So far season one of Z Nation has been “six of one and half a dozen of another” in terms of episodic quality. This week’s episode, Going Nuclear follows the usual formulaic approach that the Asylum produced show relies upon. Fans who have been watching the series since its start on SyFy will have noticed that a few shows in the season have been a cut above the rest. Either in content, plot or intent, some shows have stood out from other offerings thus far. The death of Garnett, played by Tom Everett Scott who makes one think of Robert Hays, in the episode Resurrection Z was a sombering show and felt a little different from the rest of the series.
Garnett’s passing and his being given mercy by Warren was sad but overall even the “seriousness” of that particular episode did not come near the, if such a word can be used when referencing Z Nation, brilliance of the episode that aired on November 7, Die Zombie Die…Again. Following Mack and Addy in their separate journey from the rest of the group, this episode was a sort of Groundhog Day cum video game, cum Nightmare on Elm Street combination that actually takes the entire show into heights that have never been breached for this particular low budget wannabe of The Walking Dead.
The writing of this episode allowed the two young actors who play Addy and Mack; Anastasia Baranova (Rise: Blood Hunter, The Darkness II) and Michael Welch (The Twilight Saga, The Demented) respectively, to shine for the first time in season one of Z Nation. Like initial season itself, the two actors have been another case of “six of one half a dozen of another” in terms of performance. Welch has never been allowed to really sink his acting teeth into his part and in that particular episode he absolutely rocks it.
Rather interestingly Welch looks like he could be a Nathan Fillion love child. His performance in the Die Zombie Die…Again episode made one think of Fillion in his line delivery, and he does sort of resemble the Castle star in the looks department. So much so that if “Marky Mark” drops out of the role of Nathan Drake in the soon to enter production stage film of Uncharted and David O. Russell refuses to cast Nathan, perhaps Michael could fill the bill.
Mr. Russell please take note…
Back to the episode of Z Nation that was the most impressive in the series thus far it has to be pointed out that certainly the device of a dream in a dream, in a dream has been done before, but…This episode was one long continuous dream, wake, dream, wake, dream…
At different points in the episode, it seems that Mack is the one dreaming, especially when he is having what feels like a video game dream, i.e. where one goes through a set scenario and dies, only to “respawn,” aka wake up and dream the same sequence again, and again, and again. Then it feels like Addy’s dream and to be honest, in terms of performance, this is not Baranova’s first stand out job in the show, she got a chance to knock it out of the park a bit in Fracking Zombies.
Both of the actors in this episode of Z Nation were allowed to really show the audience their acting chops. No instance of “six of one and half a dozen of another” in this week’s show at all. The writers and director Tim Andrews (Teen Wolf, Don’t Sleep Alone) teamed up with two more than capable actors to knock out the best episode in season one of this “tongue in cheek” variant on The Walking Dead. Sadly, these type of memorable episodes are all too infrequent and the SyFy zombie fest will most likely only be around for a single season. However, this one episode shows just what the series could have been. Well done, Tim, Michael, Anastasia and writers Schafer, Engler and Merchant for a standout episode. This one can be rewatched on the SyFy site or Hulu and is well worth the time it takes to see it.
By Michael Smith