Z Nation: Season One (All Episodes)
March 8, 2016 1:33 PM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

It's that other zombie show.

It ditches The Walking Dead's pretense of being a "quality" show and leans into the genre side. Zombie baby? Check. Spiked baseball bat? You betcha. Cannibal cults? Obviously.
posted by DirtyOldTown (35 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
This show has been recommended many times in the comments for The Walking Dead and I'm just now getting around to it.

What's interesting about it, to me, is how in giving up the ghost of even pretending to be a Serious Prestigious Cable Drama, they've managed to both clean up their storytelling (no extended digressions on apocalypse philosophy held up with wobbly plots) and lower their expectations enough that the things that do stick out as cheesy aren't as jarring.

No, they really don't have the same quality of acting or cinematography. And yes, the writers probably do spend more time thinking of awesome zombie stuff to do than ruminating on what it means to live while the world is dying. But by aiming lower, they hit their target most of the time. I kinda like this so far.

Pity they killed Harold Perrineau, even if his character was no great creation.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:38 PM on March 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


ZOMBIES CRUSHED BY THE LIBERTY BELL, YOU GUYS.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:47 PM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I unashamedly love this show so much.
posted by detachd at 1:57 PM on March 8, 2016


I think there are some nice and unique touches in this series. For example, really the only religion left is showing the living and the dead mercy in equal measure, when their time comes. The one time we see organized religion addressed in the show's universe, it's clear that people of faith are the bad guys. I can't stress enough how much I appreciate a humanist tone in what is ostensibly marketed as a horror/post-apocalyptic future, because society only exists because we choose it to.

And as much gore as we see in Z Nation, there's also a hefty amount of humor and women are virtually never shoehorned into the "damsel in distress" trope (I especially enjoyed the group of sister wives living on their own after the husband had passed, and the glimpse at Amish survivors). Because really, haven't we all wondered who'd be best equipped to ride it out? All the usual suspects/places get touched on: people in bunkers, religious zealots, the CDC and NSA, military bases, etc.

Plus, the group TRAVELS and we get to see different parts of America! I also love that the show's writers and producers interact with fans on Reddit and seriously consider the audience's requests/criticisms about the show. I'm glad they disposed with any pretense at serious drama fairly early on, as it's a welcome difference in perspective from most other dystopian/horror shows (see: American Horror Story, The Walking Dead).

Even so, I totally cried when Garnett bit it midseason (heh).

It's probably one of my favorite shows on TV now, and I am very much looking forward to Season 3. Favorite characters: Warren, Doc and 10K, though I also have a soft spot for Cassandra.

Let's face it, though, Murphy is the real breakout star of the show.

Welcome to the fandom, DirtyOldTown! *pages Mordax to the thread*
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:58 PM on March 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


*pages Mordax to the thread*

*high fives*

I love this show. I wasn't expecting to, and I indeed gave it a pass when I first heard about it, only to come back around the middle of S1. At that point, I was completely hooked.

Stuff I love about it:
* Z Nation is a hopeful show. It's not just that their mission is to 'save the human race' via Murphy's blood, but it's also because humanity is clearly muddling along even without their mission. As Unicorn on the cob mentions, we see lots of different organizational structures for small communities. Some are good, some are bad, most are nutty as fruitcake, but the basic premise is that humanity will band together for the common good. I find this much easier to stomach than The Walking Dead's central premise that civilization itself is somehow a bad idea. I also enjoy the variety, both because it keeps stuff from being same-y, and because it reminds me of early American history when people tried all sorts of crazy colonies.

* Z Nation is inclusive. There's good gender balance, their toughest character in the long term is a woman, (Warren is tougher than Carol - there, I've said it). Creepy sexists happen, but are portrayed as creepy. There are spots in the show's run where women outnumber men, and nobody thinks it's weird.

* Z Nation commits to being funny. While I compare it to The Walking Dead a lot because they're the competing long form zombie narratives on TV, I feel like it's more akin to Zombieland. It's an unabashed horror comedy that delights in being over the top. I can only name one episode in S1 that I actively hated, as compared to whole seasons of TWD. (Addie's recurring nightmare was boring and stupid, but hey, they can't all be winners.)

* Z Nation's plot induced stupidity is backed by good characterization with Murphy. He's Gilligan done right: he screws things up for everybody a lot because he's venal, shortsighted and petty, and they created the perfect unassailable reason to include him in the group. As MacGuffins/Loads go, Murphy is a stroke of genius. He is also legitimately funny in his own right, and he gets more complicated over time. By S2, he's one of my favorites too. Contrast this to TWD's Rick, who is constantly shilled, where the only argument is when - not if - he's become irredeemable.

