Head’s up, there’s episode spoilers in this review
Keeping with the trend that Liv only eats the worst people in Seattle, this week she’s stuck with the brain from Sandy Brinks, a rude, old white woman whose hobbies include casual racism, sexually assaulting her staff, verbally abusing anyone with a heartbeat, and pickling her liver. She’s the kind of rich person who lets a golf ball fly downrange without notice. Ironically, it’s a golf ball through the eye which puts Mrs. Brinks’ mean spirit down for good.
Brace yourselves. This Liv is extra awful.
How bad can it get? Well, the moment she ingests Sandy’s brain, Liv begins treating Clive like The Help, going so far as to refuse to sit beside him in the front seat and constantly questioning his intelligence. This isn’t the only racist behavior recalibrated for zombies in the episode. When Major is on patrol with the rookie Fillmore-Graves recruits, they run into a group of human supremacists harassing a restaurant owner who just happens to not be white, as well as a zombie supporter. When it looks like they’ll disperse, which of the guards do they manhandle in retaliation for being talked down to by Major? Gladwell. I’d be all for this writing team attempting to dismantle established racism with biting humor and social commentary, but as always, they’re too ham-handed.
Brinks’ brain leads Liv to alienate everyone in her social circle. There’s not one person she doesn’t talk down to, including Brinks’ driver during an emotional interrogation. The woman sexually manipulated him, much to his shame. Despite that information, Liv blurts out that he took money to continue the relationship, therefore making him a WHORE. Yes, she says it in capital letters, like a scarlet A she intends to brand on the man’s forehead with the ferocity of her accusation. Which shouldn’t have come as a surprise given how the show’s handled sex workers in the past, but this isn’t a willing adult doing his job as intended. His continued arrangement with Brinks took advantage of his position on her staff—textbook harassment. In the Court of Liv’s awfulness, that seems to translate to real consent, not prolonged coercion. Someone needs to take a long look at the way they view the world and how it keeps shoving problematic language in Liv’s mouth.
No one on Brinks’ staff is without reason to kill her, for glaringly obvious reasons. The suspect winds up being a mother whose sick child is denied permission to pass New Seattle’s wall in order to undergo a life-saving surgery. In probably the best twist, Liv’s awful behavior wears off in time to help this family. Is that enough, though? Saving one child can’t possibly cover up all the awful things this character has said and done in the name of distracting herself from her new reality by diving in head-first. Everything Liv’s done for four seasons bred from a deep desire to not hate herself for changing into something else—the classic “teen girl hits puberty and loathes her new body” story, but with a grown woman and zombies. We have a deeply selfish character, constantly drawn to similar brains, and it’s only now that we see her reaching out to do something more than the bare minimum with her new self. I get self-loathing taking over, but this is fiction and foisting every bad behavior onto one character and expecting the audience to pity her after four years of refusing to mature is short-sighted. That’s not saying she’s irredeemable, it’s just going to take a lot of work.
The secondary story line with Angus is about as pleasing as a root canal without medication. Religious fanatics in genre pieces are so old hat, the idea has returned to the dirt and waits to begin the lifecycle anew as something completely different, maybe a butterfly or hummingbird. Angus has these zombies all riled up, feeding them brains from an unknown source. They even hold a parade, hosted with church resources. What’s most uncomfortable about this whole thing is my ability to no longer overlook the news stories released in December and January concerning the actor. Why? First, the producers kept a line in which Angus greets a girl by saying, “Well aren’t you the most beautiful girl in the world,” and she’s maybe six, obviously afraid. Later, there’s a moment in which Angus switches from speaking normally to male parishioners during communion to his tone going breathy, slightly deeper for the woman. Both instances were . . . off. Uncomfortable to watch, and not just because the guy’s too good at playing crazy. We’ve been promised this season is the last for Angus. That moment cannot come soon enough. Let’s get the creepy old man stereotype off a show which uses more than enough appalling personalities to manipulate the plot.
