Oct 9, 2020
From B to Z… New SyFy series Z Nation embraces B-movie approach to zombies
SyFy launched a new zombie series on Friday called Z Nation. Quality television, it ain’t… but that’s kind of the point. Critics seem to agree: it’s good if you like that sort of thing, but most people don’t.
Here are three reviews—one negative, one meh, one positive. Between the three, you shouldn’t have any trouble figuring out if you’re one of the happy few who will eat this show up like a green-beans-and-brains casserole at Zombie Thanksgiving.
(Me, I’m a no. But so what? I’m happy to see original niche programming on basic cable, so I hope it succeeds.)
The acting, zombie makeup, and dialogue seem more out of a student film than something on basic cable. On The Walking Dead, you see Carol’s face as she struggles with having to kill a child and the suffering and anguish she goes through as a result. On Z Nation, when they discuss killing a baby or taking it with them, Hammond literally says, “God, I hate moral dilemmas!” and that is the end of it. The Walking Dead isn’t great because of the zombies, it’s great because of the characters, and the ones here are so inter-changeable you don’t want to bother learning their names or their faces.
The best thing that could ever happen to The Walking Dead is the arrival of Z Nation on Syfy on Friday. The super-popular but critically underappreciated Walking Dead may be seen more favorably for its writing, acting, visual acumen and storytelling capabilities now that Z Nation proves you can’t just put hungry zombies on the screen and have something worth writing home about.
On the other hand, if all you want to see are zombies, zombies, zombies — meaning it’s all about the gory and not about the story, then Z Nation may be your thing. In fact, as a B-level entry it’s at least entertaining, and if some of the sillier aspects of the pilot can be improved on could be one of those mindless entertainment options we all need now and again.
While the cold open of the pilot sets the tone of the show and gets the adrenaline pumping, it’s in some ways the epitome of an Asylum production: stilted line readings and a “shoot first, quip, and maybe ask questions later” policy. The production values seen in the pilot are slightly higher than typical Asylum fare, too. In fact, the zombie makeup is top-notch, and the show is able to employ its jump scares well enough (thanks in part to its fast-moving zombies) that there’s nothing laughable about Z Nation’s undead. […]
Z Nation isn’t trying to be an introspective character study. It’s a B-movie horror show that would much rather give the audience a fun time than make them think about the human condition.
The CW also has a more quirky “20-something gal in the city” zombie series launching this fall called iZombie.