Netflix offered a refreshingly humorous but still gory take on the zombie apocalypse in September 2018.
Z Nation (Season 1) [9/10]
Z Nation (Season 2) [8/10]
After having been rather disappointed with the second season of The Walking Dead on Amazon Prime Video last month and fallen almost asleep during most of the episodes, I thought that at least Z Nation, the Asylum/Scyfy Channel version of the the zombie outbreak, would be unintentionally or intentionally funny and therefore entertaining. What I didn’t expect was that it was so good that it blew the AMC series right out of the hype water. Non-stop action, surprisingly well-down splatter effects, and a cast that might not be the most fleshed out, but one that is quirky enough to make the audience wish they’d survive. Having a man who was bitten by multiple zombies survive and be the only chance humanity has for a cure might be a lot of nonsense, but as the series doesn’t take itself too seriously, that’s okay, especially since this man isn’t the most cooperative and simply doesn’t want to be the hero. What also makes the first season so much fun is that despite its low budget, there are always some great ideas and twists in each episode, while the characters one meets and the situations the survivors find themselves in (e.g. against radioactive zombies or a zombie tornado) become weirder and weirder, but also more disgusting and violent (so the 16+ age rating is more than just a joke). What is even more important is that the series features lots of zombies and not a lot of talking, even if it has actor DJ Squalls who is well-known for his light comedies, but who does a great job of playing the only military link to the outside world slowly going crazy and still holding his ground, making for an especially surreal episode and a fantastic ending.
If the first season of Z Nation was already crazy, then the second one follows the template of the Sharknado movies, i.e. going even wilder with its ideas. Unfortunately it also tries to be a bit more serious and cinematic than the low budget allows. An unnecessary number of slow motion sequences and more dramatic scenes that don’t quite work make it obvious that the people behind the show wanted to add more seriousness to proceedings. But if this means seeing a big cheese rolling down the hill and picking up zombies and cows along the way or an alien attack, then it becomes clear that this is still a series that relies more on over-the-top trash fun. Still, the post-apocalyptic Mad Max atmosphere means that there’s something of an identity crisis at times. Of course the first season had its fair share of serious and comic events, but this time, it doesn’t quite add up. It’s all very entertaining stuff, but with more talking going on and a storyline that isn’t that engaging, one wonders if the series can keep up the fast pacing and inventiveness, and even if there’s a lot of action going on and one gets to care for the characters with all their little quirks, this season feels a bit dragged out than the preceding one. However, telling all the background stories in the pre-finale episode is quite brave, presenting an unusually gory and fun origin story that hasn’t been done in this way in any other series, at least not this late.
So Netflix in September 2018 offered a really pleasant surprise with Z Nation, a series that deserves much more attention than the zombie comic adaptation everyone’s talking and raving about.
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