Genre: Horror (Zombie)
Cast: Tom Everett Scott, DJ Qualls, Pisay Pao
It is easy to go into Z nation with critical eyes. Firstly, it is produced by The SyFy channel and secondly the actors in it are either unknown or have been away from the limelight for some time. These two things might not be enough to deter an avid zombie fan it may do so for the average viewer who has been burned more than once by the poor production and acting ability. That being said, SyFy has been able to score hits all these things considered, like Warehouse 13 or Defiance, both benefiting from good storytelling. Those shows live in their own realm of possibility and therefore can get away with not being quite accurate, a zombie show does not have that luxury, its setting and style demands believability to be scary.
Z nation is set three years after a zombie break out has caused civilization to collapse, which might seem quite a slow process. At a military base a doctor is experimenting on prisoners to find an antidote for the zombie virus. Before they are overrun they are successful, but one soldier (Harold Perrineau) and the immune inmate (Keith Allen) escape and head for California to take advantage of the antibodies. On their way they come in contact with an army reserves’ camp, lead by Tom Everett Scott, and enlist their aide. The plot in itself is pretty standard for any apocalyptic series and there are hardly any surprises. There are some good points in the show’s back story that might surface later, but for the most part the dialogue is quite standard and contrite. It even has an archetypical radio jockey (DJ Qualls) calling himself Citizen Z who most likely will be commenting throughout the show, not very unique either. Qualls, whose character is also a soldier does not seem to have the physique to pass boot camp.
When it comes to the production of Z nation it is actually better than most SyFy shows, mostly due to the fact that they use inventive camera angles and quick clips, probably in order to hide any bad quality effects. The zombies themselves look well made and scary enough, though they seem to have more in common with the infected in 28 Days Later than walkers from Walking Dead. It also tries to out gore the latter with blood and chunks blowing off of heads.
The real downside here though are the giant holes that fill the narrative. Certain things are not explained and several completely illogical things occur without reason, as well as people jumping from one room to another without walking there.
All in all Z nation might not meet the expectations of a truly terrible knock off show, but in some areas it comes close. This could just be the result of trying to put out something too quick and that it suffers from some early hiccups, it might just turn around, or it will keep it up and become a hilarious cult classic.