* As a Minecraft player, I appreciated how deadly a baby zombie proved to be in the pilot.

I sort of mark this as a turning point for the Asylum, where they somehow crossed over into making something actually good despite themselves.
posted by mordax at 2:35 PM on March 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


I keep meaning to watch this, especially as people I know occasionally do guest turns as zombies. But, it has to be said to be fair to The Walking Dead:

"extended digressions on apocalypse philosophy" are totally, totally appropriate to the source material.
posted by Naberius at 7:11 PM on March 8, 2016


"extended digressions on apocalypse philosophy" are totally, totally appropriate to the source material.

Oh for sure. I wasn't trying to indict TWD for being ambitious. I'm only pointing out that a show like Z Nation that doesn't share the same ambitions can arguably be more successful on its own terms.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:35 PM on March 8, 2016


Basically, Z Nation is terrific at being a middling show, which genre fans may find satisfying in a different way than TWD which is wobbly at best in its attempts to be a great show.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:42 PM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Electrified chain link fence? I love these people.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:57 PM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


This show is so gloriously ridiculous. I was about to say "gloriously stupid", but that's not true. The great thing about it is that it's never outright stupid. People don't do stupid things for drama, they do stupid things because their character would do those stupid things. It's amazing what a post-apocalyptic zombie show can be when it's not saddled with the need to provide a vehicle for libertarian polemic.

Still can't believe it's an Asylum show sometimes. Jeeze. Those guys really got their act together for this one.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:04 PM on March 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


The only episode I've ever seen all the way through is the one where the Russian keeps asking DB Qualls what is wrong with dog?, but I liked that so much I keep meaning to go back and see the whole run. It's a rare thing when you can watch a random episode of a serial show totally out of continuity and immediately get into the characters and care about what's going on. The bits I've seen of other episodes have impressed me too.

SyFy does seem to be trying to make not crap now, and that's taking some getting used to.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:28 AM on March 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


One more thing that makes Z Nation great: we do get to see the world just before and after Z Day by the end of S1 (it's explored a bit more in S2, in that we get to see some characters' very entertaining backstories), and I really hate the way that was handled in Fear the Walking Dead.

Even if it's not explained in a linear fashion or explicitly shown on-screen, dismissing the origin of a zombie plague to focus on survivors' interpersonal dynamics above all else devalues some of the more fascinating aspects of a crisis that leads to immediate, global breakdown.

Z Nation doesn't assume that every survivor encountered is a threat to the group's mission, and recurring secondary characters (even if they're just added for comic relief) are what I'd expect from a series that wasn't zombie-centric, so in many ways, the storytelling transcends the genre.

I'm definitely not the only one viewing it as a comedy -- plus, the show's gaining a ton of celebrity cameos as it progresses, which proves it's intelligent enough to appeal to writers like George R. R. Martin and funny enough to draw guest stars like Anthony Michael Hall and Missi Pyle.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:16 AM on March 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


SyFy does seem to be trying to make not crap now, and that's taking some getting used to.

Agreed. (On a related note, I still can't get over how not-Syfy The Expanse was.)

Even if it's not explained in a linear fashion or explicitly shown on-screen, dismissing the origin of a zombie plague to focus on survivors' interpersonal dynamics above all else devalues some of the more fascinating aspects of a crisis that leads to immediate, global breakdown.

Yeah. I think Z Nation strikes a good balance there - skipping around a bit allows them to offer some insight to who everybody was before, while still jumping into the action immediately. It's not serious about the whole thing at all, but even things like the custom of granting mercy speak to someone giving two seconds of thought to world building.

I think TWD/FTWD does such a poor job of it mostly due to the hefty libertarian wankery that goes on there. They *want* to go from 'largely stable global civilization' to 'everyone would cut your throat for a can of beans,' but there's no clear path from A to B because it's ahistorical and nonsensical. It's not as obvious in TWD S1 due to the framing device - you can sort of mentally fill in the blanks from the generic zombie movie that Rick slept through and skip straight to 'wow, I hate Lori/Shane/Korl/[everyone].'

It sticks out really badly when they actually *try* in FTWD though. Instead of making everybody look like survivors forced into a difficult place, (which arguably works in TWD S1), they just make the protagonists seem monstrous, and have to elide over all the interesting details because the closer anybody looks, the less sense the scenario makes. (Why these neighborhoods? Why are they just in their unfortified *houses*? What's happening outside? How is nobody watching with binoculars? How does no one have a police scanner? How is their position not approached by refugees seeking shelter?)

