The Z Nation Universe Expands with New Series Black Summer by R.C. Murphy
Not long before SDCC 2018, a few gossipy news bits flitted across social media alluding to huge news from the Z Nation team. Without any evidence behind the stories, it’s easily brushed off as the usual comic-con driven theories; best to opt to wait for actual news from the production team themselves. We didn’t have to wait long.
One of the first big genre news items out of SDCC this year was confirmation that Z Nation will indeed expand with an upcoming series on Netflix titled Black Summer. There’s some quibbling over the exact wording regarding this being a spin-off, though. It sounds like this is their answer to Fear the Walking Dead in a way, what with the trip back to the chaotic parts of the apocalypse. The new series is slated to be a ZN prequel of sorts, with totally new characters, in the early stages of the zombie apocalypse. Or as showrunner Karl Schaefer said during The Asylum’s panel, “Black Summer is before the apocalypse got weird and was just scary.” Joining Schaefer at the helm is fellow ZN producer John Haymes.
The series will have eight episodes. However, where BS differs from ZN is the season will be one giant story. None of the zombie-of-the-week or enemy-of-the-week type of gags, here, as with Z Nation‘s early seasons. I suspect the new show will be something to set aside a day and just binge-watch in order to fully appreciate the story. During the panel, the showrunners promised that Black Summer would be the more serious cousin in the universe, bringing old school zombie horror to the franchise. So maybe make it two days. These guys are getting good at gore. It may be a tad much to digest in one day.
Coming in as the star for the series is Jaime King (Sin City, My Bloody Valentine 3D). King’s character, on the surface, sounds a little like a Carol (TWD) type. She will portray a mother separated from her daughter during the worst summer of the zombie apocalypse and nothing, absolutely nothing, will get in her path while she searches for her. To make due, she pairs up with other survivors just to get through to tomorrow.
There’s no release date just yet. There’s not even official sites or an IMDB page for the project yet, let’s be honest here. They’re just getting started with production, so it may be a while before there’s any substantial news, but we’ll keep an eye out and pass on word.
Season Five News from Z Nation at SDCC by R.C. Murphy
With all the chaos they left us with after the season four finale, it’s a good thing Z Nation survived the Syfy off-season guillotine in order to wrap up the extreme intrigue planted in last season’s disjointed romp through Warren’s mental snap and the Black Rainbow mission. Not many specific questions regarding the finale were answered during the discussion segment of the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con panel, but that’s standard operating procedure for almost every show which isn’t screening an episode or premiere during the massive convention. Sometimes a few secrets leads to greater fun down the road.
There was, however, a five minute trailer to whet everyone’s appetite for the upcoming season. Or should I say wet, according to some initial reactions to the gory footage? The trailer is not currently available online, but keep an eye on Z Nation‘s social media pages for the online premiere sometime soon.
This year’s panel was attended by D.J. Qualls, Kellita Smith, Keith Allan, Anastasia Baranova, Russell Hodgkinson, showrunner Karl Schaefer, executive producer David Michael Latt, and series newcomer Lydia Hearst.
Panelists discussed where some of the outlying characters would be in the upcoming season, physically and emotionally. Qualls says Citizen Z will stay way up north with his crew. Baranova revealed a little of what long-lost Addy will be up to now that her world’s been upended even more, though she doesn’t know it yet. Addy’s comeback story line promises to take us deep into the world of a new zombie breed—deemed Talkers by the production team. These Talkers are coherent, intelligent undead, and they’re out to get our heroes. On the flip side, Addy feels a kinship with these evolved zombies, and that’s bound to cause ample problems for everyone down the road.
The producers wrapped the panel by showing the trailer for The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time, since it’s the same production team and all. No, this does not mean there will be anymore crossover between the franchises than what’s already happened. Probably. Maybe?
Unfortunately, there’s no announcement about the Z Nation season five premiere date. Syfy has only confirmed that it will air sometime later in 2018. It’ll probably be late September or early October, but assume nothing until Syfy makes an official announcement in the upcoming months. To keep your memory fresh, all current seasons of the show are streaming on various platforms now.
Every summer, San Diego, California is overrun with people—in costume, out of costume, covered in body paint, alive, undead; it takes all sorts to make an event of such magnitude truly magical. As always, we’re keeping our eye on the undead attendees scheduled to appear. This year we’re expanding the list to include those pesky vampires who keep creeping back into mainstream media.
