With AMC's [The Walking Dead](series:201193) being one the top billed TV show at the moment it has overshadowed another post-apocalyptic zombie series, SyFy's Z Nation.
Z Nation much like The Walking Dead features a rag tag bunch of survivors trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world where Zombies have taken over. Now I am sure many are thinking it is just a remake of The Walking Dead in true SyFy style much like The Asylum has done with many large blockbusters. Well I would say you are half right but half wrong.
While it is set in a world of zombies, a group trying to survive the continuing hoards and the series starting after the outbreak has happened, it is very different from AMC's The Walking Dead. [Z Nation](series:1327829) has taken inspiration from many past zombie franchises to create something truly unique.
Z Nation has a diverse mixture of characters ranging from a strong minded woman to a comedic old man to a gun totting kid. But the characters all bring something different to the show.
Instead of the rugged manly Rick Grimes calling the shots Z Nation sees Kellita Smith step into the role of Roberta Warren who is a member of the national guard. A character that is like an African-American version of The Bride from Kill Bill. A sharp shot and skills with a blade that would make any zombie think again before taking a bite out of her. Needless to say I know I would never cross the woman after seeing her in this.
Along with our answer to The Bride for a zombie apocalypse we also have Tom Everett Scott as Sgt. Charles Garnett another member of the national guard. Acting as the conscious and moral compass of the group, he tends to be the one making the hard choices and standing by what he decides. He is also a cracking shot and a mean fighter when the group is in a crisis. His development in the show will also shock people who have not seen it as it is the last thing AMC's The Walking Dead would ever do.
Away from the main group and isolated on an NSA outpost called Northern Light is DJ Qualls as Pfc. Simon Cruller aka "Citizen Z". The sole survivor at the outpost he monitors the world and tracks our groups journey across America, giving them aid when he can by hacking into the national grid. He also transmits on a bandwidth for everyone near an active radio to hear which advises them on dangers in local areas. He has guided the group through bad weather, advised them on where supplies may be and even helped them avoid a swarm of zombies consisting of thousands.
Unlike AMC's The Walking Dead, Z Nation decided not to have married couples with children in their group. Instead we meet Addison "Addy" Carver and Mack Thompson protaryed by Anastasia Baranova and Michael Welch. Addy and Mack met on the first day of the outbreak and as a result take us on a trip through the first series as they question if they would be together, as they have little in common, if the apocalypse wasn't going on.
While older men in The Walking Dead have tended to be the voice of reason for Rick and Co, Z Nation made theirs the main source of comic relief. Russell Hodgkinson as Steven "Doc" Beck is quick witted and brings some of the golden moments to series one. He has faked sex noises with a young woman to set up some guys, trapped with a zombie and opting it was time to pull out a smoke he was saving for a special occasion leading to us seeing a zombie stoned and my personal favorite is in the video below.
Always ready to lighten the mood, he helps break the stretches of horror and darkness in the series.
Pisay Pao portrays Cassandra the ethnic beauty of the group. But her beauty holds dark and sinister secrets. Without giving to much away her character was with a group prior to joining the group. Needless to say this group was not as nice as the group she is with now and they took her to the darkest parts of humanity which is something AMC's The Walking dead did not explore for years.
Our sharpest shooter in the group is Tommy aka 10K played by Nat Zang. You may be wondering why he is known as 10K. The answer is simple. It is how many zombies he plans to kill. It is good to see the youth of a zombie apocalypse can still have goals in life. He was even asked 'what happens when you hit 10 thousand?' to which he simply replied 'I change my name.' He is an excellent sniper shot and when out of bullets will resort to a slingshot and whatever is handy.
Our final main cast member is Keith Allan as Alvin Bernard Murphy aka "Patient Zero". Here is where this whole franchise differs from any other Zombie Fiction before. As you can see from the picture, this man has met the horrid fate many do in a zombie apocalypse. However Murphy survived not one but eight zombie bites. In episode one Murphy was forced to participate in a Zombie Vaccination Trial. He is the only person to have survived the procedure and gives the series its purpose. He is also quite evil in his thinking and the one to speak out against the groups choices. He has pretty much annoyed everyone in the group at some point with what he has said and done. He has even made choices to shock viewers some of which that rival The Walking Dead's character The Governor.
Having just read about Murphy you have probably guessed the plot. The group are charged with the task of getting Murphy to a research lab in California by Pfc. Simon Cruller aka "Citizen Z" who aids them on their journey with advice and help.
Due to the group having to travel thousands of miles to reach there destination we have seen them go through all sort and not just zombies. In addition to zombies they have also faced a lack of resources, tornado lane where they even referenced Sharknado and a nuclear power plant on the verge on meltdown.
