'Daybreak' Review: Netflix's Post-Apocalyptic Show Is A Disappointing, Snarky And Unfaithful Take On The Graphic Novel

Daybreak, Netflix's foray into creating a snarky, post-apocalyptic high school dramedy, is ostensibly based on the eponymous graphic novel by Brian Ralph. The similarities between the show and the book, however, stop after the shared title, the post-apocalyptic setting, and certain characters breaking the fourth wall (for a couple episodes, at least).The vast difference between the show and the graphic novel is not a bad thing, necessarily. But fans of the comic expecting a dark zombie story will find nothing of the sort in Netflix's Daybreak, which focuses on a handful of kids trying to be witty while attempting to survive in a world where everyone over the age of 18 has turned into flesh-eating monsters (but not zombies...don't call them zombies). The conceit of the show is a fun one, and if the idea of following the travails of a group of young outcasts in a cliquey, post-nuclear Glendale sounds appealing, I wouldn't blame you for giving this show a try. I thought I might be one of those into such a show, in fact. And when I sat down to watch the first five episodes, I was excited to see how the show would turn the often-trod zombie apocalypse trope on its head. 

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The first couple episodes of the season, however, left me disappointed. It's clear the show is going for snarky vibe, but the dialogue comes across as trying way too hard to be #hip and #edgy instead. And yes, as a cranky old Millennial, I'm likely not the show's target demographic (though the Ferris Bueller Easter Eggs suggest maybe I am; these, however, may only be there because Matthew Broderick plays the schlubby high school principal). Based on my 100% unscientific survey of my teenage nephews, however, the show's dialogue might not fly with the younger generation either. Phrases like, "Eat a rat's dick!" and "Douchers," are not common teenage parlance, and other lines like, "Unsubscribe" haven't been used in, like, at least the last six months. The good and bad news is that there's more to Daybreak than its cutesy and contrived dialogue—the show also weaves in themes of physical and social survival, the value of found family, and the importance of being true to yourself. The show also centers around some wonderful relationships that deserve more representation on screen, which I appreciated. But then there are the other not-so-great things as well, like a ghastly CGI shot in the pilot of a pug larger than a Volkswagen having explosive diarrhea. Later episodes also find their footing a bit better; while the beginning of the season focuses on Josh Wheeler (Colin Ford), an awkward outcast who comes into his own after the end of the world, later episodes spend time with characters like Angelica Green (Alyvia Alyn Lind), the ten-year-old self-described genius with flexible morals, and Wesley Fists (Austin Crute), an ex-jock turned samurai with a complicated past. Wesley in particular is the silver lining of the show, a character more complex, more interesting, and less annoying than the other students around him. I became invested in his arc more than anyone else's, and I hope the back half of the season spends more time with him. 

Is It Worth Watching?

Not really. I've seen the first five episodes of the ten-episode season, and it wasn't until the fifth episode—Wesley's episode—that the show really got into its stride. Without giving too much away, that episode explains Wesley's journey to becoming a wandering samurai. It also has a perfectly cast voice-over narrator, who brings a funny yet bittersweet tone that the show lacked previously.But with so much else to watch these days, committing to ten episodes of this show isn't worth your time unless you're really into snarky post-apocalyptic tales or are looking for something to play in the background while you're doing other things. And even if you are into teenagers throwing out #snarky phrases, I recommend starting at the fourth or fifth episode and seeing where it goes from there—there will be a few things you'll have to catch up on quickly, but as long as you go in knowing the show is about found family and the extreme things people do for love and/or survival, you'll be fine. 


The ten-episode first season of Daybreak premieres on Netflix on October 24.