Zombie TV

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.

Z NationWalking 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.

Walking Dead Mid Season Finale

I wasn’t planning on writing a review of this episode, the mid season finale (technically Season 4, Episode 8), so this comes a little later than the usual TV episode review, but I was inspired by another blog I read occasionally that absolutely trashed the episode!  Did we watch the same show?

Anyway, this blogger had issues with the following aspects of the episode (warning, all below is spoilerific so if you’ve not seen the episode yet, bail out now):

Is Rick’s prison the only safe place on Earth?       

And if so, why destroy it with an armored attack?

Can a corpse be bullet proof?

Rick’s babysitting arrangements

Everybody is both starving and chubby

Hershel

And of course; the car seat.

Is Rick’s prison the only safe place on Earth? 

I’m sure there are plenty of safe places.  Practically any place that is protected by either a wall or strong fence could be a safe place.  That could be anything from a National Guard Armory to warehouses.  But the Governor had unfinished business with Rick.  He needed a safe place for his new community, but he needed closure by getting rid of Rick’s group more.

And if so, why destroy it with an armored attack?

Although a compelling case could be made that the Governor was just crazy and didn’t see the contradiction of firing repeated 105mm shells at the place he hopes to call home, he may have reasoned that the prison was vast enough to sustain the damage and still leave plenty of undamaged living space for his little group.  One thing I’m sure of; the Governor would rather have destroyed the prison than leave it for Rick’s group.

Can a corpse be bullet proof?

As far as the bullet proof corpse goes, eh… it’s possible.  The M-16/M-4/AR-15 variants that the Governor’s group was armed with fires a 5.56mm round.  If my memory serves me from Basic Training, the round is supposed to hit the target and rotate, tearing up the human body along the way.  The purpose isn’t to penetrate and then exit the body.  So although I agree that a walker body might be a bit too squishy to provide the padding needed to protect someone hiding behind it, I could see that it might just be possible that bullets fired at it wouldn’t exit and hit Daryl, who was using it as a shield.  Since there was body armor at the prison, I think I might rather take my chances with that.

Rick’s babysitting arrangements

Agreed.  Rick is no father of the year.  I don’t recall a single scene this season where he has spent any one on one time with his daughter.  He’s basically farmed out the job of parent to Beth.  Maybe it’s because he suspects that Shane is Judith’s real father and he’s keeping emotional distance. The Governor’s sudden arrival prevented Rick from trying to keep tabs on Judith even if he wanted to and I suspect that he didn’t think of her once up until he saw the … but more on that later.

Everybody is both starving and chubby

One of this blogger’s oddest complaints is on how fat this starving group of survivors have gotten.  I admit, I didn’t even notice.  This may be strictly a woman thing where everyone’s weight is kept tabs on constantly.  But even if the group has put on some pounds, it’s perfectly reasonable.  They’ve been at the prison for months and that’s provided a safe location with plenty of room for food storage and ample kitchen facilities.  Rick’s vegetable garden, although healthy enough, probably provides only a supplement to the food consumed by the prison group.  The bulk of it would be stores of food that would still be good after almost two years.  That would be canned goods, and boxed goods like rice, and instant potatoes. Considering the haphazard lives they were living before the prison, it’s easy to see how they could put on a few pounds.

Hershel

When a cast member, particularly one as important as Hershel has been to the show, is killed off, you have to show the death.  All of it.  This blogger complained of the rather graphic nature of the beheading, and the clumsy nature of it requiring several tries.  Gruesome?  Yes, but also necessary I think.  What I didn’t like is that I knew Hershel was going to die, and I’d known it for over a month.  One of the annoying habits of the Walking Dead promotions is that a killed off character is sent to do promotion for the show, so when you see a cast member calling into radio shows, you know he or she is not long for this world.  So true to form Scott Wilson (Hershel Greene) called in to the Monsters In The Morning radio show last month, just to promote the show in general, I was sad since I knew we were losing him.  But that spoils the surprise.  Why couldn’t Carl have called in?

  And of course; the car seat

And of course, we get to the most disturbing part of the show, at least to parents.  First, I can understand this bloggers revulsion, and I shared it, but that only made the scene more powerful.  Towards the end of the firefight, during that transition between the human’s battle being decided one way or the other, and the true winners of any battle, the walkers, coming to take their gory prize, Rick and Carl, reunited, finally realize they don’t know where Rick’s daughter, Judith is.  Like I said; parent of the year.  So what Rick and Carl view is Judith’s care seat; her bloody car seat.  In that kind of world, Rick and Carl come to the obvious conclusion that the walkers have gotten Judith.

That was tough to watch.  But that’s why this is such a great show, they “went there.”  So the episode was an emotionally draining success.  The group went from relative comfort and security to being scattered out in a Walker filled world, suffering crushing losses.

I don’t know whether Judith is dead or not.  The ending was certainly open ended, but in the comics, Judith was killed.  Of course, this show has veered away from the comics time and time again so who knows.  But if Judith was killed, at least it was an off screen death.  People would lose their minds if the show actually showed a Walker chowing down on a baby.  The television audience, even a Walking Dead audience, isn’t ready for that.

Anyway, when the show returns in February, I’ll be there, and I hope this blogger has gotten over her disappointment and will ready to bear down on the show again like a Walker bearing down on a femur.

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