It’s that time of year again! Time to celebrate the Resurrection with a weeklong plunge into all things zombie! Here’s the history: In 2008, Dr. Girlfriend and I decided to spend a week or so each year marathoning through zombie films that we’d never seen before, and I would blog short reviews. And simple as that, the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon was born.

For the curious, here are links to 20082009 (a bad year), 201020112012 (when we left the blog behind), 2013201420152016, 2017, and 2018.

Okay, these are probably going to be the episodes that either drive you away or pull you entirely in to Black Summer. Personally, I liked episode 3, “Summer School,” and actually really loved episode 4, “Alone.” Your mileage may vary.

“Summer School” opens with Rose, Spears, Ryan, and Lance discovering an abandoned school, and we are suddenly drawn into one of those classic sci-fi/horror TV tropes: the gang of evil children, by way of Lord of the Flies. It’s a cliché and was potentially a momentum killer, but in keeping with Black Summer’s stripped-down narrative aesthetic, it works because we don’t do a deep dive into their psychology or motivations.

There’s very little dialogue at all, to be honest, and it works for me. These characters are shell-shocked, isolated, and lost. They don’t know each other yet are relying on each other to survive. There’s a moment where Rose tries to talk about her feelings, but it’s a broken, trivia-obsessed rambling that gives more insight into her character than any monologues from Walking Dead have accomplished over the past couple of seasons. I have to admit though, at this point, Lance is a bit of an albatross around their necks. Once he’s isolated, you almost get the sense that Spears is, if not relieved, not terribly concerned about making sure he’s alive.

Granted, the action comes pretty quick after a relatively quiet overnight stay at the school. As usual with these sorts of shows, the morality needed to survive is a cold hard commitment to oneself and one’s group. It’s Ryan’s desperate need to try to help a child – a child Spears accurately identifies as bait – that leads to tragic results. Results that end up not changing anything for anyone, except now somebody’s dead, our survivors are fleeing, and the kids are resetting their traps.

There’s a nice coldness to that final moment of putting a stopper in the door to lure in unwary travelers that I really dug.  Nice touch.

“Alone,” after a brief check-in with William and Sun at the diner, sets its sights entirely on what happened to Lance once Spears left him for dead. Long story short, he wakes up, cowers in the school library for a bit, listening to all the shit go down with Spears, Rose, and Ryan, then figures out how to get out of the school. But not before the kids spot him and drop a zombie out the window for shits and giggles.

And then Lance runs. And runs. And runs.

I fucking loved this. I was getting ready to hate Lance and wish he would get killed off, but this episode turned that around. Lance is all of us. He’s scared to death. He’s hopeless in a crisis. He’s his own worst enemy. But damn is his cardio on point!

I would have been cramping up, puking up, and dying after the first block or so.

Really, this episode perfectly captures what I’m digging most about Black Summer. There’s practically no dialogue and everything we learn about Lance is expressed in action. Whether that’s trying to unsuccessfully steal a car, getting distracted by an un-looted grocery store, accidentally showing the zombie how to get up on the school bus he’d been safely tucked away on, or botching a clean kill with an axe, Lance shouldn’t be alive when the credits roll, but he is. It’s actually a pretty dark ending given what we’ve seen up to then and it works all the better for me.