Daybreak Review: A Unique Take On Coming Of Age Stories

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There will always be a show that feels different, sometimes in ways that you can't explain.

Daybreak is exactly that, except it goes out of it's way to stand out because of it's insistence to not be boxed down to one type of show.

It is everything from a samurai saga to a coming of age story to a romantic love story to Mad Max fueled action sequences. 

Daybreak

The reason that Daybreak gets it right is that it doesn't take itself too seriously and yet at the same time goes out of it's way to focus on an emotionally driven story about finding your tribe.

There is so much going for the show, even in just the introductory episodes, because of the attention that is given to details that shape the overall story into a meaningful example of pure understanding. 

Across the board, there is so much through being put into creating Daybreak, with the cast and the creators at New York Comic Con unable to stop showing just how much heart has been added along the way.

From the plot to the characters to the cinematography to the costumes to the music, there is truly something for everyone because Daybreak is trying to create a family for those that join in for the ride. 

There must be a reason why something like Daybreak has never existed before, and it feels like the reason is that we have been waiting for this version of it. The love that goes into every aspect of this season shines through in every Easter egg and every scene along the way. 

It was worth the wait for a show like Daybreak that gets it so perfectly right. 

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The Plot

The way that the story is told on Daybreak is an immersive experience in and of itself. While the pilot lets Josh introduce the way that the apocalypse started and what it means for everyone in Glendale, that then becomes a way for the point of view to be passed around throughout the season.

After a bomb goes off, seemingly all the adults have become the show's version of zombies where they are named Ghoulies and they are doomed just to say the last stupid thing that they were thinking. 

While that provides an obstacle for the kids left behind, most of the conflict emerges from the groups that get created in Glendale once the apocalypse starts.

The Daybreak Tribe

Everyone has separated into their "tribe" and for some, it is each man for himself. Or at least that is what Josh has narrowed himself down to, surviving the shift well and yet at the same time stopping at nothing to track down his girlfriend Sam who went missing after the bomb. 

This is the start of the journey, but it is in the way that Daybreak introduces all the elements that allow the season-long arc to come together. 

Aron Eli Coleite gave some insight on the approach, "I wouldn't say that we write jokes, we write humor. We write what feels funny to us and our characters. The allegory of the show lent itself to all these tropes.

"If the allegory of the show is surviving high school was hell, and like the apocalypse, then we could take that and make surviving the apocalypse just like being in high school."

But also much of the story is about the different kind of plot happening from within. It isn't just about high school groupings or a how-to guide on surviving a catastrophic biological event, it is also about what that means on a basic human level. 

Josh and Wesley

The importance is embedded in the connections that are formed and in the way that each person develops from there.

Colin Ford spoke with us at New York Comic-Con, where he said, "Daybreak is nothing like we have ever seen before, and there is nothing like it out there. The only way to describe it is Mad Max, Zombieland, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off." 

He also set the scene by pointing out, "This apocalypse is different from most apocalypses, it kind of sets up the world that we live in." 

And the pilot especially does exactly that, creating the groundwork and the blueprint for the immense world-building that is still yet to come. 

Burr and Sam

Meanwhile, Sophie Simnett added to that, "It is gender-bending, it is a coming of age story and a samurai saga and a comedy and a drama and an action film.

It has a pulsating score. It does have everything. It is something we are all proud of because of that. The characters are also so unique; we don't all match and yet we also do.  It is that beauty of not everyone has to be the same to come together."

It is quite incredible getting to watch the way that Daybreak strings all of this together. It isn't looking to tell one kind of coming of age story, it is looking to tell them all. 

At the same time, though, the topic is still quite heavy, and it is all grounded in what is essentially the end of the world as we know it. Daybreak still finds ways in which to stand-out beyond that. It takes that life-changing shift on Earth and allows it to start a conversation of value.

Wesley Fists

Austin Crute, who plays Wesley Fists, demonstrates that when explaining what his character taught him about surviving the apocalypse at New York Comic Con, "Wesley's value of peace, tranquility, mental health, self-checks, and emotional checks at such an early age, that is also something that he has taught me is valuable in the apocalypse." 

And that is where Daybreak proves that it is worth the investment. The series has certain priorities, which includes putting its characters first and the impact it has on them. 

The characters definitely drive the plot instead of the plot constantly driving the character's arcs. 

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The Characters 

Now the characters individually are written as fascinating and multi-layered people. There is such variety, but even beyond that there is so much to identify within each character.

All of this comes through because of how the show decides to let each character be a hero in their own story. Every character gets their time to speak and to tell their story in their voice, instead of what usually would be a contained show that only had specific leads in control of the narrative. 

