Follow TV Tropes

Following

Series / Daybreak (2019)

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/daybreak2019.png
Advertisement:

Daybreak is a 2019 teen horror-comedy-drama Netflix original series created by Brad Peyton and Aron Eli Coleite, (very loosely) based on the graphic novel of the same name.

Set After the End in Glendale, CA, where a nuclear war and biological warfare have rendered the region a Teenage Wasteland. The series centers on 17-year-old high school student Josh Wheeler searching for his missing girlfriend Sam in the wasteland. He is joined by Angelica, a pyromaniac 10-year-old girl and former Jerk Jock turned pacifist samurai Wesley. Along the way they have to contend with the Ghoulies, mutants and various factions who have embraced post-apocalypse stereotypes.

There's a companion podcast set in the same universe titled The Only Podcast Left that follows a different cast that comments on the events of the main series while giving worldbuilding insight for the universe of the series.

Advertisement:

The series was cancelled on December 16th, 2019 after one season.

No relation to the 2006 sci-fi crime series.


Daybreak includes examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Before the apocalypse, Jaden Hoyles was despised by absolutely everybody in the school, due to him abusing the knowledge that Burr took a bribe to do whatever he wanted. Even the other jocks couldn't stand him.
  • The Ace: It turns out that Josh's Canadian upbringing made him a fantastic survivor in the apocalypse, as he's able to be generally be self-sufficient when he needs to be. He's also more charismatic than he realized, making him a natural leader. And he was briefly a child actor, and still remembers ASL from learning it for one song.
  • Action Girl: Most of the female cast is pretty good, actually, with three of the four people to finally confront Burr being women. Specific examples:
    • Ms Crumble, Angelica, and KJ are the biggest examples among the Daybreakers, though in different ways. Angelica is smart and good with fire and explosives, but she's only 10 so she often needs back-up, KJ gets less showcasing for her combat abilities but she can match Josh in all his useful skills, and of course Crumble is a monster.
    • Advertisement:
    • Sam proves a capable survivor herself, and holds her own against Burr quite ably.
    • The Cheermazons are an entire Tribe of this, having intentionally modeled themselves after the Amazons of mythology (or more likely, off of Wonder Woman).
    • Mona Lisa is a Dark Action Girl, being the toughest Jock besides Turbo himself, and being the only one unafraid of talking smack to his face.
  • Adam Westing: Zig-Zagged. The Wu-Tang Clan's RZA provides narration in "Homecoming Redux or My So Called Stunt Double Life," but is intended to be the inner narration Wesley has. He is explicitly meant to be the voice of RZA, however, as Wesley apparently always wanted to have RZA narrate his life.
  • Adults Are Useless:
    • Post-apocalypse: All adults still alive by the time of the series are either Ghoulies or Baron Triumph. Though Ms. Crumble, while insane, is an exception to this trope.
    • Pre-apocalypse: Very few characters had adult figures in their lives who were actually useful, either due to neglect (Josh's parents, Angelica's parents, Turbo's parents), bad parenting (Hoyles' parents), or general incompetence and mismanagement (Burr). Crumble has a great deal of angst about her inability to help her students, while Burr blamed the teenagers for his inability to properly mentor and support them, resulting in his Face–Heel Turn. And this is without getting into the fact it was explicitly adults who let the world fall apart in the first place (something the kids are aware of and call out).
  • Aerith and Bob: Character names range from Josh, Angelica, and Eli to Turbo and Samaira (which is Sam's full name), as well as all the Jadens (which vary on spelling). Somewhat Justified, by this being a middle-class white suburban town in Southern California, where there's plenty of parents who think giving their children creative names is original.
  • Affably Evil:
    • Principal Burr qualifies as this post-apocalypse. He speaks calmly and politely even after becoming a feared cannibal warlord.
    • Turbo also has vibes of this in the episode focusing on him.
  • After the End: The series is set after a nuclear holocaust.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Turbo has issues regulating his emotions, has trouble spelling even simple words like "duel" (and "fuck", if his unused cards are any indication) but knows everything about his area of interest, and is hyper-sensitive to the barest implication he might be "stupid", which suggests some form of learning disability or other issue. (The way words like "loser" fill the screen around him also seem like intrusive thoughts.)
  • Ambiguously Human:
    • Burr seems to be human, despite his cannibalistic tendencies, but his craving for human flesh is reminiscent of the Horror Hunger experienced by Ghoulies, there is something moving under his skin after he is imprisoned and a clawed arm emerges from his chest as he dies in the finale, which raises the question of if he might be some kind of advanced Ghoulie.
    • Ms. Crumble, while a Ghoulie, seems physically human, but is capable of unhinging her jaw and reaching into her stomach as well as consuming solid objects with no ill effects, while her skin is covered in growths and she has something moving under her skin. In the final episode, she survives a missile launch that would have incinerated a normal human. Based on this, it's not clear whether she is biologically even human anymore.
  • Apocalypse Anarchy: Glendale, CA is like this now.
  • Apocalypse Cult: Burr ultimately forms one after taking over Turbo's tribe and deciding to destroy Glendale to make room for a new world.
  • Apocalypse How: Not totally clear where on the scale this one falls. In one episode, the Game Overs mention playing Overwatch online with people around the world, which indicates what remains of Glendale is not the last bastion of humanity, but they do not say if the other players' countries are intact or in a similar state. In theory, it could be a Class 0 where the very least the majority of Southern California was destroyed but has been quarantined, a Class 1 planetary societal disruption with only the direct participants in the war fully collapsing or a Class 2 scenario where the whole world is in the same disastrous state.
  • The Apunkalypse: Contains a lot of the tropes associated with this. The band of ex-Jerk Jocks led by Turbo in particular embodies this trope.
  • Armor Is Useless: Baron Trimuph's armor is scary and functional. One of his arm guards takes an arrow without much penetration and his chest armor blunts the impact of an axe, though it still gets through enough to leave a decent wound. It helps that Triumph, being a Ghoulie, can survive wounds that would kill a human.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • Turbo's Wall of Text intended speech, among other things, both calls out the supposed traitor who shot him and demands that the jocks do a better job of cleaning up after themselves.
    • When Angelica and Crumble go to the Cheermazon base, the Cheermazons can be seen practicing combat, parkour...and regular cheerleading moves.
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics:
    • The nuclear blasts depicted would be enough to give every survivor radiation sickness, but that doesn't occur. And mutations occur much more rapidly and in unrealistic ways. The nuclear blast in the mesosphere does not seem to have the real-life EMP effects one would expect.
    • Josh implies that the bomb was more biological in nature, as it melted all the adults that didn't turn into Ghoulies. It turns out this is in-part true. There was a biological-chemical weapon on-board the nukes, which is responsible for the mutations, but none of the students were affected because of the HPV vaccinations they'd received. Anyone who didn't get the vaccines died or turned into Ghoulies, with the exception of Burr and Crumble who survived due to the school doubling as a bomb shelter due to all the lead paint, and were mutated into pseudo-Ghoulies by later exposure to the pathogen.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Aria of the Game Overs says that they are still playing online because the bombs didn't knock out the satellites. However, satellites cause latency of several hundred milliseconds (due to their distance from the surface), making them absolutely unsuitable for the kinds of game they play.
  • Atomic Hate: How the apocalypse starts. Baron Triumph attempts to finish off Glendale with an unexploded nuke in the finale.
  • The Atoner:
    • Wesley seeks to make up for his high school career as a Jerk Jock by embracing the samurai bushido code and pacifism. More specifically, he regrets that his relationship with Turbo lead to the latter killing anyone who was potentially a rival for Wesley's affection, and seeks to make up for the indirect deaths he caused.
    • It turns out Josh's quest to find and same Sam is rooted in this. Right before Homecoming, they had sex for the first time, but during the build-up Josh found out about her impressive sexual history and her frustrations with being put on a pedestal by everyone, which shattered his perception of her. Finding out his dad died while he was busy trying to get into Sam's pants, he blamed her for distracting him and called her a slut, breaking her heart. Josh wants to find her in order to fix the damage he did.
  • Badass Gay: Wesley is a black gay samurai and even pre-apocalypse was a highly skilled athlete. His boyfriend Turbo also qualifies.
  • Bait the Dog:
    • Hoyles manages to escape being eaten by Burr, only to get mauled to death by a mutated pug days later.
    • There are a few occasions where Turbo has subjected someone to a public performance-based punishment and gets genuinely moved by the performance, only to kill them anyway.