Another part about Z Nation is something called "Mercy". Much like The Walking Dead people will shoot a zombie who was once a loved one. In Z Nation this is known as granting mercy. However it is used outside of killing zombies. In the first episode a family say goodbye to a terminally ill family member who is then granted mercy as modern medicine is not around to help anymore.
Sci-Fi's Z Nation has explored ideas with the zombies that AMC's The Walking Dead has never done. First off, have you ever wondered what happens when you give zombies drugs? Well as I mentioned earlier the Doc did get a zombie stoned. After smoking his joint he threw the last bit into the zombie's mouth causing it to get high. Well it doesn't stop there. In Z Nation drugs (mainly pain killers and antibiotics) have become a form of currency for people to use to trade for whatever they need with other survivors. So as you can image there was an episode where the group had to break into a place with a large strong-hold of pharmaceuticals. The zombies that ate the medication for ADHD became super speedy while some other zombies got into something else. I apologize for the quality of the clip, but you wouldn't believe me if I told you, so you have to see it for yourselves.
Moving away from zombies sporting erections, l give you our next exploration into the zombies of Z Nation. Earlier I mentioned how they faced a nuclear problem. Well we had radioactive zombies! In a nutshell the group come across a nuclear power plant that is about to melt down and they have to stop it as they cannot escape the blast zone in time.
While some may think the glowing green zombies are just stupid, you will be surprised it is explained in the series. Obviously being a zombie the radiation isn't a worry as they are already dead, but why do they glow, it is simple. A nuclear engineer that works at the plant explains that it is a bacteria that glows green from the radiation and not the zombie. So in addition to having to worry about the zombie biting you, you'd have to worry about it even touching you as they were so radioactive you'd be dead in hours.
Something else Z Nation has done which has not be done in The Walking Dead is zombie animals. In addition to the virus affecting humans, we have seen a zombie husky and a zombie bear! No seriously, check it out for yourself.
The zombies of Z Nation are also attracted to certain things. I am sure a few have said "So are the 'Walkers' in The Walking Dead" and yes the Z Nation zombies are attracted to those same things. But in Z Nation you can lure zombies with music. It is mentioned on several occasions that music attracts the zombies and is used at one point to aid the group in getting some fuel.
Perhaps the scariest part about the zombies in Z Nation compared to the Walkers of The Walking Dead is the fact they can run! Like we saw in 2004's Dawn of the Dead, the zombies of Z Nation can chase you down if they have not been damaged enough. So if it was someone lucky enough not to have their leg chewed off they will sprint after you. Personally I have to say zombies are a horrid thought as it is, but one that can run is something out of hell itself. Unlike its victim it will not tire out and eventually catch its prey.
The final part is how they also took something further than 2004's Dawn of the Dead and that is a zombie baby. In Z Nation the baby is considered by some as completely stupid and other as brilliantly terrifying. I'll let you decide for yourselves.
Lightening the Mood.
Unlike The Walking Dead, Z Nation doesn't take the series context seriously the entire time. If you binge watch The Walking Dead you notice pretty quickly how it is pretty much always bleak and depressing. Z Nation takes inspiration from franchises like Zombieland. You have seen how they have had fun with the Zombies on drugs but there are other factors that help.
In The Walking Dead the zombies are called "Walkers" but I personally love the name the group use when zombies are approaching. When the zombies are on their way whoever notices first will announce, "We got puppies and kittens" which is the last thing you think of when you think of zombies. But at the same time in an apocalypse I guess you wanna think of something nice over something bad.
Another part that isn't always a serious moment is how a zombie may reach its end. While the majority of the time the zombies are slain in a serious manner by one of the group, they sometimes meet unfortunate accidents. It is pretty much certain any Walker encounter in The Walking Dead will be taken completely seriously and mean survival for someone. My personal favorite zombie kills from Z Nation is in the video below. The group find a second mode of transportation which is a large truck with the Liberty Bell on the back, I guess when the world was ending someone thought "Let preserve some history".
While it may appear I have bashed The Walking Dead throughout this article, that is not the case. I love The Walking Dead and look forward to it every year, and go crazy at the mid-series finale like any true Walking Dead fan. With The Walking Dead ending just a few weeks ago, I decided to check out this series ad I was prepared for the worse, I am not going to lie. Instead I found myself shocked at how much I enjoyed it, and the simple reason why is how it is a very different zombie apocalypse show to The Walking Dead. Where they have explored their own ideas rather than copy those of The Walking Dead it has a real chance to be a big contender to AMC's series if the next series is as good as the first. I now cannot wait for series 6 of The Walking Dead and series 2 of Z Nation this fall.