Despite eight skeletons living in my basement with a seven foot reaper, I am not a zombie fan. I’ve never watched The Walking Dead, the first time I saw Dawn of the Dead was with the Rifftrax guys. And yet, I’m really digging iZombie.
If you missed the promos, the premise is easy enough. A girl turns into a zombie and discovers after eating brains she can see memories of the original owner. Naturally, she uses this skill to solve crime. (There must be an archaic law on the books: “Whosoever discovers supernatural powers within themselves shall useth it to befriend a suspicious copper badged man and have hijinks ensue. Also, you can’t bathe ducks on Sunday.)
Our plucky zombie heroine is named Liv Moore (they’re not above puns), who used to be a med student with a Ken Doll for a fiance. After a boat party goes terribly wrong, she wakes up in a body bag, her skin and hair powder white, with a craving for brains.
Tossing aside her old life, she wallows in despair and takes up a job working in the morgue to give herself access to all the brains she could eat. Her boss in the morgue is Ravi, who catches her noshing on some brains ten minutes in. Rather than freak out, he figures out she’s a zombie and gives a little fan squeal. Turns out he was kicked out of the CDC because of his unwavering belief in a zombie plague. (Which, considering the premise of the show, seems a major oversight on the government’s part.)
Liv has her first brain noshing visions, which leads to her pursing the real killer, blah blah blah. That’s what we’ve seen a dozen times before. Let’s get back to the zombie stuff! God, I never thought I’d say that.
As an example, this week’s episode (cover your ears for spoilers) opens with Blaine. A man we met in episode two, he was at first presented as a hapless lowlife who had no idea how he got zombified. He’s been selling drugs, running foul of king pins, and trying to score brains from Liv. First she wants to find him to learn more about this life as a zombie thing, but sours quickly and wants nothing to do with him.
But now we learn that Blaine’s been actively turning rich people by biting or clawing them so he can extort them into his brain delivery ring. Looking a bit like Buffy’s Spike, he’s also got thugs he zombified running the produce. This business is so well-honed that there’s even an ecstatic chef conjuring up pasta dishes a la brains to hide the texture for the high scale clients.
This is so fascinating — did Blaine tell the truth about not knowing how he became a zombie? Is there another bigger bad zombie out there? — I want to watch more, but we have to cut back to the premise of the obligatory cop drama. Liv’s grown peckish and gobbled on the cerebellum of a corpse that had his fingers cut off and teeth yanked out. Her friendly neighborhood detective drops by and recognizes the corpse. Suddenly, Liv has a brain vision and sees Clive in a tragic mustache standing by as one of the Blue Cobra gang torture someone with wasabi (amazingly, not a frat hazing).
Rather than think, “Oh, he must have been undercover. I should probably tell him about my vision,” she jumps straight to “This guy who believed my bullshit psychic story and was willing to throw off a major murder case to find the real killer must be a dirty cop!”
This leads to Liv and Ravi chasing down this gang (who she just saw torturing someone for snitching) to an old video store. Nothing says “Totally Legit Business” like a video rental store. Were all the horse buggy and morse code ones taken? She gives the bad guys plenty of opportunity to catch her snooping around so at the end she can go full zombie on one and beat him to smithereens.
Of course, it could have all been avoided if she’d just talked to Clive in the first place, which is where iZombie breaks down. The crime drama twist stuff is telegraphed in neon letters. Either you know who caused the murder within the first half of the episode, or it’s so boring you can’t be arsed to care. If that was all there was, I’d have given up after the pilot, but the zombie stuff drags me back in, as do the characters.
Liv’s got the Veronica Mars plucky heroine down to a T. With her zombie powers, she’s been shot, jumped on a car, and attacked most of the bad guys with her bare hands. It can be satisfying to watch a small woman jump onto a guy’s back and pummel him senseless, but that can quickly become a crutch if one isn’t careful. Out of all the quips and one liners filling the script, Ravi’s got the best timing. He’s portrayed as weird, but the actor makes it work as he embraces his quirks, never apologizing. There’s a great moment this week when Liv’s ex-fiancee Major — who ’til now has seemed like a perfect, chiseled Ken Doll — nerds out with Ravi over Diablo 3 (demon hunter shout out!) and gaming blackout curtains.
And Blaine is that guy you love to hate. If this were a darker show, he’d easily be the anti-hero zombie, chopping up brains to make it in this world. I want to watch what chaos he reaps as the sort-of villain, leaving fully zombied people trapped and braying for brains. With him running around, doing whatever he wants for money, there’s a sense that the zombie plague is ever looming.
Maybe the CDC should re-open their Z files.
The only downer is Clive, the generally affable but not-by-the books cop. He’s a loose cannon who can’t be trusted with a partner, who still stops to listen to crazy, stark-white girls claiming to be psychic, and probably rescues cats out of trees. This episode was the first crack into anything Clive, and even then it was only that he was undercover for a long time and it sucked, so he transferred out of Vice.
Uh-huh, how about we go back to Ravi and Major arguing over loot? Or Blaine yanking a zombie thug out of the freezer to take the place of the two runners he just shot dead?
I hope over time, as the mythos and world builds, the cop drama side fades away. Or it relies less on the “brain of the week” to solve a murder and has one giant case over a month. This show screams for arcs.
Despite being over cop dramas, and never being into zombies, I give this show one brain up and recommend it to people looking for something quirky and just fresh enough to crawl out of the grave for more.
What do you think think of iZombie? Does it hit the spot, or are you clawing at the door, moaning for something more?