclear fallout blocking their path, and Murphy beginning to sympathize with his zombie brethren, the way forward has never looked so bleak.

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This season started with a bang (please forgive my nuclear based puns) and it never let up. I’m not sure where to start, the new additions to the zombie apocalypse, the chaotic action, the great dichotomy of Murphy’s two halves (the human and the zombie), or the further development of the characters. As much as I loved season one, the second season of Z Nation was even more impressive, with a strong emphasis on character and story, some damn good effects work, and a look at the emotional toll of living in a world where survival means having to do things considered wrong in a civilized society. That last bit was something that really showed the amazing talent behind Z Nation’s writing team. Post-apocalyptic fiction is often times chockfull of brutal scenes showing people doing whatever it takes to survive in a world where survival is all anyone has left. This is true regardless of the type of apocalypse, zombies, robots, climate change, ice spiders, whatever it was that turned the planet into a less hospitable place for humanity, you’re going to see just how far people will go to survive. The problem comes from how those scenes are presented. If it’s someone who’s lost their mind or is just outright evil, their actions can always be explained away, thus lowering the impact of whatever brutality they perpetrated on others. That’s just Villainy 101, so it’s fine, but where storytellers have a real moment to shine is showing us how the rest of humanity survives when they’re forced to do whatever it takes just to get to tomorrow. Sadly, these moments are generally only used for a bit of action before the story proper continues. Maybe it’s because Z Nation shows a group of people who still have hope, people who long for more than just surviving until the next day, but you really get to see the emotional toll it takes on them when they are forced into situations where they must act against what civilized society considers right and wrong. One scene towards the end of the season involving Warren hit me square in the feels it was so powerful, and it was another scene where she was forced to do something she didn’t want to do, but something she had to do nonetheless.

ZN22

{No, it wasn’t shoot Doc}

Of course if you’re going to have any hope of making these scenes work, you’re going to need a great cast, but those of us that have seen the first season already know the great cast we have, but that gets a little shaken up for this go around. Not only does the core group change members with the loss of one (you know I’m not going to tell you who it is) and the addition of another (Matt Cedeno playing former DEA agent Vasquez), we also get a season villain in the form of Zero lieutenant Escorpion. Not only was it a great addition to have a main villain to keep plaguing our courageous survivors, but they picked a great actor to play him. Emilio Rivera does a fantastic job with the character, managing to make him a disgusting and unpredictable human being while somehow presenting us with a guy you kind of can’t help but love. Sure, he’ll murder your whole family if the whim hits him, but you still kind of want to buy him a beer and see if he knows any good jokes. It made for an extremely interesting and entertaining villain. Though we get a few new faces for the second season, the biggest change by far is a familiar face, Murphy. They delve a lot more into his mind, looking at both how he feels about himself and how he feels about the undead, the latter of which he is coming to care for more. At first his abilities didn’t seem to affect him much beyond his surprise that they were developing and the entertainment it brought him to control the undead, but now his abilities are starting to change how he views the walking dead. Where others see only rotting corpses that refuse to die, Murphy sees a people that are in need of a leader, someone that will watch out for them and make sure they aren’t mistreated. He might not love being a zombie hybrid, but he’s starting to love what he views as his people, to the point where he finds it hard to control himself when someone is abusing the undead or using them for slave labor. It was interesting to see how his attitude developed and deepened, how his own past, his own feelings about himself, further affected how he viewed the undead. The zombie messiah thing might have been a joke, but this hybrid might just be starting to take it seriously.

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{The fact Escorpion is such a snazzy dresser doesn’t hurt things either}

Speaking of hybrids, Murphy is no longer the only special one in the rotting sandbox that is Earth post Z Day. The zombies are starting to become a versatile bunch with the addition of the blasters and the phytos. Blasters are much quicker than the rest of their brethren, but it isn’t their speed you need to worry about. Created as a result of the virus becoming irradiated in the aftermath of the nuclear explosion, blasters aren’t just quick, they’re smart as well. Maybe not you and I smart, or at least you smart, I lost the use of that word to describe myself after someone pointed out I’d been using a toaster wrong for the last thirty odd years, but they do have a primitive intelligence that allows them to access their situation and act accordingly. The phytos on the other hand are a different story entirely. Phytos are the result of an early attempt to create a vaccine, one that actually created a plant/zombie hybrid. They aren’t smart, nor are they quick, but their beauty is that they don’t have to be, not when they can wait until their prey comes to them. A mass of phyto zombies become a single organism, one that attacks anyone who disturbs their place of rest and then adds them to their mass. Both the blasters and phytos were great additions, and thankfully the wonderful FX artists behind Z Nation were up to the task of creating new zombie types because they both looked great. The blasters are a vicious bunch and their design shows off that viciousness, their makeup allowing for a greater range of expression, while the phytos look like something Swamp Thing would have conjured out of the muck. The makeup and FX artists really upped their own ante with season two, not just the zombies, but all of the effects. As impressed as I was with the makeup and gore for season one, season two manages to improve upon it by offering the viewer even more blood, entrails, and some of the best kills this side of a Left for Dead game (I will never look at wheels of cheese the same way again). Even my one complaint about the first season, the CGI blood, no longer seems to be an issue. I don’t know if they discontinued the practice or just got way better at it, but I didn’t catch many instances of it happening. Then again, maybe I was just too distracted by the many different, very imaginative, and extremely well done deaths, dismemberments, and destruction. The FX department not only has my adoration, but my undying love for what they were able to do.

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{Swamp Thing approved}

I’m not even sure I can pick out a favorite episode of the season. Right from the get go, the season starts of strong with episodes “The Murphy” and “White Light” which sets us down into some intense action, the likes of which would have put The Expendables to shame. “The Collector” made it into my top five episodes both for the opportunity to see inside of Murphy’s head and the collector the episode the episode is named for, “Rozwell” did a great job combining science fiction and horror, and “Zombie Road” was awesome for its Mad Max feel. Though if I had to pick a favorite among them, it would most likely be “Day One” in which we get to see where all our characters were when the world started ringing its own bell. The fact that they waited two seasons to show this, that they focused on developing the characters without drowning them in backstory, says a lot about the writing team and their dedication to the giving us believable characters we become attached to.

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{There’s also this which I’ll just kind of leave here}

It’s not difficult to see why I prefer Z Nation to that other show about the walking dead, I think it’s called The Dead That Walk or something. Z Nation has everything a zombie fan could want, fantastic characters, great effects, and a story that continues to get more interesting by the episode. The only complaint I have is that no one has invented a time machine so I can go watch Season Three right now, patience was never my strong suit.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: John Hyams (Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, Dragon Eyes), Abram Cox (Mammoth, MorphMan), and Dan Merchant (Lord, Save Us from Your Followers) as well as a few others

Starring: Kellita Smith (The Bernie Mac Show, The First Family), Keith Allan (Rise of the Zombie, Social Nightmare), Russell Hodgkinson (Eden, Big Fish), Nat Zang, Anastasia Baranova (Welcome to Willits, The Sublime and the Beautiful), Matt Cedeno (Days of Our Lives, Hot Tamale), Emilio Rivera (Collateral, Traffic) Pisay Pao (The Whole Truth, Simply Fobulous), and DJ Qualls (The Man in the High Castle, The New Guy)

Released By: The Asylum, SyFy Entertainment, and Go2 Digital Media

Release Year: 2015

Release Type: Television Show

Channel: SyFy Channel

Rating: Not Rated

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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One Response to Z Nation (Season 2)

  1. Pingback: An Interview with the Z Nation Zombies | UNDEAD REVIEW

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