Z Nation, the Syfy network’s quirky take on the zombie apocalypse, has been renewed for a fourth season, with a 13-episode order.
Described in the past as a horror comedy, this season has seen a far more dark tone (and perhaps less fun to watch) than the previous two runs as Murphy, aka “the Murphy” (Keith Allan) has morphed into a cult leader of sorts trying to create his own new world of “blend” disciples.
“Since its premiere, Z Nation regularly ranks among cable’s top 10 most-watched scripted series,” the Hollywood Reporter noted.
The Season 3 finale, Episode 14 of the current run, airs on December 16 at 9 p.m. Eastern.
[Some spoilers follow]
Filmed in the Spokane, Washington, area, the original premise of Z Nation, which had somewhat of a Mad Max road trip vibe, revolved around a core group of survivors attempting to transport Murphy, an opportunistic ex-con slacker and zombie bite survivor, to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control lab in California so researchers there could develop a vaccine for the zombie virus from his blood, thereby saving the world, what’s left of it.
Things went sideways in the Season 2 finale when the core group lead by National Guard officer Roberta Warren (Kellita Smith) thought they had successfully turned over Murphy to proper authorities.
“After discovering their mission to bring Murphy (Allan), the only known survivor of the zombie plague, to a viral lab took an unexpected turn, the team is now split on the future of mankind. Murphy wants to create a race of human-zombie ‘blends,’ while the gang, led by Lieutenant Warren (Smith) are determined to stop him at all costs,” Deadline Hollywood explained in reporting on the Season 4 renewal.
While there have been some casualties along the way, Warren is currently and loyally backed up by millennial wanderer Addy (Anastasia Baranova), burnt-out hippie Doc (Russell Hodgkinson), Tommy a.k.a. 10K (a sharpshooter whose goal is 10,000 zombie kills, played by Nat Zang, who has been under Murphy’s spell for much of the season,), and Chinese military scientist Sun Mei (Sydney Viengluang). The group has received an ongoing assist, when they have access to radio gear, from Citizen Z (DJ Qualls) from his NSA Northern Lights listening post.
“DJ Qualls spent most of the first two seasons as a kind of interventionist Greek chorus, watching from above and periodically helping to set our protagonists on the right path,” the A.V. Club detailed.
As a result of being bitten, Murphy has somehow become a zombie whisperer, with the ability to psychically control the undead, who in Z Nation are generally more peppy and aggressive than in The Walking Dead. He also exerts a similar type of telepathic control over the blends, who he has either bitten or injected with some special sauce.
For some reason perhaps known only to the makeup artist, as this season winds down, Murphy no longer looks like a guy who ingested too much colloidal silver, however.
While Z Nation (i.e., zombie nation), which is produced by the same studio responsible for the Sharknado franchise, may only have one-tenth the viewership as The Walking Dead, and perhaps one-tenth of the AMC hit’s budget, it often contains ten times the action and a lot more laughs (usually).
As regular viewers know, in addition to zombies, the Z Nation heroes encounter bandits and assorted outlaws, bounty hunters, drug cartel killers, non-zombie cannibals, and burned-out, highly violent humans called “enders,”
Z Nation has also featured the following that you will never see on The Walking Dead: Zombies on Viagra, zombie pole dancers, the iconic Liberty Bell in Philadelphia pulverizing zombies, a giant zombie-killing cheese wheel, the birth of a zombie-human hybrid zombaby named Lucy, the search for whom who has become a significant motivator this season, plus characters toking on a “Z-weed” recreational hallucinogenic. The crew even paid a visit to Roswell in one episode during their road trip.
In addition to human antagonists sometimes being more dangerous than the zombies, some similarities exist between Z Nation and The Walking Dead and its far more dour cast members. Both had a (now abandoned) CDC storyline. Both have aired one-off episodes featuring one or more characters separated from the main group, which generally have done little to advance the plot of either series.
Oddly enough, there is also a Morse code connection on both shows.
Fans of The Walking Dead on social media have speculated about whether Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) was communicating with Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) via Morse code. This theory first arose after the November 13 episode when crime boss Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his menacing Saviors showed up at Alexandria for a little pre-Black Friday shopping/extortion, with prisoner Daryl in tow. Daryl was either blinking from the sun after spending way too much time in a cell being tortured by the bad guys, or as some maintain, he was silently informing Rick of the location of Negan’s compound, supposedly spelling out “I East” in Morse, depending on one’s interpretation of the open-closed message.
On Friday night’s episode of Z Nation, Kaya “from the skya” (Citizen Z’s wing-woman) communicated with Warren and Sun Mei via Morse code by hacking into and then blinking a traffic light and later engaging in voice contact through a fast-food drive-thru kiosk.
Parenthetically, apart from some military applications, amateur (ham) radio operators probably comprise the only group that still transmit and receive Morse code in any significant way, even though the Federal Communications Commission abolished the code test in the licensing exam process about 10 years ago, and it is also optional around the world. Slight character variations exist between American and International Morse (the latter which hams use on the air).
In Friday’s episode called “the siege of Murphytown,” which wasn’t much of siege after all all once Vazquez’s former gang got wiped out, Murphy and Warren eventually agreed to put their differences aside, at least temporarily, to rescue his hybrid daughter Lucy from the kidnapper known as “The Man” (Joseph Gatt). Presumably, this will be resolved to some degree by the season finale, which may also include the reappearance of the mysterious human enclave known as “Zona” whose high-rolling residents apparently have hired The Man to find a cure for the zombie virus by any means necessary.
At some point, Murphy will have to buckle down and consent to donate his blood in Sun Mei’s quest to create an antidote — enough is enough — so it will be interesting to see how the show progresses from there.
Are you a fan of Z Nation? If so, have you enjoyed the darker direction of Season 3 or do you prefer the more irreverent, episodic approach of the prior two seasons? Do you like the “old” Murphy vs. the current version?
Bottom line: Are you pleased that Syfy has renewed Z Nation for a fourth season?
[Featured Image by Barry Brecheisen/Invision/AP Images]