Why You Should Watch Black Summer on Netflix

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Shooting at the charging zombie is easier said than done, since most characters (even with the aid of scopes), are trying to hit a fast-moving target. If the zombie reaches someone and they’re left with no other choice but to club them, it’s going to take more than one or two hits to put the zombie down; these are human beings, and human beings are tough to stop because skulls don’t magically stop protecting the brain from blunt force trauma at the moment of reanimation. 

One zombie against one person isn’t a cakewalk; multiple zombies against one person tend to be a death sentence. These zombies don’t get bored and walk away from a feast; they batter defenses until they break through. These zombies do not limply slap at a piece of window glass, they smash through with full-throated fury, and they tend to be smart enough to work around obstacles in pursuit of their meal. Fireworks and thrown rocks don’t distract them; only another meal coming within earshot or a hiding place gives someone a hope of escape. If zombies or bullets take someone down, they don’t take their sweet time getting back up. A person goes from shot to zombie within their last heartbeat, so any gun battle or Mexican standoff has a tendency to get messy in a hurry.

No Plot Armor Necessary

The Walking Dead has given certain characters plot armor, ensuring they survive any number of difficult situations until the actor’s contract negotiations fall through or their arc is neatly resolved. Black Summer epitomizes drive-in movie critic/horror host Joe Bob Briggs’ main rule for a good drive-in movie: Anybody can die at any moment. 

Throughout Black Summer, characters are built up as being survivors that will stick around for the long term only for them to be killed off. Other characters who seem destined for the scrap heap inexplicably survive, popping back up later or in different episodes. That unpredictability means that there is no chance for the viewer to take a breath, even when it seems like the characters themselves are able to slow down. Reuniting with an old friend from the before times is less a fun walk down memory lane and more like a tense feeling out process. A hot shower is less a soothing experience for a battered body and more of a moment of achingly painful vulnerability. Even a good night’s sleep only serves to emphasize just how bone-weary and vulnerable characters are. 

The only character that’s safe, seemingly, is Rose (played by the brilliant Jaime King). With every close escape and betrayal she experiences, the character’s psyche only seems to grow more fragile. A respite from the outside world only heightens her paranoia and anxiety. Her safety isn’t due to plot armor, but due to her willingness to do anything necessary to survive, an attitude that only grows throughout Black Summer’s 16 episodes. She’s like a Terminator, with only one mission, and unlike Rick Grimes, all that high-minded stuff about building a new world never enters into her through process. Rose cares only about Anna (Zoe Marlett). Everything—and everyone—else does not matter. Friend or foe, Anna is Rose’s sole focus to the point of obsession.

The Directing of John Hyams

The material itself is nothing novel. It’s all stuff that’s been done before in various iterations; zombies are hard to have a fresh take on. However, where Black Summer excels is in the way it packages and presents these scenarios. It’s not your average zombie show shot with commercial breaks in mind. This is something designed from the ground up for streaming and binge watching, with a compulsive, theatrical energy that pulls the viewer into the story.

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