Syfy’s latest zombie outing is based on George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead and focuses on a small town called Mawinhaken in which the dead begin to rise.
I am generally a big fan of apocalyptic TV shows, especially ones with a focus on characters and their dynamics with each other. On paper, this should be a pretty good show for me but poor writing and inconsistent acting hold this show back from a great premise.
The episode starts with a flashforward with Cam and Luke running from zombies before being saved by Paula and encountering Cam’s dad as a zombie. The show then goes back to the beginning of the day, showing the characters settling into their various narratives as they go about their morning entirely unaware that the dead are about to start rising and cause havoc. There’s some drama between Cam and his cop dad, stemming from the event of his mother’s death. Cam is getting restless in town, dreaming of going to a college very far away and not looking back. It’s no surprise really. Aside from an acquaintanceship with Lauren, the mortician’s assistant, he doesn’t really seem to have anything going for him in town, especially seeing as his ex-best friend Luke appears to have a massive problem with him.
Luke is heading off to a party with his friend while his mother, town mayor Paula Bowman, is caught up in the elections that will be happening, hoping that she’ll end up on top and retain her position as mayor. I can’t stand her. She treats her husband Trey terribly – probably why he’s having an affair with Nicole – and she seems to be some kind of poorly executed satire on American politics. For his part, Trey is so dumbed down for comic relief that it feels like he’s on a different show to everybody else.
In fact they both do and it’s indicative of a larger problem the show has where it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. You have coming-of-age teen drama with Cam and Luke, some kind of bad political satire with Paula and Trey, mystery without the thrill with the Cleargenix fracking operation and then just some regular small town drama with Jai and Amy, who is one of the main characters and simply appears as a photo on Jai’s phone. It’s probably for the best seeing how the episode has so many other half-cooked storylines, introducing her properly would have just weakened the episode more.
A couple of storylines have some potential. The Cleargenix mystery/conspiracy and the dead body in the hole is going to be the main driving force of the plot but it’s off to a fairly boring and uninteresting start though Sarah has some potential as a character. The man in charge of the operation is definitely on my hitlist of characters I want to see murdered by zombies along with Paula and Shawn, the obnoxious friend of Amy helping with the wedding preparations.
Towards the end, we get our first encounters with zombies as Cam and Lauren find themselves and a host of funeral-goers barricaded in the morgue with an army of zombies closing in while the rest of the town is so far oblivious to the threat. They’ve also barricaded themselves in with dead people who are trapped in the trays (is that what they’re called?). Morgues are not great places to find yourself at in a zombie outbreak.
It’s not the strongest start to a show I’ve ever seen, with most of the characters simply going through the motions. Lauren is the biggest standout of the hour bringing some spark and energy into the show as she deals with a sleazy boss and murders the man-turned-zombie they’d been preparing for a funeral right in front of his friends and family who were all understandably a little shocked at the sudden turn of events. The juxtaposition with her being chased by a zombie and screaming while everyone’s waiting upstairs and listening is kind of funny, I’ll give the show that. She gets bitten by the zombie as well which is classically a bad sign in this genre.
As far as the mysteries in the show go, I’m vaguely invested in what went wrong between Cam and Luke but Cleargenix is going to have to do something drastic to snag my interest. At the moment, Day of the Dead is in danger of not standing out from other zombie shows of its ilk. I’ll try not to bring up Z Nation every week, but that show had a pretty terrifying zombie baby in its pilot and they killed off someone we all thought was going to be a main character. Day of the Dead just hasn’t got the balls at the moment. It’s all pretty standard fare – substandard fare – and it is at this stage very forgettable.
The Hitlist: Lauren’s sleazy boss got absolutely mauled by a zombie. I cheered very loudly. One down, several to go.
Tune in next week for the second episode and sound off in the comments below about what you thought of the episode. Are you going to continue watching?