... man, I want Z Nation back now.
posted by mordax at 9:24 AM on March 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


we do get to see the world just before and after Z Day by the end of S1 (it's explored a bit more in S2, in that we get to see some characters' very entertaining backstories), and I really hate the way that was handled in Fear the Walking Dead

I think I'm the only person on the entire internet who likes FTWD, but I absolutely share this complaint about it. When your premise is that you're showing the slow downfall of society, having almost all of that downfall take place off-screen between two episodes is a massive waste of opportunity. (At this point, I mostly just like the characters and the slower pace. And I'm worried that season 2 will toss the pacing out the window in exchange for just turning into TWD: West Coast.)

I wish I remembered more of the specific details about Z Nation season one, so I'd have more to discuss other than just saying how much I was surprised to like it. (The Addy/Mack dream sequence shit was really boring, though.)

The only episode I've ever seen all the way through is the one where the Russian keeps asking DB Qualls what is wrong with dog?

Easily the best episode of the first season, if not the series.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:46 AM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I really enjoyed the Russian/DB Qualls ep too, but "Welcome to the Fu-Bar," "Going Nuclear" and "Doctor of the Dead" were my favorite episodes.

The dream sequence ep seems to be universally hated, and I personally couldn't handle "Philly Feast." Cannibalism is one of those things I just don't need to see, ever, especially if it involves any kind of torture. I've probably watched every ep 5-6 times now, and that one I skip always.

I actually DON'T hate FtWD as a series, just the way they moved the key downfall scenes off-screen -- so I kind of agree with you, tobascodagama. Possibly the web series was handled even more poorly, since they're spoon-feeding us 47 seconds at a time spread out over a freaking year (it feels literally like more than a year has passed since the plane subplot began).

Hoping there's another thread for S2 -- maybe we can actually get an episode-by-episode discussion going for Season 3, yeah?
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:08 AM on March 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think I'm the only person on the entire internet who likes FTWD

For what it's worth, I sympathize. While I'm obviously not in your camp this time around, I remember how it felt to be one of the, like, five people who genuinely liked Stargate: Universe. Heh.

At this point, I mostly just like the characters and the slower pace.

Ahhh. I wondered what you saw in it, actually, but that makes some sense. I actually like the Strand/MacHighver connection, and Salazar is a far more believable 'hard man' than anybody on TWD except Daryl. Most of my ill-will comes comes from the time skip, and the way that it seems to be drawing on the execrable philosophy of the parent show.

Still, there's time for them to turn it around. Here's hoping FTWD turns out better than the current trajectory suggests. (After all, ST:VOY and ST:DS9 are set in the same universe. Technically.)

Hoping there's another thread for S2 -- maybe we can actually get an episode-by-episode discussion going for Season 3, yeah?

Count me in, haha.
posted by mordax at 11:11 AM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Most of my ill-will comes comes from the time skip, and the way that it seems to be drawing on the execrable philosophy of the parent show.

"Civilisation is always trying to fuck you over" plays very differently when the only white person in your regular cast is a woman, which is a huge part of why I can stomach FTWD but TWD is leaving me extremely cold.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:47 AM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


IMO: baby zombies are a kind of horror-crescendo within the genre - something to be employed with care. That said, I think that ZN played a polarizing hand by throwing out a zombie baby in episode one. A feisty zombie baby, too. It almost turned me off the show completely.

Good: ZN has definitely brought some fresh ideas and concepts to the genre and I agree that it seems to excel where TWD and FtWD often stumble.

Bad: compared to TWD and FtWD, the quality of acting on ZN is bad.

If TWD's cast swapped with ZN's cast, ZN might be a show I tell people about rather than being a show I'm kinda embarrassed that I enjoyed.
posted by alrightokay at 1:07 PM on March 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Another thing I like about Z Nation. Unlike The Walking Dead, people actually farm and forage and trade as a matter of course, instead of just talking about farming and trading.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:10 PM on March 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I love the science-fiction easter eggs, myself.
posted by Mogur at 4:29 PM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Civilisation is always trying to fuck you over" plays very differently when the only white person in your regular cast is a woman, which is a huge part of why I can stomach FTWD but TWD is leaving me extremely cold.

Yeah. I hadn't really thought about that, but it's also a good point.

If TWD's cast swapped with ZN's cast, ZN might be a show I tell people about rather than being a show I'm kinda embarrassed that I enjoyed.