The story line with Mama Leone has the most promise for this season. So many things have gone wrong in Seattle since Liv turned Z, it feels like there were no good people left, or those who claimed to be good were too easily influenced by the promise of power, like Major. Yet when we get to the laundromat with Ravi, Liv, and the sick boy, the show’s tone changes drastically. Liv is remorseful in ways she rarely expresses unless confronted. There’s no one lurking for a gotcha. It’s just a group of people doing the best they can to help those who have no voice in their new world. Please let this be the swing in Liv’s life we’ve waited for. I’m all for Liv joining the resistance, fighting the zombie establishment. The base is laid, what with Liv and Major on the outs again over their differing opinions on how to handle to handle integration between humans and zombies, not to mention Major’s seeming lack of concern about humans suffering under the new regime. Peyton will be a good ally should Liv go down this road, with her insight into what the Mayor has planned, as well as glimpses of policy from Fillmore-Graves.
Are You Ready for Some Zombies?: Review for iZombie 401 by A. Zombie
Don’t lose your heads, there’s episode spoilers in this review.
There’s no toe-dipping when it comes to introducing the audience to New Seattle. The episode opens with a look into the city’s brain processing plant. Up close. In full, glorious detail. Some of the show’s best cinematography went into making those brain tubes look as appetizing as possible. I mean, for us zombies, that is. The humans working in the processing plant aren’t as impressed by the product they produce. Matter of fact, the Dead Person of the Week spends this opening scene lamenting about the new world order within the city. Guess having the only meaningful employment come in the form of basically creating Soylent Green gets to people. The divide between living and reanimated humans is wide, only helped by Filmore-Graves’ policies, including one stating only the living can work in processing plants like the one employing Clint Hicks before his at-work demise inside one of the large brain grinders.
Here we are, touring a new, zombie-led city, and Liv’s first full day to show us the ropes is spent parroting bigoted statements and football stats. It’s like the writers enjoy listening to the lead character speak ill of herself or other lead characters in reworded racist dog-whistle phrases. This is the character who set the standards for zombie-police relations, but sure, let’s have her spend what should be her victory lap taking digs at her people. Add in the Z door tagging, the children abandoned for their new identities, and half a dozen other problems, it’s like they want to take a predominantly white-cast class of people and present them as Every Embattled Minority Ever. Then a subset of that group is set up as dictators, again with a predominantly white cast, and their plan is to use the handful of actual poor minorities in their midst as hastily-trained cannon fodder in their new goon squad.
Hello, yes, I’d like to report someone for exposure? Their privilege is showing. Big time.
The poorly handled social commentary aside, the plot for this episode is just not that thrilling on the surface. The murder turns into an allegory for abused gay teenagers. On the subplot front, we’ve got a city on lockdown, with death penalties in place for certain behaviors, such as scratching a human to turn them due to brain shortages—likely a fabricated shortage since Filmore-Graves hands out brain tubes to their staff like it’s candy. It only gets interesting when Ravi hits the screen, giving fans a look at how non-zombie he is after that cliffhanger last season—there’s a small catch in the form of “monthlies” where he randomly Zs out and chows down on brains. Then they killed the excitement of a hybrid by having Ravi eat a naturalist’s brain, leaving him to traipse around nude. Like Ravi needs to be a laughingstock at every turn to justify his continued existence, or something. Peyton and the living in higher-ranking positions are being treated as checked boxes, as demonstrated during a tense dinner with the new mayor. Blaine is Chase Graves’ lapdog in return for a lot of looking-away when it comes to running his businesses, which surprises absolutely no one. Nor will it surprise them when Blaine eventually tires of the yes-man routine and vies for control of the city via brains, violence, or hostile takeover. Possibly a combination of the three.
First, Blaine’s got to get his whackjob father in-hand again.
Angus gets a little help from Dino, his former enforcer who turns to working for Blaine in the meantime. Once free from his watery nursery, Angus demonstrates just how bonkers he is, repeating segments of Blaine’s tirades against the ruling class in New Seattle like scripture. Dino pays the price for aiding a murderer, leaving an out-of-his-mind Angus to wander the city as he pleases. A theater, converted to a church for zombies, catches his attention. Now begins the reign of Angus the Saint. I guess. This is an unfortunate story line on top of several plots involving white men being the absolute worst people in a city which is given the chance to start over, but it’s more of the same tired bull.
But, hey, Liv got to yell about football for the whole episode, so it’s totally worth wasting an hour of my Monday night.
