The announcement of Z Nation was met with a lot of skepticism. Its production company Asylum is known mostly for camp schlock like Sharknado, and Syfy’s recent track record has been terrible. But against all odds it’s actually kind of a minor hit. Enough people have been amused by its absurd mix of over the top absurdity and low budget comedy, gore and melodrama that it will be back for a second season.
Tonight’s episode, “Going Nuclear,” is not one of the best examples why. There’s no one outrageous love it or hate it scene like the pilot’s zombie baby in Going Nuclear to push things over the top, but there are some interesting new zombies and some surprising new revelations that hint that maybe Z Nation’s zombie apocalypse is more than just what it seems.
The episode starts with Citizen Z at Northern light monitoring a giant horde moving in the west and conversing with his dog about what he’d do if he had some bombers to drop nukes on them. He interprets the dog’s look at disapproval of the collateral damage and goes back to searching for Warren and the others who are trying to transport Murphy to California to see if the zombie virus antibodies in his blood can cure the plague. Or, as he call it, Operation Bitemark.
Operation Bitemark is, at the moment, pretty screwed. Their truck ran out of gas near Black Hills South, Dakota, and they’re wandering in the woods. They stop for a second and see Mount Rushmore, which somebody has defaced with red paint and anarchy symbols.
“This is why we can’t have nice things,” Murphy says. 10K, on the other hand, kind of likes it.
After some hectoring Murphy gets Warren to admit they are lost. Eventually the find a structure but it’s not a town, it’s some some kind of industrial plant.
There are no supplies inside, although Murphy finds a jug of water. The others tell him not to drink it because it could be poison, but he doesn’t care and takes a swig anyway. It’s not clear if Murphy’s state, which is becoming increasingly zombielike, is making him more resistant to death.
Inside the facility they see Zs inside that are coated with a weird glowing substance. They try to hide from one but Murphy farts.
“Sorry. It got away from me,” Murphy says.
“If I die because you farted I’m taking you with me,” Doc says.
This kicks off a big Z battle, which is interrupted when two people in yellow radiations suits burst in, start shooting, and yell at our crew not to touch the Zs.
The pair is Wilbur Grady and his daughter, Amelia. Wilbur is very pale and sick. He shows the survivors the source of the glowing Zs, which is his former employer, a nuclear power plant that’s headed for meltdown within 48 hours. Wilbur is dying from radiation poisoning from his attempts to stop the meltdown. After taking them to the nearby town of Edgemont, Wilbur says it’ll irradiate a 300 mile area for 10,000 years.
There are no vehicles left in town to drive their way out in time and escaping on foot is impossible, but Amelia does have a small plane that can carry herself and one other passenger. Warren makes a bargain. They’ll help shut down the reactor if Amelia will agree to fly Murphy to safety if they fail.
“He’s our last best hope for humanity,” Warren tells Wilbur and Amelia. They don’t believe it, but Murphy shows them his zombie bites, which have a habit of convincing people.
So our crew heads for the facility and, after leaving Murphy outside the gate with Amelia, they fight their way in. Wilbur warns not to let the Zs get enough for hugging distance because they’re lethally radioactive.
The crew has two minutes inside before the radiation is too much. They fight off glowing Zs inside until Wilbur gets to an elevator. On the way Doc knocks one Z off a staircase and scolds it.
“No hugging,” he snaps.
Grady get in the elevator and the crew makes a break for it.
There’s a quick cutaway to a scene of Citizen Z at Northern light. He has a message trying to contact Operation Bitemark playing on repeat into his radio.
Back at the plant Wilbur comes out. He falls to the ground. Amelia runs to his side.
“I didn’t make it,” Wilbur says and dies. He immediately turns into a Z which the the group has to give mercy by putting down.
The crew has not idea what to do now.
“I’m a doctor dammit, not a nuclear physicist,” Doc says, working in a Star Trek reference.
Amelia knows one way. Homer Stubbins, her dad’s old boss at the plant, still lives nearby in the woods. He became an armed and dangerous recluse after his son died.
Homer’s cabin is boobytrapped and surrounded by dead bodies. The crew makes their way in, being careful to avoid mines. When they get to the cabin Homer surprises them by kicking Doc hard in the stomach.
10K, however, gets the drop on him and puts a knife to his throat.
“Go ahead. Do me a solid. Just don’t leave me a Z,” Homer says.
They talk Homer down and he tells them that the core of the reactor can be shut down manually by cutting a rope that will drop the containment rods into the coolant pool. Homer helped build the reactor, so he’s a guy who would know.
Homer’s home is stocked to the gills with survivalist supplies. He has a huge bag of guns and ammo, which he gives to the group because they’ll probably be dead soon anyway. He has a satellite phone they can use to reach Citizen Z. He also has several cases of vodka, which Murphy helps himself to.
Homer was impressed by 10K. He tells him he reminds him of his dead son, Max.
“There’s nothing worse than outliving your own child. Nothing,” Homer says.
Their first attempt at shutting down the reactor involves Homer and 10K fighting their way inside until Homer can get to a remote drone. It looks like a Roomba, but it has a powerful laser in it that can clear anything obstructing the cooling rods. He inserts this in the corridor and remotely operates it. The corridor is filled with Zs, however. Homer turns the laser on several of them, cutting them up in gory ways, but the drone gets overwhelmed and picked up and broken by the Zs. Before its signal cuts out the laser etches a glowing Z on the wall as the Zs struggle for it.
