Black Summer Brings New Life to Zombie Apocalypse TV

It’s Holy Week weekend and I’m searching for a TV series to binge watch on Netflix. I’m about ready to start watching the first season of The OA, when I notice Netflix recommending me a new zombie series–probably because I recently watched and absolutely loved the first season of Kingdom. A quick Google search for Black Summer leads me to the article: Stephen King Raves About New Netflix Series “Black Summer.”

The master of horror fiction and one of my favorite authors says this TV show is amazing? Hell yeah, I’m watching Black Summer!

Synopsis from Netflix:

Set in the dark, early days of a zombie apocalypse, Black Summer stars Jaime King as Rose, a mother torn from her daughter who embarks upon a harrowing journey to find her. Thrust alongside a small group of American refugees, these complete strangers must find the strength they need to fight their way back to loved ones. But in order for Rose and her team to brave this hostile new world, they will need to make brutal decisions to contend with zombies – and each other. 

My Black Summer Review:

Black Summer‘s is the best zombie apocalypse TV series debut I’ve watched since the first season of The Walking Dead, and yet the two are quite different. Black Summer has a very small town setting compared to the Walking Dead‘s massive scope. The new show feels very intimate and in your face, shaky camera shots and all.

Black Summer is very action driven and grounded in the present. It focuses on the plight of its refugee characters, all headed for a stadium where survivors are being evacuated to. The show has a Game of Thrones vibe to it in a sense that no character is sacred. Anyone can die at any time. What’s different is that the viewer knows little more about the characters than the characters know about each other. Having zero flashbacks helps in this regard.

Every episode of the series is divided into several chapters, each with its own name. This serves as a breaks in between the fast paced story lines or action sequences (usually running sequences) and when shifting from one point-of-view to another. They even have chapters following the POV of protagonists turned zombies.

Despite the focus on action and the lack of backstory elements, Black Summer does tell engaging stories, the main one being a mother searching for her daughter. Where it excels is telling stories of tension, not from waves of zombies coming at you, but from being chased by a single zombie or being hunted by fellow humans. The fireman’s axe scene is golden.

One of my favorites in the series is episode 3, Summer School. Four of the protagonists take refuge in a seemingly abandoned school, when they realize they’re not alone. There is a kid in the school. Lead protagonist Rose wants to do the right thing. She wants to look for the boy and take him with them. What follows is a lesson for those who choose to follow their hearts rather than their heads.

I also loved episode 8, The Stadium. The season finale is only 20 minutes long. It’s twenty minutes of utter bullet hell chaos, and it’s absolutely brilliant!

Imagine the surviving refugees nearing the stadium. But to get there, they have to pass through the downtown area, where there is a much higher population of people and hence, many more zombies. It’s alright though because the group is armed to the teeth with guns.

Then, they see other refugees. Many more refugees, all armed with guns as well. You can imagine, every one of these groups starring in their own spin-off series. Everyone with their own stories of death, love and survival. But to the zombies, all they are is fresh meat.

So the zombies are coming in from every angle. All the groups of refugees are firing away like they’ve got unlimited ammo, instead of focusing on head shots. Refugees are firing behind other refugees, to save them from surprise attacks. Friendly fire ensues, so newly killed refugees are transforming into zombies. Everyone starts running and shooting. Chaos. Then the army sends planes to drop bombs and control the new outbreak. They hit humans and zombies alike. More chaos! Will anyone make it to the stadium alive?

Be warned, my favorite episodes are also the two lowest rated ones on IMDb. But if you want to watch an action packed zombie show that focuses on the meat of the story instead of the drama surrounding it, I very much recommend Black Summer.

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