Follow TV Tropes


Series / Black Summer

Go To

Black Summer is a 2019 prequel to the 2014 Syfy series Z Nation, released on Netflix on April 11, 2019. Unlike the original series, Black Summer takes place during the early days of the Zombie Apocalypse, and rather than following a story arc, it documents the fate of a handful of survivors during a very short period of time, divided up into 8 episodes.

The episodes are divided up into segments, which follow different characters trying to survive in an American suburb just as the zombie apocalypse is taking a turn for the worse, sometimes revisiting the same areas other survivors had previously been in. The main character is Rose, a woman who is searching for her daughter, who was on the last refugee truck that left the neighborhood before the Army tried to lock it down. She joins a group consisting of Spears, a soldier with a dark secret, a mute man named Ryan, and a young survivor named Lance. Other survivors include Sun, a Korean girl who speaks little English, and William, a violent man with anger problems.

A second season was released on June 17th, 2021.

No relation to the 2007 Warren Ellis comic book series.

Compare Fear the Walking Dead, another zombie prequel series set before the events of the main work.

Tropes featured in this series include:

  • Anyone Can Die: Like Z Nation, almost anyone can get knocked off.
  • Air Vent Escape: When the group robs the armory in episode 6, Sun and Manny get in and out using the facility air vents. Manny is killed by some stray gunfire from below when the zombies attack and revives inside the air vent, forcing Sun to flee for her life. She's barely saved in time by Spears.
  • Beware the Living: Downplayed in Season 1 with the army deserters and the teenage survivors in the school, who are serious threats, but the undead are the main concern. After the Time Skip in Season 2, however, it's played much straighter, with different survivor groups now having begun to actively hunt and kill each other over supplies, and eventually passage on the plane that's been doing supply drops.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Rose, Spears, and Sun make it to the stadium, and find Rose's daughter alive and well, having managed to survive due to a pilfered handgun and the protection of another survivor. However, all the other survivors are dead, there's no rescue coming, and only the relative safety of the abandoned safe zone prevents this from being a Bolivian Army Ending. Even worse is that Lance is separated from the others after arriving at the stadium, and flees alone, his fate unknown.
    • Happens again in Season 2: Spears is mercy-killed by Anna, Rose is badly injured and almost certain to die, but Sun manages to get on the plane, and Anna escapes in a car.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Happens back to back in Season 2 Episode 1. A survivor is caught by a zombie that's tangled in a fence outside a house. A gunshot rings out and the zombie's head explodes. The next one goes through the survivor's head.
  • Bury Your Disabled: Ryan is killed by a child who was told to shoot him if he moved. Since he is deaf and his head was covered, he didn't know and moved towards Rose when his bindings were removed.
  • Call-Forward: Carmen and Manny make mention of having witnessed a huge horde of zombies in Arizona. Possibly the same one that the Z Nation cast would eventually drive into the Grand Canyon.
  • Darker and Edgier: Described by the creators as "before the zombie apocalypse got weird and was just scary." It's a pretty apt description, virtually none of the humor of Z Nation is present.
  • Dangerous Deserter: The army unit that was transporting Spears is revealed to have been this by episode 7. According to Spears, they were busy looting and wanted him to lead them to a cache he allegedly knew of. The two surviving members that the group meet in the same episode to attempt to kidnap Spears and continue the search.
    • Officer Ray Nazeri in Season 2.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Barbara is introduced like the other survivors and is part of Sun and William's group, but is killed in a car crash by the second episode. She revives as a zombie and is killed by Spears when they arrive at the diner.
    • Lance in Season 2.
  • Doomed by Canon: While survival isn't completely impossible, it's established in Z Nation that Black Summer was when the majority of humanity died, making the survivors' chances very small.
  • Dwindling Party: An even worse case than the original series, due to the short timespan. Several characters don't even make it past the first episode. Rose, Spears, and Sun are the only ones who make it to the end (Lance isn't shown dying, but is last seen fleeing a large group of zombies, so his chances aren't too good).
