First Impressions

Z Nation

Aired on: Syfy

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                For some crazy reason, I enjoy watching zombie movies, shows, even reading books and comics about zombies.  So, when I saw promos for a new zombie television series on Syfy, I paid attention.  The promos weren't all that promising, but there was one scene in the promos that caught my eye and made me laugh each time it aired.  A zombie baby in a car seat.  For some reason, it made me hysterical with laughter and I decided right then and there that I had to at least check out the season premiere of Z Nation, airing Friday, September 12, 2014 at 10pm EST.

                The premiere episode of Z Nation opens in New York with Lt. Mark Hammond (Harold Perrineau) in an overrun prison attempting to extract the scientists working on a cure for the ZN1 zombie virus.  He learns that the scientists have three possible vaccines for the virus, but the only test subjects are some very unwilling convicts.  Injecting the three just before the zombies enter the lab, only one, Murphy (Keith Allan) survives.

                Hammond is able to get one of the doctors to safety, but risks going back to save Murphy who has apparently received the only working dose of the vaccine.  Bitten at least eight times, Murphy hasn't been killed or turned.  Missing their ride, Lt. Hammond's final orders are to get Murphy to a lab in California where they can replicate the vaccine and save the rest of the world.  In their way, millions of undead and thousands of miles.

                They enlist the aide of local survivors.  Unfortunately, things go badly as soon as former National Guardsman Garnett (Tom Everett Scott) and Warren (Kellita Smith) drive Hammond and Murphy away from camp towards Hammond's checkpoint near the Tappan Zee Bridge.  Their camp is overrun and everyone within killed.  Picking up survivors that witnessed the camp's slaughter, the group travel to the checkpoint, only to discover that it, too, has been overrun.

                Meanwhile, Lt. Hammond's contact in the Northern Lights attack station, NSA nerd Simon (DJ Qualls), left behind in the evacuation of the station while assisting Hammond in his own evac, is taking things in stride.  Watching old videos of his girlfriend pre-zombie attack, he tries to make do while waiting  for Hammond and the only hope for a cure to arrive in California.  Communication is sporadic, but the two keep in touch as often as they can.

                With the checkpoint overrun and very little left to resupply with, the survivors must move forward with the plan to get Murphy to California, but traveling thousands of miles in a zombie riddled nation is a daunting, if not impossible task.  And if they can get him there, judging by an ominous scene at the very end of the premiere episode, is Murphy actually harboring the cure, or something much worse?

                The promos were enough to tell me that this was going to be one of those tongue-in-cheek series that seem common to the Syfy Channel.  I could tell just from Harold Perrineau's overly dramatic performance (having seen a much different performance from Perrineau on Lost) that this show was not a serious take on zombies, but a cross between a drama and a spoof, possibly in the vein of Sharknado.  Well, Z Nation was not as bad as Sharknado.  It was actually entertaining in some ways, but definitely B-movie material in others.

                Let's take, for instance, the baby scene.  The baby is discovered quite alive inside a vehicle that has crashed at the Tappan Zee checkpoint.  He looks perfectly healthy seated inside the car seat, despite having been in a car accident and probably sitting in his own defecation with nothing to eat for days.  He shows no sign of illness the entire time they are dealing with him until the zombies attack the survivors inside the checkpoint. 

                Things get quiet and then, suddenly, baby's a zombie, suggesting that he may have died from lack of nourishment, even though he appeared to be a decently fed baby with quite a bit of baby fat on him before the zombie attack scene.  By Murphy's own observation, the baby was never bit.  I can only surmise that the creators of this film either screwed up or just couldn't afford paying for an animatronics baby that looked emaciated and malnourished and thought viewers would just ignore it.  The least they could have done is put some makeup on the babe or make a dummy baby look somewhat real for the scene.

                But that baby turning was just as funny while watching the episode in its entirety as it was in the promos.  And seeing it scuttling across the floor attempting to attack the survivors was hysterical.  Obviously, that was a mechanical creation, but I couldn't stop laughing, even when it attacked.  And I loved the monster-like cooing.  Priceless.

                The dialogue is similarly laughable.  "I didn't ask _______ [name omitted to protect those who still want to see Z Nation] to get eaten by a baby!"  That's just one minor example.  The acting is actually not all that horrible despite the poor writing.  Some of the aspects of the zombies themselves are interesting, like the fact that they appear to be incredibly fast after their first turning, then slow down, possibly after time or maybe if they have no access to flesh for a while - that was never explained.

                While some of the acting is excellent and some of the aspects of the show are intriguing, if you were to ask me if I would watch this show again, I'd say no.  The premiere episode was entertaining, but not enough to make me want to come back again and again.  If I want to watch a zombie series worth its salt, I'll tune in to The Walking Dead.  If you are an avid zombie fan and aren't looking for a serious zombie show, just a zombie fix, Z Nation is for you, but if you are looking for a more serious take on zombies, look elsewhere.


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