Black Summer is a lot of people’s – including Stephen King’s – latest Netflix binge-watching pleasure. If you’re like this author, you zoomed through it all in warp speed and were left a little let down when it, well, suddenly ended. What happened in the ending, exactly? Read on.
As the horror author put it, “Just when you think there’s no more scare left in zombies, THIS comes along. Existential hell in the suburbs, stripped to the bone.”
That’s quite a recommendation. He added: “No long, fraught discussions. No endless flashbacks, because there’s no back story. No grouchy teens. Dialogue is spare. Much shot with a single handheld camera, very fluid. Showrunners could learn a lot from this. If they could work, that is.”
Other people see Black Summer – the 8-episode Netflix show that is a prequel to Z Nation – as a far-weaker Walking Dead knockoff. To be sure, the shows share a lot of the same themes. Be forewarned that there are spoilers for Black Summer and its final episode in this article.
Like TWD, Black Summer focuses on human beings trying to navigate a zombie-infested earth after a virus hits. Communities dissolve, homes and towns are abandoned, and groups of human survivors create instant families and loyalties with total strangers. That’s always been interesting, and it remains so here. As in TWD, the other people in Black Summer are often more perilous than the zombies.
There are differences too; TWD starts out a little later in the process when Rick Grimes wakes up in the hospital to zombie infestation. In that way, Black Summer has more in common with Fear the Walking Dead, which also shows the beginning stages of the epidemic. Black Summer makes multiple people the protagonist, for a time, weaving their stories together as they intersect. The multi-season TWD was about how humans form new communities and organize socially without any central authority or government; in Black Summer, remnants of the military still remain in control (or do they?), and the pacing is all about basic survival during the initial frenzy.
Here’s what you need to know about the Black Summer ending:
Why Was the Stadium empty?
In the last episode’s ending, Jaime King’s Rose, Justin Chu Cary’s “Spears,” and Christine Lee Christine Lee’s Kyungsun make it to the destination of their season one odyssey: The Stadium. However, the massive athletic stadium, located downtown in a city infested with zombies and other survivors trying to make it there, is almost empty. Outside, the war between zombies and remaining survivors rages, with the zombies appearing to have the edge.
Then, suddenly, at the end, Rose’s daughter, last seen on a military transport vehicle in episode one, appears with an unidentified man, who is probably someone who has been watching over her. Rose and her daughter unite, and the season ends.
What appears to have happened is that the military was evacuating everyone to the stadium, but the zombies (who are faster but seem fewer in number than TWD’s walkers) overran them. There seems to be more zombies than people in the city now, and some members of the military have turned too. Unlike the walkers in TWD, you can’t dispatch a Black Summer zombie with a knife to the head; it takes a lot of bullets to bring them down, and people don’t all have them. In addition, the dead morph pretty instantly into the undead (Carmen ended up suffering this fate). That doesn’t give people much time to escape them. Most don’t.
What’s not clear is why there are no zombies in the stadium if the people mostly became zombies. It’s probable that Rose’s daughter was one of the first groups to make it there, and the others never arrived. What is clear is that the group now constitutes a pretty lonely band of survivors with no clear exit (if that doesn’t set up a season 2, we don’t know what does, but Netflix hasn’t yet announced whether there will be one.)
Why Did Rose Kill Velez?
If there was any Rick Grimes character in Black Summer, it’s Sal Velez Jr.’s William Velez (Rose is Madison from Fear the Walking Dead). He’s the guy who takes the lead but has the character trait of firm loyalty, including to strangers he’s just met. We see this when he’s willing to fight rather than allow the gang in the diner to give Kyungsun to the zombies as a distraction.
His death upset a lot of people who became invested in the character.
In this free-for-all, people’s true character is quickly unearthed. Fighting for base survival tends to do this. It turns out that government, and its systems, and authority structures, and cities, and even families: They’re all mechanisms of social control. What happens when that disintegrates? As with its precursors, Black Summer gives one view of that question. Some people rise to their best selves. Others are just in it for themselves, their inner demons unleashed in the anarchy.
Thus, we feel the loss of Velez most keenly. Rose dispatches him with a mercy shot to the head. Unfortunately, she was left with no choice. This prevents him from turning into a zombie, and he clearly wasn’t going to make it. If she hadn’t acted, they might not have made it too. His leg was injured, and he was surrounded. There was nothing left to do.
What’s going on in the outside world?
That’s unclear, but the military appears to be bombing the area near the stadium. An airstrike knocks down Kelsey Flower’s Lance character, and we don’t learn whether he survives or not. However, that provides a glimpse into the government’s tactics, and, perhaps there still is a government or a semblance of one. Somewhere.
One of the soldiers may have provided clues to this early on (if he’s to be believed) when he reveals that the virus hit and wiped out everyone in Denver first, and the military was bombing what it called black sites or zones where everyone is the undead. Could the city and stadium have been declared such and the few living people there written off as casualties of the rest of the country’s survival? We will have to wait for season 2 to know for sure. If we were writing it, anyway, that’s the plot twist we’d offer.