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Lance is shown to have survived in the first episode of season 2... where he's promptly killed in a car hijacking, and reanimates as a zombie, eventually killing his murderer as well
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: The survivors fight their way to the stadium, only to find everyone inside either zombified or dead already. Or so it seems at first, as they soon find Anna alive and well, alongside one other adult survivor
  • Friendly Fire: The hundreds of armed survivors arriving at the stadium causes several incidents like this when the zombies attack. Carmen is killed by a stray bullet and turns into a zombie.
  • From Bad to Worse: By season 2, winter has arrived and just about every survivor, including the protagonists, are willing to kill for very minor gain.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: William has an old knee injury that begins to flare up and makes it difficult to run in the later episodes, which is rather problematic in their current situation. It finally becomes impossible for him to even limp right on the threshold of the stadium, and he has them perform a Mercy Kill on him so he won't get eaten alive.
    • In season 2, Spears gets shot in the stomach during a gunfight, and is left behind at Rose's insistence. He manages to survive for quite a while, even reuniting with Rose and Anna at a ski lodge, but Anna figures out he's Secretly Dying, and has kept himself going mainly through willpower, and he's very close to death.
    • In the Season 2 finale, Rose badly injures her leg while blowing up a car, and forces Sun and Anna to leave her behind.
  • Idiot Ball: In episode 4, Kelsey grabs it and runs. He fails to properly secure the building full of supplies he finds, instead wandering aimlessly around it like an underbudget episode of Supermarket Sweep. Then when a zombie shows up, he walks towards it in horror for no reason, and when it notices him, his defense is to feebly throw a can of food at it and run away. In the course of running away, he repeatedly looks away to give the zombie the chance to sneak up on him on top of also giving himself away by making unnecessary noise. Finally, when he has a chance to get the drop on it with a fire axe, he lets out a battle cry that gives himself away and then gets the axe stuck when he tries to swing, leaving himself unarmed and exposed. Yeah, it's the end of the world and he's stressed out, but come on, man.
  • Irony: Sun, who can't speak English and thus has difficulty communicating with other survivors, is one of the smallest and weakest characters in the whole series, and is even pointed out by Phil as someone with poor survival chances ends up being the only one of the original survivors to survive all of season 1 and 2, not counting Anna.
  • Jerkass: Phil, the survivor travelling with Carmen and Manny, who quickly proves himself to be The Social Darwinist and eventually tries to convince William to use Sun as bait for the zombies. The survivors in the diner finally turn on him, beat him to a pulp and throw him out to the zombies.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The child survivors in "Summer School," though the teenagers running the place are worse.
  • Kill and Replace: "Spears" is actually a military prisoner who killed the army private guarding him and stole his uniform and identity. His real name is revealed to be Julian James.
  • Mercy Kill: Done to William in the Season 1 finale.
    • Also to Spears in the penultimate episode of Season 2.
  • Language Barrier: Sun speaks only Korean, with the exception of a few stilted words in English, and has trouble communicating with the other survivors. Luckily, she can understand English perfectly well. In the season 2 finale, it turns out the pilot of the plane is an Asian man who can speak a bit of Korean too, letting Sun talk to someone else properly for the first time in months.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The guy who needlessly kills Lance to take his car (despite his girlfriend's protests as it was unnecessary) barely makes it a hundred yards before he crashes it. Gets his girlfriend killed, steals another car. Drives back in the same direction he came. Crashes another car within spitting distance from where he killed Lance, rendering the entire hijacking pointless, and soon gets eaten by the man he murdered.
  • The Oner: Many of the most intense sequences are filmed this way.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The undead here borrow traits from The Walking Dead, Dawn Of The Dead and 28 Days Later. Everyone has been infected with the virus from the get-go and "turns" upon death from any cause (barring brain trauma), reanimating within seconds of dying into psychotically violent, fast-moving zombies that retain all of the agility and mobility that they had in life, profusely bleed from the eyes, nose, and mouth, and can be killed only by Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain. They also retain enough intelligence to actively navigate past obstacles to get to a target, meaning that locked doors and fences won’t stymie them for long before they find an easier alternate route.
