The Walking Dead brought zombie horror to the mainstream and changed the genre forever. Unfortunately, that means every new zombie production is destined to be compared to it. Enter Black Summer, Netflix's thrilling new Z Nation spinoff. It debuted on the platform on Thursday, April 11, and by the weekend, the verdict was out — sort of. Diehard fans of AMC's iconic comic-based series slammed Netflix's series for its low budget, lackluster heroine, and poor cinematography. Fans of Black Summer praised it for keeping their hearts racing for five hours straight — something The Walking Dead is struggling to accomplish in its ninth season.
In terms of production value, there's no comparison: The Walking Dead's estimated $3.4 million budget guarantees stunning scenes and top notch talent. But after you binge Black Summer Season 1, there's no denying its format is a recipe for excitement.
Black Summer illustrates a zombie outbreak by cycling rapidly through several characters' stories. Just when you get used to main character Rose's (Jaime King) struggle, you're introduced to different people like Spears (Justin Chu Cary), Sun (Christine Lee), and Velez (Sal Velez Jr.), whose lives, personalities, and choices couldn't be more different. As fate has it, everyone eventually meets and works together to make it to their city's stadium where the government is reportedly rescuing survivors. Some characters are killed off early, only for us to realize their purpose was to provide information about another character's story. Naturally, nothing goes as planned, no one is who they say they are, and anarchy is the new world order. It never skips a beat. Between vicious zombie attacks, car chases, and machine gun fire, you barely have time to return a text. Put simply, Black Summer is instant undead gratification; The Walking Dead is a slow burn.
At this point, it would be unfair to label one as "better" than the other — after nine seasons, The Walking Dead has a distinct advantage. But even stubborn fans of TWD have to admit Black Summer is a fun ride and a welcome addition to the genre. It also channels TWD's early days, when the show was still fresh enough that zombies were enough and writers hadn't turned to brutally murdering key characters in order to keep up ratings (yes, that was a bit of shade).
No matter how much you love The Walking Dead, we recommend giving Black Summer a chance.
After all, you can never have too many zombies.
Stream Black Summer on Netflix now.