Daybreak Cheerleaders

Executive producer Aron Eli Coleite explained, "In shifting perspective and in exploring different points of view, almost every single episode felt like rewriting a pilot. When you are reinventing the language of the show from episode to episode, it is really hard because it is like starting over fresh."

This challenge pays off very successful with the unique way that each journey is paid off. There is no way to expect what each person will bring to the table when it is their turn, which only adds to the excitement.

Executive producer and director for Daybreak Brad Peyton confirmed that "In Daybreak, you get to tell who everyone is very quickly. The characters are so well written and well-drawn, and their voices are so clear." 

This tactical approach allowed each character to get their time in their own narrative. This also allowed the actors to share about their characters at New York Comic Con with us. 

Glendale During Daybreak

Colin Ford digs into the lead character of  Josh Wheeler in our interview, "Josh when he is plopped into the apocalypse, he can go from being a C student and an average guy to being the best version of himself. Josh just wants to fit in, so his peers might call him a leader, but he would never describe himself as one.

He is a little more timid, so when the apocalypse comes, he just wants to find Sam and live the best version of his life that he can. He wants to fit in somewhere, and he wants to have a home. So it takes other people offering him that for him to see that it could be a home for him." 

That sets the tone for Josh's story, which is very much intertwined directly to Sam's voice. She is his girlfriend who we don't know anything about, so her disappearance sets a mystery that can only be shaped by other people's perception of her.

In the beginning, the search for Sam means looking at her from everyone's eyes except for her own, but that becomes an anticipated shift in the typical trope. Usually, the "love interest" would only exist for that purpose, and her side of things or her understanding of herself would never matter.

Daybreak though threatens that, setting up the potential to provide a lot of different takes on Sam before she might get her time with the audience.

Glendale in Daybreak

In the meantime, though, there is a multitude of other characters 's stealing the screen with their existence. One of my personal favorites is the character of Wesley Fists, who is played by Austin Crute.

His character's specific episode has already been labeled a critics favorite, which might be the least surprising part of the show.

Austin Crute was able to add his view on his character at New York Comic Con as well.

"Wesley's role in the apocalypse, he is a pacifier and a de-escalator. He is someone who brings less emotionally charged perspectives to pressing issues in the apocalypse, amongst the tribes that gather there.

"Before the apocalypse, he was a bully and ran with crowds where he may not have been the most evil there, but he still ran in crowds that he wouldn't be accepted in.

Kind of like if Harry Potter really did go to Slytherin. After that apocalyptic shift, which we don't know why he is peaceful all of a sudden, I think he turns into this oddly kind of chameleon in the apocalypse. He becomes really good friends with some of the characters that you wouldn't think he would be friends with," added Austin. 

That becomes a beautiful transition into what the real message of the show seems to be. 

Aron Eli Coleite brought it full circle when he described, "It is about finding your tribe and how these groups of kids click together."

A character that is truly looking to click with others might very well be Angelica Green, at least going by the exclusive scoop that actress Alyvia Alyn Lind shared with us at NYCC when it came to playing her.

"Playing Angelica was really fun because she has so many layers and she's just this insane kid that will tell you off, she is just insane.

"Throughout the season, you see her become a little more lovable, and all she wants during the apocalypse is to find her tribe. She was excluded before so now she just really wants to find her place," she mentioned. 

Angelica seems to be exactly that, someone who blows you away when you first meet her but who still keeps surprising the audience as the story shifts. There is no way to know what she will do next, which makes it fun and inviting. 

Another personal favorite when it comes to the scene-stealing appearances came in the form of Mona Lisa. 

Turbo and Mona Lisa

Jeanté Godlock shared more about her character saying, "I play Mona Lisa, she is a badass, and she is the only girl on the football team. Before the apocalypse, she is with the boys and with her teammates when the bomb goes off.

"For Mona Lisa, she represents that strong female presence within her tribe, and now she is telling them what to do."

What sounds like the best approach to storytelling within Daybreak, though, is the way that it is broken up to before and after the bomb. In a way, characters offer two versions of themselves in every way, and it is just as much about who they are now as who they were before this. 

Jeanté Godlock offered more on that when she mentioned," Her name is Mona Lisa, that is her nickname because she never smiles.

"I thought it was interesting as we get further into the season to see different layers; she still doesn't smile, but you do see a lot more intention. Why she does what she does. She is kind of complex. She does have things going on, and it is cool to explore that."

Mona Lisa and Turbo

Mona Lisa's entrance into the show is exactly as badass as you would expect. It represents everything that Mona Lisa will continue to be, but it also solidifies her place within the story. There is no way that she will be met with anything except unconditional excitement for all the potential that she offers. 

On the other side of things, someone who is living probably his actual best life though is played by Gregory Kasyan in the series. 

"Eli was bullied in high school because he was never able to afford any of the new things since his parents came from another country. After the bombs explode, he takes over the mall, and he gets everything he has ever dreamed of.

