You knew it wasn’t going to be great. Not “Downton Abbey” nor “The Walking Dead.”
Because a zombie show created by the folks responsible for “Sharknado” and airing on the SyFy channel is not going to win any Emmy awards.
Still, there was room for hope. The cast sports some real actors with solid résumés – Tom Everett Scott, Harold Perrineau and DJ Qualls among them.
So the answer to the question, “Is the Spokane-filmed series ‘Z Nation’ any good?” Not really.
The series opens two years after a zombie virus has taken hold in the U.S. The government and the military are in tatters, still hoping for a vaccine to halt the virus’ spread. One prisoner, Murphy (Keith Allan), has been given an experimental drug that seems to have worked. The challenge? To get him from New York to a lab in California, where they might be able to turn the antibodies coursing through his blood into a viable vaccine.
Fast forward a year, and Murphy and the remaining solider tasked with guarding him, Hammond (Perrineau), are making their way west. They stumble on a band of survivors headed by an ex-National Guardsman named Garnett (Scott). When the survivors’ compound is overrun, the remaining few – including fellow guardsman Warren (Kellita Smith) and a self-described “amateur pharmacologist” nicknamed Doc (Russell Hodgkinson) – agree to help Hammond deliver Murphy west. They get radio assistance from Simon Cruller (Qualls), the last remaining soldier stationed at a remote NSA listening base who takes to the airwaves as Citizen Z.
The acting isn’t truly terrible, although Scott does utter one howler of a line (you’ll know it when you hear it). Still, the script is pretty cheesy. The problem with “Z Nation” is that it leans too much toward “The Walking Dead” rather than “Shaun of the Dead.” When the greatest zombie show ever made is already on the air and is widely praised as Great Television, regardless of subject matter, it’s going to be hard to compete. Had the creators of “Z Nation” incorporated more humor into their show, they might have had something. Instead, we’re left with is a show that’s pretty gory – the only way to kill a zombie is with a blow the head, so we’re treated to a lot of bloody skull-bashing – and pretty dour.
Still, for Spokane-area fans, it’ll be fun to play “find your friends” among the hundreds of local extras dressed in their finest zombie attire. Also, “name that location.” While many of the location shots early on in the premiere are nondescript woodlands, the big set piece is filmed at what appears to be the grounds of the Eastern State Hospital.
So, yeah. Check out “Z Nation.” Just keep your expectations in check.
Watch the season premiere of “Z Nation” on the big screen Friday at the Garland Theater, 924 W. Garland Ave. Doors open at 9:15 p.m. for a 10 p.m. screening to benefit the Spokane International Film Festival and the Washington Film Project. Admission is $10. For television viewers, the premiere episode, “Puppies and Kittens,” will be aired at 10 p.m. on the SyFy channel.
In the meantime, you can view the official trailer below, or visit the series website here.