    • The last surviving member of the golf team is offered as a meal to Burr to get him to return to being principal. Burr rejects eating him and declares a return to normalcy immediately, seemingly allowing the remaining golf team member to avoid the fate of his teammates. However, less than an episode later, we discover Burr has turned him into a human larder, cutting off his limbs to add to his protein shakes.
  • Batman Gambit: Burr pulled one on Jaden Hoyles pre-apocalypse. Since Burr accepted a bribe to change Jaden's grades, Jaden felt entitled to do whatever he wanted without being punished, since he could just expose Burr's actions if he were punished. Burr deliberately avoided punishing Jaden knowing all of this until Jaden did something that Burr could take to the police, which he did when he had sex with a 15 year old in the girls room.
  • Battle Couple: The final battle has lovers Wesley and Turbo fighting side-by-side. Subverted by Josh and Sam, with the latter not sharing his affection for her.
  • Beauty = Goodness:
    • Averted with Crumble and Burr/Triumph. Crumble is usually dirty and disheveled and is much more obviously nonhuman (her teeth, whatever is up with her back), but is a much better person who genuinely cares for the kids, while Burr never really did, and especially doesn't now, despite looking and acting mostly "normal".
    • Played straight with Turbo, who has horrific scarring over one side of his face and neck and is the main threat at first, but he later becomes a good guy.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: As far as we can tell, Sam is ultimately a nice person, but because she was under so much pressure to live up to the perfect princess archetype she was pegged as, she developed a bit of a mean streak. She's still mostly a pretty nice girl, but when someone gets on her bad side she is remorseless. Never mind that also, once all other potential leaders were exhausted, she happily took over as leader of the Jocks.
  • Big-Bad Ensemble: The Golf Team as a Starter Villain, Turbo and Baron Triumph as (seemingly) Disc One Final Bosses, Turbo taking up as Big Bad until he's dethroned by Burr who becomes the season's true Big Bad, and Sam potentially setting herself up as Big Bad for season two, with other tribes as Hufflepuff Houses to be avoided as potential threats or courted as potential allies and Ghoulies serving as Wandering Monsters.
  • Big Man on Campus: Sam is a rare female example of this trope.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Burr became one shortly before the apocalypse. Though he was always imposing policies for his own benefit while claiming they are for the students themselves, and accepting bribes from rich parents to change their children's grades while manipulating Miss Crumble into helping, and playing off of her insecurities to have sex with her while also trying to crush her interest in singing. Meanwhile, post-apocalypse, after seemingly having a Heel–Face Turn and getting a chance to return to the way things were (thus, proving him wrong about the children), he then returns to his cannibalistic ways anyway.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Burr is killed, the nuke he attempted to detonate was shot into the atmosphere and Ms. Crumble survives her apparent Heroic Sacrifice... but Josh Did Not Get the Girl and it's implied that Sam is going to reign as the new authoritarian warlord of the region with the acclaim of all but Josh's Daybreakers.
  • Black Comedy: About half the humor is rooted in this. Special mention must go to "Canta Tu Vida" where the sitcom-type scenes featuring Ms. Crumble have the laugh track go off when she comments on/actually begins eating her students.
  • Body Double:
    • The jocks apparently don't trust their vassals very much, because when Mona Lisa sends out the group text, summoning them to give tribute, she and Turbo force one member of the Golf Team to impersonate him. And they were correct, because the STEM Punks shoot him.
    • In order to get him to abandon his suicidal quest to save Sam, Angelica and Wesley pull this with Sam, making a random dead body they found look like her.
  • Body Horror:
    • Ms. Crumble's jaws unhinging in "Schmuck Bait" is rather disturbing, as is whatever happens with her back.
    • Burr has an arm grow out of his stomach in the finale. It’s implied to be a separate entity that had been living and growing inside of him.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: During their confrontation. Both Josh and Burr throw blame between the kids and the adults as worthless. Josh points out that adults were the ones who destroyed the world, while Burr points out that with none of the adults left, instead of doing anything positive like banding together and rebuilding the world' the kids all chose to continue wasting their potential and kill each other.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • A large portion of the cast gets to do this — Josh is the standout example who even physically moves between flashbacks, but Angelica, Wesley, Eli, Burr, and even Turbo get the chance to acknowledge the fourth wall and discuss what is occurring with the audience.
    • "Josh vs. the Apocalypse: Part 2" sees this reach its apex and features Eli intruding on Josh's flashbacks, pointing out embarrassing things involving Josh going on in them to other characters present in the flashbacks and running through various other people's flashbacks (including ones to events neither he nor Josh witnessed like Angelica and Crumble joining the Cheermazons) calling Josh a douchebag.
  • Break the Haughty:
    • Jaden Hoyles is marinated over a fire by Burr for several days with the intention of eating him, resulting in Jaden immediately escaping when given the opportunity and abandoning Josh in the process. This is exemplified by Principal Burr having expelled him from high school before the apocalypse.
    • The same can also be said of Turbo, who rapidly is walked out on by the love of his life as he gets more and more violently unhinged, is deposed by Burr, and is brutally beaten. Wes patches him back up, and he joins the heroes and is together with Wesley again, now significantly mellowed out.
  • Brick Joke:
    • In the first episode, Josh tries to cut off the middle finger of Terry as Terry is flipping him off, but swings too low and ends up getting his sword stuck in Terry's hand. In the finale, he gets to do the move properly on the arm that pops out of Burr's chest.
    • A Running Gag has the characters bring up Gay Josh and Other Gay Josh when trying to figure out who protagonist Josh is. Other Gay Josh does eventually show up and wants to just be called Gay Josh because the first is dead. Eli accuses him of appropriation.
    • The first episode has Ms. Crumble taking attendance and Josh not answering, to set up his opening monologue about the apocalypse. In the finale, Burr has thrown Mona Lisa into a locked bathroom with Crumble, intending Crumble to eat her. Together, they lay a trap for Burr, but catch Josh. When Ms. Crumble excitedly asks "Josh? Josh Wheeler?" He replies with "Present."
  • Broken Ace: Turbo was a handsome and popular football player with a shot at a full ride to college, but he was struggling with his sexuality, has an obsession with always winning and never being seen as less than perfect, and asked Wesley to cheat to make sure the team would go to state. Post-apocalypse he's became literally murderously jealous and throws temper tantrums when he doesn't get his way.
    • Sam can be this too. An all around good person to others; yet none willing to see her for who she is, combined with Josh's Slut-Shaming of her may have done a lot more long term damage to her and may have partially fueled her Face–Heel Turn
  • Broken Aesop: Josh's desire to find Sam is partially motivated by his guilt about Slut-Shaming her over the guys she'd slept with before him. While this was an undoubtedly cruel and hypocritical thing to do to the person who just took your virginity, the fact he mentioned her consensual sex with Jaden Hoyles, the school's unrepentant statutory rapist and Barbaric Bully, and that she did so twice, meaning she must've known full well who he was by that point, does rather mar her saintly image. It's not OK to judge someone over how many people they've slept with, but to call them out on being intimate with such an obviously bad person seems a little more reasonable. This is especially egregious because other main character Wesley spends most of the season atoning for and struggling with his own dalliance with Turbo, who the show portrays as a much lesser evil than Hoyles and possibly even redeemable.
  • Broken Record: Ghoulies can only speak the last thoughts on their mind before the bombs dropped, even when they're ravenously trying to feed on victims.
  • Brutal Honesty: After Ms. Crumble ties Josh to his bed and uses maggots to cure his gangrene, Josh thanks her for saving his life and tying him to the bed to prevent him from hurting himself. Crumble informs him that she actually tied him to the bed because she was intending to eat him, but decided not to at the last minute.
  • But Not Too Black: Wesley's cousin accuses him of being this pre-apocalypse and it is a major insecurity of his.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • The golf team as a whole qualifies as such, being killed one at a time over the course of the series.
    • Eli to an extent also qualifies, as everyone else treats him like an annoyance.
  • Bury Your Gays: Averted with Wesley, Other Gay Josh and Turbo. Played straight with the often-mentioned but never seen Gay Josh who was killed sometime in the apocalypse.
  • Canada, Eh?: Josh originally lived in Canada, but moved to Glendale after his parents got divorced and his mom moved to get a job in LA.
  • Canis Major: A giant mutant pug shows up in the first episode, and returns nine episodes later to maul and rape Hoyles.
