Z Nation, Season 1, Episode 11, “Sisters of Mercy”
Written by Jennifer Derwingson
Directed by Rachel Goldenberg
Airs Fridays at 10pm EST on Syfy
Thus far, Z Nation has felt extraordinarily uneven. There has been a lack of cohesiveness between the episodes that makes it feel like viewers could jump in at any point given minimal knowledge on the series, because almost every dramatic arc that is presented ends before a given episode has concluded, making room for whatever is to come in subsequent weeks. Although this is a valid critique, by this point it is starting to feel like viewers are just going to have to accept Z Nation for what it is- an uncomplicated action-drama with more emphasis on the action than the drama. The survivors have repeatedly faced troublesome but ultimately surmountable situations in the span of each forty minute installment with no profound overall plot arc to the series apart from the mission to deliver Murphy and his antidotal blood to California. “Sisters of Mercy” provides the same bite-sized plot line that leaves traces of happenings to come and although it is not without its flaws, it has moments of excitement and humour that make these problems forgivable.
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The group of survivors make their way across Utah when they find a zombie who evidently used to be a young boy. Addy faces a moment of emotional turmoil before she gives the ‘Z’ mercy, recalling a dark portion of her past, but ultimately rises to the task. As the group drives further, they find another young boy still alive and follow him to an all-female commune that is determined to weed out the evils that men have inflicted onto the world. Addy forms a close connection with their leader and has to make a decision that will affect her life and that of everyone around her.
The character arc for Addy throughout the course of the season has been fairly poorly paced. First introduced as a baseball bat wielding indestructible hero, her strong will quickly deteriorated under reasonable pressures, but still felt comparable to Lady MacBeth’s fall in how drastic the change in her outlook was. “Sisters of Mercy” portrays the final breaking point in Addy’s mental state and although it continues her dramatic change from who she was at the beginning of the season, her actions here are so outwardly ridiculous that it becomes interesting and funny to watch. This show’s dramatic pulses are at their strongest when they are sensational and melodramatic, so having Addy take a final plunge into insanity and join a Utopian man-killing cult feels appropriate with the overall tone of the show.
With the killing of Tom Everett Scott’s character, Garnett, it became crystal clear that there are no rules in Z Nation; anyone can die. Although this is definitely still the case, the assumed death of Mack does feel too quick for someone who has been in almost every episode. Instead of giving the character an appropriate death with enough time to let viewers feel sad or grief-stricken, his ties to the show are cut so immediately that it seems less like a dramatic end to a main character and more like the writers just wanted to snip the plotlines of Mack and Addy at the same time. This is especially disappointing because there was definite potential for tension in showing how Mack would handle not having his other half anymore and how his reaction might affect the mission to California.
With Z Nation’s first season edging closer to its finale, viewers might feel a little underwhelmed. Although its repeated presentation of small hurdles that are wrapped up after each episode (or at least semi-wrapped up) is a welcome change from more sprawling series like The Walking Dead, the series has struggled to allow the audience to feel particularly attached to or excited by the upcoming conclusion. There hasn’t been any significant build up of tension. If Z Nation is picked up for a second season, hopefully the show’s writers will work harder to present a larger overall plot arc that can captivate audiences, instead of several shallow stories that leave minimal promise for a satisfying conclusion.