In a world of media that has been dragging down the zombie genre for about a decade now, it’s hard to find something new and fresh on the zombie front. There’s not too much that can be done about zombies…they’re undead, they usually look gross, they’re hard to kill, and they eat brains. The Walking Dead in its original medium, comic books, was really great. I thoroughly enjoy the tales they spin. Even the old school video games are good. However, the translation from comic to television, in my opinion, very nearly killed the zombie genre. We have great movies like Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead and Warm Bodies, and then we have The Walking Dead. Can anyone pick up what’s the leading difference between those movies and the infamous tv show?
I can, I can! Humor! Comedy! Zombies are outrageous, slow, dumb creatures generally speaking. They’re scary because they have the potential to become real if humans really decide to mess up in the next century. So to lighten up the load of “Holy shit, this could actually happen and that’s terrifying”, add some comedy to the fight-or-be-eaten tone that accompanies zombies and you get…
Okay, okay, I will admit that I am 100% biased toward the Syfy channel. Their movies are laughable, but their television? It’s amazing! Great acting/casting, amazing unique storylines…I’ve watched every show they’ve aired in the past five or six years and I have never been disappointed. I didn’t watch Z Nation when it aired on Syfy (I don’t have cable) but when I saw it pop up on Netflix, I was like…”It’s Syfy, gotta check it out”. I had tried watching The Walking Dead a few months prior and vowed to never watch another zombie show ever again, but I have faith in Syfy and I have never looked back.
The show does not take itself too seriously. It’s cast of characters in episode one already grabs the viewer. There’s Charlie, the group’s leader, and his right hand woman, Roberta Warren, a military woman. Need I mention she is a black character who becomes the group leader/lead role in the series?? There’s the younger characters: Matt and Addy, the love birds whose final year of high school was interrupted by the zombie outbreak, Cassandra who is not the best fighter but is still human and becomes an integral part of the group, and the quiet, but deadly 10k. He calls himself 10k because that’s the number of zombies he intends to kill. And then there’s Doc, the oldest of the bunch, who is very much the zen hippie of the bunch who is, surprisingly, the voice of reason a lot of the time when he’s not smoking z-weed or getting high off pharmaceuticals. And, of course, the twist that Z Nation brings to the table: a criminal named Murphy who gets bitten by zombies but lives. The entire first season (and most of the rest of the show) surrounds the mission (code name, Operation Bitemark) of getting Murphy to a facility in California to make a vaccine from his blood.
And there we go. There are a few other characters, but, like most zombie shows or movies, not everyone lives through to the end. The stakes are high in this show; they’re not afraid of killing people and mixing up the cast. However, amidst the seriousness of fighting for their lives and for the hope of humanity coming back from the apocalypse, there is humor. It’s rare to watch an episode without laughing at least once. The show is based around family, the connection the main group has is something that really carries the show. Characters are allowed to grow and go on their own paths, but they always end up coming back to each other in the end. There is a lot of heartbreak too. We slowly get introduced to the main characters’ back stories and sometimes it will actually make you cry. It’s intense; they don’t sugar coat anything. And, of course, an ever-present theme is: how messed up humans are.
Sometimes, the show showcases how the zombies are piddle next to the psychotic nature that some humans have. It’s startling, realistic, and terrifying because of both of those reasons. It’s a show that is a hodgepodge of so many things you’d think it won’t work. But it does. If you watch the first episode and are hesitant to keep going…KEEP GOING! I urge you. I’ve never watched a zombie show or movie like this. It’s rough and gritty and everyone is morally and ethically gray. It’ll shove the realities of what humans will do to survive in your face and make you rethink your entire lives.
And it’ll make you laugh. That’s the most important thing.