Z Nation Episode One ‘Puppies and Kittens’ Recap

by on 09/13/2014

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Here at walkingdeadforums.com, of course we love The Walking Dead. But we also love the zombie genre in general, and we’re willing to be open-minded and give just about any interesting looking zombie show a chance. With that in mind, we checked out Syfy Channel and The Asylum’s new Z Nation. Here’s our full recap of the first episode, “Puppies and Kittens.”

The episode starts with a quick recap with a voice on the radio letting us know it’s three years after the first infection, that the President is dead, governments have fallen, that the zombie plague is an extinction-scale event, and that’s there’s no cure. Society is obviously not in good shape and we see a montage of shots of smoldering U.S. cities including Washington, D.C., riots, and zombie attacks.

The episode starts off at the Portsmouth Naval Prison, which has been converted into an infection control laboratory. It has HELP written on the top of the roof, which is a bad sign right off the bat.  Zombies are chasing Lt. Mark Hammond (Harold Perrineau) and another soldier. No walkers here, these suckers run like Usain Bolt. The soldiers make it inside the and slam a large barred gate, which the zombies press desperately against.

By the way, one of the zombies looks just like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, I swear. The soldiers shoot into the mass, which is represented by some very unconvincing CGI blood effects. The zombie makeup is OK, certainly not up to the standards of some other show I don’t need to mention, but decent for a low-budget production.

At the NSA Emergency Command Center Northern Lihts, military officials are watching the chaos on screens. The team at the over-run prison has not evacuated because it is still waiting on a delayed extraction team. The NSA is also evacuating. Sysop Simon Cruller (D.J. Qualls) reaches Hammond and gives him a new mission, escorting a Doctor Merch and other survivors to a CDC Mass Infection Lab. At Mt. Wilson California, which happens to be on the opposite coast from where the prison is located in Kittery, Maine.

Hammond leaves Redshirt, I mean, the other soldier, to hold the zombies at the rapidly failing gate and goes to look for Doctor Merch.

Upstairs scientists are conducting human tests on three very unwillingly prisoners to try to find a vaccine for the zombie virus. Hammond helpfully offers to shoot the men if they turn. The prisoners very sensibly and accurately protest that their human rights are being violated, but are injected anyway. The first two gruesomely become zombified nearly instantly after being injected and Hammond, good to his word, shoots them in the head with a pistol.  Hammond utters the rather cheesy line “I give you mercy” before blowing away the second one.

As they’re preparing the third prisoner for his injection, Redshirt comes back up the stairs. Hammond sees him through the window of the door and he looks fine so he opens it. But that was just his good side. The other side of his face is chewed off by the zombies and he’s turned. Apparently the transformation is very quick in this zombie universe, the zombies bear a lot of resemblance to the Rage zombies in 28 Days Later.

Hammond shoots Redshirt and a couple more zombies who follow him in when he gets word that his helicopter transport has arrived for evacuation. The third prisoner is still tied to the table. He begs Hammond to release him or at least shoot him, but Hammond runs off to escape and zombies start snacking on the prisoner’s chest.

After getting the doc to the helicopter Hammond, overcome by his conscience, tells her to tell the pilot to leave in two minutes if he’s not back and goes to rescue the screaming prisoner.

We see Cruller running to escape the NSA facility, which is somewhere very far north and snowy. He’s too late, and he sees the transport take off. Turns out to be a stroke of luck for Cruller, though, because the plane crashes right after takeoff.

We skip ahead to a whole year later, so I guess this is four years after the beginning of the zombie plague. Some survivors are singing and remembering a Nana Griswold. It looks like a memorial service, but then Nana speaks up and the camera switches to show she’s elderly and sick but not dead yet. Apparently even if you die of natural causes become a zombie. The room is cleared and with Nana’s enthusiastic agreement (“I’ve had enough of this stinkin’ world”) Warren (Kelita Smith) loads a single bullet into a pistol, says “I give you mercy,” then shoots her in the head through a pillow. Kind of a messy way to do it and a waste of perfectly good pillows.

Another survivor Garnett (Tom Everett Scott) calls Warren on her radio. He asks her for backup as he’s investigating a boat with two males on it approaching their camp. Garnett thanks Warren for the execution, says he just can’t do them any more, implying they’re a regular thing.

The boaters turn out to be Hammond and Murphy, the third prisoner. Hammond explains that Murphy is the only one to ever survive being bitten, thanks to the vaccine test, and he’s the last chance to save humanity. Hammond now has a gnarly scar across his face.

