Photo: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy

It’s taken nearly 35 years, but now we know what happened to Strange Brew’s Bob and Doug McKenzie: They became zombies.

At least, that’s the obvious affectionate reference point for the two easygoing Zs that Doc and Murphy stumble upon in the opening minutes of “Crisis Of Faith,” an episode that does a serviceable job balancing the narrative focus and goofball frivolity of the series. It’s not a particularly memorable episode, but it advances the story, gets us back on track with Warren’s vision quest, and hell, after the misbegotten misfire of last week, even an average installment of the show is a breath of fresh air.

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This episode was written and directed by Jennifer Derwingson, the show’s longtime writer-producer, making her second stint behind the camera (she previously helmed last season’s penultimate Addy-vs.-The-Man “Duel”). While initially looking like a throwaway episode structured as an excuse to make a bunch of Canada jokes, it actually segues into some decent character development for both Warren and Murphy, which makes sense—this season may as well be subtitled “The Warren and Murphy Story,” for all the time we’ve spent with the rest of the crew. Zeroing in on the two most compelling characters has really tightened the narrative for the better, allowing a much deeper dive into their psyches and internal struggles than would otherwise be allowed in the given time frame.

And here, the encounter with Lou, a true believer, helps Warren find the sense of purpose she had lost after the death of Lucy. Lou gives her a very simple answer when she asks him how it’s possible to know the difference between doing the right thing and just being delusional. “I don’t,” he says, and the realization that she ultimately has to have faith without proof—in life just as much as in any religion to which you might subscribe—drives Warren back to the States, and presumably back on the path toward the black rainbow. Just as we previously identified the new mission as “keep moving,” during which the others decided they had to place their trust in Warren, she now has to find her trust in herself, and her instincts, to get them back on track.

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Photo: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy

Murphy gains some insight from his time with Lou, as well. It initially looks like Murphy has chosen to return to his previous self-serving ways, as a method of dealing with the grief of Lucy’s death. He blusters early on about looking out for number one, but it’s not long before Warren saves him in the upstairs of the church, and Murphy is forced to confront both the pain of his loss and the fact that you can’t just walk back years of growth as a person. He’s become a better man, and these people mean something to him. “Sometimes, you just gotta believe,” he says at the end, and he means it in more ways than one. He embraces his emotions, and finds a sense of comfort in his bond with Warren and the others. And he believes in Lucy’s actions, too, once Lou helps him see her sacrifice in a new light—as the ultimate act of love, something we should all aspire to, rather than a foolhardy move for someone who doesn’t deserve it.

There’s also the matter of the vision world. When Murphy and Warren join together, and he gets a glimpse inside her head, it’s fascinating to discover he can’t see the burning hellscape that consumes her. No, he sees a green and pleasant land, somewhere anyone would be happy to venture towards in this apocalyptic wasteland. But he sure feels the pain once the black ashes start to consume him, and realizes this agony is something Warren has been dealing with all this time. To live with pain like that—he can barely wrap his head around it. It gives him a renewed sense of commitment and appreciation for her strength. He may have started the episode reminding everyone Warren didn’t want to be in charge any more, but by the end, he knows where to put his faith.

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Photo: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy

It’s a good thing those characters progressed, too, because the actual events in this episode are a bit of a mess. Not the individual fights; those were handled decently, with some nice beats where Murphy eviscerates one of the nun Zs (nunZ?) and Sarge unloading her gun out the hole in the door. But the narrative didn’t really seem to know how to handle the problem of the team being surrounded. Lou rang the church bells for reasons that honestly are no more clear by the end of the episode than the beginning, and the Zs who get tangled in the bell ropes then make another racket, but this time it somehow sends enough of the Zs peeling off to give everyone a chance to escape. How fitting that such a random deux ex machina would come when our characters are holed up in church.

But we’re back on track to the gripping season mystery, which hopefully means a return to the lingering questions of the camp’s disappearance and the dark forces messing with reality in these ways. Plus, we finally get a look at how Kaya’s been spending her time: She’s raising her child and looking for Citizen Z on the airwaves. Now that our team knows she’s there, hopefully there’s a chance to make contact. Or at least there would have been, before a team of Zona soldiers attacked the compound, trapping Kaya and company in their little bunker. There wasn’t much purpose in keeping that storyline around—once Simon was no longer able to help them get Murphy to California, he became mostly superfluous to their journey. We’ll see if injecting some Zona danger into the snowbound region revives a sense of purpose for Kaya’s continued presence, as well.

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Stray observations:

  • Most affecting moment of the episode goes to that little glance between Murphy and Warren after he feels the pain of her vision world, when they tear up a bit and share that quick look. It went by fast, but it spoke volumes.
  • You’re going to tell me Doc would mistake a maple leaf for a pot leaf? Come on, now—if there’s one thing he knows, it’s what pot looks like.
  • That opener was a full-on barrage of Canada jokes. “Nicest zombies I’ve ever seen.”
  • Doc and Murphy simultaneously launching into “Stuck In the Middle With You” was a similarly great moment.
  • Poor Lou: He finally gets the relic he’s been searching for all this time, only to be unceremoniously smushed by a zombie falling out the tower. Working some rough chuckles there, Z Nation.

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