Black Summer premiere recap: Introducing the survivors

Black Summer - Pictured: Jaime King as Rose - Photo Courtesy of Netflix Media Center
Black Summer - Pictured: Jaime King as Rose - Photo Courtesy of Netflix Media Center /
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Netflix’s new series, a prequel to Syfy’s Z Nation titled Black Summer, kicks off with a crazy hour that introduces us to the main survivors.

Black Summer doesn’t waste much time with exposition or plot explanation. It drops the audience right into the maelstrom of the burgeoning zombie apocalypse. As a prequel to the popular Syfy series, Z Nation, fans of the parent show will likely be somewhat used to this world but if Netflix wants the show to be successful, it will have to grab new fans (like me) who haven’t watched Z Nation.

The opening hour doesn’t offer much in way of answering questions, but we live in an era where we’ve seen enough zombie-themed horror films and TV shows to catch on and follow along fast. Black Summer establishes itself early on as a character-driven show.

Episode 1 is broken up into a series of segments, each one introducing someone who will become one of the main survivors of the first season.

Rose

Jaime King stars as Rose, a mother desperate to be reunited with her daughter after they’re separated during the harrowing opening moments. She and her husband struggle to catch up with their daughter as she boards a military bus set to go towards a checkpoint of some kind.

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Before they can board, they’re stopped by the armed guards who find Rose’s husband acting funny. He’s seriously wounded and this sends everyone into a frenzy.

The truck drives off before Rose or her husband get on and instead they’re separated from their kid and forced to go on the run. They take cover in a nearby home while planes circle overhead, seemingly dropping bombs (though it’s a little fuzzy) on areas full of infected people.

As one might predict from the moment you saw Rose’s husband with a wound, he turns not long after and Rose is forced on the run. She gets cornered by her former spouse and rescued by a man named Spears.

Spears

Arrested by guards and brought into an abandoned house, we learn Spears is not the army member he appeared to be in Rose’s segment. He’s not wearing the outfit he was wearing when he shot her husband. Instead, he’s a smart-mouthed suspect who outwits the man keeping watch over him and kills him.

We catch a glimpse of the fallen soldier’s name-tag: Spears. That means the Spears we’ll come to know isn’t really named Spears at all and instead took the identity of a soldier. What could that mean moving forward?

Barbara

In a short scene, we see a woman named Barbara driving a minivan and trying to get out of the neighborhood. She is stopped by a man masquerading as a kindred spirit who begs for a ride but when Barbara allows him to get in the car he immediately turns on her.

He forces her out of the vehicle. Then another guy attacks the new driver and beats him in the street. Barbara climbs into the back of her van.

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Ryan, Lance, and Kyungson

It’s easier to group these three together because their stories are all inter-connected despite being presented out of order. A young woman is hit by a car and abandoned by her boyfriend on the street. She lays there, bleeding out, when Ryan approaches and attempts to assist her before being pulled away by a terrified Kyungson. There is a possibility Ryan isn’t aware of his circumstances or the fact that this woman is about to turn.

Turn she does and suddenly we follow her as a zombie, sprinting through the streets after a new victim (yes, these zombies sprint). She finds a victim in a group of males on someone’s yard and Lance abandons his friend to her as he runs off in the other direction.

The Checkpoint

Our group of stragglers come together at a checkpoint where they’re trying to get past a group of armed guards and a mesh-link fence to no avail. Eventually, the mob of people overwhelms the guard and knocks the fence down, allowing them to spill over.

Rose and Spears have stayed together since meeting up, as have Ryan and Kyungson. Lance trails after in the background and we don’t see Barbara again yet, though the survivors do bypass her van where the driver who tried to take it from her is seen still being beaten on the road.

For the most part, the premiere episode of Black Summer is chaotic. We don’t learn anything about where these survivors are headed towards or where the zombies came from but as this is a Netflix series, they have the luxury of taking risks like this. If we had to wait a week for another episode, it might be hard to stay interested enough to tune in again but because we can immediately press play on the next episode it a presents an exciting opening chapter.

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I imagine we’ll learn much more about these characters and their journeys moving forward. Despite not telling us much about the actual plot, the first episode does succeed in getting all these characters in the same place and establishing a terrifying, fast-paced story that I’m keep to follow.

The entire first season of Black Summer is now available to stream on Netflix.