Into The Night Season 2 Soars High Above Other Apocalypse Dramas

Despite some turbulence, the second season delivers more of what made the franchise so binge-worthy
Into The Night Season 2 Soars High Above Other Apocalypse Dramas

Hollywood has ruined me for the end of the world. If the end does come, and some giant natural calamity is falling on my head, I might look up and give it a 5/10 because it didn't live up to blockbuster VFX. Spectacle is the name of the game for apocalypse dramas. Think 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, or Geostorm. Their Judgement Day visuals inspire awe and despair in the face of nature's destructive force that dwarfs all human hubris. They're breathtaking and fun. And that's where I'd end the review. That's all I remember about them. Not the people, but the cities exploding in the background (some of the characters were so annoying they were more disastrous than any natural disaster – those I actively tuned out). This genre, I had accepted, would always be a VFX showreel first and a film a distant second. Until Into The Night flew in, completely under the radar, boasting none of those blockbuster Bayhem moments; just a fascinating premise, relatable characters, and a gripping plot. Did I say gripping? Because I made the mistake of starting it late, and it held me in a headlock till I finished the entire season in a single night. Season 1 was easily a top contender for the most binge-worthy shows of 2020. And Season 2 delivers more of the same, albeit with slightly a weaker grip strength.

After a desperate flight around the world, trying to outrun the sun and stay under the cover of night, the crew have finally made it to the NATO bunker. But before they can address why sunlight is now fatal, they get hit with another crisis as a food shortage forces them to plan another risky journey. Where Season 1 was about surviving Judgement Day, Season 2 asks: how will you survive the days after? In a broken world, where you no longer know the rules, every little detail is a threat in disguise.

This is where Into The Night both shines and gets shaky. Some crises (and one entire character) are there just to act as a monkey wrench and up the stakes. Surely, the end of the world doesn't need manufactured issues, there should be plenty of authentic ones at every step. Luckily these are few and far between what is largely a thoroughly entertaining and suspenseful series.

It holds to none of the tropes we've come to expect from the genre. Chance and sheer tenacity brought them here but none of these characters fool you into thinking they are equipped to cope with their new normal. They aren't, as the usual formula goes for such films, uniquely suited to surviving the apocalypse. There's no guru, no world's-leading-expert-on-the-sun who will give you all the answers in helpful exposition. The closest they have is a climate scientist conducting backyard experiments in the hope that something will stick and give them a clue. Neither do the characters spontaneously shed their individuality and awaken to a homogenous idea of 'humanity', 'togetherness' and 'the greater good'. The writing isn't lazy, and it's backed by a cast that's so convincing you could be viewing them from the front row seats of a stage play and never doubt you're watching a brilliant performance. To the mother Zara (Regina Bikkinina), saving humanity can take a backseat to the immediate needs of her sick son. The NATO officers stubbornly uphold their code, insisting nothing has changed, while Sylvie (Pauline Etienne), Mathieu (Laurent Capelluto), Ayaz (Mehmet Kurtulus) and the crew scavenge through everything they know to try and understand a world they don't. They're written as humans, not ideals, which makes for genuine conflict and tension (yes, even I can't believe I'm celebrating storytelling 101).

Props to the writing that doesn't see a moral dilemma and jumps on the chance to milk it for a sermon. When one character wants to die, what you get is a conversation, not a monologue preaching the virtues of not giving up. It makes no judgements and just plays out for real emotional impact. It gives me hope that we can go back to that basic tenet of filmmaking: show, don't tell. I'll take my movies without the TED talks, please.

Perhaps I've come to expect too little from this genre because it lends itself so easily to being just a popcorn entertainer. Which is why the decision to go the opposite of the template eyeball-grabbing route feels refreshingly ambitious. In two seasons of this show, you never actually see the sun making a kill. Like the characters, you only ever see the aftermath, and it's unnervingly, disturbingly peaceful. There's something terribly ominous about humanity getting wiped out entirely off-screen. It makes the problem, and any possible solution, feel completely unreachable. Its absence makes its presence all the more terrifying.

If anything, Season 2's biggest problem is it's not Season 1. Where Season 1 soared with that genius setup and chase sequence structure, Season 2 is more grounded, taking the time to expand on the world and let you live in the characters' shoes. Even so, at just 6 episodes, it's still entirely binge-worthy and lives up to its name as a show that can keep you glued to the screen well into the night.

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