Season Five News from Z Nation at SDCC by R.C. Murphy
With all the chaos they left us with after the season four finale, it’s a good thing Z Nation survived the Syfy off-season guillotine in order to wrap up the extreme intrigue planted in last season’s disjointed romp through Warren’s mental snap and the Black Rainbow mission. Not many specific questions regarding the finale were answered during the discussion segment of the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con panel, but that’s standard operating procedure for almost every show which isn’t screening an episode or premiere during the massive convention. Sometimes a few secrets leads to greater fun down the road.
There was, however, a five minute trailer to whet everyone’s appetite for the upcoming season. Or should I say wet, according to some initial reactions to the gory footage? The trailer is not currently available online, but keep an eye on Z Nation‘s social media pages for the online premiere sometime soon.
This year’s panel was attended by D.J. Qualls, Kellita Smith, Keith Allan, Anastasia Baranova, Russell Hodgkinson, showrunner Karl Schaefer, executive producer David Michael Latt, and series newcomer Lydia Hearst.
Panelists discussed where some of the outlying characters would be in the upcoming season, physically and emotionally. Qualls says Citizen Z will stay way up north with his crew. Baranova revealed a little of what long-lost Addy will be up to now that her world’s been upended even more, though she doesn’t know it yet. Addy’s comeback story line promises to take us deep into the world of a new zombie breed—deemed Talkers by the production team. These Talkers are coherent, intelligent undead, and they’re out to get our heroes. On the flip side, Addy feels a kinship with these evolved zombies, and that’s bound to cause ample problems for everyone down the road.
The producers wrapped the panel by showing the trailer for The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time, since it’s the same production team and all. No, this does not mean there will be anymore crossover between the franchises than what’s already happened. Probably. Maybe?
Unfortunately, there’s no announcement about the Z Nation season five premiere date. Syfy has only confirmed that it will air sometime later in 2018. It’ll probably be late September or early October, but assume nothing until Syfy makes an official announcement in the upcoming months. To keep your memory fresh, all current seasons of the show are streaming on various platforms now.
Warning, there’s a horde of episode spoilers below.
None of the crew will make it out of Georgia if they don’t find supplies. There’s been a drought over summer. None of the creeks they’d used to find water before exist now. Digging would only provide enough water for maybe two people—using more energy than they can spare. They have no food. There’s no handy side-of-the-road towns to pick over for green beans and fruit cocktail. Even when they hit a spot in the road filled with cars, there’s not much left that’d keep them walking toward their goal. Abraham’s big find was a bottle of booze, which he intends to drink despite dehydration. This last stint of life on the road has kicked the crew in the shins every chance it gets. When a pack of wild dogs attacks, it’s the first time we’ve seen a live domestic animal since the pigs at the prison. It’s also when we find out just how determined these people are to survive. A dinner of dog meat isn’t something many can stomach, but they had to or admit they’d given up the fight to live. There’s a couple characters who look like they’ve already thrown in the towel on that fight.
Over the three weeks since Atlanta—where they said their final goodbye to Beth—Maggie has done her best to hang in there. But long days in the heat without water and food paired with the trauma of her loss have taken their toll. Carl manages to lift her spirits a little, handing her a pretty jewelry box. In stark contrast, Gabriel attempts something similar and is shut down. To Maggie he’s a coward who hid when the people counting on his help came for aid. That cowardice goes against everything her father taught her and what she tried to instill in her sister before her murder. It also tempts her. Seeing the weakness in Gabriel makes Maggie disgusted at herself. She’s not sure she can go on without seeing her sister every day. They’d been so close to finding each other—Maggie missed her by minutes. How can she go on when her family’s journey has ended? Glenn tells her, “Keep fighting.”
Fighting is what Sasha does best. It’s what Tyreese did best, as well. This family trait of extreme violence to cope with strong emotions is a handicap the group cannot afford at the moment. They’re exhausted, in no condition to walk the remaining sixty miles to Washington, let alone take on a herd of walkers who’ve been harmlessly stalking them for miles. It doesn’t stop Sasha from messing up a non-violent plan to get the walkers out of the way—pushing them down an embankment near a bridge—and attacking. Michonne has to shove Sasha onto the ground to make her stop fighting. While yes, Sasha’s bloodlust and drive to fight the world did net the crew a canine dinner that night, it will also cost them later down the road if she can’t learn how to channel her feelings into something more productive—like finding food they can carry that won’t bleed over the last of the bullets. Sasha likewise isn’t sure is she can go on without her family.
