iZombie is an investigative procedural that happens to have zombies at the core of its universe. For the most part, the case-of-the-week is generally entertaining and nearly always rewardingly tied to the progression of the seasonal story arc. The few illogical plot points here and there don’t detract from the general joy of watching gory zombie action wrapped in a romantic comedy wrapped in a Law and Order episode.
The obvious comparison, though, is to Veronica Mars. The similarities are numerous and gleefully conspicuous. The plucky, independent female lead with a compulsion for investigating anything and everything. The life-altering event that ruins the main character's reputation and sets her on a mission to get back a normal life. The estranged boyfriend. The super geeky sidekick. The narrative voice-overs.
And always, the snarky, witty, reference-infused humor. From the Episode 12 opening homage to all of the I Know What You Did Last Summer movies to the unfailingly geeky asides from Ravi, iZombie always delivers the self-aware laugh. The humor touches on all levels, from light and witty to dark and fit for the gallows.
Likewise, iZombie doesn’t shy away from violence and gore, at least to the extent they can get away with in a prime-time CW slot. Blood splatter is in no short supply. These are stories that center around an autopsy room, after all. And, eating brains. It is noteworthy, though, that much of the blood is not caused by the walking dead . . . the living are just as prone to violently uncontrolled urges.
Veronica Mars’ success lays with its characters, and that is no less true for iZombie. I am particularly fond of Ravi and Blaine. David Anders brings a delicious villainy to Blaine’s evil ways (as he has done in so many other shows from Alias to Vampire Diaries). Rahul Kohli’s Ravi is perhaps my favorite character, however. Unfailingly loyal to Liv, smart and geeky, funny, confident, Ravi consistently delivers much of the humor, pathos, and enjoyment I find in the show.
The weakest area of the show's writing is generally Liv’s “personality-transfer-of-the-week.” These bits are frequently goofily stereotypical and allow Rose McIver no room for subtlety in portraying how Liv would react to these personality hijackings. At their worst, they have Liv playing an excessively maternal June Cleaver, complete with stealthy, spit-grooming moves, or a PTSD-wracked Marine sniper who has Liv awkwardly standing at attention during an interrogation like she’s on duty in Guantanamo.
It is also becoming less and less clear why the people working with Liv on a daily basis, like her investigative partner Babineaux, aren’t seriously questioning her blatantly multiple-personality, bi-polar behavior. Any day of the week she would give Sally Field’s Sybil a run for her money, and, eventually, people should be way over their confusion and get on to the committing her to an institution.
On the flip side, we’ve also seen some of the more interesting scenes in the show as a result of the “personality du jour.” I loved the “I Suddenly Know Kung Fu!” episode (as overdone as this trope is) and her stint hearing voices and seeing imaginary people turned into one of the better-executed story arc twists in the season. When the writers figure out how to treat these ploys with a degree or two more delicacy, they just might have something special on their hands.
The show runners also need to dial in just how zombified they want their characters, especially Liv, to look. The zombie community as a whole have clearly figured out how to look warm and alive, and it’s starting to beg the question why Liv insists on remaining at the extreme end of the white and pasty spectrum.
iZombie has some significant unevenness to work out, but it’s definitely a show worth hanging on to. A little like Liv’s multiple personalities, there are amazing highs along with the lows. And, it’s all very addicting. More brains, please!!
• If Bella can figure out Edward is a vampire in the first few chapters of Twilight 'cause he’s got pale skin and chilly body temp, then Major should have put together what was going on with Liv all on his very own.
• I really dig the opening theme music, even in repeated binge-watching mode.
• From now on, I’m to use “Full On Zombie Mode” to describe road rage incidents in Los Angeles.
• Was happy to see Major channeling the Winchester brothers’ affinity for trunk-loads of weaponry and ammo.
• If you like iZombie, please go and check out Diana Rowland's White Trash Zombie series, which has the same basic premise . . . functional zombie works in morgue . . . but with notable style, story, and character differences (as in more Sookie Stackhouse / True Blood vibe).