Black Summer – Summer School Gets a Passing Grade

Black Summer’s ongoing narrative continues in Episode 3, which is entitled Summer School. As its title implies, Summer School finds the mysterious Spears along with Rose, Ryan, and Lance, seeking shelter in what appears to be an abandoned school. Of course, this is a dystopian zombie series so you probably assume the school isn’t all that deserted. With three episodes under its belt, can Black Summer distinguish itself from the hoarde of undead movies and television series?

Black Summer Confirms That Kids Kind of Sucks

Summer School leaves Episode 2’s diner characters in detention to focus on Spears and company. The group stumbles upon a school and find a door ajar. Agreeing to stay only so long as the building is abandoned, the group gets some sleep in an empty classroom. But pounding footsteps on the floor above wake the group. When they find a small boy alone in the hallway, the deaf Ryan insists on trying to help the child. But the ‘little rascal’ leads the foursome on a chase through the halls. Soon the group is separated, and a pack of older boys, hiding in the school, set traps for Sears et al.

By the episode’s end, poor Lance is knocked unconscious and left behind. Meanwhile the small boy shoots and kills Ryan, who abruptly ‘turns’ and stalks Sears and Rose. Fortunately, our remaining survivors escape the school. As the episode closes, the small boy sets the same door ajar to lure more unsuspecting survivors.

Black Summer Confusing Random With Poignancy

Another episode, another quick character exit. Unfortunately, Black Summer is confusing randomness with emotional poignancy. Yes, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead have made it clear that no character is ever safe. Yet those shows ensured audiences were invested in those characters. You knew them, you connected with them. Now compare that to what Black Summer has done over three episodes. Neither Barbara nor Ryan were around long enough to care about as characters. That is, Black Summer hasn’t taken the time to invest its cast with any humanity.

Black Summer feels like it’s sacrificing good story-telling or shock value and a stream-lined narrative.

At this point, Black Summer feels like it’s sacrificing good story-telling for shock value and a stream-lined narrative. It’s almost a real-approach to the zombie apocalypse. No flashbacks offering insights into our characters. Just random people running from sanctuary to sanctuary, trying to survive. On one hand, the approach ensures the action is always moving forward. Conversely, audiences may find it hard to care much about what’s actually happening as the series ‘moves forward’.

Black Summer Ensures Its Never Dull

Given we’re only three episodes into Black Summer, it’s still hard to peg the series as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. At this point, I can certainly say that the show is never boring. Like its previous episodes, Summer School compensates for familiarity with decent levels of suspense and fast-moving action. Yes, the zombie series trades on the tired trope of ‘humans as the real monster’. But Black Summer doesn’t slow down enough to allow its more recycled elements to drag things down.

Where zombie fans may become increasingly frustrated is the distinct lack of undead action. Thus far in the series, the undead have barely factored into things. For the most part, each episode has revolved around an often poorly-defined human threat. Summer School’sbad kids’ have already gone full ‘Lord of the Flies’ just several weeks into the apocalypse? The show’s fast-moving zombies kind of just look like people wearing white contact lens.

Summer School Continues Trend of ‘Watchable’ Zombie Fare

By Summer School’s conclusion, audiences will likely resolve to stick around for at least one more episode. There’s nothing inherently ‘bad’ about the Netflix series. Yet nothing about the series has qualified it as ‘bingeworthy’. In spite of its ‘on the ground, real time’ approach, Black Summer’s episode almost feel like stand-alone narratives. In the absence of some over-arching urgency or plot device to drive its story, viewers may drop off faster than the characters.

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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