Published Feb 10, 2015Considering how ubiquitous zombies have become recently, it shouldn't be a surprise that there's a new contender attempting to steal the title of Best Zombie Show from The Walking Dead. AMC's golden calf needn't worry, though, because SyFy's Z Nation is the best evidence to date that there is such a thing as too many zombies.
The story that precedes the first episode of Z Nation is a typical one of a virus that wipes out humanity, leaving behind a handful of survivors. The slight twist is that one of the survivors was injected with an experimental drug and is likely to have antibodies that could be the cure, and he needs to be transported across the U.S. to a lab that can create a vaccine. Transporting him has fallen to a rag-tag band of misfits, guided by the voice of a lone NSA agent in Alaska who watches everything that happens. And lots and lots of zombies meet their demise, in many different gory ways.
Z Nation brings together pretty much every zombie stereotype and cliché into one convenient package. It is also the first foray into television for The Asylum, the production company behind literally dozens of low budget movies, most notably Sharknado, and that kind of sets the tone for how the action is presented here.
The problem is that Z Nation doesn't quite know what tone it wants to take. It veers wildly between deadly seriously to comical farce within seconds, and that makes it very difficult to know what the show's makers are aiming for. The funny bits don't even work as black humour, because the comedy seems to be unintentional at times, such as the ridiculous zombie baby that shows up in the very first episode. And that's just one of plenty more moments that will test the endurance of the audience scattered throughout the 13 episodes of this first season.
Ultimately, Z Nation requires viewers to suspend their eye-rolling and just enjoy the ride; if The Walking Dead is too earnest for you, then this might be a better alternative. There is plenty of action and some decent performances, especially DJ Qualls as the isolated NSA agent, and the story does pick up speed towards the end of the season — even if the cliff-hanger is rather preposterous.
The extra features suggest that the show is a lot of fun to make, and they don't take themselves too seriously, but most of them focus on the special effects and typical behind-the-scenes stuff, as narratively, there isn't much left to explain.