Keep in mind, this is a super early, unofficial list compiled from information given by the panelists or production companies. The official SDCC panel schedule will be available about two weeks from preview night, Thursday, July 18th. SDCC programming will run from then until Sunday, July 22nd. For the most accurate information, please visit SDCC’s programming page.
Zombie programming schedule:
5:00 PM – Z Nation (Indigo Ballroom)
The Asylum presents a peek into the fifth season of the intense yet funny SYFY series. Anticipated panelists include DJ Qualls, Kellita Smith, Russell Hodgkinson, Karl Schaefer, and possibly more to be announced before the event.
About Z Nation:
In the beginning, a group of survivors must cross the country with a possible cure for the zombie apocalypse. The holder of the cure, a zombie-human hybrid named Murphy, may not be so cooperative. In season two, the team continued their journey to the elusive CDC lab in California, dealing with bizarre enemies both old and new and an increasingly insufferable— and perhaps dangerous— Murphy. For season three, a new adventure lurked for Citizen Z, while our survivors faced a totally foreign threat. Oh, and Murphy caused all kinds of trouble (are you surprised)? Going into the fourth season, the story skipped two years and caught up when the survivors realized they must deal with new types of zombies to stop a mysterious threat known as Black Rainbow.
11:15 AM – Fear the Walking Dead (Hall H)
There’s little information online so far, but it’s safe to assume a wide variety of cast and the show’s creators will be present. The panel is perfectly timed to give them a chance to hype the second half of the fourth season, which begins again with episode 409 on August 12th at 9 PM.
About Fear the Walking Dead:
In Season 4 of Fear the Walking Dead, fans will see the world of Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) and her family through new eyes—the eyes of Morgan Jones (Lennie James), joining the story from the world of The Walking Dead. In the new season, the characters’ immediate past mixes with an uncertain present of struggle and discovery as they meet new friends, foes and threats. They fight for each other, against each other and against a legion of the dead, all to somehow build an existence amid the crushing pressure of lives coming apart. There will be darkness and light; terror and grace; the heroic, mercenary, and craven, all crashing together towards a new reality for Fear the Walking Dead.
12:15 PM – The Walking Dead (Hall H)
Like the above panel, we’ve got no information about incoming guests, but given a history of filling the gigantic table on stage, it’s safe to say they will not disappoint on the caliber of who’s present to introduce fans to the ninth season of the blockbuster AMC show. Hopefully we’ll get a start date, too, so you all can start planning your premiere parties.
A refresher about The Walking Dead season eight:
All out war has had a devastating impact on every person involved. The communities themselves are fractured. Alexandria has been destroyed, the Hilltop finds themselves pinned, and the Kingdom is shattered — half of them dead, the other half controlled by the Saviors. At the very center — Rick, having been distracted by the conflict, has just returned home to learn that Carl, who heroically shepherded the Alexandrians to safety during Negan’s attack, has been bitten by a walker. Once his sole motivation in this otherwise stark existence, Rick is forced to deal with this reality. Carl has always been a beacon of hope, a symbol for the remaining thread of humanity — lessons that the survivors around him would be wise to take with them as this war surges onward. But Rick isn’t the only person who’s living in peril. Aaron and Enid are in a dire situation at Oceanside — unclear if they’re in friendly territory, or if they’ve just made new enemies. Father Gabriel will do his part in attempting to smuggle Dr. Carson safely back to the Hilltop and a pregnant Maggie is wrestling with the many moral gray areas that come with leadership during war. In a standoff with the Saviors, she must decide how to proceed with the dozens of POW lives she’s currently in control of, as well as new complications that come with being a leader. In addition to the war, Negan continues to deal with struggles within his ranks as workers, traitors, and others’ thirst for power cause conflict at the Sanctuary. Having gifted the Saviors a major victory, Eugene’s loyalty is repeatedly tested as new obstacles present themselves. As all-out-war consumes us, the line between good and evil continues to blur. People fighting for what they believe in. Everybody working together for something bigger — to feel safe and have a world worth living in.
