Netflix has found a niche demographic and they are taking it to their full advantage: teenagers. Most of their trending shows in some way or the other highlight teen angst and their point of view. Some notable examples of Netflix are Riverdale, Sex Education, Atypical, The Society and Elite. Now, we have Daybreak.
Generic But Sort of Unique
Daybreak starts off with showing the generic trope of a high school being divided into stereotypical groups: the mean cheerleaders, the nerdy geeks, the odd freaks and the testosterone-filled jocks. Since hundreds of shows and movies already exist like these, the creators made a wise decision to be inspired by a comic novel that is unique.
While it follows the common theme of high school politics, it’s also set in a post-apocalyptic world. A world where – get this- all adults have died out. Except two, and they just so happen to be the adults that were either their teacher or their principal. What a coincidence it wasn’t literally any other adult.
Right Ingredients for a Great Show
Before it seems like this review is a clear bashing of the show, let me get one thing straight. Netflix’s Daybreak has a really good premise. It’s captivating and hooks you in even if it has some common tropes that everyone has grown tired of. A post-apocalyptic world where teenagers are off to fend for themselves where they are surrounded by a unique type of zombie. They’re also not zombies but ghoulies!
Plus, the cast is actually quite good even the most famous person here is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off star Matthew Broderick. Colin Ford’s charm of being the outside actually suited him. Sophie Simnett’s character development was amazingly executed. Alyvia Alyn Lind really took on the role of ‘Mensa level genius with flexible morality’ well. Austin Crute unleashed that pacifist samurai with a passion. Even Cody Kearsley’s angry grunts and outbursts had a nice comedic flair.
But unfortunately, Daybreak massively failed in showing the journey of Josh Wheeler in the post-apocalyptic world. It had all the right ingredients, but it mixed them all wrong. Even though Netflix may renew the show for season 2, it’s not exactly needed if they won’t correct their mistakes.
Abrupt Story Telling
The main problem with Netflix’s Daybreak episodes was that they were too dragged out. It was nice of them to give us a backstory on all the main characters of the show but it was not filmed well. Perhaps the show runners wanted to do this so that the audience would know that this isn’t Josh Wheeler’s story. It’s an interesting filming method.
But it didn’t make for a good storytelling device. The narrator was Josh Wheeler as he broke the fourth wall in Fleabag and Deadpool fashion. But right after a few episodes, he is just completely removed from the picture. We see Angelica get her own story with her own narrative method (she prefers to do a voice-over). Well, that’s all well and good but then right as you’re getting used to this new format, the show runners shift the focus on Wesley Snipes. And of course, his method of showing his backstory is different too. It’s narrated by someone else.
I get that the show was trying to tell us that everyone has their own identity and they have the right to choose their way of telling a story. It’s a good effort, but fails massively to get the audience be attached to the show.
Abruptly changing the focal characters and completely neglecting the previous one makes it hard to be emotionally invested into the show. The character development is supposed to feel natural and not forced upon. Perhaps, if they had not introduced Josh Wheeler as the main lead and narrator of the show, we could have enjoyed the different characters’ telling us their views.
Hard To Root For Josh Wheeler in Daybreak
I loved meeting Josh Wheeler and Sam Dean at the start but soon realized that he’s in love with a fantasy and that he doesn’t really have that great of a personality. He’s an average student, with no purpose until he met Sam Dean. Sure, as the story went on, you could empathize with the character a bit and realize why he’s so stuck on that fantasy with Sam Dean. He’s in love with the idea of person and thinks that by achieving his happily ever after, the unresolved issues in his heart will automatically vanish. Even after the apocalypse, he has made that his one true goal so that he wouldn’t feel guilty for lashing out on her, slut-shaming her and then breaking up with her. His fantasy eventually shatters and he slowly learns to take on the role of leader slowly. The problem with this is that we’ve seen it way too many times. With as unique as a premise as the show, they could have at least tried to add something new to the generic hero Hollywood has grown attached to.
We soon come to know that it’s not Josh’s story. It’s everyone else’s but none of them noble and heroic traits that make you want to root for anyone. Once you figure out someone’s personality and their motivations, suddenly something else comes up which makes you question the intentions of the character.
Sam Dean’s Shocking Twist Made No Sense
Then we have Sam Dean’s shocking twist. I’m not going to lie, it made for a great twist. And it’s a great way to add depth and nuance to an already complex character such as Sam. Kudos to Sophie Simnett for portraying it so naturally. But her suddenly becoming a villain came out of nowhere. Sure, she might not be as cruel as the teenager-eating Baron Triumph or the sociopath Turbo (who is apparently on the good side at the end?). Everyone loves power but she did not seem like a person that craved it. She was complex, not psychopathic. She constantly said that she’s not the nice person in the viral video and she didn’t appreciate Josh posting it on the internet. So, she doesn’t like attention or being labeled as a nice person? Maybe both? Though, she’s fine with being popular and always being the go-to person for Principal Burr in the high school days. She likes being the sorting hat for new students. That’s pretty ironic for someone who doesn’t want to be sorted or labeled into anything.
Sam Dean the Villain in Daybreak Season 2?
It’s great she actually had the chance to have her own story. She was no damsel in distress, she was Sam Dean. It’s just that it made no sense for her to take a villainous turn. Sure, she may not be one and this is just a Riverdale level teaser by Daybreak.
But the ending scene shows Mona Lisa by her side, sitting on a damn throne chair and having the mindless jocks kneel before her with her showing a satisfied smirk. I mean, if that isn’t villainous, I don’t know what is?
Perhaps, Daybreak season 2 will showcase something entirely different, if it gets renewed that is. Until then, I sincerely hope they focus on what made the show better and eliminate what didn’t.