Z Nation – Season 1 Episode 4 “Full Metal Zombie”

Stop! Hammer time on Z Nation.
Z Nation (Photo: Oliver Irwin / SyFy)

Episode 4 of Z Nation again addresses a zombie apocalypse issue better in one scene than The Walking Dead has in multiple seasons.

Recap

The gang is carjacked twice1 in the first ten minutes of the episode. Realizing how dangerous it is to travel on the open road, the gang decides that they must fly to California. With help from Radar 2.02, the gang finds “the emergency headquarters for infection control” in hopes that they can use the helicopter Radar 2.0 saw on the roof via satellite images. But, surprise! Turns out the helicopter has been stripped and is useless, so the gang piles back into their truck and head off into the sunset.

Nailed it

The gang tries to help a family of four they come upon, who are in a standoff with the degenerates who carjacked the gang earlier. The father/husband has his gun aimed at the carjackers while his wife and children cower behind him. Eventually, the carjackers surrender to the family and our gang. The father/husband thanks our heroes before informing them that this is yet another stick up. On cue, the mother and two children pull guns from under their clothing and shoot all of the original carjackers.  The family then holds the gang at gunpoint while they steal their truck.

Showing that the world is now dog-eat-dog is great, but the best part of this entire intro is the children. These kids pull their guns and don’t hesitate for a second to waste the people who stand between them and survival. The children’s expressions are completely blank as they kill men twice their size and with heavier weaponry. This is yet another area where Z Nation has addressed a zombie-world issue more realistically than The Walking Dead has3. The Walking Dead has a recurring theme where adults are hesitant to teach children how to kill zombies for fear that children, in their limited life experience and underdeveloped brains4, might begin to kill humans in addition to zombies because they wouldn’t be able to fully understand all of the ramifications of taking a living human life. Z Nation looks at this notion and says, “Yeah, that’s adorable and we could discuss that if we were in Philosophy 101, but we’re on the street with undead cannibals and living marauders. Kids, pick up the guns and pay attention while I teach you how to aim for the head.”

So close

The dialogue for this episode and the previous episodes5 is so direct and therefore unnatural that the actors can’t believably deliver the words.  A perfect example of this is at the beginning of the episode when the gang comes across Amish zombies6.  Garnett blurts out that the Amish quarantined themselves from the rest of society when the zombie plague broke out, hoping that this would keep them safe7.  Immediately after this line, Mack makes a comment about Romero films being an omen no one thought would come true.  These line are so disjointed that they stick out like a sore thumb8.  Rather than your characters taking turns making a series of unconnected statements, make the dialogue sound more like a conversation that natural addresses the issues you want your audience to hear.  Have Generic McPlainwrap remark on how sad it is that no type of community has remained intact after the zombies rose or have her ask why the Amish thought quarantining themselves would work.  Have Mack remark that had the Amish watched Romero movies, they would’ve known quarantine wouldn’t work.  Have Cage Girl pipe up with the observation that the rest of the world had Romero films and still didn’t heed the zombie warnings.  When the dialogue is good, it fades into the background and lets the story unfold.  When it’s bad, like in the above example, it pulls the audience out of the episode and forces them to question whether they should continue to keep a Syfy series on the DVRs.

I love you, Syfy

There was so much gold for this section from this week’s episode9. But alas, just like in Highlander, there can be only one (winner for this section). And that honor goes to Doc, who got a zombie high. After being thrown down an airshaft by a crazy officer, Doc quickly realizes that he’s trapped next to a zombie. Accepting his death, Doc pull a joint from his pocket and lights up. Once he gets to the end of the joint, he attempts to share with the zombie, which tries to bite him. Offended that the zombie tried to bite him rather than taking a toke, Doc throws the last bit of his lit joint into the zombie’s mouth – and it gets high. The zombie mellows out and stops trying to eat Doc. The zombie then stands in the for the audience: it rolls its eyes, turns its head, and generally looks like it’s trying not to pay attention to a stoned Doc, who is rambling on about life, relationships, and other general stoner topics.

Prediction

The gang will make it to Texas and come across a horde of zombies just sitting around staring at the sky. They will then find the corpses of Willie Nelson and Matthew McConaughey nearby and realize the zombies are tripping balls. Nelson + McConaughey = human pot brownies.

  1. The first time was via a ruse so obvious even Velma could’ve seen it coming without her glasses on. The second time was a surprise and executed well (that inappropriate joke will make sense in the next section)   
  2. who has officially gone into full-on creeper mode once he hacked Generic McPlainwrap’s Facebook profile, friended himself for her, and then flirted with himself as her by typing on two computers sitting next to each other  
  3. I feel like I’ve just entered an alternate dimension simply by thinking that sentence, much less by actually writing it  
  4. That’s science: studies have shown that the prefrontal cortex – where decision making, regulation of emotions, and a lot of other important tasks are processed – doesn’t fully develop until 25  
  5. and probably all future episodes  
  6. Generic McPlainwrap voices the audience’s thoughts when she says, “Amish zombies? Really?!”  
  7. And how does Garnett know this? Did the National Guard keep tabs on what the Amish were doing before the country fell? Did Garnett have an inside man in the Amish community? Or is he just making an assumption and stating it as fact?  
  8. just like a lot of the other dialogue  
  9. Stranger Boy killing Amish zombies with a slingshot? The blindly white teeth of one of the main carjackers? The crazy officer who falls over the edge of a building via the worst CGI imaginable while still shooting guns and screaming the entire time? What about the behemoth zombie who refused to die when shot repeatedly in the head and after having his head smashed in? Or how about when that behemoth zombie fell down an airshaft while a grenade exploded in that airshaft, landed on top of Doc, and then Doc literally just walked away from the whole thing? So much gold!  

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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