Z Nation Season 2 Premiere Review: Saving Humanity (and Money) at What Cost?

Z Nation S02E01: "The Murph"

If you aren't watching television to be entertained, then what the heck are you doing watching television? It seems like such a simple question with such a simple answer, but it's remarkably relevant these days during the times known as HOLY CRUD THERE IS SO MUCH TV OUT THERE. You don't HAVE to watch that somewhat good "prestige" drama just because people are talking a little about it or that nominated comedy that the Internet likes just to stay current with the blogosphere and Twitter pals. Now more than ever it's important to pick and choose your TV battles, and sometimes splashy fun is more important than another cop with questionable morals or a superhero dealing with the burden of super-powered responsibility. Zzzzzz.

Which is why Syfy's Z Nation fits into the television playing field so well as an important role player to clear your head after a week of more of the same. Look, it's not the best show in the world and I trashed the series premiere a year ago, but over the course of the season, the series developed into a fun way to spend a Friday night. Do other shows feature zombies punctured by fire extinguishers and then exploding in a splatter of flame retardant foam and decomposing innards? I don't think so. 

Season 2 picked up from the cliffhanger from Season 1 which was quite a doozy: several nuclear bombs were careening to the ground after Murphy set off safety triggers because he left a quarantined area without getting scrubbed clean of infection. The bombs landed—well, except for one that was blown out of the sky by Citizen Z's missile intercept system—and predictably no one died because that would have sucked. Instead, characters simply outran the nuclear bombs in cars or whatever, Tokyo Drifting into tunnels to avoid shockwaves. Heck, evil Doctor Kurian from last season even tried to Crystal Skull his way to safety by ducking into a refrigerator. After that, the nukes were mostly ignored because who cares? Z Nation is not about airtight plot or long-lasting consequences. It is about a part-zombie man dressed like a pimp, apparently.


"The Murphy" pushed forward into what looked like an interesting angle for Season 2. Citizen Z put a bounty on Murphy that didn't promise cheddar for whoever brought him to California, but something more valuable: cuts in line to get first dibs on the cure that will be processed from Murphy's blood. What was left of the old Season 1 gang went in pursuit of him, as did a few new strangers acting as bounty hunters. Meanwhile, Murphy was well into his transformation into a zombie-human hybrid with inexplicable but fun plot-servicing superpowers (such as his ability to mind control zombies) and didn't much care for saving the human race at all. He's kinda like the Colonel Kurtz of the zombie apocalypse, lost in the jungle and more than happy to be there. 

While most of Season 1 shared a similar construct of Murphy being a reluctant savior of mankind, Season 2 deepened things by handing Murphy his own personal army whenever he wanted it. The scene in the strip club (yep, a strip club) with Warren and pals standing off with the new bounty hunter over custody of Murphy was fun by virtue of adding another party to the typical one-on-one mix: Murphy and his zombie mercenaries. Murphy had his zombies attack everyone, and beautiful mayhem ensued while he snuck off in his pimp hat. In a show as ridiculous as Z Nation is, this bonkers ability of Murphy's was a fun, smart twist that made the show even better by making the correct dumb-fun decisions. And I never want to know why Murphy can do what he does because I do not care for the answers in this grindhouse series. It's kind of like when your IT guy shows up and fixes your computer, you don't want to know why it works, you just want it to work.

One thing that fascinates me about Z Nation is that each episode is made for about $700,000, well below the industry average for a one-hour drama. And though it looks like it was made for even less, it's interesting to see the success behind the show and how it fits in with everything else. It is, by all economics, a hit for Syfy and a potential look at an alternative way of making television. Get unknown actors, play into the low budget, and deliver the fan-friendly thrills that other similar shows (ahem, The Walking Dead) don't, and exceed low expectations. Z Nation might be copycat TV, but for what it is? It more than does the trick.

The Season 2 premiere had a lot of "getting the group back together" to mop up and nuclear cliffhanging to resolve, but if what we saw was a sign of what we can expect in Season 2, we're in for some good, mindless, cheap, entertaining times. 


