Have you ever wanted a Zombie apocalypse show more in the vein of comedy-horror like Zombieland instead of The Walking Dead?
Have you ever wanted to throw in a whole bunch of teenage angst into said zombie show?
If so, then Netflix’s Daybreak might be for you.
At some point in the near future, some world leader or leaders decide it was time to start a war, possibly via Tweet, and they nuke California (and presumably, other places). The “nukes” were destructive, but somehow only killed off most of the adult population. The rest roam the streets as “Ghoulies” – basically zombies that mindlessly repeat the last sentence they said before dying. For example, the characters encounter one Ghoulie who was thinking about “10% off yoga pants.” But, basically, the only people who survived the bombs more or less intact are all of the teenagers.
Oh, and no guns, because California, I guess? And, pets, have mutated. The only real example they show is a pug that has mutated to maybe 10 times his normal size.
Josh, an admitted “C-level” student who moved to Glendale from Canada, has found that he may have been a bit of loner and bullied and had no friends in high school, but he kicks ass in this new post-apocalyptic world. Like Zombieland, Josh and other characters constantly break the fourth wall and converse with the viewer. Like Zombieland, Josh has a list of “rules” for surviving in this new world.
It’s been six months since the attack, and instead of uniting together, the teens have carved out territories that match the same cliques they had in school. The Jocks have taken over the high school campus, and have built a “Mad Max” inspired gang lead by the school’s best football player. The 4-H’ers are off in another part of the city. The cheerleaders have declared themselves “Cheermazons” and took over the country club. One social outcast had the foresight to take over the local mall. There’s also a mysterious boogeyman called Baron Triumph that rides a Triumph, captures kids and eats them.
Josh, though, continues to run around on his own, but he has a mission. The girl he likes, Sam, apparently left him a Post-It Note at his apartment shortly after the attack, and his mission is to find her and save her. Early on, the show is pretty vague about whether or not this is a mutual relationship.
Josh eventually does make a couple of friends. One is Angelica, a 10-year-old super-genius who is a sociopath that Josh used to babysit. The other is Wesley, a black jock who previously bullied Josh, but who left the Bro Jocks and has now declared himself a Ronin on a mission of redemption for his past mistakes. Wesley was inspired by watching “kung-fu” movies, but constantly references Japanese concepts.
The first couple of episodes mostly establish the world, and most of the other episodes flesh out the back stories of the various characters. There’s definitely plenty of teen drama, but the show doesn’t take itself that seriously. The only “new” aspect I can say about the drama is that Josh is written with the basic premise that all white teenage boys, even the “nice” ones, are jerks. Seriously, the character feels like he’s been pulled out of an 80’s John Hughes movie dropped into a modern teenage drama, like 13 Reasons Why. It really stands out when all of the other major characters feel more “modern” than Josh, especially with regards to his relationship with Sam.
For some extra meta, Matthew Broderick appears as the boring old school principal in flashbacks, which should be amusing for Ferris Bueller fans. He probably has his best moment in episode four, where, in a flashback, he deals with parents and a kid who want to buy his way into better grades in order to maintain his football eligibility. Broderick plays the character so straight it’s hard to tell if he’s enjoying the role.
Overall, though, as long as you can set aside your suspension of disbelief (and the show will stretch it — like when the nuke goes off within visible range of the homecoming game, and everyone just ducks and covers to protect themselves from the blast winds), it is overall pretty entertaining. It has more than enough funny moments to offset the cringe-worthy ones, there are a few decent twists in the overall story, and you may only find yourself yelling at the TV a few times (mostly at Josh).
The show also leaves itself wide open for a second season, provided Netflix gives them one.
While it doesn’t break any new ground, Daybreak is an uncomplicated comedy-horror show that’s worthy of a weekend of binge-watching. To me, after watching some of the more recent and more serious teenage dramas (13 Reasons Why, Euphoria), that’s not such a bad thing.