Friday, October 3, 2014

Review: Z Nation

Rating: 4 out of 5 Guilty Pleasure Stars (after three episodes)

Bottom Line:  This show is just good, cheesy zombie fun

Syfy has apparently decided to try and grab a piece of The Walking Dead’s massive genre audience with Z Nation, and personally I think the show is off to a good start.  The basic premise is a given: there’s been a zombie-pocalypse (do we really care why or about the details?) and small pockets of un-infected people are trying to survive.  This show’s twist: one person has been given a (now lost) vaccine and survived several zombie bites and he may be the key to saving the world.  Problem 1: he’s an asshole.  Problem 2: a group of survivors has been tasked with getting him across country to a lab that can get the cure from his blood, but they don’t like him nor did they willingly accept their mission.  From there, plenty of zombie-gore and post-apocalyptic yarns ensue.  And whereas The Walking Dead goes for grim, gritty reality, Z Nation revels in the exploitive nature of the zombie genre while also deliverimg plenty of dark humor.  The show comes from The Asylum, notorious for mock-busters like Transmorphers, The Almighty Thor, and The Day the Earth Stopped as well as those Sharknado movies (a third is on the way).  And it definitely borrows some of the same absurdity those latter flicks are known for (though toned down, fortunately), but it does it with a gleeful smirk and a wink at its audience.  They aren’t going for classic sci fi here, and they know it.  But they do the cheesy zombie shtick well enough and they brought aboard a bang-up troupe of actors (mostly unknowns apart from Lost’s Harold Perrineau) who are so far having great fun with their roles.  And the icing on the cake is watchful Citizen Z monitoring the progress of this group from an NSA station in the North Pole (with plenty of fun jabs at that Orwell-Come-to-Life organization) played completely over-the-top by the always enjoyable D.J. Qualls (I was disappointed he did not become a regular on Supernatural, but all the better for this show).  Some may say that Z Nation is The Asylum’s mock-buster take on The Walking Dead, and you could make an argument to that effect.  Don’t sign on to this one expecting well thought out, carefully crafted stories as the leaps of logic and plot holes are almost as prevalent as the zombies.  And while it does give us some of the same moral ambiguities that are stock-and-trade for TWD, Z Nation is much more about action and shock value and much less about gut-wrenching drama.  Approach this the way you would any cheesy, low-rent zombie flick, and know that they embrace that milieu and do it as well as it can be done.

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