If you haven't watched the Z Nation Season 3 finale, Episode 14, which aired last night on Syfy at 10 p.m. Eastern, and intend to do so, stop reading here, as SPOILERS follow.
The tense season-ending cliffhanger (the quirky and irreverent zombie apocalypse drama/horror comedy has been renewed for a fourth season) in the episode filmed mostly at Fort Casey State Park in the state of Washington was entitled "Everybody Dies in the End" as about half the cast jumped off a cliff, including Addy (Anastasia Baranova) who suddenly developed skills as an expert mountain climber, after a violent confrontation.
As fan favorite Doc (Russell Hodgkinson) aptly summed up at one point in the finale, "It's the apocalypse man; none of this sh*t makes any sense."
Although the finale was entertaining, this episode and the season as a whole has presented a far more dark and uneven tone -- and perhaps less fun to watch -- than the previous two runs as Murphy, aka "the Murphy" (Keith Allan) has morphed from miscreant Murphy to megalomaniac Murphy in trying to create his own new world of human/zombie "blends."
While Z Nation (i.e., zombie nation), which is produced by the same studio responsible for the cheesy 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).
"Since its premiere, Z Nation regularly ranks among cable's top 10 most-watched scripted series," The Hollywood Reporter previously noted.
The original premise of Z Nation, as it unfolded in its first two seasons, which featured many stand-alone episodes, had somewhat of a Mad Max road trip vibe. It revolved around a core group of survivors attempting to transport Murphy, an opportunistic but reluctant 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. The mission was called Operation Bite Mark.
Things went sideways in the Season 2 finale when the core group thought they had finally delivered Murphy to proper authorities but instead it turned out those authorities were actually a group of non-governmental elitists operating from a mysterious enclave called Zona. Murphy then became noncompliant even though it would seem that the antidote would eventually reach the general population.
"With the Murphy mission in shambles, Warren (Kellita Smith) and her crew had given up the burden of saving the world -- until they met Dr. Sun Mei (Sydney Viengluang), who tasks them with once again finding Murphy for his alleged life-saving blood. Because the Z Nation showrunners are constantly looking to give their characters a purpose and narrative beyond that of simply existing," ScreenRant explained about the premise of Season 3.A clever Season 3 opening-episode flashback introduced a Zona bounty hunter known as The Man (Joseph Gatt) tasked with capturing Murphy or (as it later turns out) Murphy's daughter Lucy, both of whom are zombie whisperers. From the father-daughter telepathic abilities that lets them control the undead, it was revealed in the penultimate episode that zombies still have feelings and memories.
Memo to The Man: Going sleeveless in a zombie apocalypse is not a good idea.
Season 3 also gave glimpse of a cushy poolside scenario presumably in Zona where people apparently are losing their immunity including one chap with a reptilian hand, but that brief subplot was dropped along the way.
The season seemingly wasted, as it were, 10K (Nat Zang) by putting him in a comatose state under on-again, off-again control by Murphy. That said, has anyone been able to keep track of the different and confusing serums and vaccines that he was injected with along the way? He was finally brought back to life, in a sense, (you'd have to see it), as the finale concluded.
In a lengthy essay on the A.V. Club website, staff writer Alex McCown-Levy had a mixed reaction the to Z Nation Season 3 finale, including the cliffhanger.
"The reintroduction of Lucy and her rapidly aging body was a smart way for the show to cease needing Murphy to function as the sole pivot point for the series' plot. Suddenly, humanity could have a new savior, one who allowed Murphy, The Man, and others to grow as characters around her, lending depth and moral shading to their motivation…Left unexplained in Z Nation is why Lucy never tried to bite the sleeveless The Man more than once, and therefore exert mind control over him, which would then call a halt to her abduction.
"Rather than any sort of satisfying version of a 'what happened?' tease, the show just throws a few people off the edge of a cliff, and then introduces a comically advanced ship, one that even the faux-alien spacecraft of the 'Roswell' episode would look askance at. It's less a cliffhanger than a non-ending, and a bummer of a way for the show to end a season that made great strides toward a more engaging, complex, and—dare I say it—mature style of storytelling. There will always be room for the ridiculous in Z Nation; looking ahead to next year, let's hope it also nails down the serious."
Season 3 also ended with Murphy and Warren being shot by the same bullet from The Man's gun, apparently suggesting that Warren is now infected. The episode concluded abruptly with the appearance of a flying saucer-type aircraft labeled "USAF Zone A" (Zona?) opening fire, or so it seems, with a laser weapon on Murphy, Warren, 10K, Doc, Sun Mei, and Red.
Season 1 wrapped up with a nuclear holocaust, from which the resilient survivors somehow bounced back.
Interestingly enough, had Syfy cancelled the series last year, some script adjustments in the final 10 minutes or so of the Season 2 finale could have wrapped things up as a series finale on more high note as Murphy left on a medically equipped submarine.
Z Nation would not be the first TV show that had to keep things afloat, as it were, through improvised storylines after an unexpected renewal, however.
Z Nation Season 3 was made less interesting along the lines of Season 7 of The Walking Dead (so far) and its far more dour characters: That is, too many episodes that separated the group rather than showing them continue to work together to overcome obstacles posed by zombies and menacing humans.
As regular viewers know, in addition to zombies (Zs), 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 featured the following that you will never see on The Walking Dead, which is also now on hiatus, but only until February: Zombies on Viagra, zombie pole dancers, the iconic Liberty Bell in Philadelphia pulverizing zombies, a giant zombie-killing cheese wheel, a talking zombie named "grandpa," George R.R. Martin as an autograph-signing zombie, and the aforementioned birth of a zombie-human hybrid zombaby named Lucy who is now a teenager after a very rapid, apocalyptic growth spurt, and who was played by several different actresses.
Parenthetically, Z Nation may move the production out of the Spokane area if state of Washington lawmakers fail to renew a tax incentive program that expires on June 30, according to the Whidbey News-Times.
Are you a fan of Z Nation and, if so, what is your reaction to the Season 3 finale? Are you looking forwarding to the fourth season of Z Nation?
[Featured Image by Barry Brecheisen/Invision/AP/Images]