Sunday, February 1, 2015

Z Nation, S1E01-02

Best Bee quote: "yes but the world zombie is yucky. your grandma says you call them puppies and kittens"
So, we watched the first couple episodes of Z Nation today, the Asylum's answer to The Walking Dead. As I'm sure anybody reading this knows, The Asylum has a long history of low quality knockoffs, but it is my opinion that Z Nation rises somewhat above that and is a genuinely fun experience on its own, rather than a bargain basement trap for people who can't buy or pirate the real thing.

The first detail I noticed was that it avoided the most overused zombie opening: showing the breakdown of society. Z Nation's flashback opening takes place two years later, while the body of the show begins three years after civilization fell. Unfortunately, due to constraints on budget and, frankly, writing talent, this has a very Cosy Catastrophe feel: there's still bullets, people still drive cars. Even so, they explore the ramifications a little bit. Society now practices euthanasia on the sick and dying, and refers to both that and the practice of killing zombies 'giving mercy.' Society has also broken down into small enclaves that appear to be socially stable, which actually puts it ahead of The Walking Dead TV show at the moment. That was all pretty cool.

Also on the good side, a few characters stand out:
  • Warren. Warren is smart, capable and brave, without feeling like a token character. (Her abilities and mindset feel reasonable within the context of the show.)
  • Doc. The old guy is a decent, caring guy, willing to sacrifice himself for his friends... but his first appearance had him offering home cooked meth for bullets. I love the practicality there, and he - like Warren - seems like just the sort of person I'd want to be caught in an apocalypse with.
  • Murphy. Humanity's 'last, best hope' is hilariously cowardly and corrupt. He's very obviously their Gilligan, but the show had the decency to offer an in-universe reason why they can't just shoot him or ditch him.
I'm not really sold on the rest, and certainly not so early in. In particular, 'Citizen Z' is super annoying, and Bee referred to Garnett as 'Bargain Basement John C. Reilly' a lot.

Also, lest I sound like I am heaping praise upon this: the camera work is atrocious. Whoever was doing that couldn't keep the camera steady - it's obvious they were moving around a lot during scenes, on foot, without any kind of stabilization. The intro graphics are ludicrous - in Bee's words, "High school Power Point." The writing is clunky, the SFX are terrible, and the musical choices are extremely questionable.

Even so, it's a big step forward for The Asylum. I liked this way better than Sharknado, for instance. (I think part of that is that the show is pretty dark, while Sharknado was trying to be a feel good movie. Z Nation has the guts to ice a bunch of children in the pilot.)

A few other random observations:
  • The first episode features a zombie baby right out of Minecraft: somehow, being killed gave the baby the speed and strength to pose a serious threat to a whole group of armed people, (including three trained soldiers).
  • Zombies seem to cause radio interference. Between the baby and this, I have concluded that they are radioactive, like Spiderman.
  • This show is better than The Strain, and not by a small margin.

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