Overview: Undead coroner Olivia Moore spends her time solving crimes in Seattle, which is currently undergoing a different type of zombie infestation. 2015; CW/Warner Bros; 13 episodes.
Intro to Zombie Criminology: Zombies are all the rage nowadays. Sort of. The Walking Dead is a monster hit on AMC, but there’s been a lack of undead shambling onto other TV networks. Apart from Fear the Walking Dead coming in August, a spin-off of the AMC original that sounds pretty lame so far, aside from some cool casting choices, there is, however, a little zombie show on the CW that’s part mystery and part off-kilter, witty comedy.
After people turn into zombies during a party on a boat (don’t you hate it when that happens), we follow the trials and tribulations of Liv Moore, a nurse turned undead, coroner assistant, and get a glimpse into what it’s like to be a zombie who solves crimes.
Yes, iZombie is part-procedural. But don’t let that dissuade you, as it’s actually why the show works so well.
Zombie Story Economics 101: As a zombie, Liv requires human brains to function. When a zombie doesn’t get brains in this show, they go rabid and begin to deteriorate. By eating brains, the zombies also gain the memories and take on the personality traits of their deceased entree. This gives lead actress Rose McIver a chance to flex her acting chops. And she’s an actress we should all be looking out for.
Not only does McIver bring a specific charisma and fallibility to her roles within her central role, the writing is clever enough to tie the greater ideas into overarching themes for an entire season. The different cases, brains, and emotions running concurrently through each separate installment helps the viewer understand each episode’s supporting characters, each with their own separate plot-line. It’s nothing game-changing in terms of content, but it’s a fresh take on familiar ground for the undead to crawl out of.
And man, this show is filled with fun characters. Medical examiner Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti is played by Rahul Kohli, who brings a buddy cop vibe to a role I was worried would become strictly comic relief fan service. On the show, Ravi fulfills two narrative functions, both in supplying comic relief, in addition to playing second fiddle as Liv’s confidant. Throughout the season, Ravi is actively searching for a cure, and gives the viewers insight into how a zombie virus functions in the program’s supported universe. While he’s never quite at the heart of the drama, he’s a huge facet in encouraging viewership and clarifying certain intricacies of the show’s plot.
On the side of the living, Robert Buckley plays Liv’s ex-fiancé, Major Lilywhite. Yes, his name is Major. His male model good looks and gigantic heart make him one of the more likable characters. I was worried about him being a little too likable, in fact. An altogether good intentioned person and reliably sympathetic character, Lilywhite’s story does unfortunately suffer the fate of taking a darker turn, however, as seemingly disparate story-lines begin colliding, thanks to one of contemporary television’s best modern villains.
Cheers to actor David Anders, who has once again found a show that lets him effortlessly kick his shoes off while being efficiently villainous. Blaine DeBeers gets some sort of off-kilter jargon to espouse as a drug-dealer turned zombie. He speaks in the heightened dialogue leftover from the very best modern noir stories, and is a great example of a villain you love to hate, so that when the finale comes around, you want this son of a mother dead.
And that finale…whoah!
The first half of the finale suffers from feeling a little off dramatically speaking, choosing to focus in on another mystery that seems to be an overt set up for events yet to occur in season two. Thankfully, the second half gets fucking nuts. There’s no global zombie epidemic, thanks to the constraints of a network TV budget, but the characters lives will never be the same.
Final Thoughts: iZombie balances episodic procedural elements with serialized storytelling to deliver a solid mystery and riveting emotional story. Rose McIver delivers some powerful performances, making iZombie a must watch show within the current CW renaissance.