On the D/L – iZombie
Season 1 Episode 1 – “Pilot”
This week we get a new show and it’s from the minds behind only one of my favourite shows ever- Veronica Mars. iZombie is an adaptation of a comic of the same name and unsurprisingly I really want to write about it.
All I really needed to know before watching this thing was that Rob Thomas is involved. I am a huge fan of Veronica Mars so having another show written and produced by him gets a free pass as far as I’m concerned. I’m glad to say that he manages to hit the ground running here.
It is a lot like Veronica Mars but that really isn’t a bad thing. I’ve recently read the first few issues of the iZombie comic and the tone is very similar to Veronica Mars with the self referential humour, the sassy wit and the clever characters so Rob Thomas is the natural choice to pick this up.
Anyway, onto the show. Our main character is Liv Moore (Rose McIver) who has pretty much the ideal life. She has friends, a great job, a loving fiancé. It’s all in front of her and there are no clouds in her sky at all. That all changes when she is invited to a party by a colleague that subsequently suffers a massive zombie attack. Liv wakes up and has to get herself out of a body bag while dealing with her new reality as a zombie.
She immediately tosses aside her old life in order to adjust to this profound change. This involves dumping her fiancé and changing jobs to work in the morgue so that she has ample access to deceased brains. The zombie rules are a little different here to what you might be used to. Basically Live keeps her faculties as long as she ingests a regular supply of brains to keep her sharp. If she doesn’t she becomes the classic zombie you’re probably all familiar with so working in a morgue is the best way to do that without drawing too much attention and endangering the living.
There’s another quirk of her status as undead. When she eats a brain she experiences their memories so decides to use that to her advantage and help solve murders using information she can extract from those memories. Instead of saving lives as a doctor she can avenge victims by finding out who killed them.
What it boils down to is the hook for a procedural which might seem a little tiresome at first but I think it’s done so well here that it doesn’t stand out as much. Veronica Mars was very procedural most of the time but characters would develop and the main plot would be interwoven into the cases of the week to keep a sense of continuity.
It seems like something similar is happening here. There’s the mystery of why the zombie attack happened that night as well as the lingering question of who else might have been bitten. Is Liv one of many or is she an isolated case? These questions literally keep her up at night and if done properly should sustain the season very well.
The memory absorbing gimmick also allows some really strong character moments as Liv takes on the personality traits of the victims in some ways. For instance the murder victim was a kleptomaniac so Liv has the irresistible urge to steal anything she can get her hands on. There’s also a scene where Liv can randomly speak Romanian because the victim was Romanian. It’s little touches like these that give the show a sense of humour and personality. Things like needing the hottest of hot sauce to make the brains edible and allow her to actually taste something are great little touches.
I also like that the whole thing seems to be a wink to the audience who might complain that there’s an oversaturation of zombie stories out there. This show is very different to all of those and tonally conducts itself as something very tongue in cheek despite the serious subject matter. It all works well and I like that it’s a fresh take on something lot of people will be sick of.
So far Liv is a great character who is incredibly well written. Rose McIver does a fantastic job of playing the confused duality of her. She’s strong willed yet scared and eager to find a way to live with her new situation but at the same time is terrified of what she might do to her loved ones given a lapse in judgement. It’s a thin line she walks but the fact that she manages to keep a sense of humour about the whole thing really helps keep things light instead of overly melancholy.
Having the narrative be a first person one is a double edged sword. On one hand it’s great to get such a profound personal insight into what Liv is thinking and feeling but on the other it makes the supporting characters seem a little flat. This is only the pilot and it is very much Liv’s origin story so I imagine the other characters will come around in due course.
As an origin story for her new way of life it works very well. I like how it goes from her having no purpose to rediscovering that sense of purpose. She has a genuine desire to help others and through the events depicted here she finds a way she can use her new situation to do just that. It’s a good character arc and it feels that she doesn’t have it all figured out quite yet but is on the right track.
I found the character of Clive Babinaux (Malcolm Goodwin) to be really fun. He’s a good mix of old fashioned with a dose of an open mind. He accepts Liv’s outlandish stories for now but I like how he always seems to be disbelieving her. Naturally this can’t sustain itself for very long but there’s scope to have some fun here.
Dr. Ravi Chakrabart (Rahul Kohli) is a good character so far. Despite being Liv’s boss he is becoming something of a sidekick to her. He’ll be the one who helps her puzzle out the science of her transformation and their friendship will develop on that basis. He maybe seems a little too quick to accept everything but it’s fine so far.
Liv’s ex-fiancé Major Lilywhite (Robert Buckley) needs the most development. At first I thought he was only going to be around to serve as the reminder of her perfect life prior to her death but his reasons for hanging around now that she dumped him need to be better developed. Again, this is only the pilot.
A strong pilot with a diverse group of characters and a premise that proves to be immediately interesting with plenty of room to develop.
The character of Liv is well written and well performed with lots of clever personality quirks that make her fascinating to watch. I like how she straddles the line between optimism and melancholy throughout the episode. She’s dead but that doesn’t get her completely down. She wants to get on with some version of her life despite how difficult that could be.
Having the show be a procedural with the gimmick of Liv absorbing the memories from the brains she eats and using that knowledge to help solve their murder is interesting so far. As long as they keep the strong sense of character within the narrative and build on the questions left open throughout it’ll prove to be very sustainable as time goes on.
There’s a wonderful sense of humour and personality to this show. We live in a world where zombies are everywhere and this saturation has become a little tiresome. This show seems to purposely wink at that notion and then give us something fresh on the zombie front. So far it’s working.
For the most part the other characters feel a little flat but the intention of this episode seems to be establishing Liv and her personality so that things can be built on in subsequent episodes.
I’d say give this a look if you enjoyed Veronica Mars or even if you’re looking for something a bit out there and unconventionally witty. It’s great so far and I can’t wait to see more.