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.

6 thoughts on “Black Summer – Heist Still Feels as Purposeless as its Zombies

  1. I think you’re wrong about Carmen’s motivations. I don’t think she stabbed the guard to cause a distraction. That’s something you’d do as part of a plan and we know that stabbing the guard was NOT part of the group’s plan. It’s something deeper-seeded than that. Carmen seemed angry about the ploy using her and Rose as rape bait (for all she knew Rose was being raped before the lights went out). Strolling through the club only confirmed Carmen’s fears. The musclehead she was dancing with was the perfect symbol of this entitled, ignorant white male rapist eager to discard the facade of decency with the rule of law gone.

    Remember, too, that Carmen only asks about Manny’s death once. She doesn’t even grill Sun for the details, even though she knows Sun was with Manny in that airduct. That tells me she has a guilty conscience and understands her actions led directly to Manny’s death (remember, the group’s plan called for no gunfire at all). When Carmen is turned downtown, that moment almost feels like penance for her, and you can see her accepting it before she dies.

    1. This entire article is awful. The story telling is told in real time. Dude has never played a video game like Dark Souls when you discover the mystery and plot as you go Further.

      The plot is Rose wants to reach Stadium for her daughters the other characters stories are left subtile and vague on purpose so the audience can make their own guess. For example the old man who never speaks a word but leaves with the dog

  2. This episode was the first bump in the road for me for this series. I liked all the stylistic choices (no dialogue, etc.) and I like that the writers didn’t waste time showing too much of the recon and investigating the characters would’ve had to do to pull this off. What I hated was how ludicrious their plan was.

    The problem with this plan is so basic: There are about 20 coincidences that could happen to bring it all crashing down. Not to mention, how did these get such detailed knowledge of this huge place? It’d be one thing if the weapons place was a shack or maybe a single story building or some place the characters could easily figure out where the weapons were. This warehouse place is huge! You can explain away that we didn’t see them, going there before, etc. but it’s a lot to ask to swallow.

    The plan was as far as I can tell was:

    Use Rose as entry fee (camera shows Spears offering her to camera guy)

    Leave Rose (reasonably expecting to be raped, look at her expression once she’s alone), in a room, with a guard who obviously wants to rape her, and later tries to

    And how are the heroes going to stop this? (I assume Rose isn’t sacrificing herself) William is going to turn off the lights…He’s not going to blow up their electrical system beyond repair. No, he’s just gonna to flip a switch–that can be switched back on again once the guys who live there think to check it. How long could William have held out against a group of toughs trying to open that door?

    And poor Rose! Were her friends hoping her rapist would be afraid of the dark? Were they going to time it perfectly so that her attacker didn’t beat her senseless or worse, you know, while assaulting her!? And how was she going to find her out in pitch black to the vent duct out? Because we saw the security at the front door.

    I groaned when the lights went out just as the guard paused to look at dopey Lance looking up from the bed to say “Stooop!” Wow…great timing! How about don’t put Rose in such a ridiculously hopeless & terrible position!

    I immediately thought the plan was to turn one or more of the people into Zombies to cause the chaos that would give them time to escape. I was shocked to see that it wasn’t part of the plan.

    1. Thanks Steph. I really appreciate you taking the time to check out the review and write such a great, detailed comment. Hope you’re doing well.

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