With AMC's The Walking Dead back on TV, it's time I stuck my head full of unwanted advice into television's other Zombie show, Z Nation. Z Nation is an action comedy set in a post-apocalyptic future where there has been a Zombie outbreak and now the crazy undead roam across the North American continent, perhaps the entire world, devouring all they come across, spreading the plague as they go - think a cross between the light-hearted action of the Resident Evil movies and the extreme drama of The Walking Dead. It does have a story, of sorts; a patient, Murphy, was given an experimental vaccine that has, somehow, stopped him from becoming a full-blown Zombie after being bitten, the only downsides being a hankering for human brains and, literally, turning blue. Due to this miraculous survival, Murphy is believed to hold a cure for the Zombie virus in his blood. However, jolly old Murphy is not really down with the idea of being hacked open in order to give blood and save humanity so it's up to Sargent Roberta Warren, of the Missouri National Guard, and a hard-hitting bunch of survivors to get the blue goon to where he needs to be without him running off or getting killed by less well-meaning society-members.
The show is doing respectively well, averaging about 1 million viewers in each of its three seasons (a fourth has been commissioned and is rumoured to be filming right now). Coming from The Asylum, the company behind some disastrous movies such as Zombie Apocalypse, Dead 7 and (shudder) War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave, as well as countless others that I dare not mention, having a show that anyone watches, let alone talks about, is sure to be like a gift from god. It's true, I really enjoy the series for its nonsensical, over-the-top violence in a future where nothing is taken too seriously. However, I think it could be improved with the introduction of psychopaths - and I'm thinking of the Dead Rising style of memorable, insane characters. Just imagine what it would be like if Doc, Addy, 10K and the gang entered a seemingly empty carnival before being ambushed by a man, dressed in a clown outfit, dual-wielding hand chainsaws and spouting nonsense about giving all the happy people (murdered victims) a turn on a fun carnival ride. As another example, the group enter a supermarket to gather supplies and encounter a shop assistant akin to the supermarket owner from the original Dead Rising, the one who madly states "I DON'T ALLOW VANDALISM IN MY STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!".
Another great bonus this brings is showcased in Dead Rising 2. One of the psychopaths the player encounters is Chuck's, the protagonist in the story, rival from the futuristic Zombie-slaughtering competition called Terror is Reality. Of course, the rival thinks that he is way better than Chuck and, if the Terror is Reality game wasn't rigged like when aired for worldwide broadcast, he could beat Chuck any day. The challenge is set: the rival, on a customised Terror is Reality dirtbike, twin chainsaws welded to the handlebars against Chuck, with, err…, nothing (for a guy who wants a fair fight, he has a twisted sense of fair). Still, Chuck can beat the rival - it's not easy but it is possible - and when he does so, the reward is spectacular. The crazed, distraught competitor simply cannot handle the defeat, and, willingly or not, he commits suicide in a way he believes will reclaim his honour. Spinning a circle, the bike angled so low such that the blades of the small twin chainsaws dig into the harsh concrete ground, producing a shower of sparks. The sparks ignite the ring of fuel split on the ground, perhaps leaking from his motorbike engine, and a deadly inferno shoots up, surrounding the rival - who is seemingly without a care for this new threat. "I'm number one…" he screams at the top of his lungs, the sentence trailing off as the fire takes him. Chuck replies, no emotion on his stone-blank face; "Yeah, you're on fire.".
Witty one-liners like this coupled with visually impressive death-scenes like the one described would work wonders for the light-hearted TV show. Okay, some people won't like it - the "corniness" of some of the jokes being too shallow and "cheesy" for a series of programmes tackling the very real-world scenario of the dead coming back to life, an unstoppable desire to eat the living. However, frequent viewers, those who have watched from day one, understand what the show is really about; not the devastating horror of a real Zombie apocalypse but what a Zombie apocalypse would be in the minds of those who dream of Zombies - characters kicking ass without concern, having a moral code that keeps them on the righteous path, doing good even at risk to themselves, not having to deal with the minute details such as finding clean clothes or scrounging up food on a regular basis. To these people, what I would label as the show's target audience, the extra pieces of machoistic heroism brought by outlandish visual spectacles and "corny" one-liners would be extremely well deserved.
To be fair, and this is a tad spoilerific for people who have not seen series 3, Z Nation does introduce psychopaths in a minor degree, namely the postmaster and the asylum nurse that holds Doc hostage, achieving the baseline of what this article is intending to suggest. These malevolent individuals are not the kind of memorable, smile provoking, nonsense killers this mad, mad TV show deserves however and, hopefully, this article has fixed this in the minds of the creators. The additions may break continuity, may (and preferably will), go off the rails in terms of reality - but who cares? The best thing about the show is its comic sacrifice of strict plot or rules. As Murphy puts it; "It’s the apocalypse baby, roll with it.".
Z Nation is that other show on TV about Zombies, and, despite appearances, it is actually really good. However, it could be better - here's how…