Z-Nation “Puppies and Kittens” – Review
Syfy, bless them, they’re trying really hard to become a truly great network. I’ve been a fan of their shows for many many years considering I used to watch when they were Sci-Fi and used to show great cartoons on the weekend (Robotech being the big one for me). Lately, I’ve been lapping up Defiance to my delight as this season was GREAT. So walking into the first episode of Z Nation I have to admit that I got my hopes up a little higher than they probably should have been set.
There will be spoilers ahead!
The episode begins after the onset of the zombie outbreak, it is here that we see Mark Hammond (Harold Perrineau) leading the evacuation of a CDC site within a prison that is involuntarily testing vaccines on prisoners. This whole first act was amazing as it had a great balance of tension, violence, zombie gore, and drama to have me on the edge of my seat.
I kid you not, even with the sometimes lacking special effects, I was excited to have a zombie show that seemed like it could compete with The Walking Dead…which in hindsight is a very unfair show to compare it to. With that in mind, let me continue the review.
We’re introduced to Citizen Z (DJ Qualls) in the first act as an adjunct computer operator at a nondescript NSA facility who becomes stranded after neglecting an evacuation order by his superior, which subsequently saves his life as the airplane transporting the site’s staff crashes. All alone, Citizen Z becomes the eyes and ears for Hammond and other military personnel left in the zombie infested United States.
The show shoots ahead to three years later. I wish this wasn’t a joke, the show literally cuts to a different place and time within seconds, leaving behind all of that delicious exposition and storytelling. We now are transported to an upstate New York settlement of humans who have survived the apocalypse and are doing their best to adjust to a new life. While funny and a bit touching the scene of the living wake for the random old lady was slightly unnerving to see as the town’s practice of shooting loved ones in the head after their wake is completed.
The whole second and third act go on to introduce us to the team that will ultimately end up leading the “most important person in the world” trope to where he needs to be, but it done in such lazy broad strokes that leaves me with the impression that makes me feel like I honestly don’t give a crap about the people at all.
I’m trying to not sound harsh but the moral dilemmas are introduced in such a lazy manner that I literally scoffed at the screen. Take for example the scene and plot point where the town was overrun extremely quickly after hundreds of seemingly dead zombies washed ashore near the settlement. The zombies weren’t dead we find out with one of the most laughable jump scares I’ve seen in a while.
Example two is the group finding survivors at an outpost where they run across a baby alive sitting in a car seat after its mother died in a car wreck. Now, if you establish rules of a universe, your job as a writer is to be bound by them. I say this because it’s already established that loud noises attract the zombies. You mean to tell me that a baby that’s been sitting in a wrecked car with broken windows would make NO noise after the accident? That car would have attracted even the most deaf zombie with the promise of a fresh meal.
For my final example we were introduced to a mystery person locked up in a cage sitting in a fetal position asleep as they’re surrounded by growling/yelling zombies that can’t seem to notice the other humans singlehandedly dispatching their traveling buddies. Then there’s this mysterious sniper. Yes, a mystery sniper, that’s what this show needs of (though I won’t lie the headshot was a pretty cool image).
With this moral dilemma of what to do with a baby in the zombie apocalypse looming over the group, it somehow dies (it’s never shown or explained how really) and turns into a zombie baby. Yep, zombie baby. The ENTIRE group avoids confrontation with the toddler zombie and is outside of the building when SOMEONE has to chime in with “we can’t leave it like that!”, and who should go in to fight said zombie but Harold Perrineau who succumbs to the mini flesh eater’s speedy attacks. It was a terribly shot scene that made me have flashbacks of the Doom movie.
And with that one scene, I was left questioning why they’d allow their most trained individual put himself at risk when they should have absconded. Seriously, you don’t learn when to fight and when to flee over three years of fighting zombies? Finally, the show ends with Citizen Z broadcasting to the world (apparently the NSA site he is working at can do that you know) that he’s out there watching and waiting, after which he dons his sunglasses and places a stylus on a record like a DJ from the 70s. It was simply cringeworthy.
I will be giving this show my prerequisite three episodes that I give all new shows mainly because it’s usually the pilot episode that they show first and it usually isn’t the best example of the proper pacing of the actual program. I’m tempted to say that if episode two is just as bad as the first, I’m done.