Daryl stands as proof that one can go on after losing their entire family. He made it through Merle’s disappearance, reappearance, turn as a kinda-don’t-hate-him guy, and his death…s. Coping with that loss wasn’t a solo endeavor. He had his chosen family and they needed him to keep them safe. Beth needed him. Judith needed him. And he failed one of them. Just like he failed his brother. Just like his family failed him. Daryl is caught in a cycle of disappointment and loss—one that stretches years before the walkers came and shook things up. He’s hit a breaking point. Not even ever-vigilant Carol can derail the trauma train hijacking Daryl’s brain. He’s resorted to sneaking off and burning himself in order to feel anything past the numbness. Carol gave him permission to feel his losses. It wasn’t enough. He didn’t feel safe expressing his emotions with witnesses. Not until he gives just a peek to Maggie because he understands the pain in her chest and the sleepless nights. He’s already wondered, “How can I keep going?” In the end, Beth—the seemingly weakest of them all—inspires two people who’ve never floundered this much in their sense of self before. She saves them, as hokey as that sounds.
Rick did the thing. He said the show’s name in dialog. It was a moving speech. It might even keep the troops going. But what’ll keep them going even better is something they’ve been denied for too long—hope. A helpful stranger says he has good news, but how many times must they be burned by the same promise before they learn their lesson? Or is Aaron telling the truth?
By the end of episode 508, things didn’t look good for Rick and company. They’d finally joined their forces together again—even though that meant the mission to D.C. was a bust—and tragedy strikes. The next episode picks up some time after they’ve moved on from Atlanta once again. Seems like the big city is nothing but bad luck for the gang. Can they break the downward cycle and regroup or will their losses continue to build?
Warning: Episode spoilers lurk below calm waters.
This was by far the best episode the show has released since the main group left the prison. It was also one of the most unique in the way it was written and edited. The opening should’ve gone straight to that first, unexplained shot of the shovel, though. Fans know what happened, the catch-up killed what could’ve been a great opening—even if viewers didn’t understand what they were seeing until everything was explained at the end of the episode. Unfortunately, while the episode itself was well written and acted, the main plot point—finding yet another safe haven—has become woefully predictable. I knew what was on the other side of the wall at Noah’s community long before they jumped over. Just had to listen for the flies. They’re never a good sign on this show. How many times can the crew get knocked down before they develop serious mental issues from trying to cope with more than any person should.
We didn’t see much from Maggie, but Glenn’s struggle to keep going was all too clear. He’s unusually quiet and withdrawn. His sister-in-law is dead. So is his father-in-law. Hell, he and Maggie have no one left breathing to call family outside the survivor group. Over and over, Glenn and Rick touched on their reactions when Dawn and Beth were killed. They wanted her dead. It didn’t matter who ended up with the blood on their hands. There’s only so much a man can take. Glenn may be at his breaking point. But then who will hold Maggie together?
This episode was all about Tyreese. We learned about a childhood spent inundated with the horrors of the world—very Clockwork Orange—with his father the one pushing young Ty to face it like a man. This tidbit of information shaped everything that happened after the twin walker took a chunk out of his arm. The hallucinations ranged from auditory—the radio playing news stories based on what he’s seen since the undead rose—to visual, bringing in the dead who’ve shaped the man. Slightly terrifying to think Philip (The Governor) and Martin (from TERMINUS) had anything to do with how brave Tyreese was at the end. Even more terrifying was when Lizzie and Mika first popped up before the opening credits. If we’d known then what the random visuals meant, I don’t think many viewers would’ve kept watching. It was worth the watch to see Bob again, to hear his advice one last time. Interesting that in his final moments, Tyreese would seek out Bob, who was so unlike himself and how he planned to handle his death. Ty wanted to go out swinging. Bob embraced the transition with no regrets. But Tyreese had been taught his entire life to never turn away, never give up. As his condition deteriorated, the hallucinations from those he’d cared for—Lizzie, Mika, Bob, and Beth—told him it was okay to not be a part of the world as it’s become. The others—Phillip and Martin—mock him for his subconscious desire to get it over with already. “You have to pay the bill,” Phillip told him. Ty’s final line was, “Turn it off.” Was he talking about the pain, the horrific world around them? Could be both. His final moments were some of the roughest to sit through, a testament to Chad Coleman’s incredible performance.
In the wake of yet another loss, it’s become all too clear that what they’re doing isn’t working. Rick agrees with Michonne’s insistence that they take a page from Eugene’s playbook and take up the quest to Washington D.C. again. They need a home. Rick needs somewhere safe to raise his kids. They don’t have the supplies necessary to fortify their own safe haven. It’s one-hundred miles to Washington, will all of them make it?
