Black Summer (Netflix, 8 episodes)
Season 1 was great and you need to watch it before watching this season. Season 2 is not as good, but I still give it a thumbs up. Black Summer, however, isn’t for everyone; this show is best enjoyed by hardcore zombie fans. If that’s not you, then maybe think twice.
This show is all about raw survival during a zombie apocalypse boiled down to its very essentials. No big speeches, no time wasted delving into the characters, no flash backs to the good ole days, and absolutely no letup for viewers to catch their breath. The story is simply about the constant day-to-day grind of staying alive. The dialogue is ridiculously sparse, but the action is intense, constant, and in your face.
Like a lot of zombie stories, the real monsters are not the undead, but other survivors. I’m getting a little tired of that trope, but it’s done well here.
By the end of the last episode the cast of characters is whittled down to a nicely manageable level. The season ends with some resolution, but the door is left wide open for a Season 3. If there is a Season 3, I’ll definitely watch it.
Home Before Dark (Apple TV+, 10 episodes)
Season 1 was an unexpected pleasure. I’m not sure why I even watched the first episode. The main character, Hilde, is only 9 years old in the first season, so going in I figured this must be targeting a very young, ultra-G rated kid demographic. Too young for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Season 1 grabbed me right off the bat with a murder mystery that kept building, becoming more and more complex and gripping as the season progressed. The fact that young Hilde led the way in solving the mystery and that she is based on a real life young journalist made the series quite compelling.
The first season culminated with a great question: what the heck happened to Richie
Apple TV+ is showing Home Before Dark on a week to week basis, so at the time of this writing, I’ve only seen the first 4 episodes. I figured I would give a preliminary review and then offer a final appraisal next month.
So, how is season 2 shaping up? Kind of boring so far. The compelling mystery that was the key to season 1 is missing to this point. Yes, there are some mysterious environmental shenanigans going on, but it’s all terribly vague and yawn inducing through 4 episodes. Instead, a lot of time is spent on domestic drama—boyfriends, high school, grandpa, and such. And what about the great Richie Fife question hanging over from season 1? MIA. Huh? Ritchie Fife should have been the big hook for this season.
Finally, all the engaging side dramas of season 1 are gone. Last season, we had the strange principal, the marital troubles of Hilde’s parents, the father’s weird back story, the bizarre sheriff who was obviously hiding something. All gone. Nothing really significant so far to take their place.
Of course, a lot can happen in the remaining 6 episodes. I’m sure Ritchie Fife will come back into the story, and probably the environmental mystery will develop and come into better focus. But will the story pick up fast enough to save this series? We’ll see.
My report card 4 episodes in? To put it in nautical terms, this is the Titanic and it’s making a beeline for the iceberg. We’ll see if the creators can turn the ship fast enough to avoid a collision that sends the great ocean liner to the bottom. They better start cranking the wheel fast.