NOTEZ


– Umm lesbian zombies making out and then eating each other's faces? This is why Z Nation is fun. 

– I don't normally enjoy predictable moments in television, but you bet your butt I was rooting for the zombie stripper to have her arm ripped off when she was pole dancing!

– Warren's totally random (for now?) encounter with that family at least gave us a pretty sweet fight scene! 

– You'll remember the pregnant woman with the extra-responsive fetus in her tummy as Serena from Season 1, who is probably carrying Murphy's part-zombie baby! 

– Keith Allan, who plays Murphy, is fantastic. He's the perfect actor for the character, and reminds me of a zombified Dr. House.

Comments (38)
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Sep 24, 2015
Ha ha - I don't see Z Nation as copycat TV because it does all those things that the others could do but don't do - zombie hybrids, z-babies, z-lesbians, z-pole-dancers, z-bears and who knows what z-next - great popcorn TV for a Friday night!!!
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Sep 19, 2015
Murphy is no longer murphy but zmurphy (smurfy) 😂
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Sep 15, 2015
Sometimes a show comes along which is just so outrageous but still so well done that it deserves not only respect but fandom. That's Z-Nation.

The comedy and OOT stuff in this show is just absolutely superb and deserves all the praise it can get. I don't see how the reviewer can claim they are skimping on budget - the Warren fight alone would take a big chunk out of a Network show budget. Amazing they manage it for what they do.

Sure the sets are cheap, always have been. But the effects, writing, acting and cinematography are at the top end of anything the Asylum has ever done (remember these are the Sharknado people). They're pretty much spending twice what they do on a whole SyFy movie on a single episode - it's great.

As for the Premier, utterly fantastic, Murphy was fantastic, the rest of the cast were fantastic, the effects were fantastic. This show is awesome.
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Sep 14, 2015
Some of it....actually a lot of it was kinda over the top. I enjoyed it cause I was just glad it was back.
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Sep 13, 2015
I couldn't quite tell-wasn't the zombie poll dancer actually the zombified first bounty hunter in drag? Murphy did say he had "plans" for him. Murphy is a really clever creation and the actor is doing a great job.
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Sep 13, 2015
Thank you - I was trying to put my finger on who Murphy reminded me of! Zombified House - Exactly!!!
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Sep 13, 2015
Great fun, really nice to have this show back - the tongue-in-cheek take on the genre, the engaging characters and the overall developing Murphy plot really distinguish this from the TWD franchise for me. Looking forward to izombie's return in a few weeks to...
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Sep 13, 2015
I enjoyed the show from Season 1 premiere and that improved over time, despite its production company's track record with low budget movies - there are a few times the cg is cringe worthy, but I like the storyline, the actors, the universe and rules.

It's more Zombieland-ish and fun, while The Walking Dead is more like The Road which can be soul crushing. To me, a bump up in production values and keeping Murphy from becoming comic book powerful would help (no more remote controlling the living ...so easily or changing the zombies with his desire for them to evolve).
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Sep 13, 2015
Hahaha! He TOTALLY reminds me of Dr. House as well, and was going to come on and say it. It's not just that their facial features are similar, but the facial mannerisms and Murphy's sarcasm are there, too.

Anyway, a very, very fun show, and it seems to be getting even better overall. I hope Zombie Bear makes a comeback later.
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Sep 13, 2015
Z Nation brought the goods - what a thrill ride of a first episode... im actually glad i stuck it out with this show, two thumbs up!
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Sep 13, 2015
Well I do have more "entertaining things to do on Friday" but I sure enjoy watching the show and laughing my ass off whenever i can!

"Keith Allan, who plays Murphy, is fantastic. He's the perfect actor for the character, and reminds me of a zombified Dr. House."

Yes that was priceless casting and I thought I was crazy about the Dr. House vibe LOL!

