25 October 2019 04:31
So it's no surprise that "Daybreak," the new Netflix series following the teen survivors of a nuclear blast, sets out to subvert not only some of the well-trodden standards of the subgenre but the expectations it sets up for itself. Based on Brian Ralph's comics series, this adaptation from co-creators Aron Eli Coleite and Brad Peyton imagines an apocalyptic aftermath where Glendale High School students have carved up East Los Angeles into territorial pockets. Adults in this "Daybreak" world are either dead or have become ghoulies, zombie-brained walkers doomed to repeat their last innocuous pre-explosion thoughts for the rest of time. Our guide to this new Glendale that's both strange and familiar is Josh Wheeler (Colin Ford), an outsider of sorts who's stayed alive by minding his own business, literally and figuratively skating through the boundaries between these new disputed regions. While these warrior cliques are concerned with hoarding resources and murdering each other with relative simplicity, Josh is preoccupied with finding his way back to his lost love Sam Dean (Sophie Simnett).
Ford gives Josh just the right blend of charisma and sheepishness to be the ideal entry point into this world. Along the way to save his beloved, Josh picks up a pair of fellow misfit compatriots: Wesley Fists (Austin Crute), a former football star who's using his second chance at a first impression to indulge his love of kung fu and samurai stories, and Angelica (Alyvia Alyn Lind) a 10-year-old terror who's got the mind of a MacArthur Fellow, the vocabulary of Nikki Glaser, and the general disposition of a little sister who knows precisely what buttons to push. With high-schoolers as the canvas, "Daybreak" shows the natural human tendency to push back against any meaningful change. Some of the details sprinkled around the former Glendale High student body feel a few years behind the times and there are a handful of jokes that get undercut by the show's built-in winkiness. Between the camera moves that help orient the viewer to this new Glendale geography; a versatile production design that represents a group of high schoolers working with the remnants of their old life to stay sharp in a new era; a fragmented timeline that hops between chapters with the accuracy and attention span of caffeine-fueled memories – they all work toward underlining the same, eventual message: these kids are desperately trying to grasp to some idea of the past while realizing that it probably wasn't worth trying to hold on to anyway.
Burr used the other students to help get his plan – blowing up Glendale and building a new world in his image – back on track. He would use Angelica (Alyvia Alyn Lind) to detonate the last remaining nuclear weapon and clean out the city once and for all, while he headed off with the remaining students to a new location where they would serve as his personal "cattle-ranch". It initially looked like something bigger and badder was about to happen – this followed a moment between Burr and Crumble when their hands briefly fused together. Josh then jumped in to explain that the situation was the same "all around the world" and they didn't know who was responsible for what. Finally, it looked like Josh and Sam would get their happily ever after.
The show starts pretty simply enough—a kid named Josh introduces himself as an average high schooler. But as he's talking, the school transforms into a wasteland, and you quickly learn that Josh survived a nuclear attack, along with a bunch of other teenagers. As the episode progresses, we learn that Josh is actually looking for a girl named Sam Dean, who he has a major crush on. Based on the success of Netflix's The Society, we know it's always fun to watch a show about what kids would do without any adults around. The fact that the main character has spent six months looking for the girl he likes is pretty damn cute (or misguided, depending on your point of view). At least in the first episode, the show doesn't address the fact that all these high schoolers lost every parent they had six months ago. Netflix's Daybreak details what happens after the end of the world if the only remaining sources of intelligent life are unaccompanied minors. It takes place in what's left of Glendale, California after a nuclear apocalypse, following a self-proclaimed unlikely hero named Josh Wheeler (Colin Ford) and utilizing constant flashbacks to give audiences context and a clear picture of who each of the characters were before the end of the world. The show's first episode sees Josh thriving (rather than simply surviving) after the apocalypse because he is squatting in a luxurious and fully stocked apartment. Josh is flanked by Angelica (Alyvia Alyn Lind), a sadistic, hustling 10-year-old he used to babysit, and Wesley (Austin Crute), a former it-boy at the public high school Josh attended. Adults either melted or became zombies, which Josh, Wesley, Angelica, and the rest of their cohorts refer to as "ghoulies." Josh, Wesley, and Angelica frequently describe the social ordering and hierarchies that are used to categorize their place among their peers. Josh is a loner at heart; Angelica is much younger than her high school-aged contemporaries; and Wesley is a devout pacifist, meaning he doesn't fit in with rampant violence that has become characteristic of post-apocalyptic Glendale. Indeed, each tribe (and character) in Daybreak is radically violent; everyone is against each other to ensure their own survival. Broderick's Principal Burr — one of the few adults to survive without turning into a ghoulie, for reasons left unclear — pivots to being the villain and a ruthless cannibal after the bomb goes off. Josh is also searching for his girlfriend, Sam (Sophie Simnett), whom he lost when the nuclear bomb went off during a school football game. Sophie Simnett as Sam with Matthew Broderick as Principal Burr. The best part of Daybreak is its imaginative world-building, which creates an engaging and dynamic survival landscape for the characters. Josh, Wesley, and Angelica are dodging ghoulies, murderous, power-hungry jocks, and Principal Burr at all times in order to stay alive. If you like zombie-fighting, mutated animals, and dismembered, mutilated limbs, Daybreak might be worth a watch. While the show's main focus is Josh, Angelica, and Wesley's fight for survival, it also deals with themes like self-definition, identity, and belonging. Yet, despite the trio's show of heart and empathy — such as Angelica's sincere bond with a ghoulie worth saving (Krysta Rodriguez) and Wesley's decision to be true to himself in ditching his jock buddies for Josh and Angelica — the series is mindlessly disrespectful of the experiences of others in what seems to be an attempt to roast political correctness. Specifically, Daybreak's narrative tells serious stories like Angelica's strained relationship with her absent parents and Wesley's experience as one of the only students of color at a predominately white high school. At one point, Angelica calls Wesley "gay" because he's acting emotional and conflicted. Separately, Daybreak does right by audiences in creating Wesley as a deep, complex, queer, black lead. Wesley is undeniably much more likable than Josh and Angelica. Along the same vein, even though Angelica bashes the show's reliance on Josh by calling out Daybreak's usage of a traditional, cisgender, white, male protagonist, that doesn't make up for Daybreak's neglect to use Wesley — or even Angelica — as the central character instead. Daybreak is now available for streaming exclusively on Netflix.