Warning: Spoilers Ahead
When we talked to Z Nation Executive Producer and showrunner, Karl Shaefer, earlier this week, one of the things he promised was the series would go where others in the genre had not and that it would “have more action in one episode than The Walking Dead had in a 1/2 of a season.” After having watched the pilot now, the one thing I can definitively say is “No, sh*t.” Wow. Shaefer and everyone else at Syfy certainly weren’t lying when they made that statement. Besides that, it’s surprisingly funny, has a sense of hope and explores new storylines surrounding the traditional zombie virus — basically it addresses everything in the hype around the show plus much, much more.
Perhaps the biggest complaint of the zombie mega-hit The Walking Dead, especially in season four, is how slow the series can be at times, almost as if it has abandoned the horror and action aspects of the show and become more of a soap opera. I absolutely love The Walking Dead, have watched it for years, but yes, I have to agree with that somewhat. Well, apparently someone over at Z Nation agreed too, because if there’s one thing the pilot immediately addresses it’s this. When I watched it for the second time, I actually started making note of the times between zombie attacks and I don’t think more than 2-3 minutes elapsed between any two action sequences. If The Walking Dead is a nice, leisurely bicycle ride in the park, then Z Nation is a race on the Nascar motor speedway. It rarely slows down (neither do the zombies either because they are fast. Definitely not “walkers!”), there’s never a dull moment and honestly, this is what a zombie series should be. Very nicely done, Z Nation.
Another great thing about this series is the humor. If you think about The Walking Dead once again, there’s very little to laugh about. They did finally introduce the Eugene Porter character and that character in itself makes for some hysterical moments, but that’s about it. It’s all about gloom and doom, which week after week can equate to a total buzzkill. Nothing is further from the truth with Z Nation. Sure, people die very gruesome deaths in this show, but somehow the writers find a way to put a humorous spin on it.
Take for instance, the death of who we thought the main character was going to be, Lt. Mark Hammond (Harold Perrinaeu). This is the guy responsible for getting the sole survivor of a zombie bite, Murphy (Keith Allan), to a lab in California in order to create a vaccine. I thought he was going to be the main protagonist on the show and so, I was in total shock when he was killed off before the end of the first episode, as I’m sure most of the viewers were. But, you know what else? After it was all over, I actually burst out laughing. Here is a guy who survived one zombie attack right after another, including the massive one at the beginning of the episode in order to rescue Murphy, but in the end he gets taken down by a zombie baby. A BABY!!! I’m sorry, while it was a horrific turn for the character, I don’t think anyone could not have a good laugh at that. And Charles Garnett’s (Tom Everett Scott) reaction to the situation made it even more funny:
Â Â Â Hey, I didn’t tell him to go off and get eaten by a baby! — Garnett to Murphy
Of course, talking about the humor of the show wouldn’t be complete without mentioning DJ Qualls‘ character, Citizen Z. Wow, does this guy have a story. The world has gone to shit (sorry, I had to drop that Walking Dead line in, because it’s truly one of the great ones!), his ticket out of the North Pole has crashed and burned (literally!) and so, here he is stuck all by himself. So instead of giving up and throwing a big pity-party, he brings taking-lemons-and-making-lemonade to a whole new level. That is, if you’re in a crappy place and in a crappy situation, you might as well have fun and make the most of it and with just a radio and the NSA feeds, that is exactly what he does. Tom Everett Scott has a very large fanbase and I had originally thought his character was going to be the fan favorite, but I’m really starting to think that Citizen Z is going to take that honor. This guy is just too funny and really brings the life to the show:
I gotta tell you people, we’ve been getting our asses kicked. Well, today is the day when all of that changes. That’s right, I’m not just watching anymore. It’s time to kick some zombie ass. This is Citizen Z broadcasting live via broadband, lowband, VHF, SkyNet, if you can get a signal, then you can find me thanks to our friends at the NSA. Now, all I need is somebody, anybody, everybody to get back to me because that’s how it starts. If you’re still alive, then you’re probably some genetically pre-disposed badass and all we got to do is get organized and the zombies don’t stand a chance. Now, here’s a little something for all of you out there with nothing but 3000 miles of bad road between you and home. I hope you can hear it.
Â Now, that’s hope and that’s humor and that’s exactly what a show like this needs. A big welcome to you, Citizen Z, and can’t wait to see more!
So, the ending of the episode is pretty bittersweet. Lt. Hammond, the leader of the mission to get Murphy to the lab in California, is dead, but fortunately he stumbled onto a group of survivors who may have what it takes to pull the thing off. A former Sgt. in the National Guard, Charles Garnett, his sidekick Roberta Warren, a guy who calls himself “Doc” with a propensity for cooking bad meth, a girl found locked in a cage that we don’t know a thing about and a mysterious kid who doesn’t say much but who is a hell of a sharp-shooter. A very unusual group indeed, with Murphy perhaps the most eccentric of them all and it’s going to be interesting to see their cross-country trek unfold, not to mention all of the humor.
Z Nation airs on Fridays at 10/9c on Syfy.
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