  • Central Theme: "Who are you?" The tribes are split by common interests and stereotypical high school cliques and pretty much keep to themselves. Josh, not identifying strongly with any specific group, fits in with none of them, and the Daybreakers eventually come to be a haven for others, like Josh, who don't really fit in anywhere else. Several characters have various forms of identity crisis at the core of their motivations.
    • Wesley grapples with whether or not he "fronted" to fit in among his predominantly white peers at Glendale, and if his fixation on martial arts films was nothing more than a nerdy interest, or if it meant something deeper, as well as the very complicated reality of being black and gay.
    • Angelica was pigeonholed by brilliant parents who wanted her to be a brilliant scientist, and rebelled against that imposed identity by becoming a drug dealer, but is really searching for a place where she can fit in and be allowed to grow into whatever she wants, in her own time.
    • Ms. Crumble only has fragmented and nonsensical memories of who she was before the bombs, and has to decide whether to fight against her Horror Hunger or give in and become just another Ghoulie.
    • Turbo so strongly self-identifies as a Winner that even one minor loss is pogo-sticking on his Berserk Button. Letting go of always having to "win" is key to his Character Development.
    • Sam repeatedly states that "this is the time we should be figuring out who we are." She claims to really have no idea who she is, still trying to figure it out for herself. By the end of Season 1, she seems to have decided that she's Glendale's new Overlord.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Lampshaded with the "Women of Glendale Unite" flyer in "5318008," which otherwise has nothing to do with the plot at hand:
      This is important to the next episode. We put it here. Back to the mission.
    • Another example is Burr's ban on nuts due to student allergies, where he lists a few students who have a nut allergy. One of the students he names is Terry, the golf team's president, and Josh uses the pretext of having used his sword to make a peanut butter sandwich to stop the golf team from pursuing him as he and Angelica escape the church. It comes up again in the finale where Josh has inferred the real reason Burr banned nuts was because he was allergic and Josh is able to exploit this allergy to actually kill Burr.
    • Angelica at one point mentions that she once turned a talking teddy bear into an improvised bomb due to her trust issues. Not long after, Baron Triumph uses a talking teddy bear as an IED against the jock tribe.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Eli working at his mom's salon gets to put his skills to use in giving makeovers to Ms. Crumble and Angelica.
  • Child Prodigy: Angelica is one. Deconstructed Trope, however, as her intelligence and her parents attempting to challenge her intellect led to her being bored, lonely and pushed her to engage in activities like drug dealing.
  • Clashing Cousins: Plot point of "Homecoming Redux or My So Called Stunt Double Life." Wesley squares off against Emmett in a game. Emmett has some resentment at his cousin for selling out when Wesley didn't have a choice when his father moved and he had to go with it. Emmett looks at it like Wesley started bowing to white people and resents Wesley acting like a blerd (black nerd) as they near adulthood.
  • Clique Tour: Naturally, with this being a high school drama series, it comes into play during a flashback in the first episode where it depicts Josh's first day at Glendale High School.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Ms. Crumble qualifies as this as a Ghoulie, being very absent-minded. Though she gets better over time. Later episodes show that she suffered a traumatic brain injury right before the bomb went off, which is partially to blame for this.
  • Conversational Troping: Frequent, but perhaps the best example is when Wesley is trying to educate Josh on why he can't fight effectively.
    Wesley: It's easy to hack and slash. Every eight-year-old with a broom thinks they're a Jedi. The reason you can't wield a blade isn't for a missing finger. It's because you're full of rage. Being a swordsman is about control. Every stroke has intention, thought, knowing that a single swipe could sever a man from his own life.
    Josh: Are you really giving me the killing-changes-you speech?
    Wesley: Cliches are tropes because they're true.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Turbo and Mona Lisa show rather disturbingly graphic Educational Shorts to make their audience give up the traitor within their ranks.
  • Cool Loser: Josh is a geek, but he's also quite charismatic and charming in his own way. Had he tried, he likely would have been much more popular on his own before the bombs dropped. However, his charisma translates to him being a natural leader for the Daybreakers.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: Josh at the start seems to think so, using the apocalypse as an excuse to get everything he ever wanted; his journey for Sam being to complete that goal. Even aside from that, the mall Eli took over still has electricity and functioning amenities and a lot of places likewise still function — some kids are even still able to play Overwatch.
  • Cunning Linguist: KJ speaks Mandarin, English, multiple fictional languages, and a little bit of Hebrew, but pretends to be monolingual so people will underestimate her.
  • Damsel in Distress: Josh is searching for Sam because he believes her to be one. Ultimately lampshaded and deconstructed by Sam who makes it clear that she doesn’t need saving.
  • Decoy Protagonist: While he is a core character and key connecting thread, Josh is Out of Focus for much of the series, with quite a few episodes serving as A Day in the Limelight for the rest of the cast.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Angelica's attempts to explain why she doesn't mean "don't be so gay" in an offensive way only make it more offensive, until she finally gives up and ends the conversation.
  • Disability Immunity:
    • Burr throwing Ms. Crumble down the stairs caused a traumatic brain injury. Thus, she didn't fully transform into a Ghoulie, and is able to retain to her human personality.
    • When everyone is deafened by the missile explosion during the last two episodes, Victoria has a much easier time communicating because she always has to have conversations without being able to hear.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Turbo is the primary antagonist for Josh, Wesley, and Angelica with the first few episodes revolving around escaping from him or his army. The real antagonist to the trio is revealed to be Baron Triumph, who plans to detonate a nuke in Glendale to kill the majority of survivors.
  • Dramatic Irony: For all the progressive views spoken of and upheld by other students and antagonists alike, Josh himself has some very close-minded mentalities about women. He kept looking at Sam as an ideal rather than as a person; and the season finale shows he really hasn't changed all that much since the apocalypse. It could be excused considering Josh is still young himself and his big moment coinciding with his father's death may have screwed things up, but considering the others who have similar if not worse issues, it's surprising to see or hear something like that out of Josh.
    • Despite his stance on the other kids immigrating to his mall, Eli himself is the son of immigrants.
  • The Dreaded: Baron Triumph is this for the rest of apocalyptic Glendale. He kidnaps and eats children. His identity is implied to be Hoyles but is actually Principal Burr.
  • Dumb Jock: A lot of the jocks are none too bright. Wes, Turbo, and Mona Lisa avert this, as the first is a rather intelligent Occidental Otaku, the second is actually very well-spoken and only bad at spelling, and Mona is actually three steps ahead of even Turbo, her leader.
  • Dwindling Party: The golf team's members get killed off systematically throughout the series.
  • Educational Short: Used as Cool and Unusual Punishment against the Game Overs to make them talk.
  • Elite Zombie:
    • Ms. Crumble is this compared to the bulk of the Ghoulies. She is capable of thinking and holding a conversation. She also resists the urge to commit cannibalism by eating foods high in iron. This gets to the point that she basically becomes a Token Good Teammate for the Ghoulies and she manages to avoid being incinerated by the rocket fuel of a nuclear missile that would certainly doom a normal human.
    • Burr is hinted to be an even more elite one of these, retaining his complete sanity, other than being a cannibal.
  • Enfant Terrible: Played With in Angela's case: While she has gotten up to her share of Troubling Unchildlike Behavior, her actions are shown to be motivated by extreme loneliness. When the chips are down, she's shown to care deeply about Josh, Crumble, and most especially, her mother.
  • Entitled Bastard: Hoyles. Due to the leverage he had on Burr he knew he could do whatever the hell he wanted. He vaped in the lunchroom, had sex in the girls stalls, defaced school property, and even outright assaulted other students. Burr actually knew he would do this and simply waited until Hoyles did something Burr could get him immediately arrested for.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • The jocks have no problem with all manner of cruelty, but they, and all tribes under their rule, believe deeply in gun control (to the point they call their anti-gun rule the Emma Gonzales Accords).
    • Mona Lisa turns on Turbo when he frames Gary just to get one over on Josh, because even though Gary is a Butt-Monkey, if Turbo can betray one of them, he can betray any of them.
    • Not even the other jocks liked Hoyles.
    • Played for Laughs, but no matter their morality, most of the cast are pretty sensitive to socially marginalized groups and try to be respectful. Which makes some weird sense as the two biggest factions are lead by a Badass Gay and a Straw Feminist. Even the Cheermazaons are led by a triumvirate consisting of an African American, a Muslim, and a Mute (with interpreter). Eli's casual racism is used largely to illustrate just how terrible he is, and Angelica calling Wesley gay and retarded (albeit, not intending it to insult his sexuality, but as a general insult) pretty much illustrates her sociopathic Token Evil Teammate status.
