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Z Nation Preview – Should You Tune in Or Shamble On?

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Z Nation

znationss - Z Nation Preview - Should You Tune in Or Shamble On?If a step-by-step guide were written for how to create a standard zombie narrative, it would be titled “Z Nation.” Start with one part outbreak footage, and mix in some overlapping audio clips of news regarding said outbreak.

Simmer it in a stock of basic characters with one part brown-haired stubbly leader, one part love interest, two parts mysterious drifters with unexplained combat prowess, and three parts uninteresting zombie chow to beef up the cast.

Marinade in a standard post-apocalyptic world, equal parts towns trying to make it and traveling caravans with dubious intent. Bake for 45 minutes in standard character dilemmas, adding in a mission to cure the virus for some longevity. Garnish with dialogue.

I try not to be too critical of things for being standard. I can’t expect everyone watching something to have the same breadth of exposure as I do, and in my experience there’s nothing worse than a critic who decries something for not “pushing the barriers of cinema/the genre” without any good insight in how to. That being said, zombie narratives have inundated our minds and media in all forms, ranging from the classic Romero siege films to Brooks’ survival guides to Left 4 Dead‘s balls-out run and gun zombie action. No kid gets through middle school without coming up with a zombie plan nor high school without dreams of a team loaded out to his specifications and containing at least one of his crushes. We all have places to go, entrances to secure, weapons to brandish, and badassery to accomplish.

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If you were to take every cliche straight from the collective imaginations of every standard zombie fantasy, slap them together without care for plot or cohesion, and figure out how to do it for about half the budget, you would get “Z Nation.” Starting in an almost overrun military base, a scientist is testing a batch of zombie vaccine on some less than willing convicts. It works on one of them, and he becomes humanity’s last hope. Cut to some time later, and introduce a small town where good people are just trying to get by. Introduce a grizzled protagonist who’s lost his nerve to kill. Introduce lead soldier from intro with immune person in tow. Begin quest. Destroy starter town for dramatic effect. Find badass locked in cage and encounter punk rock sniper. Recruit them to your team. Kill a baby zombie.

It would be fine if the ligaments that held these shambles together had some heft, but this is an Asylum production. The dialogue is terribly canned and the characters stiff. There isn’t a single thing that happens that isn’t expected with certainty, with perhaps the sole exception of a twist ending that I still would have bet on with 80% odds. It seems to have a slightly bigger budget than the usual Asylum fare, but in typical Asylum fashion the scenes go on just a little too long and characters seem driven by a desire to advance a script rather than act as individuals in any real world.

“Z Nation” is not without its cool parts. There’s a traveling gun merchant who stood out as kind of unique, but I highly doubt the character will ever return or the concept will be interestingly expounded upon. There’s a segment at the beginning where the convicts were read an executive order that gives scientists authority to test on them, which was a cool touch of order versus chaos that I similarly doubt will be implemented in future episodes. The titular “Z Nation” is actually the name of a radio station being run out of an NSA research facility by DJ Qualls, a left-behind soldier who is now our last hope for unity in fighting the outbreak. While this idea isn’t exactly new, it’s well enough implemented to give the narrative some legs and keep me interested in the general concept.

Syfy channel shows have always been propped up by their ability to do wacky shit. “Haven” is a terrible show that I have watched every episode of out of sheer interest as to what crazy shit they will do next. “Warehouse 13” is just a bad buddy cop show with magic, and I love every second of it. Without anywhere to go other than the standard zombie key points, I can’t see how “Z Nation” would hold my attention. I’m used to Syfy shows asking me not to think too hard, but it’s usually because there’s some magical ass shit going on that doesn’t make sense if you try to apply real world logic. Asking for that leap of faith when showing a baby zombie go from crying in a crib to sprinting around is just stupid. If you find that “The Walking Dead’s” big talky words make your head box get the bad pains, then “Z Nation” might be just for you!

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“Z Nation,” produced by The Asylum, is an action-horror series about the epic struggle to save humanity after a zombie apocalypse. The 13-episode “Z Nation” stars Harold Perrineau (“Lost,” “Oz”), Tom Everett Scott (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Southland”), and DJ Qualls (Road Trip, “Supernatural”). It premieres this Friday, September 12th.

The cast also includes Michael Welch (The Twilight Saga), Kellita Smith (“The Bernie Mac Show”), Anastasia Baranova (The Darkness II), Russell Hodgkinson (Big Fish), and Keith Allan (Rise of the Zombies).

Karl Schaefer (“Eerie Indiana,” “Eureka,” “The Dead Zone”) serves as executive producer and showrunner. Acclaimed action director John Hyams (Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning) directed the pilot.

Synopsis:
“Z Nation” starts three years after a zombie virus has gutted the country, when a team of everyday heroes must transport the only known survivor of the plague from New York to California, where the last functioning viral lab waits for his blood. Although the antibodies he carries are the world’s last, best hope for a vaccine, he hides a dark secret that threatens them all.

With humankind’s survival at stake, the ragtag band embarks on a journey of survival across three thousand miles of rusted-out post-apocalyptic America.

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