At some point, you need to chuck aside your preconceived opinion and get onboard with the wacky ride that is The CW’s new show, iZombie. Its weird, its snarky, and the best part: it’s implausible in all the best ways. While it doesn’t have the real world grittiness of other zombie entertainment that’s been coming out these past few years, iZombie brings an irreverent spark to what may be a tired genre.
What makes iZombie work so well is that it doesn’t try to fit in any particular genre. Part procedural, part murder mystery, and with a snarky monologueing heroine, it may be best compared to Veronica Mars. An apt comparison considering Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright are at the helm of this new series. Though the comparisons between Veronica and iZombie’s lead Liv (Rose McIver) are strong, the show doesn’t feel derivative. Maybe enough time has past and maybe we are just yearning for another smart, edgy, millennial, female badass, but Liv is very much a refreshment.
Liv is a promising bright young med-student who gets invited to a boat party by her colleague (do boat parties ever end well on television?) and turned into a zombie. Luckily, she seems to be the only survivor, leaving her family, fiancé, and friends in the dark as to her sudden switch to a Goth aesthetic and move to a job at the morgue. They think she’s suffering from PTSD, rather than the post-traumatic apathy Liv is struggling with as she tries to define the purpose of her new zombie existence. The farthest she’s gotten, through her extensive research of zombie popular culture, is the general inadvisability of hordes. That’s something at least…But she soon discovers that eating the brains of morgue patients has an unexpected side effect: she starts to absorb the personalities and last moments of the person. As you can imagine, this comes as quite handy when it comes to murder victims.
Reviewing television is my job, so I watch a large amount of it. Especially with new shows, I judge them against proven media that I love. What I put down to pick up a show is indicative of its appeal. With iZombie, I found myself turning away from one Kohli, on the Indian team at a Cricket World Cup match, just to rewatch scenes with Rahul Kohli’s Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti. A second time, I put down the new Batgirl comic just to giggle over Malcom Goodwin’s delivery on “Chivalry is dead, but Clive is ALIVE” another 30 times. What has gained iZombie so many fans so fast is the quality and charm it delivers upfront. Pilots usually only offer sparks of brilliance, and document a show trying to find it’s footing. However, the experience of the iZombie team (and maybe by taking its sweet time being released) puts forth a show that not only knows exactly what it wants to deliver, but hits those points consistently. It’s an irreverent, self-aware twist to the procedural it emulates and a snarky study on the human condition. Theirs is a comfortable, easy pilot, one to watch and enjoy, not to pick apart for nuggets of potential.
As good as the writing is, enough can’t be said about the cast. Much of the show’s charm (and damn, isn’t the show charming?) is thanks to the ensemble of great actors delivering it’s lines. At the helm is Rose McIver, who balances the nuances of Liv character with seeming ease. Even through the post-zombifying apathy we see flashes of the innocent promising med student Liv is at the start of the episode. And though we pick back up with Liv months later, after she’s torn her old life to shreds and works in a morgue for brains, the commitment to character shown paints us a natural progression. It is understandable, her ennui, in the face of the bare bones of a life, she thinks she must be satisfied with now. Once she commits herself to using her newfound zombie powers (it is based on a DC property after all) for the greater good, she has a new definition to her life and we see a glimpse of the determined achiever of the first five minutes.
Liv’s chief ally is her boss, the nerdy and adorably enthusiastic Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti. Ravi has all the makings of a comic book fan self-insert, so fascinated by the zombie in front of him he immediately jumps aboard her team, but Kohli manages to toe the line deftly. The juxtaposition of Ravi as an overenthusiastic friend and logical scientist at heart, gives a dose of genuine humanity into the character that takes him beyond mere sidekick caricature. Likewise, Liv’s police detective partner Clive Babineaux who is more than happy to take advantage of what he thinks are her psychic abilities to advance his own career, is tantamount to the success of this series. What brings life into an otherwise derivative character is Goodwin’s self-aware portrayal of the expected procedural detective as a fallible real character. Neither he, nor Clive, take themselves too seriously, and frame their interactions with genuine, and sometimes dorky, camaraderie. Now if only iZombie had more female characters, this series could really become something great. There is potential in Liv’s roommate Peyton (Aly Michalka) to have a great impact on the story as the best friend, but can she really be considered such when Ravi seems to be overtaking that position?
Regardless, the iZombie pilot is an exceptionally well-made first outing for the series. With compelling characters, a heroine we can all root for, and an inventive reimagining of the genre, it’s a series centered on the life of a zombie, but with far more emphasis placed on the human experience. More importantly, however, it offers countless opportunities for zombie puns, and that’s a show I can get behind.
EPISODE RATING: 8/10