Black Summer: Season One
April 15, 2019 12:48 PM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

Individuals struggle to survive and reunite in a zombie apocalypse.

I'm only about halfway through this, but I already thought it warranted a post here.

It seems that Black Summer is supposed to be a Z Nation prequel, ('black summer' got referenced a lot on that show), but the stories have very little in common: where Z Nation is a good horror comedy, Black Summer is tense, chaotic and played completely straight. People die a lot, every individual zombie is a huge threat, and the storytelling is deliberately disjointed, hopping from brief named scene to scene to add to the chaos.
posted by mordax (23 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A few parts were great, most were good, some were just ok. The sections from the zombie's point of view were great.
posted by KaizenSoze at 1:55 PM on April 15, 2019

Only two episodes in, but so far I'm pretty impressed. They've already undercut a couple of my assumptions about who the main characters are supposed to be. And I like how, so far, we've never seen anyone try to deal with more than one zombie at a time, and they are indeed individually scary as hell.*

I gather it's supposed to have been six weeks since all this started, and everything has clearly gone to shit. (The lack of explanation does a lot for them here.) And the usual third act theme that other survivors are way more dangerous than the zombies has been up front, in your face, and dialed up to eleven from the get go here in a way that is just as scary as the zombies. I really like the effect of the "disjointed" storytelling, the way different story lines wrap around each other and intersect.

Where Z Nation was a fun guilty pleasure, this is just straight up high-tension stuff that winds you right up and keeps you there. I like it.

*Granted, a lot of that is just because they're fast zombies. The best defense against fast zombies is to just go ahead and shoot yourself in the head now so you don't get turned into another fast zombie that the other survivors will have to deal with.
posted by Naberius at 2:26 PM on April 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

I binged this over the weekend, first because it had been a while since I watched a zombie anything, and then because it was filmed in and around where I live (the most disconcerting bits are in the final episode, where the geography of the scenes jumps between multiple different locations that are a few miles apart in real life. But that's also part of the fun with things like this).

Decent overall; nothing surprising, but it did what it set out to do. Generally good at getting the tension level up and keeping it there. I found the episode in the school the most tense. The episode where they pull off the raid of the depot is kind of ridiculous, as the gang of misfits who couldn't even figure out their way out of a diner past two zombies the episode earlier suddenly have an incredibly well coordinated plan to infiltrate a fortified position and steal weapons from the living (who conveniently do everything as expected). And then, after many episodes that depict how few people there are around and how virtually nobody has been armed, in the last episode we have crowds of people charging about with automatic weapons.

I appreciated the relative lack of dialogue; each segment is focused on action and moving things forward - which maybe helps with moving us past the points where the logic doesn't hold up as well as it could. It begins in the action, and pretty much stays there; we learn about the characters and how what they are experiencing changes them by how they act and react to their situations. It doesn't necessarily avoid gore, but it also doesn't go all in for it either. I also appreciated the fact that one of the characters doesn't really speak English.

Anyways, it was fun - if anyone is reading this wondering about it, if zombies are your thing, this will likely be in your wheelhouse.
posted by nubs at 2:39 PM on April 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

So far so good, just started the 2nd episode. Very well done.

Way to save money on apocalyptic sets by choosing certain neighborhoods (you know where they are, I am not naming names... and I am mostly kidding ...)
posted by jkaczor at 8:41 PM on April 16, 2019

I really enjoyed this. Sure, only on a kind of surface emotional level - there didn't seem to be too many deep messages within - but as a nail-biter, it worked great for me.
posted by bakerybob at 8:58 PM on April 16, 2019

Three episodes in now and, so far at least, it's like this doesn't even need to be a zombie show at all. The zombies are almost irrelevant. It could just as easily be a show in which law and order has broken down for some random reason like a complete economic meltdown, or maybe an entirely different plague that turns living humans into psychopaths driven only by a thirst for pointless cruelty and violence. It's less about zombies than about a very, very dark view of what human nature is like when there aren't cops around to keep our horribleness bottled up.