  • Everyone Can See It: Even Crumble knew Wesley had it bad for Turbo before the apocalypse.
  • Everything's Better with Samurai: Wesley certainly thinks so at least, having embraced Bushido and identifying as a ronin. Josh explicitly disagrees with this trope however.
    Josh: This is why I avoid people. Because street samurai are a thing now.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Sam, Mona Lisa, and Barry free Principal Burr, AKA Baron Triumph, to take down Turbo and lead the Jocks in a "return to normalcy." This works. . . up until Burr suborns most of the Jocks, drugs the others into unconsciousness, and hatches his plan to nuke Glendale completely and lead the Jocks elsewhere to build a society in his image, with his followers explicitly serving as his "cattle ranch."
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: A variation. Rather than kill Baron Triumph in their first go, Josh starts flailing his sword wildly and dancing around him. Triumph is understandably confused, and at the end, tells Josh that he missed. Josh replies he didn't, and holds up the keys he stole during the distraction.
  • Expy: While she's bit more mean and sane, it's easy to draw comparisons between Angelica and Luna Lovegood.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Professor Burr pulled one of these after the apocalypse. He goes from a Reasonable Authority Figure who attempts to help children grow to a cannibalistic warlord who is The Dreaded of the setting. Though ultimately it's conversed that his activities were driven more by self-aggrandizement than compassion, making him only a Nominal Hero to begin with.
  • False Reassurance: The local cannibal saying "I'll make you a smoothie".
  • Family of Choice: Angelica desperately wants one of these. The Daybreakers tribe is intended to be one.
  • Fighting from the Inside: This is revealed to be what's going on with Ms. Crumble. Her conscious mind is stuck in some weird 80's sitcom that knows she's not some child eating monster, but she's not in full control of the body and it can be implied that her more grotesque actions are when the mind loses control over the Ghoulie.
  • Fingore:
    • Josh tries to cut off Terry's middle finger as Terry is Flipping the Bird, but misses and gets his sword stuck in Terry's hand.
    • Josh tries to cut his arm off after being bit by a Ghoulie, but his cheap sword can't do the job even after multiple whacks, and he only manages to lop off a finger when he whiffs one of his swings. Angelica then tells him Ghoulies don't work like that by showing her many bite marks.
    • Josh redeems his earlier failure to amputate a middle finger when the arm that pops out of Burr's chest flips him off.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Josh hated Wesley and Angelica pre-apocalypse, the former for being a Jerk Jock and the latter for being a Bratty Half-Pint. A few close-calls together and they become The Daybreakers. Likewise Eli and Josh warm up to one-another as they go off on their infiltration mission together to rescue Sam, and Turbo gets over his obsessive jealously and hatred towards Josh when they work together to fight Triumph, even siding with him while the Jocks follow Sam.
  • Foreshadowing: Watch KJ roll her eyes when people speak English to her, especially when they try Translation by Volume, then try and act surprised when she reveals she speaks English just fine.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • The instructions on the school's fallout shelter end with "then kiss your ass goodbye."
    • Turbo's entire speech. Transcribed here.
  • Freudian Excuse: Eli is so greedy because growing up his poor immigrant parents refused to spend any money on anything that wasn't absolutely necessary. Eli had to make due with nothing but knockoffs of brand label products and deeply resented everyone else getting handed things he couldn't have no matter how much he worked for them (he had to save up his money to buy knock offs).
  • The Friend Nobody Likes:
    • The golf team as a whole. They're jocks only on the barest of sufferance, Mona Lisa considers their distress call an inconvenience not even important enough to interrupt American Ninja Idol for, and they get assigned all the worst jobs and/or used as target practice when Turbo's in a bad mood.
    • Eli; even though Wesley, Angelica, and Josh all have moments where they seem to bond with him, it's a stretch to say any of them truly come to like him, though, Josh does mourn his death, and it seems none of the rest of the mall inhabitants care for him. Even pre-apocalypse, it seems he didn't have friends in school due to his obnoxious behavior.
  • Gambit Pile Up: The attempt by the STEM Punks to assassinate Turbo falls victim to one of these, as Turbo has a golf team member stand in for him.
  • Genre Shift: Parts of the episode "Canta Tu Vida" are structured like scenes from a stereotypical sitcom and blur the lines between Ms. Crumble's pre-apocalypse life and her present-day post-apocalypse status as a Ghoulie.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Angelica fakes Sam's death in order to convince Josh he should stay in the mall. Unfortunately, it has the opposite effect: he decides that he needs to go get vengeance.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Hoyles, one of the biggest assholes in school had open sex in a stall in the girls bathroom without even trying to hide it. Fitting for this trope he was so unimpressive that the girl he was doing it with was casually scrolling through her phone with a mildly bored expression like she wasn't even having sex in the first place. Turbo has pretty great sex with Wesley while still evil, but eventually he joins the Daybreakers and becomes good. Josh and Sam's first attempt at a first time (for him, anyway) is as awkward and unsexy as it can get; their second attempt features Sam pushing his comfort zones with some pretty kinky play, including exhibitionism for the food delivery guy. Josh and KJ have a very comfortable and romantic encounter. . . before Josh drops her because he learns Sam is still alive. Who exactly is "good" in this equation is left nebulous even as the season concludes.
  • Groin Attack:
    • In his first fight with the Golf Team, Josh gives a pretty epic straight-arm punch to Golfer crotch.
    • To punish them for their failure, Turbo has the Golf Team tied up and chucks footballs at them. He hits one of them in the balls, making him vomit.
    • When Sam tries to compliment Mona Lisa on her "fearless cleavage" for her video, Lisa retorts that she'll "gas pedal your box" if Sam is messing with her. From Sam's reaction, the threat was basically this.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: While the Cheermazons have melee weapons, they usually use bows, while the mostly-male jocks usually fight at close range
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • Wesley made one of these post-apocalypse. It took him until after Turbo Bro Jock began mass murdering people over jealousy to do so and he does backslide a bit before finally solidifying.
    • Eli gets one of these towards the end of "Josh vs. the Apocalypse: Part 2" just before his death.
    • Burr seemingly pulls one in "Post Mates." It doesn't last to the end of the next episode.
    • Turbo pulls one in the finale, helping fight his former tribe to stop Burr from nuking Glendale.
  • Heh Heh, You Said "X": A minor Running Gag in the first episode.
    • Gary chuckles at Josh stating his sword is stuck in the bone of Terry's hand.
    • Wesley chuckles at Josh saying he'll meet Wesley and Angelica at the rear entrance to Dick's (yes, he responds to "rear" and not "Dick's").
    • Wesley again chuckles at Eli bragging about his booby traps.
  • Held Gaze: Wesley and Turbo when the jocks attack Josh's house in "Josh vs. the Apocalypse: Part 1." This is Foreshadowing of their relationship.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Josh and Wesley both use katanas, the former explicitly because it's cool and the latter to fit with his ronin theme. When Turbo performs his Heel–Face Turn, he ditches his double-headed battleaxe and also takes up a katana.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Ms. Crumble seems to be on the cusp of pulling one in the finale, willingly staying behind to get rid of Burr's nuke. However, she herself does not think this is the case and claims she will survive by turning into mist...whether she did that or not, this trope is subverted with her managing to survive the missile's launch.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Gary's one hell of a singer.
    • Turbo, despite being The Voiceless, does have a mind for strategy and can make some good plans when he wants to.
    • Pre-apocalypse Wesley was seemingly just a Jerk Jock, but inside he was conflicted by his conflicting loyalties to his teammates (especially Turbo) and his family (his cousin was the star player on the rival school's team). And though he's a Badass Gay now, before the apocalypse he was struggling in the closet, due to his family's explicit homophobia, with only Turbo (and anyone who guessed his sexuality) in the know.
  • Horror Hunger: Ghoulies have this for blood. Even Ms. Crumble, who is lucid enough to resist, can get tantalized into attempting to eat living people when they bleed.
  • Hourglass Plot: Josh starts the series as a selfish Jerkass loner on a quest to find his lost love, but becomes a capable leader, much more willing to work with people, and tries to atone for his wrongdoings. Sam begins the series as someone who's caring and bright and tries to help everyone, but grows more selfish as the series goes on, until eventually she's the authoritarian ruler of Glendale
  • Hufflepuff House: There are a number of warlord factions like the Disciples of Kardashia and the 4H Club who barely appear at all, with the Jocks, Cheermazons, and Daybreakers being the main factions depicted.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Burr seems to think so, revealing what he thinks about the current situation to Josh in "MMMMMMM-HMMMMMM."
