You Should Be Watching: Z Nation

I used to be a huge Walking Dead fan. The comics, the TV show, all of it. It was the height of the zombie craze, and people everywhere were hopping onto the hype train. For good reason, though. I mean, that first season of TWD was amazing. The scenes in downtown Atlanta still give me goosebumps. But sure enough, it slowly started slipping away from its roots and fell into the same pattern as every other TV drama: five episodes of buildup, climax, repeat.

After watching TWD religiously for years, I finally had enough. I remember the moment vividly. It was right after the prison fight scene when Rick gets a phone call from Lori. I had had it. I was done. I just couldn’t take it any more. They were trying to make a drama, not a zombie show. There was hardly any action anymore, hardly any bone chomping, decapitation, or mutilation. It was all just some shitty love stories that culminated in a crappy fight scene once or twice a season. It is, was, and will always be total shit.

So there I sat, living a cold, lonely, zombie-TV-show-free existence, until one day a buddy of mine recommended a new show from the wonderful folks at the Sci Fi channel. (I will NOT call it the ‘Sy Fy’ channel. No matter how hard they try.) ‘Check it out on Netflix,’ he said to me, ‘It’s called Z Nation.’ 

‘Campy-comedy-zombie-horror’ are the words he used to describe it to me, so I couldn’t pass it up. And as soon as the ‘Asylum’ logo popped up on the screen, (the wonderful folks who brought you Sharknado 1-5) I knew I was in for a wild ride.

Five seasons and a lot of jump scares (and even more laughs) later, I’m finding myself at the end of an era. Z Nation‘s final season is up on Netflix now, and after going without it for almost two years, I remember why I fell in love with this show in the first place.

  • The acting isn’t great, and that’s totally okay.

Just like anything that would be described as ‘campy,’ the acting in Z Nation has its ups and downs. The actors in the show have been in it long enough to know their characters, and in the 5th season are now playing them expertly. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the cast has the same level of skill. There are always a few characters peppered throughout the show that remind you not to take it too seriously. And that makes me happy. It’s not overproduced nonsense. It’s a TV show about a zombie apocalypse. Lighten up a little.

  • The writing is top notch.

I don’t think I laugh as much at even straight up comedies as I do at Z Nation. From the ‘talker’ being experimented on and throwing out funny one liners as his brain is poked and prodded, to the lovable main character Doc, it’s filled with hilarity that can brighten anyone’s day.

But that’s not to say the zombie apocalypse is all fun and games. It has a dark side, too. There was an episode early on that sticks out in my mind as one of the best of the series. Addie and her boyfriend Mac are off on their own and spend the night at an abandoned factory. Mac wakes up to hear screams, follows them, only to die. But instead of the world turning black for good, he wakes up and relives it all over again. It’s a Groundhog Day-ian episode arch that really shows off a darker, more serious side of a show (and production company) that’s often viewed as a goof. Each season has three or four episodes like this; ones that really stand out and blow me away with how fucking good they are.

  • I don’t have to wait a whole season for action

One of my biggest complaints about TWD is the lack of action. In the beginning, each episode was heart pounding, but toward the end (at least when I stopped watching it), it became so dull and monotonous that it wasn’t fun anymore. I’d have to wait 10 episodes just to get a single zombie killed, and even then, there was still another 6 episodes until the climax of the season.

But there’s more action in one episode of Z Nation than there is in an entire season of TWD. The other night we were watching an episode where a bunch of zombies escaped from a holding pen. They got a hold of some of the protagonists and, I won’t say who, but after a gruesome fight, a main character ended up blowing themselves up with a hand grenade. Take note, TWD. That’s how you do action.

If that kind of action happened in TWD, you’d have to watch four seasons just to get there. You might rebuke my argument, saying ‘Well TWD is all about story, it’s about the human side of the apocalypse blah blah blah…’ Watch Z Nation. There’s story, character development, and action. Yes, it is possible to do all of it in one show, episode, or season.

 

The first season, I’ll admit, was still working to find its footing. It has its ups and downs, no doubt, but it’s something that you need to experience. I think that was part of the fun of it, seeing the writing, the characters, and the show itself develop into something real. You watch the characters go from their humble beginnings to utter legends of the wastes. You can tell the actors have fun, the writers don’t take themselves too seriously, and they realize that they’re all part of a ridiculous show with a ridiculous premise: that the dead have come back to life and are walking the earth.

The world needs more silly zombies. The world needs more Z Nation.

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