Like any other fan of the Walking Dead, I’m looking forward to the Season 5 premiere tonight.
I’m expecting excitement, danger, fear, death, pathos, blood, gore, and lots and lots of zombies. I’m also expecting big ratings. Walking Dead has been somewhat of a phenomenon in that regard, as a cable show that is regularly beating network television.
So why has it taken so long for TV to come up with a knock off? I don’t know but the Syfy Channel finally came up with its own zombie show, Z Nation. The show premiered last month, and based on the first five episodes, I think I can place the show firmly in the middle of the Zombie-verse. With Walking Dead at the top, and multiple horrible zombie movies at the bottom, Z Nation is probably a cut above your typical zombie movie; particularly if it’s produced by Syfy or if you find it on Netflix and it’s never had a US theatrical release.
Walking Dead appeals to a fairly large audience, based on its ratings, and there are plenty of fans of that show who have no interest in horror movies in general and zombie movies in particular. But Walking Dead has managed to capture the current appeal of dystopian fiction, and adult drama where damaged people deal with loss and hopelessness. A Walking Dead episode doesn’t end with the whole gang laughing, then freeze frame and credits. It’s relentlessly hopeless, which for some reason people are attracted to.
Z Nation, in contrast, is fun. Sure, the apocalypse has hit, civilization is destroyed, and things look bad, but this show has hope. The premise of the show is that due to an experimental vaccine, there is a cure for the zombie plague in the bloodstream of one ex convict that a group of survivors are trying to get across the country to a government lab. This is a post zombie America in which there are plenty of survivors and not every human survivor is out to get you. Some are just trying to get along. That’s unlike the America that Rick Grimes woke up to from his coma. That was an almost empty world, where human survivors were often more dangerous than the walkers.
The Z Nation group is under the direction of “Citizen Z,” played by the fantastic genre actor DJ Qualls. Any show that Qualls is in is worth taking a look (Legit exempted). Qualls plays the last survivor of an NSA outpost in some unidentified Arctic location. From his base he can control satellites, radio and television, computers, and remote cameras; with or without electricity. Clearly the post Snowden era has left the public with some unrealistic expectations of the NSA’s capabilities. The lesson should have been the opposite. But it’s an overall fun show that will appeal to fans of the genre, if not to the larger Walking Dead audience. It even gave a wink to the Syfy audience with last Friday’s episode, “Home Sweet Zombie,” which included a zombie spewing tornado and a character saying, “well at least it ain’t sharks.”
But AMC is giving another try at the Walking Dead audience with a Walking Dead companion series. Again, why so late? They could have started the ball rolling on this show years earlier to capitalize on the Walking Dead popularity. But work is ongoing and a list of characters has already been released. Not much is known about the new series other than rumors that it’s to be set at an earlier point than the current Walking Dead show is at and it’s going to be somewhere else other than Georgia. I for one, welcome a new series set in the Walking Dead universe. Like any fan, I have my own wish list of what I would like to see. The character list released seems rather lackluster. I would have preferred at least one Prepper. Then he could die early to show the futility of preparations. I would also like to see an emergency room doctor, since if they start on day one of the Zombie Apocalypse (which I would prefer), they can show the utter confusion and disbelief of not believing what they are seeing, the dead coming back, with an appetite.
So I would love to see a companion series timeline that in the first season runs from day one to a few weeks later when it’s effectively over, about the time Rick wakes up in his hospital bed. What happens to the world while Rick is in his coma? I’d like to know. But in the meantime, I do have the original Walking Dead to welcome back and fairly decent copy cat. That’s more zombies on TV than I’m used to.