iZombie Gets Badass with Banter, Bodies, and Brains

Before the boat party from hell, Liv Moore (pun!) was a promising physician with a Type A personality and a studly fiancé. One night she decides to step out of her comfort zone and hang out with some work friends at a party when it all goes awry. A new synthetic drug called Utopia gets passed around and turns the users and anyone they scratch into zombies, including Liv. Five months later, she’s traded her job for a gig in the ME’s office, broken up with the man she loves, and gone into virtual hiding, too haunted by the terrible events of the recent past to even consider having a future. Because she doesn’t know how to tell them what she really is, she isolates herself.

Liv’s unhappy with her un-life, so she mopes around like an emo ghost and sneaks brain noms from post-autopsy corpses. Trick is, with every brain she consumes she sees flashes of the dead person’s life. Even worse trick is that if she doesn’t eat brains on a regular basis—or if she gets overstimulated—her baser, more violent nature kicks into high gear. When her supervisor discovers her deadly little secret, finding a cure becomes his prime directive. Suddenly a future doesn’t seem so impossible, and Liv decides to use her gift/curse to help Seattle PD solve unsolvable crimes.

iZombie

Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright of Veronica Mars fame are responsible for bringing Chris Roberson and Michael Allred’s Vertigo comic book to the small screen, and the show is teeming with Veronica-isms. Liv is snarky and sneaky, a girl with more cutting sarcasm than a sense of self-preservation. With the help of two male associates, she goes after criminals the regular cops can’t or won’t catch. Look, there’s no way to talk about iZombie without constantly comparing it to Veronica Mars. I hate to do it, but there it is. Fortunately, iZombie more than stands on its own.

“Concern” is probably too strong a word, but the only thing niggling in the back of my mind is whether or not the show can sustain itself over the long run. Veronica Mars stumbled after its first season, and by the time it was cancelled it was a shadow of its former self. The only thing keeping that boat afloat was the cast’s general awesomeness. Not that the show sucked—it was streets ahead of most of the mass market nonsense on television at any given moment—but it was nowhere near the high watermark of its first season. iZombie is almost an A-grade show. A few more episodes and I think it’ll hit its stride. This isn’t to say the pilot sucked or the show should be relegated to binge-watching in the summer. If you only have time for one zombie show, make it iZombie. Leave The Walking Dead to continue to kill off PoC for the sake of making white people feel bad and instead let Liv, Ravi, and Det. Babinaux lure you in with rapid fire banter and quirky personalities.

iZombie

The episode’s central mystery leaves a little something to be desired, but I’m chalking that up to the typical strain of a pilot having to invest so much of its screentime to setup and exposition. Moreover, I’m not entirely convinced we need another procedural on an already crowded slate, but if any show deserves a chance to prove its worth, it’s one helmed by Thomas and Ruggerio-Wright. What makes the show stand out isn’t the cop-zombie-psychic twist, but Liv herself. She is suffering from PTSD, but not from the boat party. She’s mourning the loss of the life she doesn’t think she can ever have again. She fears her new powers, not just that she doesn’t know what she’s fully capable of but that the people she loves will reject her because of them. She has a life-changing secret that she knows the longer she keeps the more it’ll hurt when it’s finally revealed but would rather keep lying to her family to keep them near than trust that they’ll stick around after coming clean. If that isn’t a universal feeling, then I don’t know what is.

While the cast subscribes to the CW rule that everyone must be young and/or sexy, it also adheres to their diversity policy. Seriously, watch any CW show that’s premiered in the last few years. ABC likes to claim they’re all about diverse television, but they aren’t even close to the CW. Arrow has a whole subplot where Ollie is literally the only white person. The Flash just revealed a character as gay and did it in such a way that it wasn’t a coming out story, a tragedy about punishing him for being gay, or a plot device for the main characters to react against. The late The 100 had an openly bisexual female lead. Not to mention Jane the Virgin, which is all diversity all the time. In iZombie, half the cast is white and the rest are assorted ethnicities. Here’s hoping at least one falls on the queer spectrum.

iZombie

Speaking of the cast being just the absolute best, the secondary characters are more fleshed out in a single 42 minute episode than anyone on The Walking Dead after five freaking seasons. If Thomas and Ruggerio-Wright are as smart as I think they are, the show will soon rely heavily on the trio of Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli), Clive Babinaux (Malcolm Goodwin), and Liv (Rose McIver). Her interactions with the two men are easily the best parts of the show. In order to cover up for her insights into the lives of the dead, Ravi lies to Det. Babinaux that Liv is a psychic. Really it’s just an excuse to let her dress up in Veronica Mars’ hand-me-downs, but make no mistake, Liv is her own person. Where Veronica made her cases personal (or, more accurately, her cases made themselves personal), Liv has to be goaded into helping. It’s not until after she watches a victim’s murder flash before her eyes, and especially after Ravi hints that he might be able to cure her down the line, that she is inspired enough to take action. Veronica used her wits to outsmart her Big Bads, but Liv just goes full rage zombie and rips off a car window and tries to eat a murderer alive.

iZombie is basically like if Warm Bodies and Veronica Mars had a kid who liked to hang out with Tru Calling and make fun of The Walking Dead. I wouldn’t go so far as to call iZombie a breath of fresh air quite yet, but it is definitely a welcome addition to a turgidly overdone subgenre. Having not read the comic the show is based on, I can’t comment on how faithful or divergent it is from its source material, but speaking as someone who enjoys a heaping helping of zombies in her pop culture diet, what’s made it to television is awfully entertaining. iZombie pairs nicely with The Flash, making Tuesday night a helluva lot of bonkers fun.

iZombie

Final Thoughts:

  • “Liv’s a psychic.” “Ish.”
  • “Yo, Dirty Debbie Harry, slow your roll.”
  • “It’s probably wrong that every time I see a dead body, I think, ‘What the hell am I doing with my life?’”
  • The show stays true to its roots by using comic panel transitions between scenes. A lot of the shots feel like something straight out of a comic book as well, particularly with the scene composition.
  • If someone doesn’t write some Ravi x Liv fanfic, like, right the hell now, we have failed as a fandom. They are totally adorbs. Oh, dude, can we call them Livi? AO3’ers, get on it.
  • I know that iZombie is the name of the comic book, but Cagny & Pasty is such a good title.

Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

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