If genre lovers have one secret, it’s how much they actually love Z Nation and the goofy side of the zombie apocalypse captured on the SyFy show. In that grudging acceptance of a premise which could have fallen flat on its face had anyone except The Asylum produced it, we grow close to the bedraggled survivors.
Catch You on the Z-Side: Vol. 2
by R.C. Murphy
Too many to count have found their way to the great zombie-free haven in the sky. If one thought other shows were out for main cast blood, while compiling this series, I discovered it has the highest main character death rate, and the secondary characters who’ve bitten the dust likewise captured the audience’s heartstrings. Rarely is a death on this show a “good riddance they’re gone” moment. It just so happens that the adventure-of-the-week storytelling style lends wonderfully to writing many, many deaths because next week, the main cast will find someone else to help them or hunt them. Not to get caught in a pattern, the show’s writers also aren’t afraid to tap side characters to make a comeback, like Sketchy and Skeezy. Unfortunately for those we’re revisiting now, that is not an option.
This week, we’re saying one last goodbye to three men who kept Operation Bitemark safe, despite their rough edges.
On paper, Mack wasn’t an ideal hero. A hockey player—fresh off the ice, encumbered by pads and skates—with a gentle heart surely wouldn’t make it that far when the zombie apocalypse kicked off, right? Well, this one made it longer than most of humanity. Mack’s survival was thanks in part to finding and helping Addy early in the outbreak. Keeping her safe kept him safe as well. It wasn’t until they split emotionally that Mack’s time started to run out. He got reckless, stopped caring for his survival since it wasn’t tied to hers. The writers weren’t that obvious, but looking back, Addy’s nightmare episode was the beginning of Mack’s end. He said his last goodbye to her, so at least he didn’t die alone without a friend to offer mercy.
Losing Michael Welch on the show was rough on fans. The Addy/Mack dynamic was a rock in the turmoil around Operation Bitemark, with Welch providing a huge chuck of the heart for the show through their romance. After Welch hung up his zombie-stomping boots, he hit the ground running. He’s been on Fox’s Lucifer at the end of its first season, played Franklin D. Roosevelt for Comedy Central’s Another Period, and filmed an episode for ABC’s The Catch. Welch joined Erick Avari and Mary-Margaret Humes in the internet crime drama Chasing Eagle Rock. Where else can fans catch Welch in action? Keep an eye out for M.F.A. also starring Francesca Eastwood and Clifton Collins Jr., A Killer Walks Amongst Us, and The Grounds. Welch, Jack Campbell, and Catherine Kresge joined forces for the film Asomatous, which released earlier this month. There’s a few other projects on Welch’s plate to look forward to, as well.
Vasquez came in later than most of the cast, but nevertheless became an integral reason why the mission to reach California wasn’t a complete failure. Ultimately, Vasquez’s pre-Z past left too many scars on his mind. When his personal losses were too much to handle, he shut down emotionally. When the losses to humanity reached the critical point, Vasquez went a little nutty and left the gang to do his own thing. Paying homage to his fellow traveler’s dark side, Vasquez/Escorpion fashioned himself into the only law enforcement in the death-ravaged land. Take what’s not yours? His Red Hand will make an example of you. But straight-up carnage disguised as justice wasn’t enough to keep the guy from taking a much-desired dirt nap.
Matt Cedeño not only brought another dose of badass to the team, but provided more tension for the show which, without such strong characters, would become a colossal joke. Not an intentional one, either. Cedeño was Z Nation‘s straightman in a way no one else has managed before or sense, giving zanier plots and characters someone to balance against. After saying goodbye to the ZN gang not once, but twice, Cedeño stalked the original vampire family during the third season of The CW’s The Originals. Most recently, Cedeño was made a series regular on Starz’s Power as Cristobal.
What do you do with a problem like Escorpion? He came onto the stage ready to break up the band and take over the world alongside La Reina. Then, like the Grinch, his heart grew while watching a group of misfits come together in order to save humanity, and he threw off the shackles of badguydom. At Roberta’s side, the newly reformed Hector saved the day. A lot. Dude gave it all he had to keep the mission moving, to keep Roberta moving. Losing Hector and Vasquez in the same episode was perhaps one of the cruelest things these writers have done to date.
I swear Emilio Rivera doesn’t sleep. He was busy not only making ZN, but with a few other projects during his tenure on the show. Turning in his tough guy leather, Rivera’s next television roles were both law enforcement. First, Rivera joined Amazon’s Hand of God as Sergeant Kessler. Then on Saints & Sinners, he played Officer Francisco Cooper in the first two episodes of the show’s second season. Rivera’s upcoming projects are numerous, including Loca with Danny Trejo and Danay Garcia, and Badsville starring Robert Knepper and Tamara Duarte. Also keep an eye out for Rivera in Smartass, Time in Between, and he’ll appear alongside Juaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, and Rooney Mara in Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.