I also think that the name Murphy is perfect because now everybody follows Murphy and... his laws LOL (sorry bad joke but couldn't resist)

I think the casting was done brilliantly and the actors are taking it seriously to just play along and be silly without reservations LOL
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Sep 13, 2015
I tried quitting this show in the 1st season..but I had to admit the last couple of episodes had me intrigued..Give the writers credit.(1) Murphy's zombie powers are something we haven't seen before.
(2) I actually felt DJ Qualls character was threatened..
Yes it's still bad but not Sharknado BAD!!.Has more like a Return of the Living Dead atmosphere..
Grade for this episode C+..good enough for me!!
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Sep 13, 2015
Agreed with everything, especially the zombiefied Dr. House comment. I made that comment to my friend around ep 8 last season
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Sep 12, 2015
ah, I still recall how you've trashed Z Nation after it's premier, and I just could not get it why some one would hate this brainless roller coaster of cheap fun, gore, and slapstick zombie humor :) And with s2 premier it's apparent that Z Nation hasn't lost it's groove, and I'm in for yet another fun season. While TWD (supposedly) is the serious show and all, sometimes a girl just needs some fast paced zombie apocalypse (with some Viagra affected zombies jokes in it) instead of a season long walk with some action and some developement to yet another cliffhanger (I HATE cliffhangers!)
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Sep 12, 2015
I was amazed at how much I had forgotten about the story. I had to go back and check past episodes. I kept asking myself a bunch of questions, such as...

Why was Murphy purple?
Because she shed his skin in S01E13, and is becoming just like Patient Zero.

Who was that half-Zombie Lady?
Her name, which I keep forgetting, is Cassandra, and Murphy bit her because she was about to die.

Why was she about to die?
Her leg wound got infected.

What leg wound? I remember nothing about it.
The reason they stopped at that man-hating women's cult to get her treated.

OK, but I still have no idea how she got the wound. How could I have forgotten such an important scene, the wound that basically killed Cassandra?
It's because you never saw it, dummy! It happened off screen between episodes 10 and 11! Doc just made a passing comment, saying that she hurt herself on a barbed wire that was really jagged or something. Yep, that's how story-writing goes in Z Nation.

So, you basically wasted a lot of time looking for a scene that never existed in the first place?
Yep, silly me.
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Sep 13, 2015
I think she was injured escaping from the women's commune.
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Sep 13, 2015
No, I watched it again to make sure. This is the chronology:
- Ep. 9 - Mack and Addy find themselves separated from the group.
- Ep 10 - The rest of the group goes to the nuclear plant where they meet the radioactive zombies. Cassandra is fine.
- Ep 11 - The episode begins with Addy going nuts against some zombies. Mack and Addy meet the rest of the group again and Cassandra appears to be wounded. Doc explains the situation (which occurred between eps 10 and 11) to Mack. The reunited group finds this women's cult and stop there to get help for Cassandra, where she is treated and they resume trip, minus Mack and Addy, who stay behind (again).
- Ep 12 - The group goes to the country club, Murphy is kidnapped and they all end in the pharmaceutical company (zombies on Viagra).
- Ep 13 - The group goes to Colorado for the season finale.
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Oct 20, 2015
Ah, ok, I did some research and it seems that Cassandra injured her leg on barbed wire (or so the recap on a forum says), it got infected, and they tried to treat it at the commune.

source: http://www.walkingdeadforums.com/recap/z-nation-sisters-mercy-recap/
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Oct 20, 2015
As for me, I didn't check this on the web. I took the trouble of actually watching the episodes, so I'm sure of what I said.
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Sep 13, 2015
Wow those are important questions! Very informative really!

