It’s not a surprise, but it still stings: Netflix appears to have closed the door on Black Summer, the best zombie show on the platform. Co-creator John Hyams had initially tweeted a third season wouldn’t be happening back in April, but a new report indicates Netflix has officially canceled the show.
A prequel spinoff of Syfy’s Z Nation, Black Summer takes place a few weeks after the start of a zombie apocalypse, and follows a group of people all trying to survive and find their loved ones. This effort is led by Rose (Jaime King), a mother separated from her daughter; Spears (Justin Chu Cary), a criminal posing as a soldier who saved Rose’s life; and Sun (Christine Lee), a woman looking for her missing mother. Along the way, they meet other survivors — some friendly, some less so — and plenty of ambling undead.
The show has solid character work, and the three leads are very strong, but where Black Summer really shines over its zombie television peers is in its direction. The majority of the episodes are directed by Hyams, a terrific genre filmmaker best known for his Universal Soldier sequels (including the masterpiece Day of Reckoning), who has also made recent unsung horror gems like Alone and Sick (as well as directed some fantastic episodes of Chucky).
Hyams’ patient camera does a terrific job building up the tension in a zombie apocalypse, and his experience in the action genre helps make those scenes even more exciting, desperate, and brutal. His penchant for ambitious one-take sequences also adds a different dimension to the show and increases viewer immersion in the world, leaning into the chaos of a zombie apocalypse without ever muddying up the geography of a scene and making it difficult to follow.
This is best seen in the first episode of season 2, “The Cold,” which opens with an incredibly impressive oner. It starts with a man siphoning gas out of a car into a disgusting KFC bucket, keeping an eye on a lurking zombie about a hundred yards away, and continues in an exhilarating seven-minute sequence that includes seeing someone turn into a zombie, a temporary change in protagonists, a chase best described as “zombie Evel Knievel on top of a moving car”, and a contemplative zombie staring at his own reflection. It’s a great example of how Black Summer can ratchet from 0 to 60 in an instant, with edge-of-your seat action.
Without a third season (which King suggested could have been the final one), fans will be left with unanswered questions posed by the second season finale. But that shouldn’t stop you from watching the 16 episodes that exist — especially if you’re a fan of zombie fiction or bold television direction.
Both seasons of Black Summer are available to watch on Netflix.