Z Nation – Season Finale – “Doctor of the Dead”

Spoiler: Cage Girl is the one who becomes a zombie (Photo: Syfy)

The season finale of Z Nation sheds some light on the nefarious origins of the zombie virus while someone from the gang becomes a zombie.

WARNING:

A lot of important information was packed into the season finale of Z Nation. So this post is going to run a little longer than usual. Sorry not sorry, as the kids these days would say.

Recap

Through a series of flashbacks, it’s revealed that the zombie virus was manufactured by an evil scientist. This man had gone around the world for years before the zombie uprising happened, killing people infected with various illnesses1. This evil scientist, Dr. Kurian, is wanted by Interpol for selling bioweapon technology to North Korea, Iraq, and Iran. Do we have our big bad for season 2?

In the present time, Murphy, Warren, Doc, Stranger Boy, and Cage Girl arrive at Fort Collins in Colorado with help from Radar 2.0. Once inside the facility, the gang finds that the stronghold has fallen and only mutant zombies are left2.

Radar 2.0 hacks into the facility and tells the gang that they need to watch some video files he has found on the facility’s servers. The gang then watches in horror as they discover that not only was the zombie virus manufactured, but this is the place where patient zero came from. Radar 2.0 pipes up to let them know that they must decontaminate themselves before leaving the facility because a failsafe was set up before the world fell to ensure that the contents of the lab never got out: if the gang tries to leave without decontaminating themselves, a tactical nuclear missile will be sent straight to the facility to destroy it and the surrounding area3.

During all of this, Cage Girl has been going downhill rapidly. She went from puking at the beginning of the episode4 to unable to stand halfway into the episode. Warren and Stranger Boy have Cage Girl rest on a gurney in a storage closet until they can get her on their way back out. Murphy asks if Cage Girl will be all right, to which Warren tells him that he should say his goodbye to her just in case. Murphy enters the storage closet and closes the door. It’s a touching moment as he and Cage Girl silently regard one another – until you find out later that Murphy bit her on the cheek to turn her into a zombie. Ever the crafty bastard, Murphy set up his own failsafe for the facility: he uses his zombie mind control powers to make Cage Girl attack two soldiers and the evil Dr. Kurian, who try to force Murphy to go to California with them. Murphy uses Cage Girl’s Resident Evil moment to escape the facility.

Nailed it

This episode gave so many nods and winks to other horror genres:

Murphy’s insatiable determination to find Dr. Merch and demand her accountability for creating him absolutely smacked of Frankenstein. Just like Frankenstein’s Monster, Murphy is angry and confused as to why he is the way he is and why his creator abandoned him.

The coolest allusion was pretty self-evident: the comatose man Dr. Kurian finds in Haiti is nicknamed The Zombie by the hospital staff who care for him because he will follow any orders given to him. This was a great fanboy/fangirl moment for zombie nerds. The idea that zombies are reanimated cannibals did not exist until George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead film in 1968. Before then, “zombie” was an idea attributed to Afro-Caribbean folklore and religion. Before Romero, a zombie was a person who was alive5 yet was wholly under the influence and command of a master. Often, becoming a zombie was linked to voodoo spells, such as when zombie dust was blown into a person’s face6. This type of zombie lore was used in early horror pictures as well, such as White Zombie, King of the Zombies, and I Walked with a Zombie. Films like these used the master/zombie structure to comment on white imperialism in the Caribbean and, by extension, how white men in the West gained their power because they enslaved black people. Fun fact: in these old zombies movies where zombies are bewitched humans, the zombies are black men and white women – people in the Western world who have often been subjugated by white men. And who survives, or at least become the last characters to die, in Romero’s zombie films? Black men and white women.

There were other horror genre nods in the episode, like how one patient Dr. Kurian investigates shows signs of a mutated form of porphyria7 But since I overloaded you with a zombie history lesson, we’ll skip the rest of the homages in this episode.

So close

The ending of the episode was just a mess. Murphy makes it out of the facility without decontaminating so the missile launches. Just before leaving, Murphy sheds all of his skin8 and walks out naked9. Warren, Doc, and Stranger Boy also make it out of the facility and find a pristine SUV two feet away so they make an attempt at escaping. Then, we see Mac10 and Generic McPlainwrap11 staring up at the sky as a missile streaks over their heads. THEN! We’re treated to a curveball: apparently, setting off the missile aimed at Fort Collins sent a whole host of missiles to Radar 2.0’s base at the North Pole.

There were so many things happening in such a short amount of time that it felt like a very rushed close to the season. Rather than shoehorning all this action into a disjointed last 30 seconds, take two minutes to follow each story: Murphy leaves and drives away, then we see Mac and Generic, then the rest of the gang make their exit, then Radar 2.0 realizes he’s about to die. Don’t intercut all of that to try and make it seem more frenetic.

I love you, Syfy

Doc gets shot in the heart and wakes up. No, he wasn’t wearing a bulletproof vest. He is shot by one of the soldiers, Warren performs CPR on him, and Doc miraculously wakes up.

Predictions

We find out in season 2 that all of these characters are the Dollar Store brand of X-Men, because that’s the only way it makes sense for all of these characters to keep surviving everything that they do.

  1. He takes brain samples from a Katrina victim who contracted a flesh-eating virus, a comatose man who was stuck under rubble for 21 days after the Haiti earthquake, a suffering man who was near death after contracting Ebola in Liberia, and a man infected with an unknown agent from an abandoned Russian bioweapon lab in Kazakhstan  
  2. Paging, Resident Evil. Please report to the lab for your rip off.  
  3. So why didn’t this thing go off as soon as the original zombies infected by patient zero stepped one undead foot outside the facility door, you ask? Because then we wouldn’t have a show. That’s why.  
  4. I would’ve bet money that there was a Stranger Boy/Cage Girl baby on its way  
  5. as in completely alive; no reanimation in this version  
  6. If you want to see a semi-real life account of what that’s like, check out The Serpent and the Rainbow.  
  7. Porphyria is given credit as the source of vampire and werewolf mythologies.  
  8. why?!  
  9. again, why?!  
  10. yay!  
  11. *sigh*  

A Brief Word From Our Sponsors:

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