Vampire programming schedule:
4:00 PM – Van Helsing (Indigo Ballroom)
Get an exclusive first-look at the upcoming third season for the SYFY show, with additional information from panelists Kelly Overton, Jonathan Scarfe, Vincent Gale, Aleks Paunovic, Rukiya Bernard, Trezzo Mahoro, Neil LaBute, Mike Frislev and Chad Oakes.
About Van Helsing:
Van Helsing is set in the near future, where vampires have risen and taken control. Vanessa Van Helsing is humanity’s last hope, as her unique blood composition gives her the ability to turn vampires human. With this secret weapon, Vanessa becomes a prime target for the vampires. Van Helsing comes from the producers of Fargo and Hell on Wheels. Acclaimed director/playwright Neil LaBute serves as showrunner.
6:00 PM – The Passage (6A)
SDCC guests are in for a treat. Fox plans to screen the premiere episode, followed by a quick Q&A with the show’s stars and producers. Panelists currently scheduled are Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Saniyaa Sidney, Henry Ian Cusick, Jamie McShane , executive producer Liz Heldens, executive producer/ director Jason Ensler, and author Justin Cronin
About The Passage:
Based on author Justin Cronin’s best-selling trilogy of the same name, THE PASSAGE is an epic, character-driven thriller written by Liz Heldens. Executive-produced by Emmy Award winner and Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee Ridley Scott and writer/director Matt Reeves, THE PASSAGE focuses on Project Noah, a secret medical facility where scientists are experimenting with a dangerous virus that could lead to the cure for all disease, but also carries the potential to wipe out the human race. When a young girl, AMY BELLAFONTE is chosen to be a test subject, Federal Agent BRAD WOLGAST is the man who is tasked with bringing her to Project Noah. Ultimately, however, Wolgast becomes her surrogate father, as he tries to protect her at any cost. Brad and Amy’s journey will force them to confront Project Noah’s lead scientist, MAJOR NICHOLE SYKES, and the hardened ex-CIA operative in charge of operations, CLARK RICHARDS, whom Brad trained. It likewise brings them face-to-face with a dangerous new race of beings confined within the walls of Project Noah, including former scientist TIM FANNING and death-row inmate SHAUNA BABCOCK. In seeking out any allies he can find, Brad also turns to his former wife, DR. LILA KYLE, for help. But as Project Noah’s scientists hone in on a cure that could save humanity, these new beings begin to test their own powers, inching one step closer to an escape that could lead to an unimaginable apocalypse.
7:30 – Preacher (Hall H)
AMC hasn’t given any hints as to who’ll be on the panel to kick off festivities going into the show’s third season. However, seeing how the show is one of the more unpredictable on television right now, it’s safe to assume the panel will be worth a watch.
Season 3 sees Jesse, Cassidy and Tulip return to Angelville, the Louisiana Plantation where Jesse was raised and where old grudges and deadly obligations await them. With the help of his friends—and a few enemies—Jesse will need to escape his past . . . because the future of the world depends on it.
2:00 PM – Legacies (Indigo Ballroom)
Executive producer Julie Plec, with series stars Rose Russell and Matthew Davis, will host a special video presentation for the newest addition to the The Vampire Diaries franchise, as well as answer questions about the show. Legacies will premiere on The CW Thursday, October 25th at 9 PM.
Continuing the tradition of The Vampire Diaries and The Originals, the story of the next generation of supernatural beings at The Salvatore School for the Young and Gifted. Klaus Mikaelson’s daughter, 17-year-old Hope Mikaelson; Alaric Saltzman’s twins, Lizzie and Josie Saltzman; and other young adults come of age in the most unconventional way possible, nurtured to be their best selves . . . in spite of their worst impulses. Will these young witches, vampires and werewolves become the heroes they want to be—or the villains they were born to be?
3:45 PM Buffy Musical: ‘Once More with Feeling,’ an Interactive Whedon Musical (Room 6BCF)
“Time to end this show with a bang! The powers that be behind Whedonopolis and Fandom Charities present an interactive screening of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode “Once More with Feeling” as Comic-Con’s big closing event! Many say this is the finest, funniest, most ingenious episode ever to come out of the Buffyverse. But remember, the best part of the show is up to you! This episode was made for talkin’-back, and singing, and shouting, and dancing in the aisles, with or without your dry cleaning! Audience participation: It isn’t just for Rocky Horror and mob riots anymore!”
