[This is a review for season 3 episode 4 of Z Nation. There will be SPOILERS.]
For two seasons, Z Nation had been good about keeping its main characters focused on a single task - get Murphy's (Keith Allan) blood to the CDC in California at all costs. While the two-hour premiere for season three was a flashback to a time when Lucy was still a baby and Cassandra (Pisay Pao) was still alive, the only thing it did by way of moving the remainder of season forward was introduce two mysterious new characters: The Man (Joseph Gatt) and Mr. Witheredhand.
The show got back on track in last week's episode, "A New Mission", giving Warren (Kellita Smith), Doc (Russell Hodgkinson), Addy (Anastasia Baranova) and Hector (Emilio Rivera) a new task: Help Dr. Sun Mei (Sydney Viengluang) to get a sample of Murphy's blood so she can attempt to make a vaccine against the H1Z1 virus. Of course, Murphy being the obstinate individual that he is, decided it's time to do things his way and set off to make his own new world. But as we saw at the end of the episode, he has more than Warren and her group after him - he's now on The Man's list.
Its nice to know we'll see more of The Man in the coming episodes but fans will have to wait a bit longer, since he's nowhere to be found in "Murphy's Miracle". With the group now in pieces, the story (written by Michael Cassutt) will need to follow a split-narrative - something we've complained about with The Walking Dead - but for this portion of the show, the storytelling technique works quite well. This episode can be summed up in three parts: The Disgruntled Mailman, Citizen Miser-Z and The Murphy Who Would Be King.
The Disgruntled Mailman
This week starts off introducing Wally Becker (Carl Johnson), a Postmaster for the McCloud Branch of the United States Postal Service. Trapped in his mail van and surrounded by Zs, Wally pleads with the group to spare the zombies from being mercied - that right there should have thrown up red flags. However, the group is in need of supplies, so they cater to his wishes. It's almost too late when the group discovers Wally isn't who he says he is, but rather, he's a disgruntled mailman who killed off his coworkers on the first day of the Z-pocalypse.
He's been feeding the people who used to live in the town the brains of strangers unfortunate enough to wander into Sisco County. Wally is another one of those odd characters in the show that, while only in one episode, still manages to leave a lasting impression. His abattoir (or slaughterhouse) is probably one of the most gruesome scenes in the entire series.
Meanwhile, Citizen Z (DJ Qualls), after being rescued by Kaya (Ramona Young) in the last episode, is starting to once again get his wits about him. Kaya wants him back on the air, so she's trying to get his health back to normal. She has a strong, almost Misery-like crush on him (something she denied straightaway last week), but all you have to do is look at her reaction to him speaking with Addy on the radio to realize, there's more to her affection than just puppy love. It will be interesting to watch how the showrunners develop this particular storyline over the course of the season.
The Murphy Who Would Be King
Murphy is on his own quest, one that has him, 10K (Nat Zang) and Dr. Merch (Lisa Coronado) out looking for a suitable place to start Murphy's New World Order. He takes them to Spokane, WA (home to the 1974 World's Fair), where he visited as a child, to establish a home base for his future operations. Along the way, they're ironically blocked by the only car still left on the road. Inside, a couple - the Chaffins - hold their dying daughter and plead for his help. Of course, Murphy offers his assistance by biting the little girl on the cheek.
That one scene, even though it was set up in a ridiculous way, is the driving force behind everything Murphy is attempting to do this season. He sees himself as a king, a ruler, a blue Messiah, spared from afflictions of the virus so that he may rebuild the world in his image. He's a narcissist in every sense of the word and when the Chaffins return at the end of the episode to thank him for healing their daughter, in his mind, that justifies everything he's done and is about to do.
Even though we saw the bite mark on the back of 10K's neck last week, he had no idea it was there (which seems a little iffy). However, this week he's clearly aware that Murphy has control of him both physically and mentality. Does this mean the beloved character will eventually trade teams and help Murphy with his plans of world domination or could he end up dying this season? No matter what happens, a stage is set for 10K that will dramatically change the way the character develops.
It's nice to see Z Nation continue using episodes that have a standalone story, yet still give enough information pertaining to the overall arc so that it fits nicely within the show's universe. This allows the writers and directors to have a little fun with the characters and their situations each week, while still maintaining a sense of wholeness with the story. It's why the show has picked a strong and loyal fanbase and why it continues to be one of Syfy's most watched shows.
We'll leave you with a few of our favorite moments from this episode:
Best Obscure Song - "I Have Become Lost to the World" by the late-19th century composer Gustav Mahler
Best Character with No Dialog - Nana
Most Ridiculous Use of Technology - Dr. Mei's solar-powered battery charger
Best Quote - Mei: "Zombies don't have souls." Warren: "Then why do we give them mercy?"
Z Nation airs on Syfy Fridays, 9/8 Central.