Matt McKinney is a senior journalism news major and writes ‘Binge Watcher’ for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper. Write to Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(This article contains spoilers for episode one of "Z Nation")
Driving through the streets of Philadelphia in a flatbed truck with the Liberty Bell strapped down, the driver has to swerve to miss a zombie. The straps break and the bell goes rolling down the street, flattening five or six zombies along the way.
If you think that sounds dumb, you’re right. But it is just one of countless scenes that cause eye-rolling, shoulder-shrugging and “back to browse” clicking in the Syfy and Netflix show, “Z Nation.”
The first season aired on Syfy last fall and was recently picked up by Netflix. Netflix has been promoting it pretty hard the last few weeks.
The biggest problem with “Z Nation” is that it can’t decide if it wants to be a B-movie styled show with a dark sense of humor, or a serious post-apocalyptic action/drama. But it falls flat when it’s not funny at all, or interesting enough to make viewers care.
The overarching storyline of the first season is that a man named Murphy (played by Keith Allen) is immune to the zombie virus, and the rest of the survivors have to get him across the country to a lab on the West Coast (“The Last of Us,” anyone?).
In the pilot, the group of survivors finds a baby, unbitten and alive. Later in the episode the baby turns into a zombie. So yes, there is a zombie baby. You’d think a zombie baby would be treated with some level of reverence. But nope. While somebody searches a building for it to give it mercy, as it’s called on “Z Nation,” he actually says, “Come to papa.”
There are many moments like that, as well as dumb plot holes. Most people can tell when their vehicles are running out of gas so they shouldn't be surprised, but the writers pull this card in order to stop the characters from moving.
Also, that baby never gets bitten. It just happens to turn into a zombie to fit the plot. It doesn’t immediately try to get the humans, like a normal zombie would, or like every other zombie does in the show. Instead, it hides and stalks the character looking for him.
“Z Nation” just makes things up as it goes along, like a middle schooler’s English project.
But there are some positives to “Z Nation” — hints of what could have been. The action sequences, especially in episode one, are tremendous. As one character defends the baby from a small horde, the blood spatter and slow motion effects are top notch (which is a sentence I never thought I would write).
There are also some storylines that had potential to be interesting. The most obvious one is that Murphy, the man who is immune, is an awful person. It could have been used as an opportunity to explore the dilemmas the survivors have with being forced to be around and protect somebody who they all hate, but it’s never really explored.
DJ Qualls plays Citizen Z, a NSA operative holed up and using satellites to watch over the survivors. The show hints at him starting to go crazy from the loneliness. However, instead of exploring that further, the writers have him stumble upon a stray dog and everything is okay again.
SyFy announced it renewed “Z Nation” for a second season in October. Despite a couple redeeming factors, zombie fans looking for their fix are better off passing up “Z Nation” and holding out until“The Walking Dead” comes back Feb. 8.