Last week, we caught up with the long-lost Beth. This week, we’re on the road with Abraham and the gang determined to see Eugene safely to D.C. so he can work on the virus that may very well eliminate every walker across the globe. To say their trip is a tad rocky in this episode is a gross understatement.
A part of me feels like there were some character tweaks to make this episode in particular hit a certain vibe—not a pleasant one, either. Abraham’s anger has never been hidden, but the extent of his emotional baggage hasn’t been on the screen in this way before. It’s difficult to balance what we know of the man with what we’re shown in this episode. We get glimpses of his past throughout, relating to the early days after the outbreak and his attempts to keep Ellen, his wife, and two children safe. The ease with which he kills stems not from a long military service, but from understanding that sometimes people must die. Others may judge him—his wife was so terrified she took the kids and ran to their deaths—but at least he knows he’s done his part to keep his people safe. There’s a fine line Abraham walks. More than once we saw Rosita, who’s been with him for almost the entire trip from Texas to Georgia, take a step back from his anger. She’s romantically involved with Abraham and looks to him as their leader, but at one point she has to put her foot down before Abraham marches them into a herd of walkers so thick, one can’t see the road through all the decaying flesh.
That’s after they managed to kill every vehicle they rode in for longer than a mile. What is with people after the apocalypse having horrible luck with transportation which doesn’t require manpower? Yes, Eugene sabotaged the bus, but there’s been a string of bad timing with cars running out of gas or crashing throughout the show. Remember Lori and the walker pushing his face through the safety glass? Yuck! It’s like once the dead rose, everyone forgot how to operate cars. Convenient for the writers—it keeps their locations isolated to a specific area and gives them a chance to add in more fight scenes with walkers. Awful for the characters who end up with concussions and who knows what else from all these crashes.
Tara is finding her footing within the group. Unfortunately her footing puts her in the path of Eugene’s weirdness. For most of the episode, I yelled at her to get away from him. She’s naïve and kind. Lately, Eugene has been written like a sociopath. He understands emotions, but they don’t connect with him on more than a surface level. He’s got one concern: his safety. Tara, meanwhile, wants to make sure everyone is okay and happy. That’s a tall order considering the mess they get into after the bus flips in the middle of the freeway.
Speaking of, what sort of sense does it make to walk forward into uncharted territory, given that your ride and supplies catch fire on the road, instead of backtracking to a known safe location? Fifteen miles out from the church, the glass Eugene dumped in the gas tank causes the bus to flip and the engine to catch fire. Despite losing everything except the bag of weapons, Abraham orders everyone to continue on their set path. He’s running from something, which isn’t clear until the end of the episode. What I want to know is, how the heck did they happen to find a walker-free place to sleep in by sunset given there was nothing but forest stretching down the road they traveled? The same sort of plot gap happens toward the end when we though the gang were good to go with the fire engine and suddenly they’re walking toward at least two thousand walkers. Uh, what?
I’d like to take a moment to gloat. All this time, I’ve said Eugene wasn’t what he seemed and guess who was right? Yup, this reviewer. Eugene made the best of a bad situation. He knew he couldn’t hope to make it longer than a day without clinging onto someone and convincing them to help him. He’d done the math, Washington D.C. should be the safest place within the undead-infested United States. But he was in Texas, and that’s a long way to travel alone when one cannot defend themselves. Luckily enough, he stumbled across Abraham at exactly the right moment. A minute or two later, Eugene would’ve stumbled across a woman and two children who’d been eaten by walkers, and a man beside them with the top of his head blown off. Abraham feels he owes Eugene for saving him from suicide. The need to balance the debt pushed him for so long, when Eugene finally told the truth—that he’s not a scientist capable of destroying the walkers with a virus—Abraham snapped. The last we saw of Eugene, he was T.K.O.ed with everyone hovering over him. Honestly? That’s what he gets for getting everyone’s hopes up. Numerous people died to get him to D.C. and it was all a lie.
This episode was still a tad slow, save the last few minutes when the truth hit the fan. If this trend sticks, the show may have a hard time ramping up for what is always an epic mid-season finale. For now, we play the wait-and-see game.
A little forewarning for the second episode of season five—don’t eat anything when you watch. Or rewatch. At no point in your life will it be okay to consume much beyond water while watching . . . and even that’s questionable depending on the strength of your stomach.
Spoiler Alert! The following review contains episode spoilers.
For the first time in too long—possibly since before Hershel’s murder—we witness a survivor group who are somewhat happy. It may be mostly relief. Giddiness from finding each other once again and surviving escape from Terminus with no casualties on their part. Rick smiles and takes time with his children, something he hasn’t been able to do since the prison attack. Even then, he was plagued by Lori’s ghost and could not fully bond with Judith. Everyone has banded together to take care of the baby.
