Spoilers ahead for Z Nation's "Mt. Weather" and "The Black Rainbow," because hey … it's a TV Recap.
In the two-episode Season 4 finale, we finally get to the heart of the season … Black Rainbow. Answers are given, loyalties are tested, there’s some twists and turns, and a big cliffhanger offers up a very good reason fans should be thankful to SYFY for renewing Z Nation for a fifth season.
“Great idea for a nuclear holocaust. For a zombie apocalypse, not so much.” - Murphy
First up, in “Mt. Weather,” the political jokes run fast and furious as the team reach the underground bunker of last resort for the president. They’re looking for the president’s thumbs in hopes of stopping the launch of Black Rainbow. While we don’t learn much new about this season’s secrets, it is a fun episode, with Doc and Murphy getting most of the funny lines, per usual.
In abandoned cars outside the facility, our heroes discover a dead FGOTUS, or First Gentleman of the United States, aka the president’s husband, and his two zombie Secret Service guys. Warren’s able to use FGOTUS’s security badge, and Doc digs out his eyeball to get into the building. Once again Doc remarks that they’re in another underground building, which they are.
While hunting for the president, they run into a bunch of congressional Zs, and Murphy and Doc trade jokes as they mercy the Zs. “It’s time for a recount.” “I voted for you.” “This is why we should have term limits.” “That’s no way to treat a taxpayer.” “Yeah, way to keep democracy alive.” “Well, I think we just killed the last of the U.S. government.” “Maybe their approval ratings will finally go up.” Sarge joins in with, “Time to stop flip-flopping.” It’s fun stuff.
“I didn’t know when I inherited the job my thumbs would be in such demand.” – The President
Just as Warren and the gang see other Zs approach, they realize they’re not zombies. The fellows in suits and sunglasses are Secret Service agents … live ones with weapons. After a little chit-chat, the president emerges and takes them to the Oval Office, or what stands in for the Oval Office at Mt. Weather. Due to the old president being dead and all and due to the rules of succession, she ended up being the new president. She tells them she and her security team were about to head to Newmerica. Warren tells her they need her thumbprint because of Black Rainbow. Unfortunately, the president’s thumbs are gone, taken by the Man With the Plan.
But the Man didn’t listen to the new president. Her thumbs aren't going to help him. They actually need the thumbprint of the person who was president at the time of the outbreak, and that’s not her. However, she does know where they can find old President Z, who’s on a different floor below.
The prez also knows all about Black Rainbow and Dr. Teller. She plays an old VHS tape for Warren, which explains the Black Rainbow program. It’s a fourth-strike weapon, “when three strikes are not enough.” Drones are used to seed the upper atmosphere with a flesh-eating bacteria, which will destroy the flesh of any Z or human exposed.
The gang, the president and the Secret Service agents head to Level Z (of course) to find the old president and his thumbs. After some more Z-killing fun and some more jokes, Warren finds the old Prez Z conveniently taped to a rolling chair, and they all head back up to the president’s floor.
“What do you mean stop Black Rainbow?” – The President
Then comes the twist. Just as Warren and the gang are about to take their leave with the old Prez Z and his thumbs, the new president realizes they want to stop Black Rainbow, not launch it. It turns out she was one of the Zona people all along. She wasn’t headed to Newmerica after all. She was heading to Zona. The Secret Service guys get all pointy with their guns, and the president orders Sarge to join them, since she is her boss and all. After a few anxious moments, Sarge does switch sides.
As the president justifies Black Rainbow and the Reset, she tells them to “think of it as gerrymandering on a global scale.” And then Sarge shoots the president and then 10K and Doc leap into action, forcing the Secret Service guys to shoot each other. When Doc remarks that Sarge shot the president, she says, “We’ll get another one.”
For no reason that makes any sense, at least at this point, the three turn into Mad Zs, which involves a lot of shooting and flagpole stomping to stop them. And it involves another one of Warren’s visions. The gang heads to Washington D.C. with old Prez Z and his thumbs.
“Where to next on our VIP tour of hell?” - Murphy
In the second episode, “The Black Rainbow,” we do learn more about how Warren got her mission and we get some answers. Not all of them, but some important answers. The team arrives at a destroyed Washington D.C., with a broken Capitol building in the background. Murphy is tugging the old Prez Z by the necktie to get him to follow and complaining as usual. “You know this whole place is radiated, right? … Now we’re all going to get cancer in 20 years,” says Murphy. Doc snaps back, “Let’s hope.”
Warren gets a vision, which leads her to a hatchway that takes them down. They lower Prez Z down a rope but soon find Warren being driven to go down even further, like 30 flights of stairs down. Once they get down there luckily there’s arrows pointing the way to all the different kinds of strikes, with a fourth-strike weapon visualized as a skull image. “Why we always got to go the way of the skull?” asks Doc.
Warren leads them through a maze of corridors and they end up finding plenty of Zs. But when someone starts “shucking” zombies at them, they look up to find the Man With the Plan. It would seem like a bad idea to shuck zombies at Warren and her crew when the Man could just go off and do his evil deed, but he doesn’t do that. On the other hand, Zombie Shucking could be a new Olympic sport.
“Where I’m going, no one can follow.” - Warren
The gang and President Thumbs find a Latin saying on the wall, which Warren translates as, “To the End of Everything.” As before, Warren knows the code to a door which leads to a control room. Suddenly Warren finds herself back at Zona with Dr. Teller in a vision. He wakes her up from her coma. He tells her, “There’s still time to save what’s left of humanity, and you’re the only one who can do it.”
