A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Z Nation is an intense and gory drama with constant dread and menace, plus numerous zombie battles in every episode. During the battles, characters may be beheaded, eviscerated, torn apart, shot point-blank in the head, stabbed, or bludgeoned to death. Gore and blood flies everywhere, and there are numerous disturbing images such as a school bus full of child zombies. Characters whom viewers have gotten to know are suddenly and violently attacked. A baby transforms into a zombie. Characters attempt to trade drugs such as Oxycontin and crystal meth for guns. Zombies vomit blood and shed body parts. Doctors tie patients to gurneys against their will and experiment on them; the camera lingers on blood and needles. Uncountable numbers of dead bodies appear on-screen.
What's the story?
Three years ago, a zombie virus decimated the United States, turning it into a Z NATION overrun by the living dead. Only a few ragtag human survivors remain, crowded tightly in armed refugee camps or roaming the countryside, hiding when necessary and picking off zombies when they can. Through this perilous landscape, Lieutenant Mark Hammond (Harold Perrineau), the last surviving member of his Delta Force squad, is attempting to carry out the last order he was ever issued: Carry the only known human being to ever survive a zombie attack (Keith Allan) to California, where his blood just might be able to produce a vaccination. From a remote radio post, disaffected former military communications professional Citizen Z (DJ Qualls) watches and comments on the action as Hammond slowly makes his trek.
Is it any good?
It's not that zombies aren't cool or that the idea of a zombie show isn't a natural for the Syfy network. It's just that Z Nation is so trope-ish as to be laughable. You've got your zombie virus that destroyed Life As We Know It -- ho hum -- and then your survivors with a (pointless?) mission and your shambling zombies that break into the action approximately every 2.5 minutes, or twice between each commercial break, with a big meaningless battle royale at the end. Feh.
Even things that would be cool are rendered blah by the flat writing. Harold Perrineau, who was sadly underused on Lost (his main function was to shout, "Waaaaaaalt!"), is a terrific actor. Does he get meaty lines and heroic action? Sadly, no. DJ Qualls, a predictably quirky presence in film, is stuck playing Radar O'Reilly on a communications system, given little to do. It all comes off as a limp imitation of The Walking Dead, itself a rather predictable (if wildly popular) show.
Talk to your kids about ...
The zombie genre appears to have heated up in recent years, with numerous TV shows and movies about the living dead. What shows and movies can you name? How does Z Nation distinguish itself from these other adaptations, if it does at all?
Are all on-screen zombies slow-moving, brainless kill-bots as they are in Z Nation? Can you name any other depictions of zombies that are different? How? Does this make them more or less scary?
Look up a few recipes for stage blood. Now that you know what's in it, does the blood in Z Nation look more or less realistic?
For kids who love zombies
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.