Black Summer – Heist Still Feels as Purposeless as its Zombies

Black Summer’s sixth episode, Heist, takes a similar approach as fourth chapter, Alone. That is, Heist is dialogue-light entry that focuses on suspense and constant momentum. On the hand, it’s an episode that never slows down and features its best zombie moment. Unfortunately, the episode also continues Black Summer’s narrative mess.

Black Summer Gets the Gang Together For a Heist

Black Summer’s Heist mixes things up by breaking up its story from different characters’ perspectives. Our remaining survivors show up at the outpost that Manny and Carmen described in Diner. Across from the outpost, two solider watch them from a rooftop. Sears, William, and Sun hide while Manny and Carmen use Rose to barter with the doorman to get inside. Our burly doorman takes Rose to another room where, surprise, Lance is imprisoned. Meanwhile Manny and Carmen secretly let in Sears et al, and our ‘Heist’ is off and running.

Our survivors break into groups in what I’ll assume is a plan to steal weapons.

Our survivors break into groups in what I’ll assume is a plan to steal weapons. First, Rose, our decoy, distracts the doorman who nearly rapes her. Somehow Lance saves her, and the two escape. In another part of the outpost, William and Carmen disable the building’s electricity. To cause a distraction, Carmen stabs a guard on a dance floor (yes, a dance floor), re-animating him. For some reason, Manny and Sun crawl through an airduct, but stray bullets kill Manny. Now a re-animated Manny chases Sun through the abrupt system before Spears rescues her. It all ends with the outpost in chaos as new zombies tear through the halls.

Heist Continues Series’ Plotless Momentum

Heist works, and it doesn’t work. Like Alone, Heist is best enjoyed as 30 to 40 minutes of action and suspense. No superfluous plot or character work. In fact, there’s barely any dialogue in the episode. Certainly, there’s no expository dialogue slowing things down. Stuff happens for reasons to which you’re left to infer. Director Abram Cox always keeps things moving at a brisk pace. There’s lots of shadows, pulsating dance music, and foreboding circumstances. It helps that Cox now has multiple characters to jump back and forth between.

In addition, Heist delivers what may be the series’ best zombie moment. You just know that when two characters end up in an airduct system, it can’t end well. And no, Heist won’t win points for originality. Nevertheless, a re-animated Manny stalking Sun through the airduct finally allows Black Summer to fully realize its undead potential. Unfortunately, it’s one step forward, two steps back.

Black Summer Still Shuffles Aimlessly Like Old School Zombies

At this point, I’m going to hold off on some of my bigger philosophical problems with the series. Where Black Summer continues to struggle is in its aimless storytelling. Even in what’s a fairly suspenseful episode, story-telling hurts Heist. How did Lance end up in the ‘Outpost’? Carmen mentioned an outpost with weapons in the last episode. But I don’t recall anyone discussing a plan to steal the weapons. Why are Manny and Sun in an airduct? Are the survivors still trying to get to that milarty evacuation point in the stadium? Manny dies, but we barely knew his character.

Even in what’s a fairly suspenseful episode, story-telling hurts Heist.

Even as Heist gets some of its zombie action right, it still feels like it’s missing the target. Trapping your characters in a dark building with dozens of new zombies presents a ripe opportunity for mayhem and/or carnage. Yet Heist delivers on neither of those fronts. Too much of the action is obscured by dark lighting. Black Summer can’t have its cake and eat it, too. If it wants small-scale zombie action, it shouldn’t itself up to deliver more elaborate set-pieces.

Netflix Zombie Series Needs To Start Telling a Story

Black Summer fans may argue that the Netflix series means to unfold as a ‘real time’ survival drama. And I would agree. But that doesn’t mean the zombie series can ignore basic rules of story-telling. I’m not interested in watch six to eight hours of people doing ‘stuff’ to survive in some abstract sense. To engage audiences beyond a mere 20 minutes or so of suspense, Black Summer needs to start telling a story about characters who feel like real people that we know and with whom we can identify. Heist is just another 40 minutes of things happening.

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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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