Fall Season Reviews
Where I finally hit my last bit of TV complaining by covering the two big zombie shows, The Walking Dead and Z Nation. While The Walking Dead has just returned Z Nation has been on for several weeks. With this in mind The Walking Dead is more of a premiere review while Z Nation covers more of all the episodes up to this point.
Last year one of the biggest surprises was Syfy’s Z Nation. Instead of being a rip off of The Walking Dead producers The Asylum decided to be more like their biggest hit, Sharknado. The first episode featured a zombie baby and it got more ridiculous from there. The season featured some amazing things like cannibals, a zombie tornado and a zombie bear. A. ZOMBIE. BEAR. It was all kinds of amazing. The thing is while being absolutely bonkers is a great it can wear out it’s welcome (see Sharknado 2 and 3). How could this possibly live up to the first season?
The writers decided to give the show a more grounded and more realistic story. Even more surprising is that it works. The main focus this season seems to be that Murphy is a wanted man. With Citizen Z promising a possible cure gangs of bounty hunters are now after the criminal turned zombie god. Okay so it might not be the most realistic of shows but it is for this show. This is best demonstrated with the second episode of the season, White Light. Trapped in a town the episode is about the group trying to capture Murphy while trying to not get killed by squads of bounty hunters. With the zombies taking more of a back seat it turns into the kind of cat-and-mouse chase you wish on more action based shows. Helping this is a more focused cast. Unlike last season I can’t think of any characters without something going on. Even Citizen Z, the fairly one note semi-narrator has an arc that goes beyond being a bad DJ. The whole cast may not be the focus every week but everyone has a role and does it great this year.
I hope I didn’t make it sound like the show isn’t as ridiculous this year. In fact it can be even crazier at times. We are about mid-season and we have had a zombie strippers, zombies attacking the Amish and zombie baby Jesus. It would be great if the first season’s biggest flaw didn’t also return, some low budget special effects. While the zombie make up is surprisingly good most of the CGI looks extremely fake. I know this is a show from The Asylum but it should never look worse than Sharknado. This isn’t a high standard but every now and then Z Nation falls short of it.
Z Nation was never going to be a conventionally great show. It was always going to be a bit of a schlockfest with mediocre effects and cheesy dialogue. So it’s surprising to see how much Z Nation has improved. It’s still has the aesthetics of a B-Movie but they have moved the story and stakes forward and turned it into a real show. I can’t say it’s a great show because it’s not. Now is it punching above it’s weight and better than it has any right to be? Absolutely.
Also there was a Zombie Camel (as seen above). That was pretty boss.
Rating- B++++ (Can’t quite let myself give this an A)
Now into season 6 there are some things I have just come to accept. The cast will always be a smidge too big, Darryl will always survive and Rick is just kind of a dick. It’s that last one that can be interesting and annoying all at the same time. On the one hand with all his character has gone through it makes sense. He’s seen his world crumble, rebuilt and crumble all over again. He has been a hard ass for quite some time now and it’s not like he’s ever been proven wrong. On the other it feels like every season has the “Is Rick too cold hearted?” arc for at least a bit. Needless to say it can get tiresome at some points.
Which brings us to last week’s season debut. After killing abusive husband Pete (Yes I had to look up his name) at the end of season 5 we return a short time later. Rick is now the leader of Alexandria which means yes, we get the Ricktatorship all over again. This time however he finally finds some opposition in Carter (Ethan Embry). While we’re supposed to hate him and he doesn’t last long he actually brings up some solid points. Most of all being why should we trust him? He’s clearly unstable and unreliable as a leader. This is shown with flashbacks show throughout the episode. Switching to black and white we see clips of Rick explaining his new philosophy to the returning Morgan and generally being a being the typical douchey Rick we are now used to.
Carter dies but this (along with Rick being a dick as per usual) seems to sway the Morgan a bit. The ultimate zen master for whatever reason we slowly see him losing faith in Rick thus setting up this season’s main conflict. Seeing Morgan walk into the group dynamic is interesting. Unlike others who joined after the premiere he does have a connection with some (Mainly Rick and to a lesser extent Michone.) He clearly wants this to work (and vice versa) but he sees the cracks in Rick’s leadership. He hasn’t said anything but I want to see how he handles it.
The more immediate issue for the episode was a rock quarry full of zombies. It’s an interesting idea and our solution is so stupid that it can be pretty fun. Aside from some iffy CGI The Walking Dead had a solid season debut. Given it’s the same old “Rick acts like a dick but is ultimately right” storyline but it has a good counterbalance in Morgan. If the writing is as good as last season it could breathe some new life in this long stale formula.