'iZombie': TV Review

iZombie Pilot Still - H 2014
Cate Cameron/The CW
A clever new drama from 'Veronica Mars' creator Rob Thomas

Solving crimes one brain at a time.

If you’ve ever wondered what Veronica Mars would have been like if the title character had been a member of the undead, iZombie answers that question.

Life is going great for overachieving medical student Liv (Rose McIver) until she attends a party and gets turned into a zombie. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

Now it’s five months later and Liv has abandoned her burgeoning medical career to work in the Seattle morgue, where she has access to all the brains she could ever want to eat. Her mother (Molly Hagan), her best friend Peyton (Aly Michalka) and her ex-fiance Major (Robert Buckley) all think she’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and that her new look is simply a Goth phase. But Liv, as she tells viewers, is really suffering from post-traumatic ennui. How does she define her life now that she’s a zombie?

From the introspective voiceover narration to the spunky heroine at the center, the series, from Mars creator and executive producer Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright, is tonally similar to the beloved cult drama. Liv’s job at the morgue even allows her to solve crimes — just like Veronica Mars! But I’m totally OK with the show having a lot in common with its predecessor. I loved Veronica Mars and we don’t really have anything like it on TV right now. I’m practically ready to contribute to a Kickstarter campaign for the iZombie movie right now.

Liv craves brains, which she eats mixed with ramen noodles and hot sauce. It’s rather visually revolting. I happened to watch that scene while eating frozen yogurt, which I do not recommend. Once Liv has consumed a person's brains, she is able to see the last things the victim saw. She also picks up their personality traits and abilities — like the capacity to speak another language and the tendency to shop lift. “So you are what you eat isn’t just a bitchy thing my mother says about fat people,” she notes.

Like that other adored feminine heroine Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Liv has an ally who is in on her secret. Her boss, Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli), figures out that she’s a zombie and isn’t freaked out. “You’re not dead, you’re undead. Big difference,” he tells her. Ravi wants to study her to help her find a cure. It will be interesting to see if the series expands Liv’s Scooby gang or if her friends and family remain utterly clueless. I mean, how long can she pass off her pale complexion as a makeup choice?

Her other ally is Detective Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin). He thinks Liv is psychic and is happy to use her to solve crimes. He seems like a pretty smart guy, so I'm not sure how long Liv's psychic abilities excuse will last. There’s also Blaine DeBeers (David Anders), the one who turned Liv into a zombie. Anders, so terrific as the villain Sark on Alias, should be a great nefarious force here too.

The show has a lot of fun with TV’s current obsession with zombies. Liv wonders why she isn’t part of some larger zombie apocalypse and watches a lot of zombie movies. Clive, unaware that there’s an actual zombie in his midst, promises that if there were a zombie outbreak, he would shoot his own grandmother the second he saw a scratch on her.

Like all shows of this nature, a willing suspension of disbelief is a requirement. You have to be on board with a world where zombies exist, and buy that no one would really notice that Liv had become one. Also, would a rookie detective be so willing to accept the coroner’s help? You also have to swallow smaller things, like the fact that the ex-fiance would still be hanging around. Frankly, when I break up with someone, he doesn’t show up to help at my mother’s charity events.

But the series works. McIver is a great, unlikely heroine. You’ll immediately be rooting for her. While you can’t actually relate to becoming a zombie, the post-college, what’s-my-life-supposed-to-be-now identity crisis is instantly relatable.

And the show’s clever dialogue is consistently amusing, as when Clive refers to them as “Cagney and Pasty.” Starting every scene as a page from a comic book (the series is based on comics created by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred) is also a nice touch.

My one big complaint is that the bad guy in the pilot is extremely obvious. The show will have to make the weekly cases a bit more difficult to crack if they want to hold viewers' interest. Moreover, Liv going all feral zombie as she does at the end of the pilot seems unnecessary and a little too werewolf-like. 

But overall, iZombie is a welcome, needed addition to the TV landscape.