Two years after its first season, Black Summer has finally returned for a follow up. Apparently, critics and audiences were more impressed with Season 1 than me. And early appraisals of Season 2 are overwhelmingly positive. On one hand, Black Summer delivered a frantic – almost ‘slice-of-life’ vision – of a zombie apocalypse in its early days. Of course, the Netflix series’ creative decisions also meant little story and poorly defined characters. Despite its title, the Black Summer looks like its moving the undead horror to more wintry settings. Will it deliver more of the same or will the series begin to offer some story and character?
Luke and Sophie
At once, The Cold doubles down on Black Summer’s biggest strengths and weaknesses. We immediately join one of Season 1’s survivors, Lance, as he desperately siphons gas while a zombie rushes towards him. But Lance doesn’t get far before he stops and, after a moment’s hesitation, lets a lone woman into the car. It’s an act of kindness that Lance won’t live to regret. Within seconds, Sophie’s (not that we’re told her name), friend, Luke, hiding by the side, shoots and kills poor Lance. Unfortunately, Luke doesn’t go for the head and almost immediately a re-animated Lance is chasing him through the streets. Good bye, Lance. You’ll be missed.
Four Months Later and Ambush
Four months later and Black Summer changes seasons and setting to fit its episode title, The Cold. First, an unnamed survivor runs through the snow toward a fortified house. He almost makes it. Someone from the house shoots a chasing zombie. Too bad they also opt to shoot the survivor. Things then cut to a wild gunfight between two groups of survivors in a snow-covered forest. When the smoke clears, one groups retreats while the other questions a man tied to a tree about a house and those air-dropped supplies. However, before he can give a location, he succumbs to his wounds and re-animates.
So our next segment flashes back to the moments just before our forest gunfight. The Cold introduces us to one of the groups who appear to be of the villainous nature. They’re also keenly interested in finding the same fortified house and supplies. Also, they have two prisoners tied to trees and one of those prisoner is Season 1’s Sun. Fortunately, Sun fares better to Lance, surviving the gunfight before her captors sweep her away on a snowmobile. By the segment’s end, the snowmobile crashes over a hill, leaving Sun’s fate unknown.
Rose assures Freddy that the victims deserved it for ‘screwing up’.
Back outside our fortified house in the snow, we find another survivor, Freddy, quickly gathering firewood as a zombie closes in. After a few seconds of pleading to be let inside, the door finally opens re-introducing us to Season 1’s Rose and her daughter, Anna. Apparently, Rose had adapted quite well to the zombie apocalypse. Reluctant to let Freddy stay, she grills him hard before relenting on the condition that he dispose of several bodies in the house. Rose assures Freddy that the victims deserved it for ‘screwing up’. And the segment closes with Rose hearing screams outside and shooting both a zombie and that same unknown survivor from the ‘Four Months Later’ scene.
Ditched and Lemons
In The Cold’s final segment, Black Summer flashes back to our opening time period. Except this time we’re reacquainted with another Season 1 survivor – Spears. Cleary, some time as passed since Season 1’s conclusion, Stadium, as Spears has grown his hair out. And he’s nursing what looks like a gun wound. But there’s no time for questions. No sooner than we see Spears again and the scene immediately takes us back to opening shooter, Luke. Injured from a car crash, Luke – a former soldier as it turns out – tries to find shelter but other survivors turn him away. Though his luck seems to turn when he finds another car and gun, our re-animated Lance suddenly crashes through the car window. And that’s the end of Episode 1.
Black Summer’s Season 2 Opener, The Cold,
Over its 45 minutes, The Cold jumps back and forth in time between a snowy setting set four months in the future and what appears to be a time period closer to Season 1’s conclusion. Based on this first episode, Black Summer looks to double down on its strengths and weaknesses. And returning director John Hyams knows how to deliver frenetic zombie action. In fact, The Cold offers some of the most riveting, crisply edited zombie scenes on television. The opening chase drops audiences into a zombie-infested world, while the ‘Ambush’ disorients to replicate a sense of panic. Even The Cold’s quiet scene between Rose and new survivor Freddy is supremely tense. Yet Black Summer continues to put action and style ahead of characters and story. We meet new characters who go unnamed and die minutes later. Little context is given for all its action.