One last bonus panel, if you guys want to check it out:
6:45 PM Shooting Clerks (Room 6A)
“Fresh off its feature on AMC TV’s Comic Book Me, the biographical comedy which dramatizes the making of Kevin Smith’s indie cult classic film Clerks is finally coming to indie cinemas around the U.S. later this year. Join Christopher Downie (writer/director), Brett Murray (producer/actor), Ryan James (producer/editor), Matthew Postlethwaite (actor), Jay Booton (actor), Stephanie Price (actress), special guests from Clerks and Comic Book Men including Marilyn Ghigliotti (associate producer), Ming Chen (actor) and more for an exclusive sneak peak, behind the scenes footage, and some very special announcements.”
The big news for 2018’s Spring television lineup is Fear the Walking Dead‘s cross-over with its parent show, The Walking Dead. As we found out a couple months ago, TWD’s Morgan will hop over to the show’s spin-off, which begins its fourth season on AMC on April 15th.
But how are they going to do it? The shows, as the production teams pointed out when FtWD was announced, happen during drastically different points in the apocalypse. It’s safe to assume Morgan won’t hop in a DeLorean to pay a visit to the Clark family. New showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg (both from Once Upon a Time) sat with Entertainment Weekly for a few interviews leading up to the season four premiere. During an interview in January, Chambliss said, “As Morgan Jones steps into the world of FTWD, he’ll be continuing the journey he began on The Walking Dead way back in the pilot.” That’s not where his story picks up on the new show, though, and I think this sentiment is all about showing that they plan to maintain the character’s integrity. What about the time gap, though? It’s a huge elephant in the room. Are they willing to skip ahead that far just to fix the show? Photos from the FtWD set show Morgan with a sharpened staff, which could put his personal time line somewhere near “Here’s Not Here” [The Walking Dead ep. 604] where he learned how to staff fight with Eastman. Which leads me to believe Morgan must be the busiest man in the apocalypse if he’s gone from saving Rick to losing his kid, losing his mind, learning martial arts, traveling from Georgia to Texas, then back toward Washington D.C. where he became a Savior for a heartbeat, only to reunite with Rick, join a war, then move on after losing his mind yet again. Yes, this franchise does enjoy their time-jumps, but their new plan stretches reality a bit thin if we’re to buy into the desolation they’ve established as the norm in the universe. These characters just do not have the resources to do so much in so little time.
We have another elephant in the room:
We’re already on season seven and this one’s on season two and that would be crazy. As far as if those characters will ever encounter each other, I mean, they’re in the same universe so it’s completely possible. Geographically, they’re nowhere near each other so it would be somewhat farfetched if group A were to somehow encounter group B unless over the course of many, many, many, many seasons somehow it made sense.
Robert Kirkman, creator of the TWD comics and show producer, said this at a comic convention in Hawaii back in 2016. Here’s the guy who created the universe admitting how far-fetched the notion is, as illustrated above. The thing is, Past Kirkman is right. It doesn’t make sense to cross over any character—let alone Morgan, seeing as they fleshed out the gaps in his story fairly well. When asked to speak about the crossover in a recent EW interview, Kirkman now says, “When we started Fear the Walking Dead, the original idea actually included some things that would eventually tie in with the other show. We wanted to give it a few seasons to find its sea legs, so to speak, and make sure that it stood on its own and provided its own experience. The goal was that eventually, once we had established that, we would find some kind of creative way to tie things in.” Which, ya know, I didn’t grasp that potential when Kirkman shot the idea down in 2016. Everyone in the production was originally very much against combining the shows because of the time gap and location issue.
Well, Fear the Walking Dead isn’t doing nearly as well as they hoped. It never found its “sea legs,” as Kirkman puts it. The characters remained superficial icons representing stages in human grief and coping. When the production ramped up the action with the hopes of making the family more interesting by pitting them against each other at the ranch, it brought in even more unnecessary racial tension. That tension then spilled onto the San Diego Comic-Con stage in 2017 when talk show host Chris Hardwick and FtWD guest star Dayton Callie projected some seriously xenophobic behavior whilst bashing the foreign accents of leading cast members. How did the production mop up that mess? First, they never commented on it publicly. Then Hardwick was surprisingly absent from the TWD SDCC panel, presumably so producers could focus the conversation on the somber reality of losing a beloved stunt man and not the antics of AMC’s host. Finally, it seems the only way to truly get past the scandal is to move a minority character from the more popular show and use his deteriorating mental condition to completely change the narrative style with the goal to “kick start” FtWD’s flagging energy and viewer numbers.
