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Z Nation - The Vanishing - Review - 'Officially Surpassing The Walking Dead'



For the past three seasons Z Nation has made a name for itself as an absurd post-apocalyptic show, in all its zombie cheese ball, undead strippers and Zombaby wtf-ness glory.

However, earlier episodes like season 2's 'White Light,' proved that Z Nation is at its best with those few and far between dramatic heavy, action oriented episodes with the silliness sprinkled subtly within the narrative.

Three episodes in, Season 4 has, so far, offered us that drama heavy tone, but with just enough absurdness to stay consistent to the Z Nation brand and to keep it apart from the far often too serious, The Walking Dead.

'The Vanishing' really took things to a higher level now that we are away from Zona and the team is back together again. The episode was elevated by its mystery and suspense, which was used effectively this past episode - driving the proceedings forward and giving us an unseen, but menacing force.

The use of audio was breathtaking in this episode, so too were the visuals as the heroes point their firearms toward the deep nothingness, expecting something, but seeing nothing. The zooming in on their ears, the slo-mo, it all made us, as viewers, take the same deep breath simultaneously with them, as we waited to confront what we could not yet see. The episode was a welcome chore of waiting, the suspense executed tremendously. Ultimately there was no reveal, but there was still a satisfying payoff with the heroes having to deal with the just turned, unkillable Mueller.

'The Vanishing' also saw a highlight performance from Keith Allan as Murphy. The use of the character was one of the reasons for a ho-hum Season 3 last year. Murphy's over-the-top arrogance was, for the most part, overbearing. Also, he has been one of the more likeable characters in the show and to make him so despicable, didn't really do fans any favours. If there was one positive it would be that it has led to the Murphy of Season 4 - a man who just wants to be loved and wrought with guilt for betraying the trust of the only family he has in this "Zompocalyptic world," as Murphy called it.

We see in this episode just how much Warren and co. mean to Murphy. His awkward, "thanks, man," to Doc's hug spoke so much about his lonely, flawed character. However, the most memorable moment involving Murphy had to be the scene he shared with Lucy upon their reunion. It was quite heartbreaking to see the way he reacted to his daughter brushing him off, as he joked around with her amidst her whatever attitude. The scene was amusing, but also very affecting.

It was also great casting of the more mature, 25-year-old actress Tara Holt as Lucy, as she was able to make the character not annoying, despite being a pouty teenager. The makeup hid Holt's real age well, but you can still see she is a bit older than her personality suggests.

Another emotional scene was the heart-to-heart between Warren and Doc, the latter of whom questioned whether staying alive and fending for each other was all worth it. Warren's emphatic "yes" and just the simple fact of Doc seeking assurance from her, shows not only how much Warren has grown as a leader, but it also develops Doc's character beyond the cornball he has often been throughout Z Nation. There is an also an undeniable bond between the two characters, as there should be, and it's important for the show to remind us of that - moments like these are crucial to the larger narrative.

We see the leadership of Warren again at the end of the episode when she walks East and everyone follows her despite the promise of a haven up north. It is interesting that Murphy was the last to follow despite his skepticism of NewAmerica, but it makes sense, as he had often been someone who spoke one thing, but meant something else.

Along for the journey is Sergeant Lily, who the writers did a fabulous job in introducing and developing in this episode. Her having to shoot her mentor, Mueller, over and over and over again, was excruciating to watch, and the zooming in on her face as it turned from conviction to fear to conviction again to sadness, was very moving. We could tell in these moments how much Mueller meant to her, especially felt when she puts her half of the photo of Mueller's daughter beside the half he was carrying, signifying the end of their mission and the beginning of a new mission with Warren and co. Add on another strong female character beside the likes of Addy, Red, and Warren. Hopefully, Sergeant Lily sticks around.

Overall, 'The Vanishing' was a strong episode. With its mystery, suspense, action and a few very touching character moments, this was Z Nation at its best. If the writers can keep this tone going, then fans are in for an amazing Season 4.

9/10




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