In fact, the zombies are sort of like cops in a lot of ways. They're out there. You may see one once in a while, typically because he's got someone else pulled over and is ruining their day. You have to watch out for them because they can ruin your day too if they're of a mind to. But they're a long way from being your biggest problem out there.

Also seems kind of odd that people still don't seem to have figured out the whole "you have to shoot them in the head" thing. Especially since when one zombie is finally dispatched offscreen by someone else in this episode, we hear a single shot. So at least they've got zombie killing down. And our guy with the gun knows "it's over" now. So why do they keep wasting precious ammunition spraying zombies with bullets that aren't doing anything?

And forgive this final rant, but this is the first episode in which a character's death came as no surprise whatsoever. Trying not to be too spoily, but if you've seen the episode, you know who I'm talking about. Did that guy even get a name? I don't think so. He just tagged along behind people for a while, accomplishing nothing, randomly looking at unimportant shit. He was clearly just there to be killed. They should have put him in a red shirt.

And in the end, did he even die? I'd think if he was actually killed by... whatever that was, he'd have gone zombie and there would have been some noise on the other side of the door. But he just stepped out of the show entirely, like Richie Cunningham's older brother Chuck, who went upstairs at the end of the second season of Happy Days and just never came back down. Bit of awkward storytelling there.

Still, very fucked up episode of an increasingly fucked up show, which I'm liking a lot. But it's definitely messing with my expectations.
posted by Naberius at 6:30 AM on April 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

I watched it all in a day. My thoughts were that the acting sucked, the characters were bland, the dialogue was terrible, the direction was weak... but the plot was terrific so I kept watching and I enjoyed myself.

The one with the School creeped me the fuck out.
posted by dobbs at 6:51 AM on April 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Gave it the 3 episode treatment, and it took till the end of e03, but I'm in for the rest.

Wasn't a fan of how Kyungsun's language barriers were portrayed.

Fuck children. 'Lord of the Flies' is so true (sans the Anglo-naval gazing humblebrag).

But this is an(other) interesting take on how a bunch of people deal with a known (to the audience) problem in their own naive ways. Can't ask much more from a zombie movie. This is more believable than most.

Aside from the "shoot it in the head." C'mon. Yeahyeahtrainedtofireatcenterofmass. If I wrote a zombie story, I'd have to address whether the fictional manifestation follows consensual fictional properties - and why that might be - and have at least a couple of the characters discuss it in-story.
posted by porpoise at 10:25 PM on April 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

whether the fictional manifestation follows consensual fictional properties - and why that might be - and have at least a couple of the characters discuss it in-story

Yeah, that is one of my biggest complains with zombie fiction (and I read alot, and watch alot) - is that it completely ignores the fact that zombie fiction is popular, and therefor people "in world" would "know" some basics during an outbreak. Fast vs slow. Quick turn vs slow turn. Thinking vs dumb zombie. Bitten/saliva equals infected. Killing them via "head-trauma" vs forever animated body parts that can do things on their own. Airborne/waterborne vs touch/bite infections. Sooo many things to debate "in world".

Heck, the sheer number of books/stories and shows that won't even refer to them as zombies is.... silly...
posted by jkaczor at 6:31 AM on April 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

Well the undead in this show aren't Zombies, correct? It's anyone who dies or gets a vein injury--whether they've been bitten is irrelevant. We see people "turn" in this show from dying in car accidents, getting shot, etc. Far as I can recall there are only two injuries in the show that don't result in turning -- one, the person didn't live long enough to find out if they'd turn -- and two, the guy did live long enough and didn't turn, but his injury was not to a vein.

One thing we haven't seen, which will presumably be in S2, is what happens when a person dies of natural causes. IE, is the show premise that there is no longer death if the brain is intact? If someone dies of old age or a heart attack or something else that does not have internal injuries, do they turn?
posted by dobbs at 8:46 AM on April 18, 2019

It's anyone who dies or gets a vein injury--whether they've been bitten is irrelevant

That's a pretty common trope these days - nothing new about that. I mean, unless trying to go with the very strict "zombie from voodoo legend" definition here?

