(Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Syfy)

Thus far on Z Nation, any destination has simply been an excuse for the journey. From the failed plan to get to the CDC, to any possible source of succor or optimism outside of our makeshift family, all goals have merely been chimeras of opportunity, something to keep Warren and company moving forward. But there’s nothing beyond the next hill, other than a new destination, a further problem, and on and on, in an unceasing struggle. But that’s precisely the point. They don’t keep going because they need to find a way to stay alive. They keep going because that’s how they stay alive. Each adventure helps to keep their blood flowing, their senses sharp, and adds a bit more knowledge and experience to their collective identity.

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But some adventures are worth more than others. “Murphy’s Miracle” tries its best to make this forgettable outing memorable, but the story of a disgruntled postman whiling away his time in the apocalypse by serving other people to the Zs he loathed as humans just doesn’t have much, well, bite. The tale of Becker (or whatever his true name was) isn’t interesting enough on its own to justify the main thread of the narrative, and despite an intriguing new wrinkle in Murphy’s plan to build a kingdom for himself, everyone else is stranded in a mildly entertaining diversion. Even Doc can’t seem to muster much enthusiasm for this experience—several times in tonight’s installment, he shrugs and begins loping away from the Z hordes once more, as if to say, “Yeah, fine, let’s just get through this one.”

Murphy’s duplicity is finally sinking in with 10k, and it couldn’t have come a moment too soon. 10k isn’t normally this slow on the uptake, but it makes a certain kind of sense: He doesn’t see any bites, he still feels like himself, and it wasn’t until Murphy ordered him to shoot the “ender” that the full extent of Murphy’s control over him became clear. You can see the realization slowly dawn in 10k’s eyes, and it’s a painful moment. He doesn’t understand how this has happened, and the idea that his actions are going against his will is deeply disturbing. Moreover, he’s seen the effect Murphy’s bite can have, and doesn’t recognize himself in those people.

Of course, the little girl this week throws all of that into question. When her father asks Murphy to bite his wife, and the smile slowly spreads across our conflicted antagonist’s face, it implies a number of new factors. One, that Murphy’s conscience is starting to rest easy, because what he wants and what others want is finally overlapping, lending credibility to his claims for a new Murphy-world order. Second, that there’s a way in which this isn’t mere slavery. Everyone still has their own thoughts and feelings, and unless he directly exerts his will, everyone can carry on with the illusion that freedom still exists—even Murphy. He sees it as a tribute to his mad plan, and given how flighty he normally is about nearly everything he thinks and feels, the idea that his desires might line up with what’s best for the world is a rare chance to imbue his craven selfishness with nobility. Keith Allan keeps adding new layers to this complicated role.

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If only anything about the group’s encounter with faux-Becker the mailman was half as textured as Murphy and 10k’s relationship. The idea that Zs maintain some deep-seated, almost instinctual, dislike of the man is a promising one, but it feels undercooked after spending the previous 40 minutes teasing the idea of a more intriguing possibility of a zombie-attracting blood type or scent. Thank goodness Becker turned out to be an insane serial killer, because before that plot point was revealed, the episode ambled listlessly from scene to scene, not-Becker’s injunction to refrain from harming the Zs sapping what little chance there was of infusing some excitement into the proceedings. It’s a relief when Sun Mei blows the head off the zombie Doc and Addy were dancing around outside the radio room, because it offered a reminder that not everything had to be predictable.

And that radio scene was both infuriating and reassuring. Infuriating, because after Warren saved Sun Mei’s ass last week, you’d think the scientist would feel at least slightly indebted to our team. But no, the second she powers up the machinery, she’s ignoring Addy’s request to try and make contact with Citizen Z, and instead stewing over the code music informing her the mission was a failure, and everyone is dead. Oh, would this be the mission you already said failed last week, Sun Mei? How quickly we forget. Nonetheless, even if Addy wasn’t able to hear from Citizen Z (sorry, “Just Simon now”), at least he learned she was still alive, and the team was attempting to reach their communications contact. It was the sole bright spot amid a desultory trip to confront a guy who’s gone postal.

And Simon’s recovery leads to a nice advancement of his story, as Kaya and her family decide to hitch a ride along with him back to the military outpost. It’s been fun watching him interact with other humans—when Simon tells Kaya’s Nana and Uncle how good it’s been having people in the same room, it feels a bit meta, as though DJ Qualls is breathing a sigh of relief at being able to play against a living being other than a dog or zombie. Poker-faced Nana and Uncle continue to make for fine comic relief, and bringing them along as he returns to his post should enliven Citizen Z’s duties for the rest of the season, if that’s where this is going. If not, that’s okay, too—Simon is welcome anywhere in this story, especially with blunt Kaya by his side. Hopefully when they appear again next week, it’s not just as a palate cleanser for a lackluster main storyline, but rather a supporting role in the show’s stronger season-long arc.

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Stray Observations:

  • One of the more disappointing aspects of “Murphy’s Miracle” was how lame Doc’s wisecracks were. Usually, this show is self-aware enough to play on Doc’s bad jokes, but this week, the “punchlines” were just left hanging limply in the air, no one else even commenting on the hack nature of the lines.
  • Similarly, what was with Hector going a little bonkers when he took out that Z in the post office at the end?
  • Once again, poor Addy had almost nothing to do. One fun electrocution in the beginning of the episode is not enough.
  • It was good to hear Murphy call out a room in Spokane for Lucy, reminding everyone he hasn’t forgotten about his daughter.
  • Also, that was the Space Needle collapsed in the opening shot where Murphy approaches the other car, wasn’t it? It was a cool image.
  • Even in the zombie apocalypse, no one wants to eat fruitcake.

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