Z Nation Season 4 Episode 3 Review: The Vanishing

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As The Murphy always says, "Never get out of the boat."

On Z Nation Season 4 Episode 3, Murphy and Warren make it to the mainland after their escape from Zona, but their reunion with the old crew is overshadowed by a terrifying new set of circumstances.

Murphy and Doc Hear Something - Z Nation Season 4 Episode 3

The first of these is the decidedly frosty reception Murphy got from his daughter, Lucy. Saving her from the clutches of the evil Zona folks doesn't seem to cut any ice with our blue girl when it comes to Murphy.

Yes, Murphy left her with a foster family, but in his mind, it was for her protection. 

Murphy was a self-centered ass, but his journey from a regular Joe to the king of Z Town and back has changed him.

He really does care about Lucy, but she isn't to the point in her brief, accelerated life to be able to forgive and forget.

Lucy: Honestly, I just don't feel anything with you.
Murphy: I understand.

I imagine something will happen to change that eventually, but as of now, the only one she has a connection with is Warren.

That adds more fuel to the fire that something has fundamentally changed about Warren. 

Her white hair brings to mind the cycle that Murphy and Lucy have undergone. Lucy has a psychic connection with the Zs, even more so than Murphy did. 

The fact that she has some sort of mental connection with Warren begs the question of just what happened to her during her stay at Zona.

Warren Isn't Playing - Z Nation Season 4 Episode 1

She was in a cocoon for an unknown amount of time, but she has no memory of the past two years. 

Did Zona scientists experiment on her? That's a good bet. Her visions of the black rainbow and the burning Zs dovetail with the experiments Mr. Sunshine was doing at the end of Z Nation Season 4 Episode 1.

Her waking visions and dreams have become more and more specific, almost as if it was all implanted in her subconscious to drive her to a specific destination.

Go east. Always east. Follow the red road. The rising sun. You know the way. It burns. It burns. It burns.

Warren

It doesn't go unnoticed by her crew, either. Warren is without a doubt the heart and soul of the group as her pep talk to Doc demonstrated so well. Even in her whacked out state, she is still the strong leader they need.

As much as they all want Warren to be OK, it's pretty obvious that she's isn't the old Warren they've come to count on.

Doc: What's up with Warren? Is she like, herself, or what?
Murphy: It's hard to say. I mean, she's all there but, it seems like there's more "there" there than there used to be.

Just what can be done about it is unclear. As much as they are concerned about her, the crew ultimately has faith that she will lead them to the promised land. 

Even though it is directly in the opposite direction from the supposed safety of Newmerica, the crew decides to support her on her quest to whatever awaits them east.

This will undoubtedly come to a head soon. Warren will have to come clean about her condition, the visions, and what it means for her and the group.

But for now, it's a game of Follow the Leader. 

Doc and Lucy Are Ready to Fight - Z Nation Season 4 Episode 3

The main thrust of this episode was still the mysterious disappearance of the group from the camp. 

10K went out to look for Red but came up empty. Mueller and Sarge went out in search of 10K with far more tragic results.

I have to give kudos to Director Alexander Yellen for the sound design in this episode.

Using a bare minimum of music, Yellen heightened the tension throughout, first with 10K's enhanced listening tour of the wilderness to the exquisite paranoia of the creepy random noises heard by the group inside the camp. 

The sounds, which ranged from animalistic to mechanical, served to ramp up the suspense in a very organic way. 

The color palette of the show usually favors muted tones with a drab, washed-out quality that drives home the hopelessness of the apocalyptic circumstance our heroes find themselves navigating.

Quick cutting closeups of a twitching trigger finger, a sweaty face, or an ear straining to hear and understand the strange noises perfectly complimented the eerie tableau.

Was I the only one who thought about the smoke monster from Lost during that scene?

It's easy for critics to dismiss Z Nation as a silly knockoff of other, more famous zombie shows, but that is a disservice. 

While it may have started as a lighthearted romp, Z Nation has developed a depth to its story and characters that rivals much more well-known genre fare. 

Case in point: the sad end of Lt Mueller.

Mueller Takes Aim - Z Nation Season 4 Episode 3

Bringing Henry Rollins onto the show smacked of stunt casting, and his creepy hugging of a refugee in the premiere left me wondering if he was just there for comic relief. 

But I was wrong. Even though he was only in three episodes, he became a stalwart character we cared about.

He was much like Warren in many respects: his sense of duty, his dedication to his mission, and his no-nonsense attitude made him a welcome addition.

Mueller: I heard rumors about un-killable Z's: the virus mutating. But I never thought they were real. You have to wonder if something's happening out there. Something that can't be stopped. Some fresh hell we've brought upon ourselves. Could explain what happened here. It's enough to make you want to run into the abyss.

This turned out to be a foreboding premonition. His assault on the camp as a Mad Z brought a whole new dynamic to the table. If a headshot can no longer dispatch a Mad Z, then our heroes have one tough row to hoe.

Sarge had to essentially dismember Mueller with a series of shotgun blasts. Making Zs much harder to kill ups the ante considerably. 

Does this mean we will be seeing lots of Zs being blown up in the future? Sounds like fun!

Mueller's killing also gave us a heart-rending twist. Sarge and Mueller were emotionally involved; I did not see that coming.

Mueller and Sarge Move Out - Z Nation Season 4 Episode 3

That revelation gave much more depth to their story arc. Sarge appears to be part of the crew going forward, at least for now.

The refugee Burgess didn't reveal much, other than letting the audience know that the enemy is, as of now, still invisible. He disappeared in the blink of an eye as well, so we're back to square one as far as resolving the mysterious vanishings.

Random Bites:

  • During 10K's excursion in the woods, there were fleeting glimpses of Red. Was she there, or was it all in his mind?
  • 10K also did a bird call to 5K which appeared to be answered. Does that mean 5K is still alive?
  • It was a cool touch to have Warren pick up a Route 66 sign emblazoned with a Z to use as a shield. It's all about the branding, isn't it?

And Doc gives us the "Line of the Night"

You reap what you spawn, brother.

Doc [to Murphy]

A very different feel made this installment very compelling. The effective sound design kept the tension at a high level throughout, and the death of Mueller gave the audience a real gut punch. 

That's my take: tell me yours. Are you going to miss Mueller? Any theories on what's making everyone disappear? Will 10K find Red? Is 5K still alive?  And just what the hell is waiting for Warren and the crew when they head east?

Sound off in the comments section.

And, of course, you can watch Z Nation online right here in our own little Zona, TV Fanatic!

The Vanishing Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.1 / 5.0 (8 Votes)

Ron Gilmer is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and read his personal blog at Idiotbox Watcher.

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Z Nation Season 4 Episode 3 Quotes

You reap what you spawn, brother.

Doc [to Murphy]

Lucy: Honestly, I just don't feel anything with you.
Murphy: I understand.