The huge success of The Walking Dead has brought an onslaught of comic-to-TV adaptations: Arrow, The Flash, Constantine, iZombie, and the upcoming Supergirl, along with Netflix’s new line-up of Marvel-based Daredevil and AKA Jessica Jones, with countless others (like Static Shock) in development.
On March 24, Legendary TV announced it had acquired the rights to Greg Rucka’s Lazarus. The project is in the very early stages of development, as the company still needs to find a network interested in the show, but Rucka said he is determined to hand Lazarus over to someone who will be as faithful as possible with the adaptation. Rucka would be penning the pilot episode himself and sitting in an executive producers chair if the show gets picked up. So what can we expect from Lazarus?
Set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia, Lazarus shows a world where wealthy groups of “Families” own large territories of the wastelands. Since their territories are so big, they need workers to maintain them, which sets the stage for medieval power dynamics and modernized serfdom. On top of that, each family has a Lazarus, a member of the family who is a genetically modified superhuman with extensive training and whose job is to protect the family members, their lands, and of course, their secrets. Each family has access to highly advanced technology, enjoying wealth and privilege in spite of the wasteland of the apocalypse around them, meanwhile everyone else left has to either work the lands for the families to make a living, or steal from them and risk being severely punished by the particular family’s Lazarus. Themes of trust, loyalty, love, and security are all staples in Lazarus, as well as questions like what actions are justified in protecting that which we hold dear?
While Lazarus is gritty sci-fi at its best, the tv market is saturated and it can be difficult for a show like this to stand out among the crowd, as there are numerous gritty sci-fi or well-established, post-apocalyptic shows on almost every other network. So what does it have to offer that other shows don’t?
Well to start, it has a bad-ass heroine in Forever Carlyle, Lazarus for the Carlyle family. She is the peace-keeper for those who live and work the territory, and the military strategist and commander when boots need to hit the ground. Smart, cunning, and highly-trained, she also puts her family first, although that is in her genes...
The themes of loyalty and secrets in shows, particularly among the wealthy, is nothing new for television, but I think Lazarus can bring more to the table because of the potential for the characters themselves. We could get some real Walking Dead-style development in a unique post-apocalyptic world. In The Walking Dead everyone starts from square one; they all go in different directions and part of what makes it interesting is seeing how certain groups thrive while others barely survive in the apocalypse. In Lazarus, the wealthy run the show right off the bat—everyone is not on equal footing—which brings a new take on the apocalypse, showcasing class dynamics and what it takes to facilitate social stability in a world like this.
Both groups of people have their struggles, and exploring what a system like this does to a post-apocalyptic society can add a new perspective not many other sci-fi shows are offering. This provides an opportunity to round-out all potential perspectives: from more broad themes of how removed the wealthy are, to the hardships the poor face, to the technology that helps foster the Lazarus and their overall mission, Lazarus can dig deeper into character development and insight while delving into more interesting themes that The Walking Dead or other shows can’t explore as effectively, such as, can loyalty be genetically created?
Post apocalyptic works are no stranger to tragedy, and Lazarus can offer a fresh angle on this trope. There is a dichotomy of tragedy for each of the groups featured: technology and power brings tragedy in the form of corruption and cognitive dissonance to the rich, while desolate surroundings and desperate means of survival bring fear and tragedy to the poor. There is also another dichotomy of how these characters all interact within the realms of trust that each lifestyle brings. The lower class characters have more of a tight-knit feeling of togetherness, meanwhile, Forever, who is brought up to protect her family, is kept at an emotional distance and may have the most reason of all not to trust those she is protecting.
For this adaptation it would be interesting to see Lazarus go the way of House of Cards or even True Detective, in that it could be a focused and limited series that could potentially draw some bigger stars. On the other hand, it could do really well on a network like AMC with a cast of some unknowns who could shine on the small-screen. Or maybe even go the route of The Following and have a well-known lead with a strong but unknown supporting cast to round it out. Either way it has the potential to become a popular, not-to-miss show. Sticking to the classist themes and opening up the drama within the families is a good start, but to truly shine the show should capitalize on Forever’s quest to discover the truth about herself with twists and turns of corruption at the top, mirroring that with the struggles of those at the bottom.