“The Weekend Warrior” is the first episode of Son of Zorn to really flesh out the idea of Zephyria, the bizarre fictional land our sword-swinging pseudo-protagonist used to call home. By opening up its world a bit, the series finally gives its main character a coherent emotional arc and creates the conditions for more fulfilling storytelling. We find that Zorn is the way he is for a reason. Where he comes from, life is nasty, brutish, and animated.
The audience is introduced to the Zephyrian landscape through memories of Edie’s life there with Zorn, spilled like an enemy’s blood at a dinner party (which gets off to a weird start thanks to a morbid prank that provides a glimpse of suburban morbidity). The dinner is the first time the show has really belonged to Edie. The show doesn’t flash back, which is kind of unfortunate but understandable for budgetary, if not structural, reasons. Instead we get access to some fond memories of a time when Zorn wasn’t sucking all the air out of a television show. Edie and Craig’s Zorn-less life makes for all of the episodes best scenes, supporting the idea that Son of Zorn might be better with a little less Zorn.
Zorn, meanwhile, does seem to be missing home. He’s watching a YouTube video about a guy who smuggled a lava launcher back from Zephyria. It’s not exactly cute, but it’s a sweet, a wistful note from a guy used to only playing power chords.
“In Zephyria, we’d murder your whole family,” Zorn says when thinking of how to punish Alan for sneaking off with the cool kids and trying to impress them with his lava launcher. In episodes leading up to this one, that’s really all we got about Zorn’s violent and fantastical home: throwaway lines underscoring its bone-crushing vibe. Even though the new details we get in “The Weekend Warrior” are small, they expand the show’s mythology in a way that starts to make it feel more lived-in.
Son of Zorn is finally looking like a sustainable series. World building! But Son of Zorn still hasn’t proven itself to be creative and smart enough to transcend the outdated tropes it leans on. There are shades of character development in “The Weekend Warrior,” but it isn’t enough. Johnny Pemberton has some funny moments as Alan, but the character is still written in broad strokes. While there is some emotional foundation for Zorn and Alan’s conflict to work from, they just don’t seem to go quite deep enough into their relationship.
The episode is infused with enough weirdness that it does deliver on the comedy front — no small matter. The more specific Son of Zorn gets in its comedy, the better it is. It’s still not quite the searing send-up of toxic masculinity that its premise suggests, but that might be okay if there were other really good jokes. Three-Chardonnay Craig is an excellent purveyor of such, proving that the show doesn’t have to lean so hard on its high concept. Organic, original comedy always works, and that’s true in Zephyria and in Orange County.