Judith, along with Bob and Glenn, became the heart and soul of the group. Anyone needing a mental time-out takes a turn watching the baby. Tyreese in particular has done a lot of mental healing since his time taking care of Judith. His world simplified to one focus—protect her and provide for her, no matter what dangers lurk around the corner. Because of that focus, he’s ready to forget that Carol killed his girlfriend and move on. He can kill again, without feeling a strangling sense of moral wrongness. Bob and Glenn, in their roles as heart and conscious, focus on Rick and keeping him grounded despite his overwhelming need for revenge. Even though Rick is smiling and reunited with his family, there’s a darkness in his eyes that won’t go away. The pain he’s gone through has forever changed him. Even if Eugene’s scheme to infect the walkers with a super virus that’ll kill them off works, Rick will never be the same. He will need people like Glenn and Bob to thump him over the head and remind him he has two children relying on him to stay grounded and in control of his anger.
Unfortunately, Bob may not stick around long enough to help. We’ll get to that later.
This episode introduced Gabriel Stokes—a priest with a strange sense of humor (and awful comedic timing) and a secret which may or may not come back to bite the entire group in the backside. Gabriel doesn’t kill, not even the walkers who threaten his life. He’s been isolated in his church since the undead outbreak reached his neck of the woods. Luckily for Rick and company, the church is far enough out of the way to have little walker foot traffic. They hole up in Gabriel’s safe haven to take a breather and have a nice wind-down session reminiscent of the party down in the CDC’s basement back in season one. Let’s hope the church isn’t rigged to blow up.
The safety the church offers is an illusion. Rick, Carl, Daryl, and Michonne all sense something isn’t quite right. For days they’ve thought someone may be tracking their movements. Carl found evidence of an attempted break-in at the church, but couldn’t tell if the knife marks on the windows or the threat, You’ll burn for this, were fresh. We know that Morgan isn’t far behind the group, and he was a tad loony-pants the last time Rick saw him, but is he the threat?
Nope. It is far, far worse.
Poor Bob. He’s finally found a groove after the apocalypse—a solid relationship with Sasha, good standing within the survivor group, sobriety, a solid plan to help Abraham and Eugene reach the epidemic center in D.C., and a sense of relief so great he can’t help but weep. The latter proves his undoing. When Bob takes a time-out from the party, someone sneaks up and clubs him over the head. Next thing we know, it’s Bob-aque time. Hold the sauce. He’s still alive, but for how long? Gareth seems like a patient man, despite his disgusting diet choices. The group who survived the Terminus attack is small. How much can they consume before Rick realizes they’re a man down? Do cannibals diet? Guess we’ll find out next week. Cross your fingers and hope Bob makes it out only missing one limb.
Never Again. Never Trust. Review of The Walking Dead 501 By RC Murphy
It must be October. Everyone as far as the eye can see is trapped in Walker Fever—not to be confused with the fever the infected suffer before turning into the undead. We here at the ZSC Command Center are not immune and fell head-first into the fifth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead with snacks at our side . . . which we quickly ignored, given how bloody the first episode of the season turned out to be. With that in mind, let’s see what our favorite band of survivors are up to after being captured last season.
Spoiler Warning! Below are show spoilers. Turn back now if you haven’t watched this episode.
This episode had one flaw—the Terminus flashbacks. There were only two, at the beginning and end, but the information delivered was something clearly conveyed through dialog and set decoration in the middle of the episode. All the flashbacks provided was a little confusion as far as the timeline went. For half the episode, it appeared as though there was a time gap between when Rick and company were captured and the moment Carol and Tyreese were within hearing range of Terminus and all the gunfire. It wasn’t until Carol saw her once-friends bound and gagged that things started to make sense. Sometimes in story-telling, less is more. This was one of those cases.
Rick is still embracing the Ricktatorship, pushing everyone to arm themselves with whatever they can find in the train car. Miraculously, in the short time they were apparently imprisoned, they managed to build a good number of gnarly weapons using rusty nails, leather belts, hunks of wood, and who knows what else. All their work was for naught. Glenn, Rick, Ben, and Daryl were still taken by surprise and dragged into Terminus’ slaughterhouse. Which is the exact moment everyone set aside their popcorn and clutched the couch cushions so tight, their knuckles turned white.