Hehe. Now, I kinda want to see a Photoshop of that. Let's see... maybe we could swap:

Warren <> Michonne
Addie <> Maggie
Doc <> Dale
10K <> Glenn
Cassandra <> Rosita
Citizen Z <> T-Dog
Murphy <> Merle
Mack <> Daryl
Garnett <> Rick

Hmm... I would indeed contribute toward a Kickstarter for a pilot of each swapped show.
posted by mordax at 5:57 PM on March 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Garnett <> Rick

Which is funny, because the way my partner convinced me to start watching was her telling me, "They killed off their Rick like six episodes in."
posted by tobascodagama at 7:11 PM on March 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Just got to the Addy's dreams/Groundhog Day episode. This one did not work for me.

It feels like they decided to let a few of the writers in the room go nuts conceptually. The person(s) who wrote the "What is wrong with dog?" episode nailed it. This one... uh, not so much. I see what they were going for, but it's just not drawing me in. Maybe it's because I'm less invested in Addy and her bf. Or maybe the directing just doesn't pull it off.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:18 PM on March 9, 2016


Lucky for you the rest of the season pretty much picks up steam without any filler and knocks it completely out of the park by the last ep, IMO.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:48 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd actually say that 10K is more analogous to Carl and Citizen Z to Glenn, but otherwise I will happily donate to Mordax's z-swap Kickstarter!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 4:01 PM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd actually say that 10K is more analogous to Carl and Citizen Z to Glenn, but otherwise I will happily donate to Mordax's z-swap Kickstarter!

Hmm... I could totally see that. I mostly just wanted to give poor T-Dog something to do. Also: I think DJ Qualls would sound hilarious going, "Aw, hell naw!"
posted by mordax at 10:21 PM on March 10, 2016


T-Dog you may be gone, but not forgotten.

Really glad Z Nation is less cavalier about offing major characters -- except for one-and-done Harold Perrineau, every credited character death is significant and tangibly affects the cast.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:19 AM on March 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm starting to appreciate the humor in the characters occasionally acknowledging the premise.

"Damn apocalypse!"

"Do NOT sneak up on people in the zombie apocalypse."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:39 PM on March 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I love love love Murphy's powers. Reminds me of Monster Island by David Wellington. Which is fun, if you haven't read it.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:49 PM on March 11, 2016


I dunno guys. I watched the first episode tonight because I saw it mentioned in the Walking Dead threads. Did they honestly have to kill the intelligent, competent, charismatic black guy after 20 minutes? Meh. I know TWD isn't great to it's black male characters, but it's not this bad. I think this will be the last episode of Z Nation that I watch.
posted by great_radio at 9:22 PM on October 28, 2016


I suspect they were going for the same thing LOST originally planned to do with Jack Shepard: cast a star, set him up as a hero and then stun the audience by killing him off, so we're left feeling like nobody's safe. Given this show's budget, I really doubt they could have afforded Harold Perrineau as a regular anyhow!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:06 AM on October 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Great_radio, you'll miss out on a ton of other fantastic PoC actors in leadership roles further on if you do insta-quit after one eposide. I'd say the first ep is the least characteristic one out of the entire series, by far.

I agree that the premiere felt rather hackneyed with its "main character" death, but luckily, Z Nation's got lots of plucky humor, addresses actual survivorship issues as well as WTF moments (as in, what happens when you cross Z Day with things like Colonial Williamsburg? How about a nuclear power plant with irradiated zombies, how would you stop it from melting down? Would Native Americans living on reservations be any safer than people in cities? Amish folk? Mormon sister-wives?????) etc.

However, I tend to skip re-watching a few episodes from S1 myself when marathons are on, so I hear ya. I couldn't deal with S1, E3 or S1, E9 again... and 9 is like, my husband's favorite episode of the series, probably.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 6:42 PM on November 1, 2016


I'm late to the game on this show... I came home from work to find my SO watching the dream sequence episode and tuned it out after five minutes, but then eventually this gloriously cheesy nuclear power plant episode came on, with absolutely ludicrous "radiation zombie" effects including obvious dummies having their faces caved in and an irradiated zombie's head exploding in a shower of glowing green Nickelodeon slime AND ROBBIE THE LASER ROOMBA, and I was hooked. We're just starting season two now and the jump in quality has been noticeable, like The Asylum realized how to harness this inexplicably good thing they stumbled into. This is great.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:02 PM on March 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oh, man, that stupid dream episode is definitely the low point of the show, if not all of television. Glad you made it out the other side.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:19 AM on March 22, 2017


I came to this show following the career of a random guest on The X Files, and decided to give it a try after initially giving it a hard pass.

Just started watching; it's charming, enjoyable, and often hilarious.

But I absolutely have to hard unplug my brain. Foremost, you wouldn't need the vaccinated person. You just need the ID of the vaccine, and you simply synthesize more of that candidate at your other facility(s).

And they don't even bother trying to harvest serum from the dude.
posted by porpoise at 3:20 PM on August 17, 2020


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