And so it’s on to the plan B. Or C, as Murphy sarcastically points out. Homer and 10K will take heavier radiation suits and head straight to the core, while the rest back them up in the yellow suits. Well, not all the rest, because there’s a problem. Amelia is given the go-ahead to fly out in the plane, but she says she never actually had enough fuel to go. She had lied to her dad about it to put his mind at ease.
Warren has experience converting cars to run on alcohol and figures she can do the same with the plane so it can run on Homer’s vodka. Amelia figures with enough fuel they can get to Sheridan, Wyoming, where there’s a human settlement.
The only problem is that while they’re fixing the engine, Murphy won’t stop drinking the vodka.
“Murphy could you quit drinking your fuel or fill up the damn tank,” Warren scolds him.
“I don’t know where the tank is,” Murphy whines.
“It’s not in your mouth,” Warren says.
While Homer, 10K, Doc and Cassandra fight through the horde of glowing zombies to get to the coolant room, Warren, Murphy and Amelia get the plane ready for takeoff in a field. They load a couple of extra bottles in for additional fuel. As Murphy gets seated, Warren comes over to his door.
“Aw s**t, you’re not going to say goodbye, are you?” Murphy says.
Warren just tells him to “be grateful for all the sacrifices everyone has made” and starts to walk away, but Murphy calls her back. He just gives her a sheepish smile and points.
“Back at you,” Warren says, returning the gesture.
The plane takes off. In the air, Murphy is still drinking the vodka. He suggests that if Amelia can find fuel in Wyoming she can fly him on to California. But she reminds him it’s finding vodka now, because she doesn’t know how to restore the carburetor to run on gas.
Murphy sheepishly puts the lid back on the bottle. Amelia asks him if he misses his friends. Murphy says they’re not his friends, more like foxhole buddies, but says he does miss them.
And then we find out something Warren isn’t good at. She’s not good at rigging planes to run on vodka. The plane starts going down and crashes in a field.
Murphy is barely hurt in a crash that disintegrates the plane, giving more proof that his body is becoming resistant to death. Amelia is not so lucky. Murphy finds her half of the cockpit some distance away and finds her speared on a piece of metal, already a Z. He pulls it loose.
“Mercy. Mercy. Mercy,” Murphy says. He goes and gets a large rock, ready to brain her.
But a weird thing happens. Amelia, like the other Zs, is not hostile to Murphy. She follows him out. And when he touches his head while holding the rock she mimics him. He does it another time to make sure he wasn’t imaging it and she does it again.
“It’s weird. It’s too weird,” Murphy says, and drops the rock and walks away.
The Amelia Z tags along after him, like a puppy.
Outside the plant Warren is looking for a vehicle and finally gets in touch with Citizen Z on the satellite phone. He explains the Zs glow because they’re coated with a bacteria that responds to the radiation and whatever she does, don’t let them splatter her. That causes Warren to put down a machete she was going to use to kill some attacking Zs and finish them with a fun.
Inside Homer gets ready to head into the core. 10K insists on backing him up. On the way in a Z grabs Homer and bites a hole in his suit before 10K can stop it.
Homer says it doesn’t matter, it was probably already a one way mission for him anyway.
“You’re a good kid. Strong. Smart, Like my son Max. I just hope to god you have better luck,” Homer says.
10K says Homer reminds him of his dad, whom you’ll remember was 10K’s first Z kill. Homer agrees and says he has the same luck.
Homer tells 10K he wants him to live, to have the life his son could never have.
Inside the cooling chamber Homer diagnoses the problem, which is that two the rods didn’t descend all the way. He attaches himself to a winch and has 10K work the controls to put him into position. He manually forces the first rod down, but the radiation is rapidly killing him.
“Once this fixed. Shoot me and get out. I don’t want to become one of them,” he says.
The Amelia Z is still following Murphy, as he walks back to the plant drinking the remaining vodka. He starts ranting to no one in particular about everything that’s happened from the time he was injected with the anti zombie virus.
“Points to you universe for dragging my ass all the way to South Dakota to die. That was sarcasm,” he says.
He turns to try to shoo the Amelia Z away.
“I am not like other boys. I do not give mercy,” he says.
She just mimics the head touch again and continues to follow.
In the cooling room Homer pushes the final rod down. The meltdown stops.
“We did good,” Homer says weakly. “Shoot me now.”
“I already killed my father, I don’t want to kill you,” he says.
“Then I’ll make it easier,” Homer says. He drops into the superheated radioactive water and is boiled, becoming a super radioactive Z.
10K leaves the plant and rejoins the others. He’s furious that he couldn’t save Homer.
“You did everything you could. You gave him mercy,” Cassandra says, although that’s not so sure. 10K has a haunted look.
Warren shows up on an electric cart that she says they can use to keep going. Doc wonders where and why without Murphy, but at that moment he comes up over the hill, extremely drunk.
“Great news. The vodka made perfect fuel. For 1o minutes,” Murphy slurs.
The gang asks where Amelia is, but then they see her follow Murphy up the hill. Doc asks why he didn’t give her mercy.
“It didn’t feel right, somehow,” Murphy says.
“So you just let her follow you?” Warren asks.
“That felt right somehow,” Murphy says.
Warren moves to pike her, but Murphy jumps to Amelia’s defense.
“She is not hurting us. Maybe it’s time for a different kind of mercy,” he says.
They load into the cart. The Amelia Z makes no move to attack. She reaches an arm out to Murphy as they drive off down the dusty road. End of episode.
Discuss this episode in our forum!