It’s been years, at least four, since AMC’s The Walking Dead was any good. The fad that zombie fiction once was has died off after Hollywood capitalized off of movies like Zombieland and World War Z came out. The niche genre became the height of television only to decline sharply after its peak. When Netflix dropped Black Summer, it intrigued my high school aged interest in zombie fiction. The pilot season of Black Summer exceeded my expectations, providing a more thrilling experience than the average TWD season. Such is the quality of Black Summer that I would compare it to the show that achieved apex status on television as a whole.
The quality of Black Summer is a drop from TWD. It’s a lower budget production with a shaky camera especially in the first episode. The shooting is extremely choppy between the different character groups. With that said, Netflix strives for horror, whereas AMC stove for drama. That is the distinct difference. Taking place on the onset of a zombie apocalypse, Black Summer descends into a constant string of slipping stability, as the various characters coalesce and move towards a singular location, their promise of refuge.
The lives of the characters we meet are little known, and this allows the viewer to relate to the characters and want them to succeed even when one of the characters, in particular, clearly has a shady backstory. Yet in this ambiguity, we watch them navigate the freefalling veil of civility. Nothing a person is on the outside is any indicator to how they will behave. The kids are far from helpless. The soldiers fail their duty. The impostor is the hero. The weak is capable and the strong is not. Black Summer tears down our expectations for who is likeliest to survive in the zombie apocalypses.
The zombies in this are unique and essential to the horror. It’s hard to see how a slow zombie could overrun a country, but this is a fast zombie and seemingly indestructible. By death or bite, a person will turn. And when they turn, they run. Thus, this zombie show is a horror/thriller and not a drama. They waste no time slowing down the plot under the guise of “character development.” A character could be gone at any moment. Thus, the viewer is in a constant state of instability. There is no season three finale where the heroes confront the villains and nobody dies, and the villain survives for another half season. And there is no dreaded mid-season finale because it’s Netflix.
Zombie fiction is undead again! Black Summer delivers thrilling instability in response to The Walking Dead becoming a soap opera.