(EDITOR’S NOTE: *For those that haven’t seen the following episodes, SPOILERS may be present from here on out.*)
Z Nation is a new show coming to Space and SyFy starting tonight at 10pm. I was intrigued by the idea of a new show about zombies and the zombie apocalypse. Having watched a metric ton of films and of course The Walking Dead, a possible new take is always welcomed in a much tread on story area. So let’s see what the Z Nation pilot gives us.
We start off with what appears to be about 2 years after the breakout begun. A rather fun opening tease with a Delta Force officer trying to help evacuate a doctor working on a possible cure for the zombie virus. While we have seen this idea to some degree before, what I liked was the idea of no government oversight leading to immediate human trials for the sake of finding the cure quickly. The idea that the zombie hordes are such an issue that the government has broken down and allows for questionable ethics is something very rarely done in the genre. Usually, we are given a group of survivours and accept that the world has ended. The callous nature of what happens here sums up the human experience as I think would happen in a situation like this.
As the zombies overtake the area we are rushed forward a year later in what is now year 3 of the apocalypse. As to be expected, people have survived and begun to cope with the new reality. Camps form and people try to live. Here again a rather new idea takes place with ritual murder to make sure that the dead don’t return to eat friends and family. You get the sense that this is a group that has seen a lot and is very wary of outsiders. This is evidenced by the arrival of two men, one of which is that very same Delta Force officer, Lieutenant Mark Hammond played by Harold Perrineau. He is trying to complete his mission to get anyone linked to the possible cure to a facility in California. He now has to deal with Sergeant Charles (Charlie) Garnett (Tom Everett Scott), a retired National Guard who was teaching high school history before the plague and is now leader of the camp.
As they come to an understanding and leave to help Hammond on his mission, not long after the camp is attacked. Also highlighting another underused idea for the zombie genre with the zombie just floating on the river to another location to feed. This was another refreshing and equally terrifying idea for a zombie apocalypse. Not even water will help protect you in this world.
After the loss of the camp, everyone decides to stick together and help Hammond for better or worse. Here’s where the story falls into the old tired trappings of the genre with the rag tag group of survivours working together through adversity as they try to survive. It’s at this point that the show lost me. What started out as a rather interesting and new-ish take on the genre ends up doing the things I have become used to and am tired of seeing.
The other issue I had is that the acting overall is a mixed bag of good and bad through out. Perrineau is more Michael from Lost than Augustus from Oz which is disappointing to me personally. He has only come close to Augustus one other time I have seen him and that was as Damon Pope on Sons of Anarchy. The guy is a good actor but he needs to be reigned in on the anger when he is acting. It can come across as too angsty. Don’t get me wrong, the character isn’t completely awful. Perrineau just needs more control in my opinion.
Tom Everett Scott really isn’t given much to do in this episode so it’s hard for me to be overly critical of him yet. I sincerely hope that they don’t follow the Rick path of character development with Charlie. I would much rather have a new take on the leader of survivors. There are some glimmers of the dichotomy that is Charlie. A teacher and a warrior has been handled to some degree on another show, Falling Skies. Here though, there could be some really fertile ground to make a great character of Charlie.
The rest is a little paint by numbers and is typical for a pilot episode. As the shows develops, there may be a greater chance for those who get to live from episode to episode to shine. However with what happens at the climax of the episode, it’s hard to say how those repercussions will play out over the coming weeks. I’m hoping for an overall improvement but am fearful that it won’t happen.
I’m also fearful that the DJ Qualls storyline is going to continue as is. Please, for the love of TV, don’t let the end of the episode indicate how he is going to be handled… PLEASE! If so, I may not be able to keep watching at this rate. Which is sad because of the quality of shows we have been getting lately across the board in all genres. Especially in the lower budget level shows like the surprise Bitten, solid Being Human or the always impressive Orphan Black.
Z Nation harkens back to an era not long past of shows that were trying too hard to be better than they really were. I hope I’m wrong and the pilot is an anomaly with better eps coming down the pipe. It happens all the time. Pilots are a tricky animal and can be really great with terrible remaining episodes or be terrible to start but have a stellar season. I really have come to appreciate the shows that rarely get it right off the bat.
If you are a zombie fan then you are going to enjoy this for what it is. However, it is not for fans of The Walking Dead maybe more for fans of Zombieland there is a good amount of dark humour here. In some ways there is even less humanity present in this than we usually get. This show is brash and in your face with it’s look at the world it lives in, which I did like and I want more of this different take on the tried and true formulas of the zombie genre. You showed me glimmers early on and maybe they will return as the show goes full swing.
Some fresh ideas that may be enough to keep a zombie fan on board. I’ll give it another episode or two to impress me. Don’t let me down.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!