    • What’s even more horrifying is that the time it takes to turn, while already drastically quick, can sometimes be almost instantaneous if they’re very unlucky, with the victim zombifying so fast they don’t even hit the ground first. This is seen with Carmen, who barely has time to register that she caught a bullet in her chest before she throws up blood and devolves into shrieking, snarling undeath on the spot.
  • Safe Zone Hope Spot: Most of the characters are trying to reach the refugee camp at the baseball stadium. Three guesses for how well that turned out.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Earl, the strange, quiet survivor the group first met wandering around whistling outside the high school, turns out to have been looking for his dog this whole time. When the remaining survivors emerge from the tunnels at the end of episode 7, Earl tries whistling again, and sure enough, the dog comes running (and turns out to have been the dog Lance saw in episode 4). He puts a leash on his dog, and walks off without so much as a look back, and that's the last they see of him.
  • Secret Identity: Spears is actually Julius James, or "Little James" as revealed in Season 2, the younger brother of a notorious gangster named Big James.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Successfully killing a zombie is much, MUCH harder here than most standard zombie fiction.
    • To start with, the majority of civilians have no experience with guns, even if they have access to them, and are a bigger threat to themselves than the undead.
    • On the off chance that they DO know how to use guns properly, actually shooting someone in the head is very difficult, especially with the kind of fast, aggressive zombies this setting has, and most people, even experienced soldiers, will panic and try to shoot at easier targets such as the chest, which of course has no effect at all and just wastes ammunition.
      • It is plausible that, at this point in time, people haven't even yet realized that only head-shots are effective in "putting down" zombies.
    • Trying to use melee force to kill a zombie is virtually useless, as the human skull is very hard, and nothing short of outright crushing their head will stop a zombie. Trying to gang up on two lone zombies almost gets all of the diner survivors killed, as none of the random kitchen utensils they're using are anywhere close to heavy enough to do any real damage.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Unlike most zombie fiction, where the undead are only really dangerous in large numbers, here even a single one is a massive threat, as they won't stop chasing their victim for any other reason than being distracted by a new one. They'll smash through doors and windows, cling to vehicles, even climb or jump to reach whoever they're chasing. It's essentially impossible to outrun one on foot, so the only options are killing them or fleeing in a car, otherwise they'll simply keep going until you collapse from exhaustion.
  • Teens Are Monsters: The teenage survivors in "Summer School" who lure survivors into the high school using the younger children as bait, then kill them and steal their weapons. After one of the kids accidentally shoot Ryan, they force Rose and Spears to fight him when he zombifies.
  • Time Skip: Aside from a few segments set shortly after Season 1, Season 2 takes place four months afterwards.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Almost all of the survivors, who constantly screw up while fighting zombies. Somewhat excusable since it's still early in the apocalypse, but still.
  • A Truce While We Gawk: In Season 2 during a gunfight in Episode 1, everyone stops fighting for a couple of seconds to glance up at a plane overheard that's dropping off supplies before the shooting continues.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's never revealed what happened to the only adult survivor at the Stadium, who the main characters find with Anna. He's only seen at a distance as Anna runs out to meet Rose, which is where Season 1 ends. There's no trace of him when Season 2 starts.
  • Zombie Infectee: Rose's husband, who was trying to hide a bite mark from the army, and eventually dies and turns while he and Rose are hiding.
  • Zombie Gait: Very much Averted. The infected suffer no impediment at all to their mobility and agility after turning, making them lightning-fast undead that will continue to pursue a survivor without any loss of stamina until they or their targets are dead. Although many of the cases seen are extremely fresh zombies, having only succumbed to the plague only seconds to minutes before.