"But he does get more vulnerable towards the end of the season because there are a lot of layers to Eli as you will see," mentioned the actor. 

Eli is exactly that from his first introduction within the show, in a way he could be described as well worth the wait because the humor that he offers is off the charts epic. 

Yet in a way that describes much of the show as a whole, the intention jumps out in each character introduction and beyond.

"You can't guess what happens on this show, it is so bonkers. And every character's journey goes in a way we didn't expect. It is nice to know that each character gets their own story told in the episodes," said Sophie Simnett when reflecting on the show's value.

As the actress behind the legendary Sam Dean, there is a lot to expect for her.

So much is said about her that in a way she does become this being that exists with the others even when she isn't actually there. 

The interesting take that Daybreak has is also in the way that it connects with the kids. They are the ones who run the show, which means that seeing adults in any variation now is far and wide. 

A very familiar face though does carve out room for himself in a world full of kids, a character played by Matthew Broderick in the form of a school principal. 

Sam and Burr

"I was a well-liked principal at the school, but over the years, there is some pent up anger with the kids and budget cuts and what it is to run a school. So my character gets to express some of that," expressed Broderick.

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When reflecting back on what it was like to be on a show as one of few adults Matthew said, "I would hang out near the monitors and talk adult language, but then I would head back to the scene, and people were talking about things that I had no idea what they were talking about.

"I have kids, but your own kids know that you don't know everything, so they explain it to you."

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The Soul of the Story

The common thread, though, in all of this is the effort that is made to tell the story through other elements like plot and characters. It is all about what Daybreak is trying to say. 

Aron Eli Coleite mentioned exclusively at New York Comic-Con this year, "When we started talking about this, we talked about Buffy because it was a touchstone show for us. It combined horror, humor, heart, and the ability to combine all of that.

So when looking at Daybreak, it was really about finding space in every single episode for all three of those touchpoints and carry them forward to make them the total consistency of the show.

"If you can make somebody scared, somebody laugh, and make somebody cry in a single hour of television then we have accomplished that."

Executive producer Jeff Fierson added on, "It is also a combination of us. Brad is an expert on the action genre, I think I am funny, and Aron writes heart and soul better than anyone." 

In talking with the executive producers, it was obvious how much love and how much care went into a show like this. It was hard not to instantly adore the show when the creators were so invested and excited for everyone to see it all.

Brad Peyton shared on the approach to the show, "It was also about balance. It is good to be funny, but if you don't have stakes or emotion, then you don't really care. Can we make these emotions really and these stakes real and then still have fun?"

At the same time, as much as the balance needs to come from the tone of the story, the characters need to be balanced too. Much of the story is rooted where it is because of the relationships created between the characters. 

Krysta Rodriguez, who plays an intriguing character in the form of The Witch, reflected on her favorite portion of the story, "One of my favorite parts of the show is that I have this lovely relationship with Angelica. We form this special bond because I'm a biology teacher, and she is a prodigy. We save the world together.

There are some scenes of us becoming partners, and one in particular where it felt like a trope, but they flip it into this feminist manifesto of these two women that are learning to be themselves and not be a certain way anymore. The apocalypse affords them this chance in a way."

The Witch

Alyvia Alyn Lind also reflected in the same way on the subject, "It was actually, the more we got to know each other, the better it was for our characters because as soon as we got close, then so did our characters. So it was kind of perfect timing for us to come together and now we are all best friends."

This seemed to be true for everyone, with Austin rounding it out by talking about the way to achieve what the show was going for between the characters, "The chemistry is important because even our characters may not 'like' each other at first, there does become this bond and this tribe that has to come across."

Because at the end of the day, it is the theme of the tribe that rings loudest. The sense of having a place to belong and found family is deeply integrated into everything that the show creates from the pilot.

Sophie Simnett added on, "Everyone is there because they are searching for something, it is a family tribe."

The powerful part though is not only the way the story relates to the audience but the impact it makes on the actors as well. 

Jeanté Godlock had a meaningful connection with her character, "Mona teaches me that even being a part of a group of boys, she can lead, and she can be respected. Women can be in charge, and it can be okay. Mona is in a group full of boys, but they all fear her, and she means business." 

Daybreak exists in a space where it is natural to combine all different kinds of genres, allowing fans across the board to feel appreciated and catered to with a show like this.

When you have a show that can deliver gory scenes in the same breath as heartwrenching explorations of relationships and then humor landing in all the spaces in between, you just know that you found something special.  

Truly the best way to experience a show like Daybreak is to go into it without any expectations. It is there to surprise you in all the best ways, so the least you can do is let it. 

Daybreak drops on Netflix Thursday, October 24.

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Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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Yana Grebenyuk is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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