BLACK SUMMER (Netflix) is a terrific zombie series, brushing aside its low budget with constant tension, culling terror from even a single relentless zombie, interesting characters and set pieces, and a full range of genuine human reactions. Season 2 delivers the same winning formula as the first season, while amping up the conflict to be more human versus human and finding an almost Old West pathos to its grim story. At the same time, it sacrifices an important human element in its bleak depiction of survival, which was unfortunate.
Rose reunited with her daughter at the end of the first season, which saw the major characters either scattered, dead, or having made it to the stadium. Season 2 seemed to promise a story of how this tribe struggles and survives in a zombie-infested world similar to other shows like TWD and Z NATION, but this isn’t them. In this world, food becomes scarce, there’s a massive die off, our tribe is separated into virtually every man or woman for themselves, and various bands of people struggle in the northern wilderness, where the cold freezes many of the zombies.
An interesting antagonist is introduced, a cop who now leads a hardened band of survivalist-type warriors. He’s an intriguing character, a ruthless badass and a fitting antagonist for Rose, though the show doesn’t set up any real antagonism other than their paths cross searching for the same goal, which is unfortunate. If the show had them have a real run in, setting up personal stakes, their antagonism would have meant far more, and it would have been a better, less fragmented story. The camera often lingers on faces and landscapes, giving the whole thing an Old West feel not unlike THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY, though again wasting its chance at pathos by not tying the primary characters together more strongly.
Mostly, the story centers around various groups and individuals converging on a house that is a point of communication with a supply plane and supposed sanctuary, and then a race for the plane itself. In the midst of this, Rose will do anything to ensure her daughter survives, though her daughter, so accustomed to danger, may not be able to function in any place that seems safe. Unfortunately, Rose is often so ruthless, sometimes for no practical purpose, it makes you wonder who the villain is. It’s the same with most of the show–there’s so little trust, so natural an inclination to hurt and kill, that it seems to go beyond survival into a commentary about the natural brutality of humanity, brutality for its own sake. Which is unnecessarily bleak, as one of the things I liked about the first season was how people will form tribes and try to work together in the face of adversity.
Overall, despite its flaws and missed opportunities, I liked it a lot. Kinda loved it, actually. I hope it gets a third season.