Return to Mercy Labs: Review for Z Nation 411 By A. Zombie
Free from Chicago’s toxic foam, the team heads south for days. No one knows why, or where, or when this new side mission will end. Some weird sense of duty leads most of them along Roberta’s hazy path. 10k’s plan is a tad more complicated, but he knows deep down that the only way for his future to end happily is to follow the woman who kept him alive this far. It’s a little weird and slightly culty thinking, but 10k has a history of blind loyalty which fate happens to reward, though he’s got to be running out of universal brownie point by now. Everyone’s patience pays off when they reach a familiar building complex: Mercy Labs. Makes sense. During the original episode there was ample background building for Teller and his wife, seems a waste of effort not to bring it all back at some point.
This episode suffers from a little gratuitous time-killing in the form of flashbacks to the fight against The Man and his armored zombies, plus side trips to remember 5k and Red. There’s also too much filler when Roberta’s dream-walking through the lab, plus flashbacks to fill in information about Teller and Sarah’s son Andrew, and all that time the crew up north spends digging through files to find the Black Rainbow information. Getting to the meaty parts takes a bit, but once we’re there, it’s solid on the writing and acting front. Not to mention we finally, finally have the mission details in-hand.
Tracking down what they need means splitting up yet again. Roberta wanders, with 10k chasing behind after he takes a moment to mourn his losses alone. The dream takes her to an industrial refrigerator with about a dozen chains and just as many combination locks. A fungus-zombie interrupts the process. In order for Roberta to dream up the last combination, 10k has to hit her. Which, oh man, he does not want to do. If their lives depend on him ever selling that they’re arguing, they’re doomed. She goads him into getting the job done. Surprise, the fridge has a canister to match the one she’s already got. They join the others in Teller’s lab.
Sarge thinks she can reroute the solar powered batteries to work their radio for a few minutes. Doc and Murphy take her to the lab to find the power source. They find more than they bargained for after clearing a blockaded doorway at the back of the lab. During their first visit, Sarah worried about her son’s fate, begged Murphy to figure out what happened. Turns out Teller lied to his wife. Andrew naps in a suspended animation chamber powered by the solar panels atop the lab. Sarge faces a dilemma: Steal the kid’s saving grace or get the radio online? Opting for a middle ground only gets them so far. They barely make contact with Kaya and Citizen Z before the power cuts out, leaving the vital parts of Kaya’s message unheard. Roberta and Sarge have their first real heart to heart moment debating their next move. The fate of the many outweigh the fate of one, and Roberta spares Sage from pulling the plug on Andrew.
Getting the word out to Roberta isn’t as easy as digging through some files. Kaya’s having a little trouble readjusting to having her full family under one roof again; it’s distracting to want Simon, give him time to bond with JZ, but also figure out why ZONA was all up in their systems in order to maybe, probably, save the world. Plus there’s that mad-Z they never dealt with who almost chews Simon’s face off. Saving everyone’s day, Kaya pulls it together and what she discovers is . . . pretty much what they’ve been alluding to this entire season. So why this whole mystery thing? I don’t know.
Black Rainbow is a biological weapon meant to destroy whoever’s left after a catastrophic event. This is ZONA’s Reset. They plan to unleash Black Rainbow, hide on the island until all’s clear, then claim whatever’s left of the world as their own. The launch system is locked. But Kaya finds one loophole—they can cancel the launch at the base, so long as they have the thumbprint for the President of the United States of America.
Grab your good camera, gang. We’re going sightseeing at the nation’s capitol next week!
Back From the Undead: Review for Z Nation 406 By A. Zombie
When the group realizes Murphy won’t make it without medical aid, they try to get through Roberta’s semi-permanent hallucination in order to beg her to pull over somewhere. Since she’s now either part robot or having one hell of a trip, Roberta’s already ahead of the game. Her internal navigation system leads her straight toward Bio-Mod, an abandoned lab somewhere near Eerie, Indiana. Now what? None of them possess nearly enough medical training to treat Murphy’s wound and the infection spreading up his arm. That’s assuming there’s even anything functional left in the building to treat him with.
