A two-year time jump gives Z Nation the boost it needs to reinvent itself as season 4 begins with Warren in a surprising predicament.
A few seasons in, many series - especially those rich in mythology - tend to hit a bump in the road, a crossroads necessitating a dramatic shift in narrative direction and perhaps a swift and heavy dose of creativity. Syfy original series Z Nation is only one such example of a show in need of a bit of an overhaul after its season 3 finale left room for improvement. Given that scenario, fans may be particularly understanding of the show's use of a time jump as it kicks off season 4.
At the outset of 'Warren's Dream,' viewers eager to learn the fate of their favorite characters (especially Warren, who suffered an apparently fatal gunshot) are greeted with a title card explaining that the world of Z Nation has only gotten progressively worse since we last visited it. Although the episode maintained last season's split focus on the main cast - as the group slowly reunites - by far the most intriguing part of it all was, as the episode title suggests, what Warren (Kellita Smith) herself faced when she woke up.
Related: Z Nation Season 4 Trailer & Art
Plagued by nightmarish visions of a post-apocalyptic war zone burdened by a black rainbow and an even measure of suffering innocents and flesh-hungry monsters, Warren is soon confronted with the fact that all of humanity has been lost, save for a select few thousand currently residing in Zona. Murphy (Keith Allan) has been heralded as a celebrity for the critical role his blood played in developing the vaccine, and at first glance, the neighborhood is idyllic. Of course, Z Nation isn't the kind of show that's going to shift into a utopia without some darker underpinning.
Warren (and viewers) almost instantly know that something is amiss. Zona is highly regulated, sure, but something else is at play. The show reveals that most of the remaining core cast is still fighting the good fight out in the zombie-infested wilderness, as they search for a way to a safe place known as Newmerica. The disconnect between the fate of Doc (Russell Hodgkinson) and company and what Murphy tells Warren could easily be chocked up to a mistake. However, it's almost impossible to imagine that the Founder's plans for a reset aren't knowingly dooming these survivors.
Let's talk about the Founder for a second. The character is played by horror icon Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes) and debuts roughly halfway through 'Warren's Dream.' The actor already has the presence to befit a character who may or may not (but probably is) up to no good, making the dinner at his house and the resulting bizarre applause for Warren the creepy highlight of the episode. Namely, Warren's zombie-slaying vision/dream/premonition and how it causes her to annihilate the cake created in her honor proves to be the tipping point.
At this stage, it's unclear if Warren's time at Zona is 100 percent real or if this itself will ultimately prove to be the dream referenced in the episode's title. The final moments do indicate that a larger reveal is imminent, but in the short term, Z Nation manages to reinvent itself to an extent. One of the biggest criticisms with season 3 seemed to be that the show was spinning its wheels as it tried to find a new storytelling focus to propel its characters forward. Warren's visit to Zona will no doubt be resolved early this season to pave way for something new to come.
Nevertheless, the show's decision to time-jump raises a ton of new questions regarding its characters, how they've changed in the interim and what this means for the larger dynamic at hand. It's a safe bet that Murphy's alliances may have shifted, a revelation which (if true) will spell disaster for the group. In the meantime, it falls to Warren to unravel the mystery of Zona and discover the truth behind her disturbing, Sarah Connor-esque visions. By episode's end, she's already well on her way, reaffirming her position as the show's de facto leader.
The other big focus this season, at least judging by this premiere, is likely to be the characters' fixation on relocating to the "safe" place of Newmerica, where it's too cold for the zombies. Anyone familiar with this genre can deduce that this sanctuary either isn't as safe as it's purported to be or just doesn't exist at all. Either way, Newmerica will be the unifying thread that brings everyone back together to face the season's Big Bad aka Zona itself. With any luck, Berryman will have a recurring presence as the organization's heretofore unknown leader. In any case, Z Nation season 4 started off with an attention-grabbing premiere episode that feels like a soft reboot in that it recalibrates the show, making it feel fresh for the first time in ages.
Z Nation season 4 continues next Friday with 'Escape from Zona' @9pm on Syfy.