    Burr: Yeah, you survived. You could have done anything. But all the adults leave and what happens? You go all Fornite and kill each other. You're such dicks.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Eli is very anti-immigrant, at least when it comes to "his" mall. His parents, and possibly he himself, are immigrants.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Sam confesses this during the Whole Episode Flashback "Post Mates"; the viral video that turned her into an influencer, combined with her role as a 'living sorting hat', meant she was the most celebrated person in Glendale, and she hated it. She was held to a pedestal she felt trapped by, and when she tries to reject it, it just makes Josh get mad at her.
  • I Just Want to Be You: Angelica reveals that before the apocalypse, she used to dress and act like Sam in hopes of getting people to like her.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The Ghoulies devour uninfected victims. A human example is the Baron Triumph really Principal Burr who captures and traps survivors to consume them. His ultimate plan involves leading the jock gang to a more remote area to serve as a food source for him in the long run.
  • Improvised Weapon: Fairly common among the jocks, who have fashioned weapons out of whatever they can scavenge.
  • In Name Only: The show really only shares a title with the graphic novel. In the novel, "Daybreak" was an apropos title because the zombies get less dangerous during the day, and were actual, Romero-esque zombies, complete with transmissible bites and Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain the best way to kill them, and what few survivors we saw came in a variety of ages. It's a more brooding, slice-of-life-in-the-zombie-apocalypse in first person (literally, the book is drawn such that the POV character essentially is the audience). The series' love of Breaking the Fourth Wall may be an homage to this, treating the audience almost like another character in the story, but a passive observer. Other than that, the show goes in a completely different direction and crafts its own narrative. . . and pretty interesting and unique one, at that.
  • It's All About Me:
    • Eli, who considers sharing the mall with anyone besides Mavis to be an invasion on his rights, preferring to let a bunch of innocent kids die than let them have any piece of it, and doesn't understand how being casually racist towards the East-Asian teens is negative. He also seems to see terms like 'blackmail' as being racist against white people, and so he 'reclaims it' by saying 'whitemail' instead, all the while appropriating black culture.
    • Josh as well has shades of this, which Eli accuses him of, albeit for reasons that only make sense from Eli's perspective. He's less motivated about finding Sam for Sam's sake, and more because he wants the idealized version of her, and finding her fits with his Knight in Shining Armor narrative that he sees himself as. He'd also have preferred to be a lone wolf survivor, until Angelica and Wesley all-but forced him into becoming The Hero. However, Josh himself does seem to realize this and tries to be better about it.
    • It's part of the Chekhov's Gun that lets them know how to beat Triumph once and for all. Sam and Josh realize that since Burr only ever did things that benefited himself, he only banned nuts from the school because he himself was allergic to them. Meaning that while a sword wouldn't kill Burr, the Nutella coating it would.
  • Jerk Jock: They form the post-apocalyptic Badass Biker gang that dominates the remnants of Glendale. Wesley was this before the apocalypse but ultimately seeks to make up for this.
  • Karma Houdini: Hoyles pre-apocalypse was this since he knew Principal Burr outright took a bribe for an increased budget for the science department just to bump his grade up.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Hoyles ends up on the other end of it when it turns out that one of the girls he was having sex with, Isis, is 15, meaning no amount of money is gonna cover up statutory rape even if it's consenting. Post-apocalypse, he nearly ends up on Baron Triumph's spit then later on mauled and raped by a mutant dog.
  • Lady Land: Cheeramazonia. All the members are women, but they seem to at least tolerate men in their territory.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The reveal that Burr is Baron Triumph is core to the conflict in the last half of the season.
  • Lemony Narrator: RZA as Wesley's narrator, a fact he even lampshades by pointing out that Wesley chose him instead of someone more mundane.
  • Loving a Shadow: The Sam everybody, especially Josh looked up to, was never the real person. Which put enormous pressure on her along with a deep seated resentment of not being allowed to act like a regular person. She decides to embrace this idealized image of herself when she becomes the overlord of Glendale.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Sam's a deconstruction of this. Josh fell for her hard-and-fast when he moved to Glendale, with her helping him to get out of his shell and find positivist in his new home. However because Josh put her on a pedestal (as did everyone), it left her feeling less like her own person as nobody saw her for anything besides a popular influencer and homecoming queen, and when she tried to demonstrate she was more than that, Josh saw it as a Broken Pedestal moment. Her relationship with Josh was toxic from both sides because of this, which ultimately lead to them breaking up right before the apocalypse. Josh only wants to reunite with her largely because he's still not over his memory of her.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's really not clear if Mavis is real or a mannequin that Eli is obsessed with. Josh meets her, but the circumstances makes it hard to tell if he's just imagining her, and Eli as he's dying denies her existence, but that might just be him going along with the assumption everyone had made beforehand.
  • Meet Cute: Name dropped. Josh tells Angelica that her attempts to arrange this trope between him and KJ need to stop.
  • Morality Pet:
    • Wesley is this for Turbo.
    • Angelica and Ms. Crumble serve as this for each other, the former helping Crumble reconnect to her subsumed humanity and the latter helping give Angelica a purpose beyond pyromania.
  • Mouth of Sauron: While Turbo is often seen (although you can't always be certain the person in the mask and the outfit is actually him), Mona Lisa (usually) does all of the talking for him.
  • Muscles Are Meaningful: The jocks explicitly spend a lot of time lifting weights, and Mona Lisa, though short, is built. Additionally, when Sam squares off against Baron Triumph, she ends up mostly on the defensive and getting tossed around because she's much smaller. Josh is in good shape, but he's still much less muscular than Hoyles which generally allowed the latter to beat the crap out of him any time he wanted. Angelica is only 10, so she's tiny and as such generally has to run from most conflicts she can't resolve with a molotov or flamethrower.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: When the leaders of the Cheermazons — the Triumvirate — are introduced, it's revealed that Victoria is deaf so "speaks" using ASL, and her interpreter is introduced as well.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut Josh expected Sam to be also a virgin like him, and he did not take it well when he found out that she was far from one (she claimed her number is in the double digits, which is a lot for a high-school girl)
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Had Josh not posted Sam's viral video and then later slut-shamed her and given her a "Reason You Suck" Speech after his dad died, she probably wouldn't have become a Villain with Good Publicity at the end of the season.
  • No Fourth Wall: The amount of times the fourth wall is just completely and utterly broken and characters interact with flashback sequences pretty much crosses the line into this trope. (Characters even run through scenes they weren't in.)
  • No OSHA Compliance: The former cereal factory Baron Triumph uses as his base is actually mostly an aversion of this trope, as there are plenty of safety features still in use (although possibly Triumph only kept them because they're a way to keep his slaves locked up but still able to move around; KJ is padlocked into her safety harness). The main exception is a container that can be filled with cereal has no means to stop it from filling up inside, which even pre-apocalypse would be risky.
  • Not His Sled: "MMMMMMM-HMMMMMM" is narrated by Principal Burr, who says that he is dead and is responsible for creating Baron Triumph, implicitly due to his lenient treatment of Hoyles, a smug and privileged Jerk Jock. In fact, he is Baron Triumph and said Jerk Jock was a factor behind him reaching the conclusion that he ought to kill and eat people.
  • Not So Different: As much as they hate each other, Josh and Eli are more alike then they think. They're both reluctant to join up with others outside of their lovers (Josh wanting to be a lone wolf and reunite with Sam, while Eli wants the mall all to himself and his secret girlfriend Mavis), who are also terrible at looking at things from other people's perspectives, thinking only of themselves and their needs. They also both had similar interests, having collected childish trading card games (Pokemon and Magic, respectively). The difference is that Josh is at least willing to try to be a better person, whereas Eli is unrepentantly selfish.
