A sad thing happened this year. Something that none of us saw coming (okay, we saw it coming but we took the ‘stick our heads in the sand’ approach) SyFy has chosen not to re-new Z-Nation!
The day I heard the news I was heartbroken. I’m living in a post Z-Nation world now and I don’t think I like it. If you’re like me, you’re most likely extremely sad and nostalgic for all the good old times You had with the show. If you have never seen Z-Nation then buckle up and hold on tight, this is your road map to something epic, special and dead!
This is Five Reasons To Watch Z Nation!
Reason One: It’s A Cult Level Dark Comedy
“Dead Alive”, “Drop Dead Fred”, “Rocky Horror Picture Show”, “The Princess Bride” & “Z Nation”…What do all these lovely things have in common? A rabid and loyal fan base that discovered them when they premiered or stumbled upon them one lucky late night. These titles are bodies of work that were rejected by the rest of society but given a home in the ever growing nerd/geek community. A community of die hard fans who will re-watch or recommend something that’s 40 years old because it’s a ‘Must Watch!’ and has a nice sweet home in their hearts.
“Z Nation” like most of SyFy’s movies and programming is extremely underrated. It takes the dark concept of the apocalypse & finds a way to have fun with it! Since the first episode fans knew “Z Nation” was different. The fact that fans fought for it every season, tells you there’s some real Cult Level gold under all those dead puppies and kittens.
Much like the “Firefly” fan base, “Z Nation” fans have gone to bat for the show and so far it seems like all the effort is coming up short. I hope that the premiere of “Black Summer” The “Z Nation” spin-off (Update, since writing this there have been a number of interviews with King and the writers of Black Summer where they have stated it is not a spin-off of connected to Z-Nation in any way…I guess the fan base got confused with all those “Z-Nation Spin-off” Post that those involved were making before it aired.) will show the big wigs at Netflix that they have something major in the universe of Z Nation, which could lead to Netflix either picking up the show, combining “Z Nation” & “Black Summer” at some point or give us a “Z Nation” Movie so we can say goodbye the right way.
Reason Two: Creative Zombies/ Zombie Kills
The zombie genre as a whole is pretty basic bitch if you think about it. You have the living who have to travel, for one reason or another, and the dead who eat the traveling living. I love the genre like everyone else, yet I can admit that the formula isn’t too complex. But, every now & then you get some rare gems that take big risk with George A. Romero’s original concept.
“Resident Evil” & “Left 4 Dead” did it in the game industry & “Z Nation” did it for cable TV. Okay, I’ll take this moment to give mercy to the crawling zombie in the room. Yes, The Walking Dead is great and it really did break a lot of new ground when it comes to it’s release in comics, but the show is just a recreation of that magic. Z Nation is it’s own lightening in a bottle, created for TV, and it did it’s best to stand out above every other zombie story you’ve ever heard of.
One way they did that, is with their creative take on zombies and kills. “Z Nation” has given us, you’re neighborhood zombie fans, a smorgasbord of Dead Heads to runaway from:
Zombie Animals: Any animal affected by the virus.
Blasters: A special type of zombie created by the nuclear blast.
Phytos: A special type of zombie created by humans and combined plants.
Radioactive Zombies: A special type of zombie created by highly radioactive areas such the Edgemont Nuclear Power Plant.
Mad Zs: A zombie that is infected by a mutated form of ZN1 this mutation causes the zombie to become more difficult to kill (Head shots won’t save you this time)
Franken Z: A one of a kind zombie. Has multiple limbs and extremely intelligent, created by Dr Edgar Caligari .
Talkers: People effected by the black rainbow fallout, that die and turn into zombies but still have control of their motor skills and overall personality. They are able to talk and live somewhat normal lives as long as they have some form of brain within their day to day diet. Without brains they can regress and turn into full mindless zombies.
This list of Zs isn’t the only things to fear in the world of “Z Nation”, you have cannibals (Which we may see a lot of in Black Summer’s future) Juggalos, The Cartel, The rich psychos from Zona, zombie bears and countless tripy things like Murphy and Lucy being able to control zombies and other people with a bite. All this madness sets the stage for some crazy kills and I’m not just talking killing a pack of zombies with the liberty bell or a town full of zombies hunting down the mail man like some postal “It Stains The Sand Red” No, I’m talking character deaths.
“Z Nation” gave us unbelievable deaths from the very first episode. We got a lot of bait and switches when it came to who would be leading our pack of survivors. I won’t go into who dies and how, but unlike other shows, no one is safe in Z Nation, remember that.
Reason Three: Strong Female Leads
I want to focus on “Z Nation” as a stand alone amazing series, but for me to fully showcase that we have to look at other shows and what makes “Z Nation” different.
