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Z Nation: Season 1 - DVD Review

Title: Z Nation: Season 1


HTS Overall Score:70

Zombies seem to be the “In” thing the last few years. We’ve had them coming at us left and right with the new “Resident Evil” films, plus the wild popularity of “The Walking Dead”. Vampires seem to be losing traction lately, while Zombies run amuck, but I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re going to see a resurgence in Werewolves once the Zombie trend has run its course once more. SyFy has been desperately trying to find a show that can take the top place that “Battlestar Galactica” held for so long, and has been running through the full gambit of shows in effort to do so. “Z Nation” is the latest in that list, running off of the popularity of “The Walking Dead”, almost blatantly copying it at times, from the look and dress, down to the same storylines seen on AMC’s frontrunner. The results are a bit choppy, as there is plenty of bad “SyFy” cheese, but there is also some good old fashioned zombie fun to the show.

Once again a crazy virus has wreaked havoc on the earth, laying waste to the populace leaving nothing but fragments of humanity and a whole TON of zombies in the aftermath. 3 years AZ (get it, After Zombie) and humanity just might have a chance after all. One human was given an experimental drug during the evacuation of a military facility and it just looks like the drug has made him immune to the effects of the zombie virus. After running into a rag tag group of national guard members, this “patient zero” (Keith Allan) is on his way to California where a lab can run some tests and get the mutated antibodies in his bloodstream in an effort to create a cure for the rest of humanity.

Teaming up Warren (Kellita Smith), Garnett (Tom Everett Scott), Doc (Russell Hodgkinson) and the obligatory hot girl, Cassandra (Pisay Pao), Patient Zero and heads out to hopefully save the world. Guided by Citizen Z, a goofy NSA agent who’s locked up north in an isolated and abandoned base with a billion dollars’ worth of tech (played by D.J. Quall) the group has to fend off zombies, crazed team members, greed, jealousy, mistrust and a fair amount of humans as well in order to fulfill the mission.

I like a lot of the SyFy original shows. “Stargate” and its spawn were fantastic, “Battlestar” was phenomenal and there are still a lot of good ones on the channel, including “Defiance”, the soon to be cancelled “Continuum” and “Lost Girl,”, but there is still a lot of drek on the channel as well. Thanfully “Z Nation” isn’t drek, but it isn’t any of the above mentioned shows either. It hovers right in the middle with just plain mediocre. It’s obviously taking all of its cues from “The Walking Dead”, just without the writing to back it up. The actors themselves actually do a solid job with the clunky script, but slogging through that much poor dialog just is hard work, even for the actors. Murphy and Citizen Z do a great job as the show’s front runners, even though D.J. Qualls role is a bit too comedy centric for a gritty zombie show. He feels out of place as an NSA coms agent, and still looks so skinny that thinking of him even IN the military is almost laughable. Still, his goofy charisma makes the character work after a while, and the other actors start getting in the groove as the show progresses.

It’s not rocket science, but it seems that good zombie TV really DOES take a lot of work. The low budget rendition of “The Walking Dead” has its moments, but those moments aren’t as often as I would have liked. The first few episodes are really hard to slog through, but as the show progresses the actors find their groove and the show starts to pick up steam. It may never take off like a rocket like we would want, but that train does move at a much faster pace than it did the first few hours.

Episode Rundown

Puppies and Kittens
Fracking Zombies
Philly Feast
Full Metal Zombie
Home Sweet Zombie
Resurrection Z
Welcome to the Fu-bar
Die Zombie Die....Again
Going Nuclear
Sisters of Mercy
Murphy's Law
Doctor of the Dead


Not Rated by the MPAA

“Z Nation” is a rather rough looking show in comparison to many other of its ilk. The image is rather noisy and looks like it was shot using a lot of hand held cameras in an effort to maintain a gritty texture to the show. Colors are desaturated and lean towards a bleak and greening looking color palette, with a few shades of blues, browns and burnished reds coming through at times. Detail is decent, but not great, as the show looks more than a bit soft for the majority of the time and some intermittent video noise sparkles across the screen. The black levels are very solid, though, with a decent amount of shadow detail showing through the gritty looking image. I noticed some macroblocking and some haloing around the edges of words and things like trucks etc. Noticeable, but not overbearing. Even though it’s a tad rough looking, it looks like all but the artifacting and haloing are intentional, so I can’t fault the encode too much, as it’s more than capable most of the time. .

The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is the best part of the series, as it does a very good job with the creepy action oriented show. The surrounds are more than active as the zombie’s flood the battle ground and gunshots and clubs sound thematically accurate most of the time. The show is still very dialog driven, though, and the voices come through loud and clear. I didn’t notice once where the vocals and the blasting rock songs, or the gunshots were at odds with each other, and the creepy ambience slips through everything and gives the 6 channels a workout. LFE is solid and impressive, giving a lot of weight to the blows and bullets, as well as filling out the heavy rock tracks that pulsate throughout the show.

• Gag Reel
• Preparing the ZN Virus: Z Nation Concept and Development
• Race for the Cure: The Making of Z Nation Season 1
• Making of a Znado and More: Behind the Visual Effects
• Creating the Gore: A Look into the World of Synapse FX
• Music of the Apocalypse: Making of the Z Nation Score
• Z Kill Reel


I have mixed feelings about “Z Nation”. It has some fun moments, but it also has more than its share of cheesy storytelling and forced acting, despite the best efforts of Keith Allan. Maybe if “The Walking Dead” wasn’t such a powerhouse right now it would fare better, but the blatant comparisons to the show may not sit well with diehard fans of the AMC walkers. The audio and video do a solid job for the low budget that the SyFy channel gives, and the real fun comes in the form of the extras, which really stand out for a TV show. I’d definitely give it a rental if you’re a fan of blood, guts and the undead, but it most likely won’t be a day one blind buy.

Additional Information:

Starring: Kellita Smith, D.J. Qualls, Keith Allan
Created by: Carl Engler, Karl Schaefer
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 MPEG2
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Studio: Universal
Rated: Unrated
Runtime: 556 Minutes
Own it on DVD February 10th, 2015

Buy Z Nation: Season 1 On DVD at Amazon

Recommendation: Rental

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