Although this show is just so mindless that I don't care and just enjoy it as something new every time lOL
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Sep 12, 2015
I like season one enough because it's a zombie shows that speed through stories which is opposite of TWD. However I didn't really like this premier. It looks like the tone for season two will be more comedy compare to season one and it's longer. Not sure if I will stick to it.
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Sep 12, 2015
It may not be sensible but has been fun to watch. Premier was okay but revealed a lot of interesting elements over which the show will progress. Murphy, Murphy's baby, possible return of Doc Evil and run from the bounty hunters. The team reunion seemed odd though, could have been better if it spread along a couple of episodes.
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Sep 12, 2015
Sooo bad 😨
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Sep 12, 2015
I will try this episode, but I gave up 15 minutes into the pilot so I don't have any expectations....but there's nothing else on.
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Sep 12, 2015
I started to love this show last season. And the best way I could describe it that it sort of was cliff noting the Walking Dead. But like super quickly. But also what is fun is that I like our team. They might be stock apocalypse characters (which is why I'm kind of worried about Mack especially if Vasquez joins them) but they are fun. I just hope we don't have too many deep issue episodes like last year. But I mean they separated the team just like twd does and like were really much further away (Addy and Mack were in Utah and everyone else was in Colorado and Add and Mack had no idea the rest altered course but who cares?) but voila end of the first episode they were back together.
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Sep 12, 2015
I absolutely loved the season 2 premiere---which means you, Tim, must absolutely hate it lest the balance of the Cosmos be thrown forever out of whack. The absolute highlight for me was Doc's cheerful wave through 10k's bullet hole
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Sep 12, 2015
That was a brilliant scene.
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Sep 12, 2015
Good review. Z nation is about fun.

There were a lot of opportunities for drama and i am glad they didn't do it, and cheesy fun works for me or least i don't mind it.

Murphy is truly excellent, he is the reason why the show works so well. He not only makes the ridiculous zombie whisperer work, but he is amazing at it.

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Sep 12, 2015
That was a pretty fun opening episode.

Only 700k, what the hell do the other shows spend their cash on.
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Sep 13, 2015
Probably big salaries...
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Sep 12, 2015
This is such an entertaining show in so many ways!
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Sep 12, 2015
I'm glad im not the only one that thinks murphy looks and kinda acts like House. its my fav part of the show.
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Sep 12, 2015
I swear I didn't see this review a couple of hours ago and posted as the lone ranger in the general staff episode 1 discussion thread. I could barely remember how I found that thread and didn't know such a thing existed until tonight, but I did it, so now I am copying and pasting my post here as well (see below).

Z Nation is perfect Friday night TV for unwinding after a grueling week of work, work, and more work. It doesn't require much brain power, it's exciting, it's funny, it's campy, and it's freaking apocalyptic (yay!)--better yet, this year it is DOUBLE apocalyptic.

In fact, the cast is calling it the Double Apocalypse now, which gives the show a new twist, doubles the threats, and hopefully doubles the fun!

The zombies are "talented" this year under Murphy's leadership. I literally laughed out loud at the pole dancer, but 10 K' s reaction worried me for a minute--was he turned on? Ewww!

And Murphy...he is looking more like a werewolf than a zombie/human. I can't wait to see how he looks by the end of the season, but can anyone (even Murphy) survive nuclear fallout??? Is that even possible if they are out in the open?

George R. R. Martin in a cameo appearance this season should draw in viewers--cannot wait for that in ep 8! Roberta going full-on Michonne was awesome, and the dog survived (so far). Citizen Z needs to get his act together though since he has no back-up.

All in all, the season premier did not disappoint. Thanks for the review!
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Sep 13, 2015
Tim referred to the zombie on the stripper pole as "she" but I'm pretty sure that it had been a "he" in a former life. Which makes sense with Murphy's twisted, sick humor and would explain 10K's reaction.

Yeah, Citizen Z needs to get his act together. I'm glad the dog's still alive but quite amazed he's portrayed as rather passive. Think he would have made an appearance by the time zombie pilot was attacking Citizen Z.

There were some pretty good and imaginative zombie kills this episode!
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Sep 13, 2015
Maybe the dog is still suffering from oxygen deprivation from last season (remember the episode with the imaginary Russian friend)? ha ha!

Yes about the z kills. I think someone on this forum mentioned the scene with the bullet hole and doc waving.
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Sep 13, 2015
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