  • One Steve Limit: There are numerous Jadens and Joshs, the latter being a Running Gag.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The Ghoulies qualify. Only adults were turned and Ghoulies tend to repeat the last things on their mind endlessly. Their bites do not spread any virus (though Josh does not realize that this is the case until he cuts his own finger off). Their cannibalistic hunger is specifically a desire to consume bloodnote  and individuals bleeding serves to draw them to the targets. There are implied to be some physiological changes as well as cosmetic and psychological. It appears the blast hit is what lead to such a drastic transformation for most, as Ms. Crumble and Burr were shielded from the initial blast, but exposure to the irradiated environment has evidently mutated them into their human-Ghoulie hybrid nature. Burr explicitly says that consuming human flesh is 'changing' him, implying he mutates further the more human blood he consumes, while Crumble is in-part able to sate her hunger by consuming iron in other sources, though blood is apparently the most easily edible source. She's also still changing, but it appears to be a direct result of her not eating human flesh.
  • Parental Neglect:
    • Angelica's mother is a well-renowned scientist who always put the job ahead of Angelica. By Angelica's accord, the neglect was so severe that Angelica attempted to get her mother busted for plagiarism just so she'd have to spend time with her. It backfired horribly as the plagiarism went unnoticed and her mother was rewarded for her supposed brilliant work, getting a grant to study underseas in a submarine which she took without a second thought.
      Angelica: The conclusion to my experiment was painfully clear. My mom would rather be in a nuclear submarine at the bottom of the ocean than spend another minute with me.
    • Turbo's father was also this. A humanitarian who has all the love for children all over the world... except for his own son at home. Turbo speaks fondly of him and seems to understand his dad is doing great work, but it clearly hurts him. Not to mention, his dad uses the positive nature of his work to guilt-trip and gaslight Turbo over it, acting as if Turbo's requests for more of his time and attention would be directly responsible for the deaths of starving Syrian kids.
    • Josh as well, who struggles with the fact his father didn't even put up a fight to keep Josh's mother from taking him to California away from him, while his mother is so busy with work that they've not communicated directly outside of post-it notes and texts for some time. As he describes it, he had a 'post-it parent' instead of a real one.
  • Parental Substitute: Ms. Crumble is one for Angelica, being the nurturing presence that she never got from her actual mom.
  • Pedal-to-the-Metal Shot: Used when Angelica is driving a car, to show that she's accomplishing it with metal rods taped to her shoes.
  • Pizza Boy Special Delivery: Invoked and Defied. After Josh has some trouble adjusting to the fact that Sam isn't a virgin, she does a Sexy Shirt Switch and basically starts giving him a lap dance, kissing him wildly. . . then their food delivery comes. Sam greets the driver at the door, still in the mostly-unbuttoned shirt and her bra, hair all tousled and lipstick smeared. She acts sultry towards the driver as he brings in the food, but when he asks if they want him to stay "to make sure they got everything," Sam gives him and offended glare and closes her shirt, sending him packing. What, exactly, she hoped to gain from this play (or what she hoped Josh would gain) is unclear.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: When the golf team first confronts Josh, they declare that they will make him wear a shock collar and be their slave, only for the one African-American member of the team to take offense to that choice of term. The team quickly switches to saying Josh will become their "indentured American". The rest of the show engages in some good-natured ribbing, but generally leans progressive in its tone. Subtly Deconstructed; the show points out a few times that using sensitive language does not automatically make one sensitive, and Angelica can tell Wesley to "stop being gay and retarded" while not devaluing him as a friend and human being.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: A deconstruction. While at first it looks like this is a classical story of the gallant knight rescuing the princess in distress, we soon find out just how wrong Josh was about, well, everything; and that he is not quite the nice guy he made himself out to be.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Turbo and Hoyles show shades of this. The former (who keep in mind is the second most powerful warlord in Glendale after Baron Triumph) even sleeps in a racecar bed! Turbo also recreates the battle of the mall with LEGO and action figures, and regularly throws tantrums (possibly because, as shown by his narration, he has a lot to say but no way to say it, which incidentally is also the reason toddlers throw tantrums)
  • Pyro Maniac: Angelica loves to burn things, even carrying around a flamethrower.
  • Reality Ensues: It gets used up and down the show.
    • "Josh vs. the Apocalypse: Part 1" has Josh try to give a Fingore to Terry while he's Flipping the Bird with his new katana, only to hit his hand instead and get stuck in the bone. It's plenty painful, sure, but the sword remains stuck in the bone until Josh gets enough leverage to rip it free.
    • After Josh amputates his finger, the wound becomes gangrenous and the others have to go out to get him antibiotics or the infection will kill him.
    • Josh in-general has zero skill with his katana, and utterly lacks Wesley's parkour McNinja skills; Josh of course had zero reason to develop these skills before the apocalypse as he lacked Wesley's Foreign Culture Fetish and wasn't an athlete.
    • For all that the surviving teenagers are playing at being post-apocalyptic tribes, bandits and warlords, at the end of the day they are still children who did not have the chance to fully grow up and be guided to adulthood successfully. This is in part of why many survivors are willing to give Burr a chance to lead them as a 'return to normalcy' in the last few episodes of the season, despite his reign of terror as the cannibalistic Baron Triumph.
  • Really Dead Montage: "Josh vs. the Apocalypse: Part 2" has this happen to Eli when he gets stabbed by Hoyles in his Baron Triumph disguise.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Burr was this before the apocalypse. Post-apocalypse, however, this is very much an Averted Trope. It's also hinted that Burr wasn't as positive a figure as he appeared.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • RZA's narration in Wesley's head gives him one, calling him out on his samurai shtick essentially being bullshit and on his planned betrayal of Josh.
    • Eli also gives a montage-based one to Josh, where he runs through Josh's flashbacks and accuses him of acting nice when he isn't and being a huge hypocrite.
    • Josh gave one to Sam, after his dad died, pointing out that she had everything someone their age would ever want (good family, friends, looks, smarts, popularity), yet she still complains about it to people who are much worse off than her.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Eli redeems himself only after getting fatally wounded by Hoyles.
  • Refuse to Rescue the Disliked: Once Josh learns the woman the Golf Team had captive was not Sam, but Angelica, he flat-out tells them they can keep her. Angelica is rather pissed about it.
  • Running Gag:
    • No one knowing who Josh is:
      "Tennis Josh?"
      "No."
      "Little Josh with the big truck?"
      "No."
      "Gay Josh or Other Gay Josh?"
      "Just Josh!"
    • Eli echoing anti-immigrant talking points on immigration in reaction to more people arriving in 'his' mall also qualifies.
    • Wesley will say he or another character needs a certain thing, and then that thing turns out to be the name of a strain of weed.
    • Whoever the Captain of the Golf Team is, their life expectancy drops precipitously on assuming the title. And the Captain's badge getting progressively more bloodstained as the team loses Captains.
    • Nut allergies and nut-free kitchen zones and equipment show up very frequently as a Funny Background Event. But it really serves to keep a Chekhov's Gun fresh in the audience's mind.
  • Sanity Strengthening: Ms. Crumble starts the apocalypse as a still-sentient Ghoulie who's not quite stable. As the season progresses, she begins to remember what happened just prior to the bomb dropping: Burr threw her down the stairs, which caused a traumatic head injury that somehow saved her from going full Ghoulie. Once she remembers this, she reverts completely to a human in personality, with only her Ghoulie cravings and physiology marking her as something more than human.
  • Schmuck Bait: Explicitly the title of the second episode and called out by name (though in reference to the episode holding off on The Reveal of Baron Triumph). A straight example of this is the talking teddy bear that shows up during a confrontation between Turbo's tribe and Wesley and Josh. One golf team member picks it up and begins to Squee over it, only for it to turn out to be an IED made by Baron Triumph.
  • Secret Test of Character: When the Cheermazon triumvirate makes the pledges vote on whether to kill Crumble or not, Angelica refuses, saying the triumvirate themselves said "binary is bullshit" and she's not going to make the choice. Turns out, this was the final test, and all the other pledges fail because they didn't question the choice.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Josh's relationship with Sam was not nearly as loving as he'd like to remember. Some of this comes from the fact Sam wasn't as flawless as he treats her as, but also he was not as much the Nice Guy Hero he thinks he is.
  • Serious Business: The jocks never skip leg day.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: After the whole season of effort to find and be with Sam and facing much hardship along the way, Josh ends up being rejected by Sam, who decides to focus on asserting herself as the new ruler of Glendale.
  • Ship Tease:
    • Enforced, Angelica attempts to engineer a relationship between KJ and Josh to help him move on from Sam, and though her attempts fail, the two do end up developing an attraction, at least until Josh finds out Sam is alive.
    • Briefly, Mona Lisa and Barry of the Golfers, with the former taking pity on him once he becomes the last Golfer, to the point she informs him her real name is Mary.
