Z Nation – Season 1 Episode 3 “Philly Feast”

Here comes the airplane on Z Nation.
Z Nation (Photo: Oliver Irwin / SyFy)

Episode 3 of Z Nation delivers great Syfy schlock along with a brief but earnest scene that addresses an issue about the zombie apocalypse that not even The Walking Dead has tackled yet.

Recap

After being left without gas in New Jersey at the close of the last episode, the gang found transportation and made their way to Philadelphia. The gang splits up to find material to make a radio so they can contact Radar 2.0 again. While scavenging, Generic McPlainwrap is kidnapped by “The Family,” a creepy cult Cage Girl used to be a part of1.  Turns out, The Family has survived the global food shortage by resorting to cannibalism2.  The Family lures travelers in under the guise of a brothel before robbing the travelers and… let’s just say, The Family obeys Subway and “eats fresh.”  Part of being in The Family as a woman means forced prostitution3.

Before this terrible fate befalls Generic McPlainwrap, Garnett and a few of the gang try to save her. Their plan fails and Cage Girl willingly trades herself for Generic.  At the insistence of Warren and Generic, the gang returns to The Family’s compound yet again to try and save Cage Girl.  This time, their plan doesn’t suck, and they succeed4.

Nailed it

After Cage Girl trades herself for Generic McPlainwrap’s release, Warren and Generic are the only women left in the group.  All the men want to leave Cage Girl to the fate that they claim she deserves while they move on to California5. Generic and Warren insist that they return and save Cage Girl.  When the men begin to protest, Warren cuts them off with, “You men don’t know what it’s like.” She starts the line strong, but by the end, you can almost hear defeat in her voice. The delivery of these few words is so powerful. Murphy sarcastically asks, “What is this? A chick thing?” Generic and Warren chime in, sadly and sternly, at the same time with, “Yes.” The reality of what could and probably would happen to women in a world without government is a subject that is rarely addressed in zombie movies, TV shows, and books6.  The way that Z Nation so clearly addresses this issue without beating the audience over the head with it is a perfect example of why I love Syfy series: yes, Syfy series are campy most of the time, but they also contain nuggets of gold that can rival networks like AMC or HBO.

So close

The Family. That’s all. Just The Family in general. The potential for true terror was there, but it never came together. It feels like a lot was either cut or held back by the writers7.  The terrible, terrible acting by all the Family members further undercut this cult’s impact.  The Family could have been an amazing part of a powerful episode about the depths humanity will sink to in order to survive, but instead, they come off as just a general reminder that people can do bad things to each other.

I love you, Syfy

As the gang rolls into town at the beginning of the episode, they come across the Liberty Bell strapped to the bed of a 4×4 truck.  They discuss how this symbolizes what humanity has come to: altruistic people must have tried to save it when the city fell and then misanthropic people must have sprayed painted after it was abandoned.  That doesn’t matter. What matters is what Syfy did with the this set up: Garnett, Warren, and Murphy pile into the truck carrying the Liberty Bell while the rest of the gang follows in another truck. While driving through the city streets, Warren, who is driving, turns to face the backseat when Murphy says that he just drank the last of her water.  While she is telling him off, another car swerves in front of her and honks its horn.  That’s right, even during the zombie apocalypse, women are still portrayed as bad drivers 8.  Warren swerves so severely that they careen down a side street.  When the truck slams to a stop sideways, the Liberty Bell flies off the truck and tumbles down the street, killing all the zombies in its wake.  I’m beginning to think Syfy employs 8 year-olds as consultants for action scenes 9.

Prediction

By next season, the zombies will be shambling down the road moaning, “Eat Freeeeesh.”

  1. Remember the helpful/evil stranger from last week? He was on a mission to bring Cage Girl back to The Family when Cage Girl killed him to save herself.  
  2. A German horror movie did this idea waaay better, and you can tell the people involved with Z Nation have seen the film before by the blatant ripoffs  
  3. I guess the men of The Family feel travelers deserve one last romp before being turned into gyro meat?  
  4. With Radar 2.0’s help, they wire a loud speaker to a truck, blare “Ride of the Valkyries,” and raid The Family’s compound. The evil Family members are all eaten, but so are the still-alive cannibal victims bound and gagged. So, yay?  
  5. victim blaming: still alive and well in the apocalypse  
  6. The Walking Dead TV show has ignored its source material when it comes to this issue. The comic has dealt a few times with what can happen to women – and even children – in a world without laws and the horrors that would be committed against them. The TV show skirted the issue once with a tame scene between Maggie and The Governor that was passed off as an example of how one man had fallen so far into darkness rather than conveying the idea that there would be numerous predatory monsters during the apocalypse,  
  7. The full magnitude of The Family’s evil ways is hinted at but never shown or exemplified  
  8. wonder if Warren went to The Lori Grimes Post-Apocalyptic Driving School for Women  
  9. that explains Sharknado  

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About Becca Marshall 36 Articles

Becca has been writing about film and television since convincing her junior high English teacher that comparing and contrasting the film and stage versions of Romero and Juliet was a good idea for a term research paper. After getting her BA in English and film studies, she doubled down on liberal arts and got an MA in television, radio, and film from Syracuse University. Becca is incredibly proud to be an Aggie and entertains her non-Texan friends with Southern colloquialisms. Her hobbies include watching Golden Girls and her interests include all things zombies – she’s simple, not basic. Email: becca@whatelseison.tv