They don’t get a chance to find anything useful. By the time 10k and Sarge clear the zombies on their tails, Murphy’s already crashed. He’s well beyond Doc’s skills. Roberta isn’t really in the room with them. Before she totally checks out from reality, her sole input is suggesting Lucy bite Murphy. Well, it works. For a little while. Lucy’s particular strand of virus isn’t as strong as these uber-zombies they’ve encountered throughout the season. This new virus takes a lot of energy for Lucy to fight. Too much energy.For what’s probably the last time they can pull it off without beating a dead flying shark, the wonderful Sara Coates rejoins the cast, this time to bring middle-aged Lucy to life. For a while, it’s a little hazy if they did indeed pull the mother/daughter switch because the blue makeup completely changes Coates’ face and she’s just so good at embodying Lucy that it doesn’t feel like another actress—as odd as that sounds. The episode takes a turn for the teary at this point. Murphy’s condition worsens, despite Lucy’s sacrifice. Everyone is assured this is the moment they finally lose the big guy. 10k and Doc are ready to give him mercy. Lucy isn’t ready to give up, though. After everyone leaves to save Roberta from herself, Lucy goes against everyone’s warnings and continues to bite Murphy until he pulls through the fever baking his brain. As expected, Lucy ages far beyond her actual years. The price of saving her father is her life, and it’s one she gladly pays. Once again, Murphy is left adrift in the world without family. Even his chosen companions are cut off from his affections once they carry Lucy out at the episode’s end.
While Lucy fights to save her father, Roberta’s freaky mind-thing leads her through the labyrinthine warehouse. Everything necessary for her mission is easily accessible because somehow she already knows where it is. But what is she looking for is she’s never been there before? A mysterious canister catches her eye. She takes it, and the antidote for whatever’s in there, then has a little nap while the drugs do their thing in her blood stream. I’m not enjoying the Roboberta thing. It’s not meshing with the story at all, something I feared back during the SDCC interviews when they said her mission would remain a secret until the end. This seemingly pointless wandering and constantly endangering her companions has a payout, but the promise is not quite compelling enough to watch a character we’ve loved for certain traits turn her back on everything which made her wonderful. Roberta has been a shining feminine light in the zombie genre. How many other shows would’ve lasted four seasons with a WOC at the helm? Everyone sees this as Murphy’s show, but it’s always been Roberta’s ambition pushing the plot, pushing Murphy into action. Take away Roberta, the real Roberta, and the show just doesn’t have the same heart to it—even with the spectacular performances during Lucy’s story line in this episode.
The monster-of-the-week is quite an intriguing beast. Dr. Caligari spent the beginning of the zombie apocalypse trying to make the best of a bad situation. His company wanted to graft zombie limbs onto humans. You know, make the best use out of a new resource. They’re just dead bodies, after all, and harvesting parts from the dead is an age-old tradition in the science community. One of Caligari’s assistants was infected. She attacked the doctor and another man, Charlie. Charlie turned. Caligari amputated his arm in time, but stupidly grafted Charlie’s hand onto his arm. Bing. Bang. Boom. A new Charlie grows from the attached hand, absorbing the doctor until he’s only hands and a face. A smart face, though, and one who knows Roberta’s never been in the lab before. There is a cop-out moment where instead of getting any information about the canister, the good doctor says something vaguely ominous. Before they get anything else out of him, Roberta feels Lucy and Murphy’s distress. Then they give the doctor mercy instead of sparing him to come back to the conversation like sensible people. All to maintain this mystery quest. The convoluted mess makes my brain maggots ache.
Warren’s Dream Review for Z Nation 401 By R.C. Murphy
We left our intrepid heroes at a grim place. Roberta and Murphy were injured with the same bullet. Zona forcefully collected a bunch of scientists. Addy, Lucy, and 5k went for a flight off a cliff, but forgot their wings. 10k and came back. A Zona ship hovered over the rest of the gang and seemed to aim their weapons straight at them just as the episode faded to black.
Two years later, things aren’t much better for the crew. Except Murphy. Like always, he’s adapted to his situation and flourished in ways no one alive could ever manage. Yes, alive. As in cured. No more blue dude or the suave white-haired devil, Murphy’s embraced his natural hair color . . . and sweater vests. He’s also secured a pretty plush life as Zona’s savior, a life which spreads to Roberta the instant she wakes from a two-year coma. It wasn’t a nice nap. Oh no. She’s plagued by a nightmarish, smoldering landscape dominated by an ominous black arch. These visions are nutso, folks. Intense, come out of nowhere, and sometimes contain things which make no sense now, but will probably be some brilliant epiphany down the road. Because that’s just how the show works sometimes. The visions also trigger a ripple-effect of small disasters plaguing Roberta. We haven’t seen the last of those flames, that’s for sure.