  • Shoddy Knockoff Product: Eli's whole wardrobe is based on this, buying bootleg versions of name brand items. Even his last name, Cardashyan, is one to the Kardashians. It's the main reason he is so greedy when it comes to the mall. Growing up his family was poor and could never afford anything that wasn't absolutely necessary like quality clothes, fresh food, or nice toys, forcing him to make due with cheap inferior versions of everything he wanted. After the apocalypse, he starts impersonating Baron Triumph but all his gear are just inferior versions of the real thing.
  • Shout-Out: Quite a few.
    • It's basically The Tribe with zombies. A biological agent kills all of the adults, leaving the kids to form tribes involving crazy costumes and wild hair, with the protagonists living in a mall and referred to at one point as Mallrats.
    • The jock tribe's schtick is lifted directly from Mad Max, a fact acknowledged a few times.
    • Josh's narration is reminiscent of Zach Morris' audience asides. Or Ferris Bueller's narration.
    • Sam describes her semi-official role at Glendale high as a "human Sorting Hat."
    • Ms. Crumble, an Elite Zombie, is originally referred to as 'the Witch.' Which should sound familiar.
    • While possibly coincidental, the fact the main refuge our protagonists find is in a mall may remind viewers of another film featuring an apocalyptic event.
    • The gamer group uses Dothraki as a code language for entrance into their van and play Overwatch most of the time. The show takes time to point out the lead gamer is a Star Wars fan, as there were "at least three references in the last two minutes" (quizzed at the door through a small hatch in a fictional language being C-3PO at the door of Jabba's Palace, telling KJ she has a lot of nerve coming back after what she pulled echoing Han and Lando at Cloud City, and taking off her helmet with electronic voice modulator to show Samus Is a Girl matching Leia's reveal in her bounty hunter disguise).
    • One faction is based solely on following in the footsteps of the Kardashians, though they only directly appear once.
    • Wesley references a lot of karate and kung-fu movies, including some that are not existent even in-universe.
    • Angelica specifically mentions the vibe she wants her episode's narration to have to be more similar to the likes of Goodfellas or other Scorsese works than Josh's Breaking the Fourth Wall style.
    • When Josh attempts to cut off his arm to avoid becoming a Ghoulie, Angelica calls him out by pointing out that this isn't The Walking Dead.
    • Turbo uses a figurine of Skeletor to indicate who the traitor is in his diagram of the battle at the mall.
    • The duel between Wesley and Turbo sees them using flintlocks that turn out to be Josh's souvenirs from Hamilton that can only shoot confetti. And, in fact, Turbo delopes.
    • There are several instances of characters being in flashbacks acknowledging they are in flashbacks, something that was also utilized in a certain comic book movie.
    • Wesley at one point refers to Josh as 'Canadian Wolverine only to be reminded Wolverine is already Canadian.
    • The Show Within a Show/Cool and Unusual Punishment, "American Ninja Idol"
    • Josh's girlfriend is named Sam Dean. That said, Word of God from the NYCC 2019 Panel says that this is not intentional.
    • Ms. Crumble names the maggots she uses to cure Josh's gangrene and then eats. As she consumes them, she stops on one of them and says 'Marsha, Marsha, Marsha.' She also breaks the format to name two of the maggots Malia and Sasha.
    • Turbo's Wall of Text speech quotes an entire speech from Any Given Sunday.
    • When Turbo talks to Wesley with the help of cue cards, one of them says "say it's carol singers".
    • On the podcast tie-in, the hosts going by their college plans/hopes for names is explicitly called out as being taken from Zombieland.
      • The podcast host Harvard pre-apocalypse hosted a true crime podcast about who ejaculated on a tampon dispenser, a premise that sounds similar to a recently cancelled Netflix series. Hoyles did the same (allegedly!) in the show proper.
    • Ms. Crumble plays Space Invaders. With dead bugs and a toy car.
    • Wesley walks in on Josh exploring alternatives for replacement for his missing finger. Among the options he apparently considered are a chainsaw and a glove with knives for fingertips.
  • Show Within a Show: 'American Ninja Idol', the half reality show, half Thunderdome event the jock tribe regularly enjoys where 'contestants' are placed on a platform with a backup band. They stand on top of a trap door and if Turbo gives their performance a thumbs down, they are dropped into a pen of Ghoulies and either devoured or simply executed if they manage to escape. No individual depicted managed to walk away alive. The one who managed to escape just got blown up by a rocket launcher moments later.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Mona Lisa, The Dragon to Turbo, was the only female member of the football team (although not the only female jock, as later episodes show).
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Burr proves to be this, being unfailingly calm and courteous even as he plots to destroy what's left of southern California and engages in cannibalism.
  • Special Effect Failure: The night scenes are obviously filmed via day-for-night.
  • The Speechless: Turbo mostly “speaks” in grunts, although Mona Lisa and Wesley seem to “speak Turbo” and understand what he wants. He is almost incapable of speaking properly, with Blood from the Mouth every time he tries.
  • Start of Darkness: For Baron Triumph, it was taking a bribe to change Hoyles' grade, which caused him to go from a Nice Guy who was kind of self-serving to a Jerkass who took numerous bribes, took advantage of Ms. Crumble to have sex with her, and finally to a Complete Monster who eats children and wants to destroy the entire world.
  • The Stoner: Wesley smokes weed when stressed.
    • Gap Year in the tie-in podcast embodies most of the stereotypes, though he does more than just weed.
  • Straight Gay: You probably wouldn't have guessed that Wesley was gay until he made out with Turbo.
  • Straw Feminist:
    • The Cheermazons tribe embody this trope, excluding men from their tribe and treating all males they encounter with hostility, at least until Angelica convinces them that gay black man Wesley is even more marginalized than they are, but even then they try to argue briefly that despite his status, Wesley was a Jerk Jock who maintained social authority in schoolnote .
      • However, they're not wrong about the mistreatment women faced in the old society, and it was a bunch of men with power who blew up the world, and now they all have to live with their consequences, which to a bunch of traumatized teenagers who naturally have trouble with nuance, would lead to their extremist stance.
      • They seem to notably grow out of this by season's end; after Triumph's attack, they willingly join forces with the Daybreakers.
    • Averted with most other characters who demonstrate feminist leanings. Angelica, Crumble, Sam, and Mona Lisa all demonstrate feminist opinions, but are also morally complex and genuinely well-rounded characters who are just feminists who sometimes wander into this teritory. (like Sam being angry that she is judged for sleeping around)
    • Wesley and Josh also demonstrate male feminist/feminist-ally opinions (Josh outright refusing to use vulgar language to describe Angelica because he's "part of the solution"). Justified really as this is a middle-class neighborhood in California where their school encouraged woke attitudes. And Josh is implied to be Straw in the other direction, paying lip service to feminist ideals while harboring latent but distinctly misogynist opinions (see below).
  • Straw Misogynist:
    • Among the many distasteful aspects of Jaden Hoyles that would later be revealed, his first scene has him look distastefully at Burr for him openly playing a female character in Overwatch. It's not drawn on much, but it's an early indicator he's an asshole, before we have time to learn this personally.
    • Gary of the Golfers is revealed as this as well, after his death, as one of the sexist comments Sam got for her video was from him. Before that, him and the other Golfers made disparaging remarks about Sam when introduced, and in general often act with fairly Incel-like behavior, except for Barry.
    • Though not among their leadership (which of course, includes a woman as The Dragon), the Jocks seem to act as a Spear Counterpart to the Cheermazons, with one going on a ridiculous rant to defend a 'smelly vag' comment, arguing that men's ball sweat contains pheromones and thus propagate the species while women's just smell bad, which is not at all how any of that works. Mona Lisa is very quick to put him in his place and intimidate him into apologizing.
    • Though he does espouse pro-feminism ideology, Josh himself ends up falling into misogynistic attitudes, something that Sam calls him on, and is a big reason why they were ultimately not meant to be. He looks at women with a Madonna–Whore Complex, putting Sam on a pedestal and becoming angry when she doesn't match his vision of her, and in the end, despite everything he went through, he still never bothered to think about what she actually wanted. Never mind how he happily slept with KJ after knowing her for only a short amount of time (and only being able to communicate with her for roughly a day), despite his Slut-Shaming of Sam, something Sam is very quick to yell at him for. Not to mention dropping KJ like old news once he finds out Sam is still alive, resuming his quest to save her and trying to get KJ to help him, and unable to comprehend why this royally pisses KJ off.
