At first glance, it would be easy to think of Netflix’s Black Summer as yet another entry in a long line of zombie dramas, but Jaime King, the star of the apocalyptic series, says it’s not really about the undead, and it’s definitely not a prequel to Z Nation. The latter series made its mark on SYFY for five seasons and was unceremoniously canceled by the cable network in 2018, making the desire to connect the two understandable, especially for fans of Z Nation hoping for a sense of closure.
Black Summer, meanwhile, may come from the same folks at The Asylum — the production company responsible for Z Nation — but, in its pilot episode alone, it quickly establishes just how tonally different the shows are. That’s not to say the two series don’t share some DNA, after all, Black Summer is directed by John Hyams, who directed several episodes of Nation, and it also revolves around the idea of civilization’s collapse in the wake of a viral outbreak that turns people into unfeeling, flesh-eating monsters.
But are they definitely zombies in Black Summer? That question was raised when Screen Rant spoke with King ahead of the series premiere, and the actor said, “You know what? There was never a mention of zombies in the script.” Whether they’re the emaciated, shambling casualties from The Walking Dead or the fast-running, rage-infected mobs of 28 Days Later, the definition of what, exactly, constitutes a zombie is certainly up for debate. And as King sees it, Black Summer is less a zombie story than it is a story about refugees.
“It's really a refugee story. It’s a story of a country and a sickness, and the sickness really has all this symbolism in it. This sickness that people are getting is symbolic of the hatred and the division in our country. And nobody is immune, no matter how deeply you love, no matter who you are. No one is immune to what's happening right now and being affected by it, you know? Even when you see someone get sick, they're ordinary, they have no super powers. In a way, you feel sorry for them.
[It’s] a story about what happens in a country where the government falls apart and where the fabric of society is being torn apart, right? When people are not adept to having to survive on their own without one another. And again, what does that look like? …There’s something about the ordinariness of it that makes it so human.”
The ordinariness King mentions is perhaps one of the first clues that Black Summer isn’t the Z Nation prequel many (Screen Rant included) believed it to be. King was eager to clear up the misconception, and attributes the confusion to the fact that so many of the same people were involved in making both shows.
“It's interesting because people started tying [Black Summer] to Z Nation and I'm like this has nothing to do with that. It's not a link to Z Nation. I had never actually seen Z Nation or heard about Z Nation, but I have friends who absolutely love that show, and then people started putting it out there that it was like a prequel of Z-Nation, which it's not. So there was a moment when it was kind of confusing because I was like, wait, how is this related? And really there is no relationship, but the relationship is it came from the people that were involved with Z Nation, but that's where I think it all the sudden became, oh this must be a straight up zombie genre show, and it's so much deeper than that. If you want to see the meaning and the drama and the truth, it's there. And if you're in and down and love something that is genre-bending and terrifying because it's so honest, it's also there. It's got everything. And it was really exciting to blend all of these genres together. That tells a true great story.”
There will likely be plenty of debate as to whether or not Black Summer fits in with the likes of Night of the Living Dead or not, or if it's something else entirely. Fans of the zombie genre will likely get their fill with the eight-episode drama currently streaming on Netflix, but it sounds as though anyone hoping for an overt connection with Z Nation will be left wanting.
Black Summer season 1is currently streaming on Netflix.