Amazon’s foray into zombies, S.O.Z. Soldados o Zombies, struggles to find its footing as prestigious, dramatic television, existing as a campy, fun, ridiculous collision of killer pigs, wacky scientists, Mexican cartels, and the United States military.
This review of Amazon’s S.O.Z. Soldados o Zombies season 1 does not contain spoilers.
Amazon’s S.O.Z. Soldados o Zombies, premiering with an eight-episode first season, lives up to its title, literally. It’s a show about soldiers and/or zombies, one of which is on the screen in each of the majority of the half-hour episodes. The series from creators Nicolas Entel and Miguel Tejada-Flores attempts to combine several popular cultural entities: zombies, drug lords, and the U.S. military.
At times, it’s Narcos-lite. For moments at a time, shades of The Walking Dead and other undead series and movies shine through, though S.O.Z. doesn’t seem concerned with emulating other pieces of media. Stapled together with a slapdash script and absurd acting, the series works best when its creators and its audiences aren’t taking this story too seriously. Instead, every one can simply have fun watching killer pigs attack people near the Mexican border.
Set in the New Mexico desert, S.O.Z. Soldados o Zombies conjures up the perfect storm of violent groups of people. An escaped prisoner, Alonso Marroquín (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), and his cartel business partners, the aforementioned killer pigs along with their annoying scientist, the United States military, a rogue journalist, Lilia Acal Prado (Fátima Molina), and a DEA agent with another convict, who happens to be the brother of Marroquín, all descend upon this small stretch of land. Some of these folks want to interview Marroquín, others want to kill him, while a large number of folks just want to recover the mutated, zombie-like pigs who have begun turning those attempting to cross the border into an army.
If that sounds overcomplicated, it is, as Entel and Tejada-Flores struggle to push all of these narratives forward with any amount of depth, instead alternating between bunches of people huddled in hotel rooms, jail cells, and a drug lord oasis aptly named “Paradise.” None of these characters get satisfying backstories or even chewy scenes to expand their own pasts, though Peris-Mencheta and his charisma as the centerpiece of this story keep you partially engaged. The rest of your engagement comes from the sheer insanity of S.O.Z., which alternates between pure camp and bigger budget effects, juxtaposing helicopter crashes with nonsensical dialogue.
As a piece of entertainment, the Amazon series, which ends on an obvious cliffhanger, contains value, whether it’s making you laugh despite its lack of comedy or making you cheer for this Pablo-Escobar-esque cartel leader who just wants to bond with his son. As a piece of dramatic, successful television, the answer becomes a bit murkier, for each round of analysis likely downgrades your overall perception of the prestige-nature of the show. S.O.Z. Soldados o Zombies isn’t The Walking Dead or Narcos or any other high-quality TV show that fan bases have become rabid for over the last decade. Nor is it trying to be.
S.O.Z. provides a healthy dose of bloody carnage, along with a central greyness pushed into each of its characters, with everyone from mobsters to reporters to special agents to scientists having both light and dark sides to them. No one escapes the throughline of evil that permeates all of S.O.Z.’s world, minute as it may be. Without the necessary time and space to explore the grey areas of morality that fill the decision-making of these people, especially with the constant threat of zombies, the series leans too heavily on action towards the end of its initial season. With a bit more time on screen and care in the writers’ room, season two could have a different result, if Entel and Tejada-Flores are given the opportunity to expand this story.
Though most of the B plots get sidelined, such as Marroquín’s relationship to his estranged son or the blatant physical and sexual assaults occurring to Lilia, the only woman with any real stab of a history, Amazon’s zombie show has enough guts, appeal (sourced from Peris-Mencheta and Molina), and campiness to be an enjoyable-enough ride in the desert.
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