  • Strawman U: Glendale High seems to be the high-school version of one. The school has the whole stereotypical "wokeness", with cultural appropriation awarenesses, sensitivity training, a kid who identifies as a rainbow seahorse. Then again it's in a SoCal middle-class area.
  • Straw Nihilist: Baron Triumph's reasoning for eating children. After seeing how much of a spoiled, entitled brat Jaden Hoyles was, Principal Burr became disillusioned with teenagers and came to see them all as rotten brats. After the bombs hit, he decided to embrace his cannibalistic cravings by hunting down children, enslaving the East-Asian exchange students, and tortured and consumed many.
  • Summon Bigger Fish:
    • When the jocks attack Josh's base in force at the end of the first episode, the Daybreakers throw blood on them to attract the Ghoulies, forcing the jocks to flee.
    • In the season finale, Josh uses loud music to draw a horde of Ghoulies to fight Burr's Apocalypse Cult.
  • Take That!:
    • Josh specifically says that 'megalomaniac leaders who can start a war with a tweet' were among the factors that led to the apocalypse.
    • Eli often takes an anti-immigrant tone towards new arrivals to the mall, outright referring to the new arrivals as 'bad hombres' and comparing himself to the modern (post-apocalyptic) version of ICE. And these moves are treated as him being an entitled Jerkass.
    • There's another one directed at The Walking Dead, when Josh realizes the camera isn't panning from him to "Baron Triumph" and tells it that artificially prolonging the drama for a weak twist is stupid. He almost explicitly calls out Glenn's controversial fake-out death.
    • On the pilot of the podcast, one of the few things the hosts can agree on is that the series finale of Game of Thrones was disappointing. They also all dislike Jimmy Fallon.
  • Team Mom: Ms. Crumble, who's the only benevolent adult influence in Josh's group despite being a Ghoulie.
  • Teenage Wasteland: All the adults in Glendale were turned into Ghoulies except for Principal Burr/Baron Triumph, leaving the teenagers and children to run things. Due to the kids being young enough to have gotten a specific vaccine that made them immune.
  • Teens Are Monsters:
    • Not universally, but quite common. Turbo's gang of jocks decided to reenact Mad Max, Eli attempts to deny people access to safety in the mall he found refuge in due to selfishness and weird anti-immigration views, and other factions war with each other quite often. Even pre-apocalypse a lot of the teenage characters were jerks—including Wesley, who is a pretty decent guy post-apocalypse.
    • A good example of this is demonstrated to Crumble's origin story. Her real name isn't Ms. Crumble, but she was given that as a cruel nickname after breaking down in the face of the students' refusal to learn. Some jackass then hacked the school computers to change her name to "Crumble" in all documents and made sure she couldn't change it back. It pervaded so much that she was forced to legally change her name to Crumble in order to actually cash her paychecks.
    • Another example is Hoyles (though, thanks to being held back several years, he was actually in his 20s), who uses his father's leverage over Burr to get away with numerous actions that should be punishable with detention or expulsion. He ultimately does face punishment, first via statutory rape charges and then when Burr as Baron Triumph attempts to cook and eat him.
  • Theme Naming: The golf team's names all rhyme. Barry, Gary, Larry, Terry and Jerry. Mona Lisa suggests joining up with Barry after he's the last living member, revealing that her real name is Mary.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Angelica before the apocalypse was a pyromaniac and drug dealer, manipulating her therapist into prescribing her pills and placing them in edible slime to sell without anyone noticing. She openly declares she admires Griselda Restrepo, the female leader of the Medallin cartel.
  • True Companions: By the end of the first season, the main Daybreakers (that is, Josh, Angelica, Wesley, Turbo, KJ, and Ms. Crumble) are this, being that they're the only ones to not bow down to Sam's new reign.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Wesley is both black and gay. Mona is also this to the jocks, being the only woman and one of the few non-white members.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Sam to Josh in many episodes. Played With: Josh is risking is life to try and save her from all the very real dangers of the apocalypse, but is also doing it out of a misguided sense of being the Knight in Shining Armor out to rescues the Damsel in Distress. Sam rejects the notion of being at all damselish, though she did need Josh and his friends to help her save the world (from a villain she let loose, no less). Ultimately, both of them could stand to be a little more self-aware.
  • The Un-Reveal: The first episode cuts off before revealing Baron Triumph's face. Then in the next episode, the camera refuses to pan away from Josh and crew until he does a flashback. Then it turns out that they're actually dealing with Eli impersonating Baron Triumph so he can have the mall to himself. The real deal doesn't get a reveal until the fourth episode.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Most flashbacks leave something out, usually something that would be unflattering to the character in focus at the moment — Josh leaves it until almost the end of the series before admitting he called Sam a slut, Burr severely underplays the extent to which he took bribes and does not mention sleeping with Crumble, and most egregiously outright claims to be dead when he is actually alive and the Big Bad. Wesley leaves out things which are unflattering to Turbo, but calls himself out on lying about his own actions, while Crumble declares herself this before she finds the strength to believe in her own memories.
  • Vegetarian Vampire: Ms. Crumble refuses to indulge in her Ghoulie nature to feed on human blood, instead feeding on animals and occasionally eating metal due to its high iron content. She does find a loophole when she has maggots eat Josh's gangrenous flesh, and then eats said maggots, but she refuses to directly harm him (though the thought crosses her mind).
  • Villain Has a Point:
    • Burr isn't wrong in his assessment of the survivors. Without any of the adults around, rather than join hands and try to rebuild a better world, the teenagers all devolve into barbarians who have no trouble killing each other when they're not indulging their vices or playing video games. He also isn't wrong about Sam being a far worse person than everyone else believed, as in the finale she takes the throne of overlord of the town.
    • In then end, Sam, during her Face–Heel Turn, isn't wrong about any of her assessments. Josh still after all this didn't know a thing about Sam besides what she meant to him (a damsel/queen to cherish, not her own person). Meanwhile, the tribes need a powerful leader, to replace Turbo and Burr, and who's a better candidate than the girl everyone loves, who as Josh's video proved, has the charisma to take charge? Someone has to fill in the power vacuum, and its not as if Josh, the only other potential candidate, exactly wants to be in charge.
  • The Voiceless: Turbo post-apocalypse speaks almost solely in grunts, gestures and spelling words out via writing or alphabet-shaped cereal. He says a grand total of five words: "You lose" after the failed gamer raid on the school, and "I love you" to Wesley during their confetti-gun duel. This is because the bombing, in addition to scarring his face, severely damaged something in his throat; whenever he talks he starts spitting blood.
  • Wall of Text: Turbo's accusatory super-fast-forward non-verbal speech in "5318008". Transcribed here
  • Weaksauce Weakness: peanut butter. Used twice.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Both Josh and Turbo are revealed to be this. Angelica was this to her mother, as well.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • In the very first episode, Josh finds that the damsel he was rescuing was not Sam, but Angelica, and tells her captors they can keep her. She rightly chews his ass out over it. First hint Josh isn't quite The Hero he likes to make himself out to be.
    • Sam delivers an epic and well-deserved one to Josh in the final episode for how he's treated her.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: "Turbo" is, in fact, Turbo's actual first name. Josh and crew question whether his parents wanted him to turn out to be a Jerk Jock.
  • The Worf Effect:
    • The Cheermazons are generally depicted as proud, powerful Amazon warriors, but in the final episode many of them are taken down instantaneously via Triumph detonating a surviving missile close to them, weakening them greatly.
    • Turbo is otherwise the biggest badass among the Jocks, and virtually no one wants to fight him if they can help it. Which makes the ease in which Triumph can knock him around all the more terrifying. Likewise, pre-apocalypse Hoyles got away with a lot of his bullying, not just because he had a powerful father, but also because he was just way stronger than everyone else. So when Josh finds him tied up and terrified after being captured by Burr, it's a great indicator of just how scary Triumph is.
  • World War III: How the apocalypse happens. Details are sparse, but China and Russia were on the same side against the U.S. and things are bad enough nobody has attempted to reclaim the region.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Josh attempts to cut off his arm after getting a Ghoulie bite in order to avoid becoming a Ghoulie. Angelica interrupts his attempt and points out that Ghoulies do not work that way, having been bitten many times herself.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Baron Triumph not only is fine with killing children, but eats them.
  • X Meets Y: Overall, the show mixes between being a quirky teen sitcom in the vain of Saved by the Bell and a post-apocalypse zombie survival show a la The Walking Dead.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Gratuitously used throughout the series.

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report