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The Latest Zombie Apocalypse Lands on Netflix with 'Daybreak'
October 24, 2019  | By David Hinckley

If you're getting a little tired of shows like The Walking Dead taking the Zombie Apocalypse so doggone seriously, Daybreak might be your antidote.

Daybreak, a 10-episode series that drops Thursday on Netflix, gives us a ZA that's no less lethal, but a whole lot more fun.

In Daybreak, the post-apocalypse world is populated almost entirely by teenagers, since the bomb that detonated in downtown Glendale, CA, seems to have had a viral component that targeted adults.

As our 17-year-old narrator Josh Wheeler (Colin Ford) matter-of-factly explains, almost everyone over 18 was "melted into goo."

Some adults did survive, sort of, becoming "ghoulies" who lurch around town looking for living flesh on which to munch. While this pretty much makes them zombies, there are a couple of differences. They can speak, for instance, so in their aimless lurching, they continually repeat the last thing they said before the bomb exploded, like maybe how they need to go to Lululemon to exchange their yoga pants.

The ghoulies keep the survivors on their toes, but as in The Walking Dead, the bigger problem for the survivors is the other survivors. Who, in this case, are especially annoying because they are, well, teenagers.

Teenagers who remain split up into all the familiar teenage groups – jocks, cheerleaders, nerds, techies, celebrity obsessives, etc. – only with their most obnoxious traits magnified because there's no longer any adult social structure they need to accommodate nominally.

Six months into the ZA, Josh seems to be one of the relatively rare detached observers who is dealing with the situation rationally and methodically. He has stocked his apartment with food and survival supplies, including Type O blood, in case he needs a transfusion.

After he gives us the short version of the ZA and roars off in a cool sportscar, Josh says life now is "like living in Grand Theft Auto, only better."

For better or worse, that's teenage overstatement. Josh mostly gets around on a skateboard, dodging both ghoulies and all those fellow moronic teenagers who figure that since there are now no rules, it has become survival of the fittest.

There's a Lord of the Flies element to every ZA story, of course, and, in this case, it takes absurd and often hilarious forms, like cheerleaders who model themselves after samurai warriors and Golf Club nerds who think they can rise to power by brandishing their nine-irons.

Those aren't Josh's big challenge. His big challenge is finding Sam Dean (Sophie Simnett), the girl with whom he was developing his first real relationship when the bomb went off.

He knows she's alive because she left him a post-it note. He just doesn't know where thus the quest that forces him out of his relatively comfortable apartment and into streets full of lunatics.

Against his better instincts, Josh does acquire a posse: Wesley (Austin Crute), a former bully who now wants to atone for his past by living a peaceful samurai life, and Angelica (Alyvia Alyn Lind), a 12-year-old pyromaniac for whom Josh once babysat with bad results.

If nothing else about Daybreak sounds like it would appeal to you, watch it to see Angelica. She is hands-down the best breakout character anywhere on television this fall.

She lights up scenes brighter than her flamethrower.

With Wesley and Angelica aboard, Daybreak itself adds a little Wizard of Oz vibe.

Fans who remember Daybreak from its first incarnation as a graphic novel, written by Brian Ralph and published in 2006, will notice significant changes in the TV version.

In the comic, the narrator had one arm. Josh has two. In the comic, the zombie-like adults were unnamed and never fully seen. So fans will likely debate whether Ralph's work has been compromised, though it's also true that The Walking Dead itself is only based on the original comic premise, not wed to its particulars.

Viewers who want a full, logical explanation of the ZA may raise other questions here. While the bomb seemingly wiped out major parts of modern life, like cell phones, the basic comforts of life appear more or less available despite the fact no one seems to be working or, say, maintaining infrastructure.

No matter. Daybreak spends more time on flashbacks, which lets it also lampoon pre-apocalypse high school life. Toward that end, we see a lot of Michael Burr (Matthew Broderick), principal of Glendale High School. He's clueless in the funniest possible way.

Daybreak understands both the infuriating characteristics of teenagers and many of the reasons a crazy world makes them behave as they do, both before and after a zombie apocalypse.

Truth is, though, it'll have you at Angelica.

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