A fun show that creatively takes on the post-apocalypse, Daybreak is a lighthearted approach to the end of the world meant for fun times with Generation Z.
Imagine that you’re the ‘John Everybody’ of nobodies. It’s high school, you’re a Canadian transfer student, of below-average intelligence, and for some special reason, you’re dating the most popular girl in school, of whom, you’re absolutely in love with.
Typical high school drama, right? Now nuke it, convert all the adults into zombies, and make every high school clique a territorial gang in a Mad Max styled universe.
We breakdown our favorite stories and moments in Daybreak on TV Talk Episode 20. Available here, iTunes, Google play, and Spotify. Warning: The podcast will be filled with spoilers.
This is the premise of Daybreak, Netflix’s new original series by Brad Peyton (Frontier) and Aron Eli Coleite (Heroes) adapted from Brian Ralph’s comic. And though it’s premise seems a little campy at first, it’s actually a very good show worth the binge this Halloween.
The Workprint was already able to cover Daybreak at NYCC 2019 including talks with the cast about the series, their characters, and overall, what to expect this season.
Overall, this show delivers. Daybreak is fun, over-the-top, and filled to the brim with pop culture references from everything to Breaking Bad ricin cigarettes to the bites from The Walking Dead zombies. Here’s my take on a spoiler-free review of Daybreak.
What Daybreak is About
Daybreak is a young adult survival comedy, as teens, each from different backgrounds and backstories, have to beat the odds together in a world where adults, over the age of 18, have turned into zombie-like creatures called ‘Ghoulies’.
Ghoulies are not your typical zombies. They obsess over the mindless practices of the world before, like sports statistics, or finding a good sale on shoes. A social commentary on how adults have already destroyed the world as we know it before the bombs even went off.
It’s also somewhat implied in episode one, that this had to do with twitter and our biggest world leader getting somewhat offended over yet another trivial matter. Causing global nuclear strikes, allegedly by China and/or Russia, that set-off the ghoulie disease that also mutated a large portion of the animal population.
We initially see the story unfold from the point of view of Josh Wheeler (Collin Ford, who is excellent all-around), the ‘Ferris Bueller’ of the series. He’s on a quest to find his girlfriend, Sam, befriending Wesley, a black gay Samurai pacifist on a quest for peace, and Angelica, a genius twelve-year-old pyromaniac looking for a place to call home.
Daybreak is a Comedy
It’s important to embrace the suspension of disbelief in the show’s initial camp, as it’s a comedy. The series, often plays on expectations (similar to the TV show Community. Which ironically was set in ‘Greendale’ while this is set in ‘Glendale’) in light-hearted and very heartfelt ways. Especially because the post-apocalypse concept has been exhausted in the last decade.
Most of the kids we see survive the apocalypse by using a lot of the templates they’ve seen on TV or in movies. It’s also why the series features a LOT of pop culture references.
This also opens the door to use a surprisingly large amount of Gen X material. Matthew Broderick, being it’s most obvious, both in his casting within the series, and in Daybreak’s use of the Ferris Bueller fourth-wall-breaking narrative. An on-the-nose joke because creator Brian Ralph had always meant for the series to be Ferris Bueller set in the apocalypse.
Targeted towards a younger audience, the show is still, rated mature. With some occasional pot use, swear words, and occasional death scenes. Death often serves as a butt of the joke and just like in The Walking Dead, most of the main cast remains unharmed.
Still, Daybreak is an apocalypse story. So expect explosions, some gore — though often, all for comedic effect.
Daybreak is Also a Drama
The teen drama is what you’d expect. Lots of flashbacks into the world before and how characters have changed from who they are now. There’s also, a lot about identity politics, romances, and themes about looking for a place or group to fit in with and call family. Most of the main cast were outcasts who had rather neglectful parents to begin with, which is how their survival skills were already finely tuned before this apocalypse.
Initially, Daybreak doesn’t feel like there is much at stake. Though much of this changes after the first few episodes, where we shift focus away from Josh and see the story from other character’s perspectives.
The show does a great job pulling together the ‘happier’ high school moments featured in everyone’s separate backstory episodes (spoilers, all of the main cast get awesome backstory narratives) and then recontextualizes all the moments we’ve watched in the series.
Above everything, it makes us realize that just like in high school, people are not to be taken at surface value. Everyone has deeper stories and their own sins and problems, as Daybreak effectively reframes the first half of the series and sympathizes with how complicated life can be when growing up. We also see how Josh and Sam’s campy romance… was not as perfect as it seems.
It also ties together with the ‘big bad’ storyline, which I think most people will expect but I won’t spoil that here.
Daybreak’s Message is Creatively Executed
Creatively, the series plays with a surprising amount of styles. There are POV shifts, narrative breaking moments, doodled scribbles from YOU the observer/other narrator, and even crazy themed episodes ranging from a fourth-wall-breaking shoot of Daybreak starring Mrs. Crumble the Witch, a breaking bad ‘slime’ dealing backstory featuring Angelica the genius, and an animated Samurai episode for Wesley featuring RZA from the Wu-Tang clan serving as his conscious and episode narrator.
Also, musicals. Expect a couple of musical numbers. Including a very funny Japanese rendition of The Backstreet Boys.
For all it tries to do, Daybreak is creative, self-aware, and touching. Unafraid to address sensitive issues of the times, even for what’s essentially apocalypse high.
The story can throw in themes about being gay, embracing proper pronouns, or argue for women’s empowerment; just as equally, as it can have the jocks be mean warrior assholes to nerds or showcase that above everything else, leadership (aka popularity) matters.
The themes fit in this crazy universe. Especially given that its the end of the world so who’s to stop you from being YOU.
It is a story about teens… so identity is important.
The best parts are when the show goes over the top and borderline silly. The performances were on point, and the script poignant and always hilariously surprising.
Daybreak is also of surprisingly high production quality. An attempt at reaching a niche market that Netflix likely needs to fill, as there aren’t too many shows specifically catered to Gen-Z just yet, save for Sabrina the Teenage Witch and 13 Reasons Why.
Give it a chance, at least until episode 5. Though know that it all serves a deeper character storyline.
Overall TV Series: 7.5
Within its Genre: 9
You Can Watch Daybreak on Netflix Right Now