"Zombies" are a category IMO... They might not even be "undead", but just "bio" infected humans... It's all the same in the end, the real horror is other people.
posted by jkaczor at 9:10 AM on April 18, 2019

The very last scene. Hallucination, or nah?
posted by sacrifix at 9:25 PM on April 18, 2019

These are definitely the scariest zombies I've seen in awhile, and I really enjoyed the one scene we saw from the new-zombie's perspective.

I had to stop watching it for a couple days because it was messing with me enough to make my own life hard. Like, couldn't pee with the door shut, having nightmares because I'm scared of zombies hard.

In that regard, the show did its job. It's been a long long time since zombies got to me that way, and I watch pretty much anything with them in it as a rule.

That said, holy crap did Jamie King look terrible in this. Bravo to the makeup and wardrobe team for making these people look very realistically punted into a traumatic situation, just normal everyday folks and fairly unprepared for what was happening to them.

Yeah the heist ep was stupid, but that one where it was basically Lance vs. the one zombie running/feinting for almost a whole day? WOW. I literally had to jump rope while watching that to avoid twitching and screaming the whole time.

I mean, when's the last time we saw zombies able to turn doorknobs or jump from the top of a school bus in pursuit of a no-longer-visible person? Chase the same human being across multiple blocks/miles/days without getting distracted? Walk into stores where people are hiding that aren't visible/smell-able from the outside? (All these things indicate Black Summer's undead retain some fine-motor skills, intuitive thinking, focus and tracking abilities that typical zombies don't have in addition to just plain being fast.)

Contrast that to shows like The Walking Dead or Z Nation, where standing on a roof, closing a door or smearing guts on yourself is enough to render you safe/invisible from zombie threats.

The plot was good because it literally went in a straight line from A to B, and we got the best possible resolution in a worst-case scenario.

Sacrifix, I too default assumed the last scene was Rose hallucinating, since we'd seen her do that at least once before.

I do think Z Nation's superior because it's funny and satirized current events in the context of zombie genre shows. However, I suspected they were linked because Black Summer's title. Turns out I was wrong about that, there's no connection between the shows whatsoever.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 12:22 PM on April 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

I watched the first episode and liked it. Seeing the same event from different angles and different character viewpoints, but without any deeper symbolism or message is like Dollar Store Rashomon. My elbow is hurting like crazy, I just took some pain meds, and watching this show is just the thing to get me through the day. I'm also relatively near the filming location, so it's fun to see scenes in places my brain recognizes as home territory. I'm going to keep watching.
posted by seasparrow at 2:25 PM on April 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Episode Four. Okay, guess I was completely wrong about that guy.

He's actually my best case scenario in this situation: staying alive through sheer luck. I can totally see myself finding a fire axe and going, all right assholes, payback time, only to screw it up at the last instant.
posted by Naberius at 8:40 PM on April 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ah yes, Beard Boy. The character actually has a name, shown in the first episode, and also the last one-- Lance. The actor had a funny story on what the show runners told him his characterization was to be. Basically, Lance is "very bad at surviving the apocalypse", but stumbles through somehow on sheer luck. He is my least favorite character, although the actor does a really good job of making him seem like a weak and contemptible man-child/hipster helpless idiot.

On the other hand, my favorite character is definitely Poncho-Jacket Man. When he first appeared, after a few minutes I said to my wife, "If the producers have any courage, this character will never utter a single word throughout the entire series." And you know what? I was pleasantly surprised! He does have a name, although you have to go to Wikipedia to find it out, since he never speaks. Of course, his name is Earl.
posted by seasparrow at 9:16 PM on April 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Finally finished this up, and man, this was good. I think my favorite detail was the gun battle in episode 7, full of friendly fire and accidental deaths, just like I'd expect from a street full of good guys with guns. Also, I enjoyed the depiction of civilization breaking down slowly instead of overnight. This was so much more what I wanted out of dramatic/serious zombie fiction than The Walking Dead ever managed.

Sacrifix, I too default assumed the last scene was Rose hallucinating, since we'd seen her do that at least once before.

Same. I really feel like the empty stadium broke Rose, at least temporarily.