Cruller is still at Northern Light. Alone. He appears to be Skyping with his girlfriend, who asks him if he’s coming home, but he’s interrupted and it becomes clear he’s watching and responding to a recorded video from right before the plague started. The CDC base in Mt. Wilson calls Cruller to tell him the base has been overrun and they need the location of Hammond, but Cruller says he lost contact with him three weeks ago. The radio statics out while the CDC base is trying to pass on new coordinates for Hammond.

The survivor camp is called Camp Blue Sky. There’s a lot of people there, living a woodsy lifestyle in a tent city.

Hammond asks to be escorted to the Tappen Zee bridge, which crosses the Hudson River in New York so he’s obviously not gotten very far in a year, to meet a team for transportation to California. He makes a direct shoutout to The Walking Dead at this point, saying he got directions to Camp Blue Sky from an “ex-cop” and some others taking shelter in a prison.

The Blue Sky leaders are ex-National Guard and Hammond appeals to their military loyalty when asking for a ride. They’re reluctant because they think Hammond might be trying to steal their truck, but Hammond forces the issue and they go.

Some survivors are selling guns out of a truck to some customers from Camp Blue Sky, Addy (Anastasia Baranova), Mack (Michael Welch) and Doc (Russell Hodgkinson). Addy, asks one for something more silent, and he offers her a spiked baseball bat called the “Z-Whacker.” Almost everyone in this show calls zombies Zs for short.

Apparently there are also still junkies in this apocalypse, too, because one of the customers, Doc, is trying to trade aspirin for bullets with another salesman, a guy who obviously is a fan of pharmaceuticals. The junkie says he’d  rather have Oxycontin, but Doc offers him meth instead. At that point a zombie runs out of the woods and Addy gets to try out the Z-Whacker, which works like a charm. More zombies run out and Addy, Mack and the salesmen take them out.

That closes up the flea-market and the merchants go one way in their truck, Doc, Addy and Mac go another.

Back near Camp Blue Sky, some of the campers are finding washed up Zs by the river. A couple turns into hundreds, who appeared to have been playing dead lying in the water. They hop up and it’s clear they’re making a run for the camp.

Warren and Garnett can’t contact Blue Sky and want to go back, but Hammond pulls a gun on them and insists he has to complete his mission. They don’t believe him that Murphy is important, until Hammond roughly forces Murphy to get out of the truck and lift his shirt and show the ex-Guardsmen his eight gnarly zombie bite scars. He explains that because of the vaccine Murphy’s blood carries antibodies for the ZN1 virus that can be used to make more.

Warren and Garnett get a call from Doc and find out why there was no contact from Camp Blue Sky. The camp is under attack and the trio of Doc, Addy and Mack only missed it by being out shopping. Doc says “the whole place is on fire,” but from where they’re standing it looks like it’s literally exploding. There don’t seem to be any survivors, but the trio spot an escaping school bus full of kids. Unfortunately, at the moment they see it people inside are turning. It crashes and zombie kids and adults spill out and give chase. Some very low-budget zombie makeup on this large horde. Warren and the rest return just in time with the truck to plow down a group of Zs and everyone escapes. With no more Camp Blue Sky to go back to, Hammond gets his way.

Hammond’s rendezvous is at an old high school in Sleepy Hollow, New York. There are supposed to be soldiers there, but when the group arrives the soldiers have been attacked and are zombified. There’s one half soldier left, literally, crawling under a truck dragging its intestines. Hammond puts it down.

Garnett and Warren hear a baby crying. They find it, perfectly healthy, in its car carrier seat in a crashed car. Its mother is slumped against the steering column and had her head smashed in by the impact, which meant she didn’t turn when she died. They take the baby with them because, hey, free baby.

Addy, Mack and Doc find a big cage surround by zombies. They efficiently brain them in gory ways and we see that inside the cage there’s a woman, Cassandra (Pisay Pao), who attacks Mack with a knife before being talked down by Addy. She says she’s been in the cage for two days.

Everyone gathers in the school. The baby is crying and Murphy wants it shut up before it attracts Zs.

Hammond turns his attention to interrogating Cassandra, who says she locked herself in the cage for protection and lost the keys. That doesn’t seem like a huge lie at all.