Teller begins to train her for a mission only she can do. The training involves setting up the control panel in the room to run a drone and installing the cylinders she retrieved through the season. “What’s in these canisters? The end of the world as we know it and the beginning of a new world we can’t even imagine,” Teller promises her. Yeah, what could possibly go wrong?
While Warren has a subconscious conversation with dead Dr. Teller, the rest of the gang and old Prez Z are dealing with a different crisis. Zs are coming at them in the room, and they’re running out of ammo. Murphy is eventually able to break into Warren’s Dr. Teller vision and get the code for the door.
When Warren finally snaps out of it, she tells her team what to do involving turning keys and the President’s thumbprint. Then she says goodbye to them each with hugs for 10K and Doc, a moment for Murphy, and a salute for Sarge. They know this means she isn’t planning on coming back.
“If I’m ever in a coma again, don’t wake me.” – Warren
Warren heads out to face the Man With a Plan and save the world with her aerosol vaccine. “If you don’t do this, humanity’s not coming back,” virtual Dr. Teller tells her. Warren faces off with the Man in the drone hangar while the gang watches on video from the control room. The Man shoots at her and Warren rushes him with her Route 66 sign as a shield. After a battle, she kicks his ass.
Warren gets in the drone and installs the canisters just as Teller trained her to do during coma time. As she gets out of the drone, Warren gives her team the signal to start the three-minute countdown to launch the drone, and they do. But then the Man attacks her and knocks her down.
While Murphy rushes to help her, apparently up 30 flights of stairs, Warren finds herself back in Zona with Teller and the Founder. Then she learns the real truth. She is the Reset. They programmed her with the visions and the mission to find the canisters and launch Black Rainbow.
“There’s been a small change of plans.” – Dr. Teller
Teller and the head Zona dude tell her the truth. “You are the savior of Zona. By delivering Dr. Teller’s flesh-eating bacteria to the drone you’ll help us cleanse the remaining filth from this world and help us start anew.” Well, anew as far as getting rid of all the non-Zona zombie and human riff-raff around the world.
While Murphy and the Man fight, Murphy gets spritzed with a canister. Warren wakes up and knows she has to get back in the drone. She grabs a different canister and opens the drone and gets inside. She pulls out one of the canisters and tries to install another. It's not clear why she's changing canisters rather than just pulling them out. But she has trouble installing the other canister and the drone with Warren inside takes off while the gang in the control room look on in shock.
Warren struggles inside the drone. Meanwhile, the team goes out to the open hangar door and watches as the drone deploys Black Rainbow. Murphy, who’s suddenly red, joins them. “It’s beautiful,” he says.
“Are we going to die?” asks Sarge. 10K answers, “Looks like it.” So she throws down her weapons and locks lips with him. Murphy, who’s really, really red, asks, “Think we should make a run for it?” Doc replies, “Nah, we’d end up getting run over by some giant wheel of zombie cheese or some damn thing.”
“Maybe the Reset isn’t such a bad idea after all.” – Murphy
With yet another whopper of a cliffhanger, the lives of all our characters and, in fact, the world are left hanging in the balance. Warren is in the drone, which appeared to be spinning out of control, and pleading, “Have mercy.” 10K and Sarge are having a moment. Doc and Murphy are contemplating their deaths. And God knows where Addy, Red, and Sun Mei are.
In the end, we got a couple good episodes in an uneven season. While it really wasn’t much of a twist that Warren was being used by Zona after they had her in a coma for two years, why Warren and the gang didn’t stop for a minute to consider the logic of the things she was doing, well, let’s just say she’s smarter than that. Since the Man had the wrong thumbs, why find the president and bring him along at all? Or find him and smush his thumbs so they can’t be used to launch Black Rainbow. And when Warren realizes that she’s been used to launch Black Rainbow and manages to get into the drone, why not just pull the canisters all together so they can’t deploy? What’s the point of switching canisters when she doesn’t really know what’s in any of them?
While we do get some answers, there are so many other questions not answered. Was the Man actually a force for good? It seems unlikely, considering the look on his face when he burned the zombie hand in a flesh-eating virus test in the beginning of the season. If they were on the same side, why was he throwing zombies at her and trying to kill Warren? Why did the people heading to Newmerica vanish mysteriously? Where are Red and Sun Mei? Is Newmerica actually a thing or just a false hope? Is Zona dead, or did some of the Zona people make it out alive? What’s up with the Mad Zs, and why do some people turn into them and some don’t? Why did they find Murphy’s hybrids in a freezer?
Why is Murphy red, and will the formerly blue one be green next? Or maybe purple? Will Murphy get his Z whispering powers back, and why does Doc keep trying to get him to smell things? If Red returns, what will happen with Sarge and 10K? Is 5K really dead? Why was Murphy eating bits of himself? Are Citizen Z, Kaya, JZ, and Nana okay? Z Nation episodes are always more fun when they’re around. Was Teller really a bad guy, or was he trying to alter Black Rainbow into something that wouldn't kill everyone in the world except rich people? Oh yeah, where the hell is Addy? Kill her off and let us mourn her or bring her back! And will we finally get our beloved kick-ass Warren back now that programmed Warren knows she was manipulated into attempting to end the world? I miss Warren.
I like Z Nation. It’s a fun show, usually. Hopefully Season 5 will have a strong mission with a strong Warren with lots of laughs. And hopefully it will have Addy and the Citizen Z crew. That’s always when it’s at its best.