Z Nation – Episode 10 “Going Nuclear”

Radioactive zombie or raver whose glow sticks exploded? (Photo: Syfy)

The Z Nation gang schleps their way through a ham-fisted interpretation of The China Syndrome, except this story would be nominated for numerous Razzies rather than Oscars.


Our heroes main characters of Z Nation have made it to South Dakota because the writers are trying to stretch out this journey as long as possible. After seeking refuge in a an abandoned building, the gang discovers that they are in fact hiding out in a nuclear plant and that the reactor is going to melt down in a few hours. Even worse news: there are no cars to get them to safety and the reactor is going to destroy a 300 mile radius once it melts down.  As completely predicted by everyone, the reactor is fixed and everyone is saved – well, everyone from the main cast. R.I.P. three guest actors we needed to die in order for the main cast to survive.

Nailed it

The writers of Z Nation considered the notion that there are no atheists in foxholes and decided that that line is a load of bull. Drunkenly stumbling alone through the woods, Murphy trips and falls to his knees. He takes a moment to yell into the void about the unfairness of his situation. Finishing his rant, Murphy takes a pull from a vodka bottle he’s carrying before perfectly adding, “That was sarcasm.” The fact that the Z Nation writers keep Murphy true to his character by having him give the universe the middle finger before what he believes to be his eminent death rather than having him beg a higher power for mercy is encouraging. While Murphy is evolving, certain parts of him are not changing, and this is exactly how most people behave in real life. Part of the success of Murphy as a character is the writing but a larger part is due to the phenomenal acting skills of Keith Allan.

I just cannot say enough good things about Keith Allan’s portrayal of Murphy. Acting in a Syfy series without making the audience either unintentionally laugh or roll their eyes is an incredibly difficult job1. But Allan not only rises above the bad dialogue and campy plots, he makes them work to his advantage. Fangirl moment over, let’s get back to the article:

So close

The gang reunites at the end of the episode outside the nuclear plant. When Warren, Doc, Cage Girl, and Stranger Boy all see an undead pilot staggering in the wake of Murphy, they all intend to kill her. Murphy stops them, emphatically insisting that the pilot isn’t hurting anyone or going after anyone so she should be left alone. He states that “maybe it’s time for a different kind of mercy.”

I’m sorry, but no. Just, no. This series has so strongly set up the idea that it is the obligation of every living person to “give mercy” – meaning kill – any victim who has turned into a zombie. Z Nation and almost all other zombie universes set up this idea that letting a person, especially a person you knew, remain a zombie is inhumane. You can’t just change this notion on a whim! The fact that the rest of the group immediately resigns to this idea and accepts it is preposterous. For crying out loud, Stranger Boy’s name on the series is 10K (actually, “Ten Thousand”) because he intends on killing ten thousand zombies2.

If Z Nation wanted to further the idea that Murphy’s attitude towards zombies is changing, I’m all for that. Just don’t portray it as though one sentence from him would immediately change the rest of the group’s views. Someone from the group should’ve shot the zombie pilot, which, in turn, would have elicited a reaction from Murphy3.

I love you, Syfy

At the beginning of the episode, the gang must hide from a glowing, radioactive zombie in the nuclear plant. Murphy rips one and alerts the zombie to their location. Doc’s line of “If I die because you farted, I am taking you with me” was superb4. Oh, Syfy, how I love you and your gaggle of 12 year-old writers.


The gang is going to run into another herd, but Murphy will save them all by leading the zombies in a rendition of “Thriller” and dance them away from the rest of the group.

  1. Stranger Boy and Cage Girl especially drew attention to the fact that they do not possess Allan’s ability to spin gold from straw this week with their lackluster performances  
  2. I know, it’s stupid. This is Syfy, though, so check your expectations and logic at the door  
  3. Maybe he’d withdraw from the group? Maybe he’d start identifying more with the slain zombie, perpetuating his view that he is a victim of circumstance as well? Who knows, but it probably would’ve been more interesting  
  4. That’s a line you’ll never hear on The Walking Dead.  

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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