Cassandra says the soldiers set up camp at the school, but word got out that there was food stored there and the locals tried to raid it. The soldiers shot them, which brought the Zs and destroyed the school.

Then we have a debate over what to do with the baby. Murphy wants to leave it with Cassandra and go, because the crazy cage lady with the knife seems so motherly. He says “It’s just a baby,” displaying a sociopathic streak that makes one wander just what he was in prison for. Garnett wants to take it with them.  Hammond settles the fight by saying they’ll take it to the next safe outpost.

“God, I hate moral dilemmas,” Hammond says, which is honestly funny meta-commentary on the cliches of the zombie genre.

As they prepare to leave Hammond takes charge. He leaves Garnett to guard Murphy and the baby, goes with Warren to find a truck, and sends the rest to gather food and weapons.

We see the Doc, Addy, Mac and Cassandra group is being watched through a sniper scope as they check bodies. Doc is attacked by another Z that’s playing dead, but the sniper on the roof takes it  out with a headshot out and runs off.

Garnett is bonding with the baby, but Zs break in and attack. He gets in some shots with a hammer and other weapons and during the attack Murphy actually shows some concern for the baby, but not enough to do more than cower in the corner until the nearly a dozen Zs that attack are dead.

Murphy ominously says “The kid finally shut up,” but it appears to still be alive. Garnett says he’s weak but he’s hanging in there.

Um, spoke too soon. In the biggest WTF moment in the show, the baby starts gurgling. Warren and Garnett check the carrier and yeah, we’ve got zombie baby. It leaps about the room and hides, stalking them for an attack. They argue about who’s going to kill it, but neither have the nerve and they run outside and lock it in the room.

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Murphy makes the mistake of saying a sarcastic “Surprise, surprise” when told the baby turned. Garnett tries to kill him, but Hammond pulls a gun and says “Let him go. Or I will send you to walk among the dead.”  Another shout out!

He lets him go. We still hear the horrible zombie baby mewling in the background.

There’s an argument over whether the baby sounds “sad” and what to do about it. Hammond goes back in to kill it because no one else has the nerve. He’s says he’ll be back in two minutes, just like he did at the start of the show. See man, now you’ve gone and jinxed yourself.

And what follows might be one of the more ridiculous scenes in television horror history as Hammond hunts the baby around the room with a laser-sighted assault rifle, literally calling out “Here baby, baby.”

He finds it under a truck, but a big zombie attacks and bites him. The baby gets in a bite, too. For some reason becoming a zombie made it grow teeth. The rest of the crew break in the room and we’re treated to a gory scene of zombie baby zestily nomming Hammond’s guts as the big zombie eats his face. Every single person but Murphy draws a weapon and all three are obliterated in a hail of bullets. You ever see a zombie baby get headshotted? You have if you watched this.

After the surprising death of what seemed to be the main character, there’s another argument about the baby.

“You know, none of this would have happened if you’d just left that damn baby,” Murphy says.

“I didn’t tell Hammond to go get eaten by a baby,” Garnett replies. Take a minute to reflect on that line. You’re not getting great dialogue like that in your fancy Emmy-winning Breaking Bads.

Murphy wants to take the truck and go, ignoring the vaccine. But the rest of the crew are begged to take up Hammond’s mission by Cruller, who finally gets in touch with Hammond’s radio. It’s up to Garnett to make the decision.

“It looks like we’re taking Mr. Congeniality to California,” Garnett says, and makes it clear he’ll force Murphy to go.

As the crew drives away in two commandeered military trucks they run into the sniper, 10K (Nat Zang). Doc offers him a ride and he jumps in.

At Northern Light Cruller has stopped passively watching the world through his monitoring devices and a strange transformation is taking place. He’s started his own radio show using the NSA’s equipment to get it out. He puts on sunglasses and he is now post-apocalyptic DJ “Citizen Z” broadcasting on “broadband, lowband, VHF, UHF, Skynet” and telling his listeners it’s time to “kick some zombie ass.” After a speech he’s says he’s playing a little something for all of those out there with 3,000 miles of bad road between them and home and puts a rock record on.

In the truck one of Murphy’s teeth seems to be loose. He touches it and it falls out on its own. Uh-oh, let’s hope that just poor dental care. End of episode.

So there you have it. The show certainly had some cheesy dialogue and some low budget special effects, but in other ways it took admirable risks with the formula and also included some knowing commentary and subversions of zombie cliches. Let us know what you thought on our forums.

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