Lennie James’ character Morgan isn’t the only newcomer for season four. He is, however, the only new minority character on a show with a well-documented and rocky history with racial issues—such as portraying Mexicans as cultish death-worshipers who ignore common sense altogether, or having Walker drop his Cowboys vs Indians style grudge only after a white man dies to “absolve” all past sins, like the old racist was Jesus or something.
Who are the new characters? Jenna Elfman plays Naomi, an aloof but adept survivor who isn’t exactly an open book. Maggie Grace is coming onboard to play Althea, who has an undisclosed background which gives her an advantage over others in the apocalypse. Taking a slight turn from some of his latest roles, Garret Dillahunt plays soft-spoken and humorous John for FtWD’s upcoming fourth season. Kevin Zegers also joins the cast, but the production remains mum on his character.
Everything the production has planned for season four boils down to using Morgan as a tool to repair the broken things which only cracked further with every attempt to fix them. The linear time line left the plot too predictable, so they plan to “experiment” with the time a little. Having stereotypes for leading characters means fans aren’t surprised in the least when Madison does things like focusing on the needs of one child over the other’s, nor do they bat an eye when Alicia finds comfort in a casual relationship instead of confronting her mother right off the bat because they established Alicia as someone who clings to relationships when stressed in season one. None of the characters change. They don’t grow. Circumstances may force certain behavior, but they always wrap back around to the same people they were three seasons ago. Morgan, on the other hand, is compelling because he changes so drastically over eight seasons. The same could never be said about Madison and her family, and it’s not like good character writing rubs off on the others just because one guy is present. This plan to use Morgan as television-writing duct tape makes no sense from a practical standpoint.
The long road to finding a home in the apocalypse is a tale told literally a thousand times, even in the guise of a family drama. Fans have seen it all. Unless FtWD pulls a rabbit out of their hat, all this rearranging of characters across the franchise will only hurt both shows in the end. The cagy answers from Kirkman, Goldberg, and Chambliss don’t assuage my concerns, either. They’re acting like they reinvented the genre, here, and I just don’t think that can happen with FtWD. Not without them starting over from the beginning.
As if this week wasn’t busy enough, what with everyone rushing to see Black Panther approximately a dozen times before Saturday, we’ve still got a trio of zombie shows making their way back to the airwaves starting Sunday, February 25th.
Speaking of Black Panther, there’s a new Walking Dead season eight mid-season premiere trailer rolling before the feature film. By the way, the movie includes TWD star Danai Gurira in one of her fiercest performances to date, so don’t miss it. There are also trailers with about half a dozen other TWD alumni in them right now. I went to see a super hero movie and still had a chance to enjoy footage showcasing some of my favorite zombie-killers. Wins all around.
Here’s the latest trailer to help you wrap your head around saying goodbye to a certain young character:
The Walking Dead returns to AMC this upcoming Sunday at 9 PM.
Opting to go head-to-head with TWD, Ash vs Evil Dead‘s third season hits STARZ on Sunday at 9 PM. This season we’re learning about Ash the Family Man and what lengths he’ll go to in order to protect the family he kinda-sorta didn’t know he had. Evil finds a new target, Brandy, Ash’s daughter, and it’s determined to get to his offspring no matter what. It’ll take some cryptic warnings from Ruby, the reformation of the Ghost Beaters, and a lot of weird supernatural stuff to save everyone from a bigger, badder threat than ever before.
Season three looks like a heck of a ride, doesn’t it?
While still basking in the glow from some of our favorites returning to TV, don’t forget to tune into The CW on Monday, February 26th for the season four premiere of iZombie at 9 PM. Everything’s changed after zombies were revealed to the general public. New Seattle is walled up, but humans still scramble to get inside in order to save themselves from mortality. Zombie life is big business. But as we all know, embracing capitalism with both arms eventually rots society from the inside out. Will it happen quicker in this New Seattle thanks to the ruthless nature of some zombies? Not if Liv and her team can help it.