Z Nation: Going Nuclear – Don’t Hug The Zombies


Z Nation Warning: Spoilers

Z Nation has claimed a spot in late night television and zombie culture alike which is best exemplified by this tweet from the Z Nation Twitter account:

Yes, there will be a second season of Z Nation.  The success of the show is likely due to the way it handles the world of a zombie apocalypse in a more lighthearted tone than its contemporary, The Walking Dead.  Sure, the Groundhog-Day-like episode from last week, “Die, Zombie, Die… Again” wasn’t as well liked because of the repetition and need for deconstructive though or a possible second viewing but they delivered on a promise about understandings Addy’s past that they made in earlier episodes.  It is easy to think that because it is a gratuitous zombie-chopper that the show would be light on plot, which isn’t true.  The story is far from fine art but the writers are doing well.

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In tonight’s story the group find themselves in Southern South Dakota in the midst of a potential nuclear meltdown.  The survivors attempt to battle lethal levels of radiation as well as irradiated zombies in order to cool the reactor.  Murphy and a pilot, Amelia, take a plane far away so that he is protected just in case there is a total meltdown.  Here’s why the story worked:

Two writing techniques that can make or break any story if not given attention are a unity of elements and Chekhov’s Gun.  The two are often complimentary.  Anyone who has seen the out-of-left-field drug dealer scene from Tommy Wiseau’s The Room understands why these are important.  You’d expect that a studio like Asylum, which makes Z Nation, would just churn out episodes with loose ties between each to keep the story moving.  But what happened in “Going Nuclear” between 10k and the nuclear plant employee was great development.  We learned a while back that 10k lost his father and has been kind of shaken up about it.  Introduce him to a man who lost his son and is likewise shaken up and we have unity.  Now make the two work together and the father figure meets an end that 10k can again, not stop and you have deep development for 10k.  If he can’t prevent those he is close to from dying will he refuse to get close to anyone else?  Is he eventually going to feel like his fate and others’ are entirely out of his hands?  Will his 10,000th zombie kill rejuvenate his spirits because he managed to complete a goal that he decided to go after and now feels in control?  All questions we couldn’t have asked if 10k never had a dead father we knew about.

Alright, enough critical thinking.  Probably the biggest reason for Z Nation‘s success is that it is just plain fun.  Each episode explores a new possibility that could complicate the already dangerous scenario of a zombie apocalypse.  Tonight?  Don’t hug the zombies because they are radioactive.  Even if you manage to kill it, you’ll die a few days later from radiation poisoning.  Interesting.  Other episodes?  Zombies migrating en masse to the south because they like the warmth.  Trying to take down a zombie with a protective helmet (it took The Walking Dead until the prison to explore that challenge).  We already saw a zombie dog and it looks like in a coming episode we may even get to see a zombie bear, which means aiming for the head won’t work.  The zombies aren’t the only fun though as we have seen the survivors communicate with Citizen Z thought a drive-thru speaker box, the Liberty Bell zombie kill from Philidelphia and tonight they got an airplane to run on a couple cases of Three-Olives vodka and sliced through a few zombies with Robbie, a high-powered laser equipped robot.

What is also fun about the show is the mystery behind Murphy’s infection and the resulting zombie hybrid super powers he has developed.  The show is giving us answers in reasonable increments without teasing us.  Tonight the aptly named pilot, Amelia, crashed her plane with Murphy on board.  She didn’t make it and it was interesting if not a little adorable to watch how Zombie Amelia mimicked and  interacted with Murphy as he walked back to the nuclear reactor.  It hinted that there may be some thought behind their dead eyes and perhaps that the concept of “mercy” isn’t merciful at all because the zombies can be saved.  The writers are doing a lot to separate themselves from the norm in zombie culture so there will likely be some revelations and surprises in the coming episodes.

Yeah, the show isn’t perfect and the acting isn’t the best but it is still fun.  This episode showed us that there is a deliberate plan with the story and the studio executives and writers aren’t just cashing in.  What did you think of “Going Nuclear,” tonight?  What are your thoughts on the show so far?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.