Z Nation: Season 2
It appears that people overly worried about the potential for zombie apocalypse. In a fashion already here has been actively encroaching upon our lives several years now. It is difficult to browse DVD titles in the horror section of your favorite marketplace without seeing zombie related titles rapidly growing in both the television and cinema sections. The current leader of the pack is undeniably the AMC cable network’s offering, ‘The Walking Dead’. In answer to this the Syfy network has come up with a variation that reflects their tongue-in-cheek style that so many of their fans find appealing, ‘Z Nation’. It is done with a similar goal of achieving a suitably gory realism. Differentiating this series from not only the undisputed champion of the genre but most of the forms of undead entertainment can be found in the establishment of a somewhat unique set of rules that govern the behavior of the zombies. Ever since the 60s when George Romero a bit player in low-budget voodoo oriented flicks to set the stage and creature features to center stage, it is crucial for the writers to find a way to let the audience know parameters of their specific zombie apocalypse. The traditional Romero zombie is a slow lumbering creature definitely no sense of purpose other than the most primal driving forces; roaming need for food. By this form zombies will be perfectly happy with tearing the flesh off its victim or ripping them open to gain access to those delectable entrails. Z Nation started out with this type of zombie but as the story developed a new breed of undead. I felt that the second season of the series was an improvement as a result of several plot twists, a cast where none of the actors have long-term, ironclad contract but most of all the game changing aftermath of a very dramatic cliffhanger for season one.
The last climactic moment on the first season a nuclear response is imitated as when Murphy (Keith Allan), the only man to survive a zombie bite, left laboratory where the original virus was created without decontamination procedure. In turn that launch begins a domino effect as dead man switches are triggered set nuclear wars being launch. As Citizen Z (DJ Qualls) looks to the sky as multiple warheads are descending on his location; the NSA's Northern Light listening post in the Arctic Circle. Most of the principal cast found shelter, barely able to survive. This had the advantage of resetting the playing field for most of the characters. Citizen Z was no longer an omnipotent protector able to warm the group and assist in extricating them from certain doom. His function had become a literal Deus ex machina. If the series remained with such an easy resolution that is deeply integrated to the fundamental premise the show could only spiral into the unbelievable.
The most immediate potential problem the writers have with such a drastic revision in the underlying premise is deciding the pacing of presenting it to the audience. In this particular case they wisely went with embracing the fact that the rules have been changed in the blink of an eye. This is intrinsically manifested in every zombie apocalypse scenario. One day the world is as it has always been, the next civilization is gone and you are scrounging for the necessities of existence while fending off an unstoppable horde of the undead. The radioactivity produced by the bombs has transformed the zombies making them far quicker and proactively vicious than ever. The writers then double down by altering the dynamic within the group. The reunion of Addy (Anastasia Baranova) and her boyfriend, Mark (Michael Welch) is quick and did come across as contrived but that was necessary in order to utilize the momentum created by the changes to their best advantage. One thing that is certain they built upon the decision for change and a more robust series was the result. While Citizen Z had to migrate from observer to combatant the group is facing the specter of a new source of danger. Citizen Z concerned that he no longer had the means to track the group he broadcasts a message describing Murphy and that he is the only hope to end the zombie plague. He also implied there was a huge bounty on him. Now every wannabe bounty hunter, basically every macho jerk with a gun, goes on the hunt. Now Murphy and the group are being hunted by a small army with military grade armament.
Murphy now looks more like a zombie than human, with discolored skin and sunken eyes. His personality remains self-centered and grandiose but he discovers he is able to mentally control other zombies. Unfortunately his entrancing control fails to be effective on the radioactive Zombie 2.0. Murphy does manage to attract an entourage of zombies including one time group regular, Cassandra (Pisay Pao). She is fiercely loyal to Murphy and will savagely attack anyone threatening him. Once again the story line has the potential for overuse as a panacea for inexorable circumstances but they make the necessary effort to limit the scope of the revised abilities. There is certain efficiency to how the series is constantly reinventing itself. This is largely the result of their ability to juxtaposed old memes with new twists. There is the common post apocalypse all female community blaming men for the problems to the world. This is offset by the bizarre appearance of a zombie bear.
Many expressed concerns that the series would be renewed after the first season frequently citing the production company, The Asylum, which has produced many of the SyFy Channel’s ‘Saturday Night Special’, original movies. This includes such memorable offerings as ‘The Coed and the Zombie Stoner’, ‘Airplane vs. Volcano’ and of course all four of the Sharknado franchise. They may be best known for low budget entertainment but they are usually fun in a guilty pleasure sort of way. With this series there is far more in the way of quality and expertise involved in its creation but considering how well they have demonstrated an ability to reinvent the series and their willingness to kill off prominent cast members without notice has made this a series of interest and one that I am looking forward to returning for its third season.