Z-Nation: The Best Zombie Show You’ve Probably Never Heard OfDecember 12, 2015
Z-Nation has some things going against it.
The main one? It’s about zombies, which also happens to be the main subject matter of arguably the most popular show on the planet, The Walking Dead.
That post-apocalyptic setting, however, is pretty much where the similarities end.
While The Walking Dead is a serious, grave, look at what the death throes of humanity may look like, Z-Nation offers a lighter slice of the apocalypse.
Don’t be surprised if you hear characters in peril crack jokes about their plight and even smile from time to time.
It’s not that they don’t take what’s going on seriously…it’s that they see the horrors of life as they know it and try not to let those horrors overcome them.
The main difference between The Walking Dead and Z-Nation is that the former is all about survival, and the grim realities of living in a world dominated by walkers, while the latter is about hope. Hope for a better future; hope for a cure and restoration of life as it was pre-z.
(Minor spoilers for Z-Nation season 1 below)
The basic premise of the show is a simple one: the world has been overrun by zombies. The government, desperate for any small measure that may stem the tide, has been working on a vaccine to stop the zombie virus.
However, not able to find any volunteers to jump at the chance to, if they’re lucky, die a horrible and painful death, or if they’re unlucky, become a zombie, the government has to force the cure on prison inmates and hope something works.
But, under siege by zombies at their facility, the team abandons their test subjects to be eaten alive by the horde.
The wrinkle? The vaccine works. After serving as a zombie appetizer (with the requisite bite marks to show for it), Murphy realizes that he’s still alive and not a zombie.
Picked up by the military, and aided by a mysterious voice on the radio Citizen Z the quest begins to bring Murphy to a CDC lab in California so they can continue to work on a cure for the virus using his blood.
The group that protects Murphy grows, and changes, but the mission never does: get Murphy to California.
It’s basically a big road trip show; think Thelma and Louise…if they drove their car into a Grand Canyon full of zombies.
Even if The Walking Dead is not your favourite show, you may enjoy Z-Nation; conversely, even if it is your favourite show, Z-Nation may not be for you.
It really does have a few things going for it.
Here’s why you might dig Z-Nation:
It has a strong, diverse cast.
Each character is unique, and has fascinating quirks that inform their stories.
10k, for example, is a sharpshooting prodigy. He can take almost any weapon and shoot a zombie in the head with it. His main mission in life? To kill ten thousand zombies. It seems like a good number.
Doc is something of a philosophical, non-traditional, uh, street pharmacist, whose positive outlook on the survivors’ plight is both refreshing and endearing.
Those are just a couple examples; that doesn’t even touch on the excellent acting of Keith Allan as Murphy, who plays him at times as a slick and effervescent con-man and at others as a tortured soul, buckling under the weight of being humanity’s last hope.
It has a story that’s not simple, but easy to follow.
Guided by their voice in the sky, Citizen Z, the survivors trudge toward their goal, and while they’ve had some unexpected and interesting detours, they keep moving forward.
The writing team on Z-Nation has done an excellent job keeping them moving toward California without the story feeling overly contrived or boring.
It has characters that know what zombies are.
One pet peeve of the zombie genre in general is that none of the people living in their worlds have ever heard of zombies, or anything resembling them.
Those worlds are ours…but slightly different, and less pop culture-y.
But in Z-Nation? The characters know what zombies are, and while they find the outbreak hard to believe, they know what they’re looking at when they see it.
This fact lends itself to one of the most inventive, and clever episodes of television this year in “The Collector.” I won’t spoil the details, but it’s full of some subtle nods to the zombie genre, more than a few laughs, and potentially the most entertaining cameo of all-time.
It’s fun to watch.
When I sit down to an episode of Z-Nation, I know exactly what I’m getting. It isn’t Shakespeare, but I don’t need it to be. It’s entertaining, with a fun story, and good characters.
It’s just a very watchable show.
Zombies get brained, sometimes they get brains, and a group of rag-tag survivors fight against fate to save the world.
It’s a different take on the apocalypse but it’s certainly worth a look.
You can catch up on the show on Netflix. It airs live on SyFy in the United States and Space in Canada.