Netflix’s “Daybreak” is an Over-the-Top but Binge-Worthy Depiction of Teenagers in a Post-Apocalyptic World


Courtesy of Netflix

Olivia Biel, Features Editor

“Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Mean Girls” would be an unlikely couple, but their baby would probably look something like Netflix’s “Daybreak,” released Oct. 24.

The series follows a group of high schoolers as they navigate the self-imposed borders of Glendale, California after biological bombs are dropped on the United States. It’s separated into factions based on common high school cliques, including jocks and cheerleaders — the latter call themselves the “Cheermazons.” The bombs turned most adults into zombie-like creatures called “ghoulies.”

It centers on Josh Wheeler (Colin Ford), a loner looking for his girlfriend, Sam Dean (Sophie Simnett). He teams up with Wesley Fists (Austin Crute), a former jock and kung-fu film junkie, and Angelica Green (Alyvia Alyn Lind), a foul-mouthed, 10-year-old science genius with a taste for starting fires who Josh used to babysit.

The three stay together to avoid torment by the jocks, led by Turbo “Bro Jock” Pokaski (Cody Kearsley), who has control over all other factions, and avoid capture by the masked cannibal Baaron Triumph.

In many ways, the absence of most adults in “Daybreak” is used to satirize high school culture. Turbo Pokaski, who was a football player at the high school, can’t stand losing. There’s a running joke about the fierce loyalty of the golf team, whose members have rhyming names. One of them, Gary, uses the screen name “5138008,” which looks like “BOOBIES” typed on a calculator upside-down. There’s a girl who objects to being seen as nice and cool out of desperation to be different, and a boy whose fashion sense is full of off-brand products.

However, none of that overwhelms the show — in fact, it uses its post-apocalyptic setting to shake up what might otherwise be another high school dramedy. The tension between the jocks, Josh’s group and the threats of Baron Triumph and ghoulies keep the show action-packed. It’s also fun to see the jocks fight in Mad Max-style costumes and Wesley run around with a katana while dressed like a samurai.

Although some of the show’s characters feel cartoonish and it sometimes fails to convincingly sell their development, “Daybreak” does deal with an important question. What happens when kids have to grow up in a world without adults to guide them? It’s in this area that the show sets itself apart from other teenage dramedies.

They have to handle their problems, personal or otherwise, amongst themselves. This is especially evident in Angelica’s story arc. She struggles with building her own identity, and with connecting to other people. Her closest companion is an unexpected one, and the relationship that forms between the two is touching.

Within all the show’s pop culture references, slapstick humor, satire and antics are stories of friendship, loss, romance and identity. Each episode is narrated by a different character, so we get an inside look at what each is going through.

Perhaps one of the most interesting characters in the series is Ms. Crumble, a teacher at Glendale High who became only half-ghoulie in the apocalypse. She struggles to remember her past, in which she was emotionally abused, and with living as the creature she’s become.

Every episode of “Daybreak” is about an hour long. But its quirky, heartfelt and comedic elements combine to make a series worth binge-watching.