WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for Netflix's Black Summer.
When it was first announced as a prequel series to Syfy's Z Nation, the dramatic vibe of Black Summer instantly had fans wondering if it would be Netflix's response to The Walking Dead.
While this eight-episode series does paint a much more high-octane ride than AMC's zombie apocalypse, Black Summer proceeds to rip off a major part of the world we've seen traversed by Rick Grimes and company in the worst way possible, literally lifting the big twist about the zombie infection wholesale in a move that comes off as unapologetically unoriginal.
Now, zombie shows are likely to have a lot in common as writers and directors map out the end of days at the hands -- or mouths -- of the undead. We can see character traits, location settings and overall tone being threads a lot of these stories share. After all, there'll always be human conflict, betrayals and, of course, survival of the fittest. But what makes these shows stand out is how they approach the concept of the zombies and, more so, the nature of the infection and the specifics of its spread.
In Black Summer, we find out everyone alive in an unnamed American suburb is already infected. It doesn't matter if you're bitten. Once you die, you turn into a raging, rabid zombie operating at breakneck speeds, as seen in World War Z, 28 Days Later, Curfew and Dawn of the Dead. This is a carbon copy of the big moment at the end of Season 1 of Walking Dead, which revealed everyone who was alive had the virus in their bloodstream, giving them all an internal ticking clock.
We saw this when Rick and Carl confronted Shane early on, and the latter turned without being bitten. This was confirmed at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta via a series of blood tests. While Black Summer doesn't explicitly state this fact with scientific lab tests, we figure it out by witnessing a barrage of main characters becoming zombies, such as Barbara (Gwynyth Walsh) devolving after getting killed in a car crash, Manny (Edsson Morales) turning after dying in an air duct and his girlfriend, Carmen (Erika Hau), going undead after a stray bullet kills her.
Honestly, it's pretty weak to rip the idea like this, especially when fans were waiting with bated breath for the prognosis and some sort of differentiated angle. What's even more shocking is how Black Summer doesn't even disguise or repurpose this piece of narrative theft. Worse yet, it comes pretty early on in the series, leaving you with a bad aftertaste. Sadly, it's all style over substance because this direction is simply undertaken in order to build to a massive shootout in the Season 1 finale, where a hail of gunfire leads to collateral damage and zombies instantaneously springing up amid the spent bullet casings, rising to overtake the town for good.
When Netflix aired the recent series Kingdom, we saw a zombie virus infecting mankind due to a mystical flower utilized in a disastrous medical application. Here, though, it's simply transposing an idea -- one from the most popular zombie TV show of all time -- and using it to make Black Summer seem interesting and groundbreaking. However, it falls flat as a mere rinse-and-repeat story. Hopefully, if we ever get the origin story for the infection, it'll be enough to wash this stain away, because as it stands, Black Summer's big twist lacks any sort of bite.
Starring Jamie King, Justin Chu Cary, Kelsey Flower, Gwynyth Walsh, Christine Lee, Mustafa Alabssi, Erika Hau, Sal Velez Jr. and Edsson Morales, Black Summer is now streaming its debut season on Netflix.