By Madalyn Watson | Arts & Life Editor
Matthew Broderick took on a character mirroring the antagonist of his most iconic role as Ferris Bueller in the new Netflix original series “Daybreak,” which became available on the streaming service at the end of October.
Based on a graphic novel by Brian Ralph, the apocalypse strikes in “Daybreak” through a bioweapon that leaves all surviving adults as mindless zombie-like ghouls, and all surviving teens to fend for themselves.
Josh (Colin Ford), a C-average student and slacker, flourishes like never before in the crumbling remains of civilization.
Breaking the fourth wall to address the audience, Josh narrates his journey through the wild streets of Glendale, Calif., as he searches for his dream girl Sam Dean (Sophie Simnet), who he has not seen since the literal bomb dropped.
While looking for Sam, Josh must navigate the borders between the territories of tribes based on high school cliques, with the jock tribe being the major source of antagonists for his journey.
Walking the line between these sub-groups, Josh reluctantly teams up with ten-year-old pyromaniac Angelica (Alyvia Alyn), as well as Josh’s former bully-turned-pacifist and samurai Wesley (Austin Crute).
The three lost children attempt to survive hordes of ‘ghoulies,’ high school drama and a mysterious cannibal killer called Baron Triumph, who entraps and kidnaps children for his meals.
Even though this post-apocalyptic television show follows a dark plot line with spouts of graphic violence, “Daybreak” is more of a dark-comedy and romance than anything else.
The majority of the laughs come from characters inverting their stereotypes, as well as from flashbacks to the students’ lives before the apocalypse, when the bumbling, nut allergy-focused Principal Burr (Matthew Broderick) attempts to catch students in the act of their mistakes while pretending to relate to them.
At its core, “Daybreak” is a post-apocalyptic and modern-day retelling of Broderick’s most famous film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” A good chunk of the television series lends its vapid pop culture references and almost unnecessary amount of fourth wall breaking to its more successful predecessor.
Unlike “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” Jfeosh is not the only character to address the camera. Many of the 10 episodes are narrated by different characters— my personal favorite was “Episode 3: The Slime Queenpin of Glendale, CA,” which gives Angelica’s back story, showing how she survived the high school landscape as a ten-year-old even before the apocalypse.
The teen comedy relies heavily on many tongue-in-cheek, as well as not-so-hidden, references to the faults of our modern civilization.
Early on in the pilot “Josh vs the Apocalypse: Part 1,” Josh addresses different reasons he can place the blame of the end of the world on society, referencing many hot topics in politics and pop culture.
“Climate change deniers are standing waist-deep in hurricane water,” Josh said. “Corporations make billions off of nerd culture, making outsiders like the new insiders, leaving the truly odd with no way to self-identify. And little dictators with big egos? Well, they can launch a nuke with a tweet! And then one day… they did.”
Although the television series follows some surprisingly original story lines and appears to be socially and culturally aware, the show also faces similar pitfalls to other teen dramas today. For example, the dialogue can be just plain cheesy and obviously written by older adults doing their best to relate to the younger generation.
“So whatever your problems were… Dad won’t spring for a larger data plan? Mom won’t buy that adorbs top at Urban Outfitters?” Josh said, before laughing. “It’s all baby food now.”
After Josh says this, the shot cuts to a mushroom cloud forming above the greater Los Angeles area. This first scene in the series is funny, but in all the wrong ways. I found myself laughing a bit too long at the way Josh said ‘adorbs’ and ‘baby food,’ as well as at the bizarre context surrounding these words.
In addition to “Riverdale”-esque dialogue, “Daybreak” also follows stereotypes a bit too closely to be as ‘woke’ as it aims to be— the cheerleaders become amazon warriors who create the Cheermazons, the Disciples of Kardashia worship at the altar of “Keeping up with the Kardashians” and the STEM Punks are dressed in matching black turtlenecks with Steve Jobs glasses.
The portrayal of the Jocks could possibly be the most offensive, as their tribe forces others to perform before being dropped into a pit to be torn apart by ghoulies for the pleasure of their near-mute leader Turbo Bro Jock (Cody Kearsley).
Most of the characters that the audience are encouraged to sympathize with do not fall into any regular or popular clique. However, their stereotypical qualities still define them.
One of the only other adult characters in “Daybreak” is Ms. Crumble (Krysta Rodriquez), a soft-spoken teacher. Even though her character is a caring ally to many of the high school outcasts, she follows the typical trope of a lonely, single high school teacher who just wants to inspire her students for greatness, which proves more difficult than one would expect.
However, Ms. Crumble is one of the gems of this television show, as well as Matthew Broderick’s references to his ’80s hit. Austin Crute’s dynamic portrayal of the jock-turned wandering Ronin also stands out, alongside my personal favorite character Eli (Gregory Kasyan), the self-serving poser sporting ‘off-brand’ clothes who rules over the Glendale mall.
Whether you like it or not, “Daybreak” is unique. Even though broken down fourth walls became increasingly popular after the success of shows like “The Office,” “Daybreak” does something new with the meta-concept.
The post-apocalyptic teen comedy is not perfect by any means, but it still manages to be entertaining. If you are a fan of zombies or Ferris Bueller references, you should check out “Daybreak” on Netflix.