While the entertainment business is changing for the better now, “Z Nation” was ahead of the curve when it came to making progressive decisions in terms of casting and storytelling. While female leads are nothing new to prime time TV, “Z Nation” doesn’t focus on romantic interest or female vs. female conflicts. No, “Z Nation” takes its viewers on a whirl wind ride with epic strong female leads, that I like to call the ultimate final girls! When I say ultimate final girls, I mean women that tap into their inner T2 Sarah Conner. Women who look at the enemy and scream ‘You’re Next’ like Sharni Vinson in…well “You’re Next”
“Z Nation” has an epic line up when it comes to strong female characters:
Kellita Smith plays LT Roberta Warren, a US army reservist who has lost everything to the apocalyspe but still finds it in her to lead a rag tag team of survivors, and pull one last mission off for her country.
Warren is the defination of a badass, she doesn’t show weakness and she always seems to have a game plan, but that’s just the surface of the character. Smith’s proteral of Warren’s dark moments allowed us to see the broken hero who is battling through a dying world alone. She lost her husband, her best friend and when she was ready to give up on it all, she rose for another round with the apocalypse. Warren shows us the many complex traits that women have, from fighter to protector. Add on top of all that, she is a woman of color in a full on lead of a horror show, while “The Walking Dead” does have an epic hero in Danai Gurira’s Michonne, she wasn’t present from the very beginning and she didn’t take on a lead role in the program up until this most resent season.
Kellita Smith on the other hand has been a powerful force in the Z-Nation universe since the start of the show and took over the lead role after one of the shows most surprising deaths.
Anastasia Baranova plays Addison Carver, who zombie fans have labled the female Negan due to her weapon of choice, a spiked baseball bat. Anastasia character much like Kellita’s character grows and shows many different versions of herself throughout the series. She’s a protective lover, who finds herself without her partner and starts to explore relationships with other women, be it in a family sense with Lucy and that tribe of women or in a romantic sense with a survivor in that one hotel episode. Addison allows us to see the inner workings of a young woman, who is used to caring for a family but now feels lost without one. Many of Addison’s key moments are centered on being seperated from the group and finding her way back to them, mirroring her need to find her way back to the family she lost.
There are many great actresses who play key roles in each season of Z-Nation from Pisay Pao’s Cassandra to Ramona Young’s Kaya and most recently we had Katy M. O’ Brian who played George a strong female political leader in the apocalyspe who is trying to keep two different races from killing one another. There is so much going on in each episode of the show, but for me seeing these strong women from all these different backgrounds, seems empowering. “Z-Nation” is most diffenetly a show I would want my future daughter to watch.
Reason Four: Amazingly Diverse Casting
Which brings me to one aspect of the show that makes it standout above all other Horror/Fantasy programming, “Z-Nation” is packed with diversity. We have powerful women at every corner, people of color playing both heroes and villians. The cast has some of the best portayals of women and people of color in the horror tv genre, but this extends out to the writing and directing side of the series. We had writers like Eric Wallace (Teen Wolf, The Flash, Eureka) and a number of female hands that shaped the series like Jodi Binstock (Social Nightmare, Black Summer) and Jennifer Derwingson (And Soon The Darkness, Black Summer)
There has been a major shift in the entertainment industry as of late. Audiances are showing us they want to see stories being told from different points of views, the success of movies like '“Crazy Rich Asians” “Black Panther” “Get Out” and “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” is proof that there is a market out there that hasn’t be given the products that they are demanding. “Z-Nation” was a great attempt at feeding that market on television. If you’re looking to dive into the mind of complex, emotional and funny characters then “Z-Nation” is the show for you.
Reason Five: Episodic Stories Encased In A Serial Season
The one down fall of “The Walking Dead” (TWD) also happens to be its strongest attribute in the beginning. “TWD” was a Serial Season in a sea of Episodic Stories, which means it’s main plot is the whole season, episodes can’t be watched out of order or enjoyed for what it is within it’s 45 to 60 minute time frame. But as the show continued on, we started to see filler episodes, stories that had nothing to do with the main plot of the season but was just there to meet the networks episode count. This caused for long drawn out seasons, where the main plot became less and less important in th viewers minds.
“Z-Nation” not only took a different stab at the zombie tv genre by adding comedy into the program but they also went about airing their program differently as well. They used Episodic Stories within a serial season. This means there was a key story being told within the season, that every episode added to, but beyond that, very episode had it’s own, stand alone story that was being told. You can pick up an episode from any Z-Nation series and while you might not understand the overall plot of that season you can still enjoy the episode for the condensed story that it is telling. This form of story telling allows for many moments to stand out in a persons mind and helps make the series something that is rewatchable even if it’s just to see the evil mailman get his in the end.
All in all, “Z-Nation” is an amazing show that I feel ended too soon. I loved every second of it and while it lives on in “Black Summer” (or not really according to this interview with star Jaime King) and it’s episodes on Netflix, I wish it got a proper send off, with a great final season or an epic movie.
Well these were my thoughts on why you should be watching Z-Nation. If you have never seen it, stop what you’re doing right now and watch it on Netflix!