Despite internet rumors, this was not the moment we said goodbye to any main cast members. Glenn is still alive and has taken on Hershel’s role, becoming Rick’s conscious when his desire for revenge threatens the entire group’s survival. It’s a position Glenn has filled before, but his youth and inexperience usually costs him solid ground to stand on in the face of Rick’s anger. This time Glenn seems better prepared to stand up for what he feels is right. He’s got far more at stake with Maggie at his side and committed to staying there no matter what. Not even his good friend will force him to risk her safety.
Carol is far, far removed from the character we met in season one. Now she can walk up and kill a walker without blinking, even while Tyreese stands behind her saying he’s not prepared to kill again. In the face of his perceived weakness and possible judgment, Carol doesn’t balk, doesn’t care. She will live, that’s that. She will make sure Tyreese and Judith live, no matter the cost to her. But she has no plans to stick with them. Being ousted from the group changed her more than the death of her husband and daughter. Solitude fits the new Carol. She’s truly free to do what she wants when she wants after years of being the steel backbone for her family. Will her resolve to remain a lone wolf stay firm after reconnecting with the rest of the group? Hard to tell, but the reunion hug she shared with Daryl was perhaps one of the happiest moments on the show in years.
This episode was all about escalation. One group wrongs another, the afflicted group seeks revenge. That’s how Terminus became a cannibal’s Fantasy Land—their once sanctuary was overrun, the women abused, countless murdered, but they took it back and became something ruthless and without morals. That’s how Carol and Rick ensured Terminus could not recover from their attack and escape. Even Tyreese did not escape without having to step up his game to not only kill walkers, but also a human who posed a serious threat to Judith. By the end of the episode, even viewers felt panicky, waiting to see how far the escalation would go. What would be the ultimate cost of this revenge pushing Rick forward? So far, no one in his group has paid. That luck can only go so far.
We were visited by a long-lost character at the end of the episode. What role do you think he’ll play in the grand scheme of things? Last time we saw this guy, he was twelve crayons short of a full set and sure to die at any time. That’s the wonderful thing about this show, the people we think will die, don’t. Those we wish would live, keel over without warning. It’s impossible to predict what’s around the corner. But that is half the fun of watching. It is also why The Walking Dead was picked up for a sixth season days before the fifth season premiere.
It’s no secret we get a little antsy this close to October. Not because someone left an open jar of honey next to the Command Center desk for the ants to enjoy, but because we’re so close to the return of AMC’s The Walking Dead, we can taste it. Not that I want to know what a walker tastes like. Or the food in Terminus. If you can even call it food considering what we all think it’s made of. Ew.
All babbling aside, TWD’s producers have been doing a pretty good job of giving us just enough information on the blog hosted by AMC to keep us from pacing a hole in concrete floors. Executive Producer David Alpert had a couple things to say during an interview from the trenches while filming recently:
Q: Last year, you mentioned Season 4’s theme related to the possibility of civilization. What would you say the theme for Season 5 is?
A: I think with Season 4, Scott Gimple really focused on whether you can get away from the things that you’ve done. Can you turn your back on your past? I think Season 5 is a response to that, in that you are what you’ve done, where you’ve been and where you’re from.
Q: We’ve heard the Season 5 Premiere was quite ambitious in terms of production. What are you most excited for fans to see once it airs?
A: We’re attempting things that have never really been done before on the show. We’re taking some bigger swings and I can’t wait for the fans to see that. Hopefully, they feel as good about it as we do.
Alpert also alluded to the comic book baddie Negan joining the cast soon. How soon? We have no clue. Rumors have been flying right and left since the Governor’s demise—who will be the new Big Bad? In the comic book realm, there’s over 50 issues between the Governor’s death and Negan’s appearance. As we’ve seen in the past, the producers aren’t afraid to tweak what’s already established. Alpert did add, “I cannot wait until we introduce Negan. He is just like the coolest f—ing character on the planet. You thought the Governor was bad news? . . . Man, wait until you meet Negan! He’s one of the greatest villains ever created. It’s so exciting.”
In other TWD news, on September 5th AMC announced that it ordered a pilot for a companion series to The Walking Dead. TWD producers Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd, and David Alpert will act as executive producers, with the addition of Dave Erickson from Sons of Anarchy who will also be the showrunner. There’s no casting or location news this early in the game. Production won’t begin until late 2014.
Robert Kirkman had this to say about the new series, “There are many corners of The Walking Dead universe that remain unseen in the shadows. Being given the opportunity to shine a light into those corners and see what lurks out there is an absolute thrill. I know the fans are anxious to hear what Dave and I have been cooking up for this new version of The Walking Dead, and I’m happy to be one step closer to sharing it with them.”
Lastly, AMC recently released 10 production stills from season five over on their website to continue teasing us. Go ahead, take a peek. Might as well watch the trailer again while you’re over there, too.