On the way home from a recent trip, I managed to cram in all eight episodes of Netflix’s new zombie series, Black Summer. Like so many other Netflix originals these days, it sprang out of nowhere with little fanfare, and it’s anyone’s guess whether it will be ignored completely by viewers or the next viral sensation.
My guess is the former, because it just isn’t all that good.
While I may be a Walking Dead fanboy, especially now that the show has gotten really good again as of season 9, I am certainly open to competition. Netflix itself has already made a great new zombie show in the form of The Kingdom, the Korean zombie period drama that was actually quite stunning and is returning for a second season.
Black Summer is…less impressive, and plays more like a bloated movie than a new series. I know Netflix doesn’t have to operate within the bounds of traditional formatting, but the show’s episode lengths are bizarre, with a 45 minute premiere and a 20 minute finale across the eight episodes, with 25, 30 and 40 minute episodes in between. This makes the entire thing about a 3-4 hour experience, which, if you’re a zombie die-hard you may want to check out, but if you’re anyone else, I’m not sure this is worth your time.
This is a fairly traditional outbreak story, one told in the early days of a zombie attack. I think we’re about 5 weeks out from when things got “really bad,” as referenced by the characters. We follow a handful of characters that end up intersecting with one another frequently, as the show likes to play with parallel timelines. They have an ultimate goal of reaching the fabled stadium in the center of downtown (I’m not sure what city this is, something in the southwest), where they hope to reunite with lost family members.
The zombies here are…weird. Here are the rules we’re working with:
- These are “fast zombies,” 28 Days Later style, meaning they sprint and chase you and go so fast you’ll often see them plowing through walls and windows when you think you’re safe
- Biting does in fact turn people, but we are also working with the Walking Dead rule where anyone who dies, even if they aren’t bitten, turns. And they turn instantly.
- Headshots kill them, but these zombies seem far, far more durable than most Walking Dead Combine that with their speed and even one or two is enough to ruin your entire day.
What this looks like in practice is bizarre. Given that these are fast zombies that turn instantly after death, the zombies are essentially just actors with white-out eyes and blood on their face running around screaming. There are no prosthetics here, no real monster make-up. No zombies rolling around with one arm or half melted by fire. Just a lot of crazy people screaming, which does not make for a terribly compelling threat, however dangerous they may be.
But as weird as the zombies are, it’s the editing of this show that I can’t shake as being even bizarre. The show feels like it is desperately throwing out left turns as much as it can, adding and subtracting new characters at will so in many cases, you don’t get more than 2-3 episodes to know any of them. The show does some weird things like take a character tagging along in a group that you were positive was a redshirt and then…giving him his own 40 minute episode that he spends running away from a single zombie.
Editing also results in weird time skips. Like we will have one episode where five characters spend the entire thing debating how to get out of a diner they’ve been trapped in by two zombies. And then one episode later they are executing a highly choreographed raid of a weapons cache buried inside a sex/dance club full of armed guards. I had to check to make sure I hadn’t missed an episode or two multiple times.
I do like a few things the show does. The idea of “durable zombies” is a good one, ones that eat tons of damage and bullets before going down rather than being killed with pencils and icicles like in the Walking Dead. It’s just that their presentation is all wrong. The diner episode and the heist episode were memorable, but it’s hard to get attached to these characters given how often they come and go. The only person I even recognize in this series is Jamie King, but I don’t even think she’s one of the better characters. That honor goes to Christine Lee as Sun who has to navigate all this madness without speaking English.
The show kills off so many people by the end I have no idea if this is supposed to be a one-off series or the first of a few different season. I don’t think I’m terribly interested in more, and there are just better zombie properties to compare it to, even on Netflix itself. It’s not the biggest time commitment, but I just don’t know if it’s worth getting through regardless.
Recent flooding across the midwestern United States has devastated lives and industries and even wreaked havoc on gasoline prices across the nation. Gasoline prices have been steadily rising, as is typical of this time of year, but recently prices took a sharp upward turn, especially in California.
Here’s what’s going on and what we can expect for the summer:
Ethanol is a substance made from corn or sugar that is added to gasoline supplies in the United States. The total amount of ethanol that must be mixed with gasoline is mandated by the government, however, regular gasoline cannot contain more than 10% ethanol. In the U.S., most ethanol is made from corn and is produced in the midwest. In Brazil, ethanol is made from sugar.
The floods in the midwest caused a spike in ethanol prices, because transportation lines were washed out and trains were unable to make deliveries. Some ethanol refineries were incapacitated, but most continued to produce ethanol but were unable to ship it out of the midwest. These producers couldn’t take advantage of the price spike, but other ethanol refineries, located in Texas and in California, did. Prices for ethanol imports from Brazil also rose as gasoline suppliers turned to foreign sources when their usual supplies from the midwest didn’t show up. Ultimately, this spike caused by transportation bottlenecks is temporary and will even out as repairs are made.
Ethanol stocks are high right now, so ethanol isn’t an immediate problem. However, much depends on the condition of the corn crops in the midwest. If corn yields (the harvests) are lower due to the flooding, then we should expect to see higher ethanol prices and, therefore, higher gasoline prices in the future. We may not feel the pinch this summer but we could feel it later in 2019 or even in 2020.
Perhaps it is time to rethink our ethanol policies in the United States and make sure that our corn supplies can rightly be utilized for food instead of as a gasoline additive. A small amount of ethanol is necessary to help oxygenate gasoline, but there is no good reason to put 40% of our nation’s corn supply into gasoline when the future supply of corn is always unknown.