Why Black Summer should be your next box set
Chris Bryant | On 01, Aug 2021
With the six-month gap between The Walking Dead’s anthology-style episodes concluding Season 10 and the premiere of the final season this month, fans of drama with a bite to it might be looking for their next blood-soaked fix, but is Netflix’s Black Summer up to the task? A tonally-shifted spin-off from SyFy’s satirical Z Nation, Black Summer charts the chaotic plunge into the apocalypse, following a small group as they sprint for safety.
Created by John Hyams and Abram Cox (both having worked on Z Nation), Black Summer’s second season hit Netflix at the end of June, and fans of The Walking Dead may be glad to hear Z Nation’s tongue-in-cheek style is abandoned entirely: Black Summer is all teeth. Condensed into two eight-episode seasons (with episodes ranging from 20 minutes to 60), Black Summer is pure, horrifying chaos. There are no witty threats, charismatic villain-of-the-week or stylish melee weapons – the zombies are fast, animalistic and relentless, and your options are limited to fight or flight.
Focused primarily on Rose (a note-perfect Jaime King) as she searches for her daughter, the characters are painted in the style of a found-footage piece, or video game cinematic; with little backstory or little personal information, the focus for the characters, and the show, is survival at any cost. Supported by Justin Chu Cary as a less-than-trustworthy military officer and Christine Lee (who shines as a single woman with barely a word of English), Black Summer’s core cast do an incredible job creating a relationship with the audience amidst total anarchy.
Quite simply, it’s one of the best-written shows Netflix has to offer. Totally devoid of exposition, and often devoid of dialogue, the audience is taken on a zombie apocalypse ride that may well cross into “too real”. Artfully blended with shaky camerawork and graphic practical effects, the viewer can’t help but feel unsettled; the empathy for the characters isn’t cultivated or designed through conversations and backstory, it’s instinctive, and visceral. Black Summer has taken an eye-rollingly oversaturated genre, and infected it with pure adrenaline.
While AMC’s The Walking Dead may be the most famous comparison, 28 Days Later might be a more fitting cohort, or moments of Game of Thrones’ famed ‘battle episodes’. The difference is Black Summer has the feel of a show undiluted by production companies hoping to make it easy to swallow – it’s a brave, gritty, exhausting series that is as close to pure, unpredictable art as zombie shows get.
For those looking to sate their appetite until The Walking Dead returns, Black Summer might be considered biting off more than you can chew – but it will only leave you ravenous for Season 3 of Netflix’s unsung hero of zombie mayhem.
Black Summer is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.