After a very strange and campy Season 2 premiere, Syfy’s “Z Nation” pulled out all the stops in episode 2 to deliver an action-packed, emotionally heavy and character-grounded episode of television. No, really - It’s true.

Luckily for fans, “Z Nation” isn’t the type of show to let you sweat on a cliffhanger. The episode opened right where the season premiere left off, with Operation Bite Mark chasing a mysterious new bounty hunter named Vasquez (Matt Cedeño), who is hunting Murphy (Keith Allan) and Cassandra (Pisay Pao). Now that every survivor in the nation is on the lookout for Murphy, thinking he holds the only possible cure to the zombie virus, everyone has split up into various groups of mercenaries hoping to claim the grand prize.

While Vasquez and Operation Bite Mark were the first to find Murphy and his lovely half-zombie sidekick, they were far from the last. As soon as they get into the street, a cavalcade of mercenaries, working only for themselves, surround Operation Bite Mark. Vasquez takes out a small group and escapes, leaving our intrepid heroes Warren (Kellita Smith), Doc (Russell Hodgkinson), 10K (Nat Zang), Addy (Anastasia Baranova) and dear sweet Mack (Michael Welch) to fend for themselves.

In the fray, 10K narrowly dodges a rocket launcher, which renders him deaf for the rest of the episode. Warren decides that it’s too dangerous to stay in the heart of the battle and splits the group up, sending 10K and Doc after Murphy, and Mack and Addy to go find transport.

Meanwhile, Murphy’s ability to walk past zombies proves useful, but somewhat attention-grabbing as every undead person that he passes starts to follow him. He uses a zombie that looks like him as a decoy to lure Vasquez into a trap. He kills the zombie but almost gets killed when Cassandra attacks. He runs outside and attracts the attention of Warren, who was spying on him (and giving some serious love bird eyes). She’s about to give chase when a mercenary named Wes (Andrew Sikking) takes a potshot at her with his sniper rifle. She manages to fight him off and Wes runs directly into the abandoned building into which Murphy also fled. He’s about to chase him down when he notices 10K and Doc in the courtyard.

Wes starts shooting, but 10K manages to cover Doc long enough for him burst into the room and flank him. He’s takes aim with his pistol and pulls the trigger, but it jams. Just like that, Doc find himself in a fist fight for his life. He tussles with Wes in what can only be described as a jarringly good fight scene given the show’s history of camp. It’s gritty, bloody, violent and really makes the audience think that they’re watching Doc’s painfully slow final moments. Fortunately, his out of body experience tips him off to a nearby knife and Doc narrowly defeats his opponent. 10K comes in just in time to take out the zombified version of Wes. Together, they go link up with Warren and Vasquez, who are now in an unlikely partnership.

The two are in a tense truce after Wes’ boss almost killed Warren amid a one-on-one firefight. Vasquez saved her and now he seems to be a part of the group. They chase Murphy to the roof, but he’s kind of over the whole mercenaries-trying-to-kill-him-in-the-middle-of-the-zombie-apocalypse thing, so he jumps off.

His attempt to commit suicide fails when he lands in a hotel pool filled with squishy body parts. Murphy runs back to his van and he’s about to scoop up Cassandra and escape when Addy stops him and pulls him out of the car. She starts beating him because she’s pretty mad.

The reason she’s mad is that, earlier in the episode, she was chasing after Murphy with Mack when they got separated inside an abandoned warehouse. Mack fights valiantly but is eventually cornered in a stairwell by zombies, armed only with a flashlight. Addy is right on the other side of a door from him but can’t open it fast enough. In a tear-jerkingly emotional scene, Mack screams in agony while begging Addy not to open the door and see him die. Unfortunately, she doesn’t listen and had to watch Mack get torn apart and turn into a zombie. She shoots him and makes a mad dash for Murphy.

She’s about to beat him to death when the rest of the gang catches up and stops her. She breaks the news about Mack and the tone of the action-packed episode suddenly gets grim. What’s left of Operation Bite Mark piles together in the van, with Vasquez, Murphy and Cassandra, and finally resume the trip to California, sans one Mack.

Odds and Ends:

  • Warren is totally going to hook up with Vasquez.
  • Who is the guy with the rocket launcher? Was he bit? Should we care?
  • How does Cassandra work? Is she dead or alive? Zombie or not zombie?
  • Citizen Z has a lot of weapons for him and his dog now. So that’s good news.
  • Another shout-out to Doc’s awesome fight scene.
  • RIP Mack.
  • Everyone had a near-death-experience flashback except the guy who died.