Elsewhere in the world, Doc’s become a seriously competent zombie slayer. With grace he’s never expressed before, Doc performs a hammer dance with a few undead’s skulls. His shining moment lasts about two minutes, then 10k whacks him upside the head in a case of mistaken identity. This new 10k, or Tommy as Red calls him, is a lot chiller than before. Almost too chill. He’s kind of an emotional zombie at times and it’s coming across awkwardly. The trio are heading to a pick-up spot for what’s promised to be a new start for humans up north where it’s too cold for zombies to survive. This could possibly be Citizen Z and Kaya’s new thing? There’s no confirmation of who’s in charge, only that there seems to be actual military involved at the camp. Oh and Sun Mei.
Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: (l-r) Tara Holt as Lucy, Anastasia Baranova as Addy — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)
They’re not the only ones banking on the hope promised in this safe haven. Addy and Lucy are road-tripping to a better life. Along the way, Addy stops frequently to play hero. It also gives Lucy a way to work on her powers. The two don’t see eye to eye on some things. Especially if Lucy is on Addy’s right side, what with the missing eye and all. But their disagreements don’t stop Lucy from helping Addy help humanity even though the mission is long over. Which is how they’re caught by someone who may or may not be Zona goons.
Zona is . . . freaky. It’s obviously some man’s idea of heaven, all 1950’s middle-American city, complete with aimless afternoons playing leisure sports and women in skintight dresses. Murphy introduces Roberta to The Founder, an extreme survivalist who supposedly saw the zombie outbreak coming and set up a refuge for his wealthy pals where they could wait it out. No doubt the place will only get weirder as the season progresses.
Thankfully, Syfy has continuously saved Z Nation from the dust bin, no matter how wacky the show’s season finale. I mean, they did nuke a large portion of the USA at the end of season one yet still managed to make a coherent second season happen around a nuclear wasteland. The third season saw Operation Bitemark disband as Murphy sought to regain agency over his future, and his bid to control what happens to mankind in a zombie world. One would argue that splitting the crew was a good/bad choice, since it took away the key to making the outlandish personalities on the show work—Murphy needs Roberta’s practicality to stay out of the deep end. Without her as his conscious, he does things like enslave his friends. And that’s just not cool.
Luckily for us, during an interview this March David Michael Latt, one of the show’s producers, told Cartermatt.com that the gang would indeed come together again. The last two seasons were huge, monstrous things with plot lines racing in every direction, and the characters wound up chasing them in smaller and smaller groups in order to make the overall story work. Latt says that won’t happen in season four. “The good news, or it could be good news depending on how you read this, is that we’re going back to the season 1 definitive objective, the group being together, and the dynamics that make the series so good. The bad news is that it’s really out-there crazy.” As for getting any in-depth plot clues, or even a premiere date, his lips are sealed. The production seems to be on schedule. Barring any huge problems, it’s safe to expect the show to return in early September. But in the end, that’s Syfy’s call to make.
Z Nation fans living around Spokane, WA will have the ability to get a peek at the show’s production this summer. The show is turning the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture into a behind-the-scenes exhibit and functional film studio. The summertime exhibition, Z Nation: Behind the Camera, will include programs focused on local talent brought in by The Asylum who not only work on-screen as zombies and human extras, but also behind the camera. They’re opening up the filming to public viewing, as well, to give everyone a working idea about how much effort it takes to create the mayhem we see every week on-screen. Karl Schaefer, another producer for the show, says this is their way to give back to the Spokane community, a thanks for the support since season one. “The exhibit is kind of aimed at the 15-year-old kid who wants to know how to get into the movie business but thinks, ‘Oh, there’s no way I can do that in Spokane,’ ” Schaefer said. “But we just want to show people they can.” Keep an eye on the museum’s social media pages for the up-to-date program schedule. The exhibit opened with a zombie-filled party on June 10th.
Locals had the chance to audition for remaining background roles this last weekend. Sets have gone up in the museum, with a green screen stage built in the parking garage for effects shots. ZN stars have arrived, ready to tackle whatever weirdness the writers came up with during the hiatus. Keith Allan took a minute to post a zelfie when he rolled into town, saying he was, “About to step back into the apocalypse.” Russell Hodgkinson made a similar tweet on June 9th. We can’t wait to see where the cast takes their characters during the upcoming season.