I love zombies. I love how they’re such metaphorical blank slates; a good writer or director can use them as allegory for all sorts of things. And even when they aren’t being used to convey a deeper point we still have the enjoyment of seeing people driven to new heights of terror, despair, and inhumanity. Zombie movies are fun. Even bad zombie movies are fun because you know that nobody will get out alive, and these actors that are chewing up the scenery will themselves be chewed up in turn. In comics and on television, The Walking Dead has subverted this paradigm by giving us the unending zombie saga.
And now we have Z Nation. Syfy seems to run three types of shows: Critically acclaimed (Battlestar Galactica), fan-friendly (Eureka, Warehouse 13), and cheesy (any of their movies). Z Nation is produced by The Asylum, the same people responsible for Sharknado, Transmorphers, and the Mega Shark movies; want to guess which category Z Nation falls into? That’s right—extra cheesy. If this were a bad movie you would be rooting for everyone to die, but since it’s an ongoing show we’re stuck with characters that we simply don’t care about.
Still, the show has it’s good points… Harold Perrineau (Lost) brings good gravitas to the show’s intro. The concept—our heroes must transport a former prisoner across the country because he was the only person injected with the cure to the zombie virus before the research lab got overrun—is a good open-ended way to keep the show moving and keep things interesting over multiple seasons. And fast zombies.
Unfortunately, all of this potential is buried under disposable characters, bad dialogue, weak performances, generic kills, and (worst of all) the complete lack of self awareness that cheesy zombie shows can be fun. Other weak spots: A zombie baby that really makes no sense (an infant that can suddenly move lightning fast around the room as soon as it becomes a zombie) and D.J. Quall’s NSA communications expert who, for no discernible reason, at the last minute turns into a Ray Ban-wearing DJ who spouts the worst dialogue in the entire show.
Syfy has produced 13 episodes of this. Let’s see how many of them make it to air.