Turns out I was wrong about that, there's no connection between the shows whatsoever.

Huh. Good to know. (I personally enjoy each as a good example of what it's trying to do: Z Nation is some brilliant horror comedy, Black Summer fills the bleak and serious niche really well.)
posted by mordax at 11:07 PM on April 20, 2019

Argh - so, I had to stop about 10m into episode 2 and... Now Netflix won't continue it on any of my Roku devices, nor my computer, always times out... Weird, because I can watch other Netflix things with no problems...
posted by jkaczor at 6:36 AM on April 21, 2019

I liked how the episode length varied so much, good to see a show take advantage of the streaming format. Keeps the narrative format loose.

I enjoyed this but hard to see how they can keep it up for a second season, unless they did something really audacious like kill off the last three characters and follow a new set of people. A lot of the charm was not being sure who would survive.
posted by skewed at 7:03 PM on April 22, 2019

>The very last scene. Hallucination, or nah?

I'm erring 'nah'.
My reason being that the daughter seems to be carrying a gun which I don't think is how Rose would hallucinate her daughter.

Though I haven't gone back and checked the scene so the weapon may have been my hallucination.
posted by tomp at 3:13 AM on June 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just binged this series yesterday. Really pleasantly surprised! Did not expect this from a Netflix show I'd never heard of.

So many frustrating things: not shooting in the head, not having weapons in general (even a broomstick will work), not closing doors behind you, wasting ammo, etc.

However, the plotting and story and actors are good enough that I just yelled at my TV and then kept watching. I much prefer those frustrations to the kind we get with the Walking Dead which is also frustrating but wastes soooooo much time with talking about pointless bullshit. None of that in this show and I love it.

I really liked the opening episode where we saw each character from their view. I know most zombies movies/shows do this but I thought the way this one was put together was particularly well done.

My biggest complaint would be how the world went to shit so fast. Like seriously those kids put together their society in only a couple weeks (or a month? do we know?). There are groups with pretty intricate defense/offense systems. It seems like alot for people to get so organized so quickly. But I was happy to go along for the ride with this show. Definitely looking forward to season 2.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:32 AM on September 21, 2020

Trying not to be too spoily, but if you've seen the episode, you know who I'm talking about.

I binged this entire season so I have no idea who you're talking about here. In FanFare, we don't have to worry about being spoily for episodes that have already aired before the post. As this is a full season thread, anything from the first season is fair game. Spoilers are OK here!
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:35 AM on September 21, 2020

This was a kinda fun social collapse show. They really didn't have an explosion budget, huh.

The show seemed a little confused sometimes about what made people zombies. I thought it was being pretty clear that it was the style of thing where just dying at all would make you a zombie, no matter how you died, and that you were probably already infected with whatever made you a zombie, assuming there was anything infectious about it and not just like necromancy.

It's a standard but particularly nasty way, that makes it hard to have any society whatsoever. You can be perfect in your quarantine, but if Bill falls down some stairs and breaks his neck, now there's a zombie in your cordon and you're in trouble.

I refuse to accept "a big enough bloody wound" as a thing that makes you a zombie and take it as a shorthand for non-mechanical mortal wound. Rose's husband just plain died. Carmen died quickly from that shot and turned. Bad teeth truck/diner asshole dude wasn't going to turn from that small wound; Sun tricked them. Doofus boy needlessly killed his savior as a crowning act of stupidity. These all made sense, BUT, characters never really talk about it, like when the troops were talking about the infected and how Hawaii was "shooting down incoming planes".. I don't remember the show doing a necessary reaction shot to demonstrate "these soldiers don't know what they fuck they're talking about and some of the characters understand that".

Re: final shots are a Rose hallucination? I think kind of obviously yes. The daughter having a gun would be Rose's own addition to make it seem plausible, because she's so acclimated to violence now it's kind of a tragic note. Twice in the season she has gone into full support to men who have literally dropped and said they can't go further, but finally at the end she is pushed to just shooting Velez in the head without a thought.
posted by fleacircus at 5:29 AM on December 30, 2020

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