First Look: iZombie

iZombie is a supernatural procedural drama airing on the CW, featuring a zombie partnering with a detective to solve murders. It’s an adaptation of the Chris Roberson and Michael Allred comic of the same name, but only in the loosest of terms.

Genre(s): Procedural

Created By: Rob Thomas

Network: The CW

Air Date: Ongoing (Airs Tuesdays)

Good:

  • Interesting twist on the genre.

  • Rose McIver’s performance.

  • Ravi & Liv have wonderful chemistry.

Bad:

  • Forgettable secondary characters.

  • Deus-ex-machina abuse.

  • Some tired tropes.

Review

The series stars Rose McIver as Liv Moore, a former cardiac resident turned into a Zombie during a party. With her now unhealthy appetite for brains, she abandons her job and takes a position at the Seattle Coroner’s office. The job gives her access to fresh brains to keep her hunger at bay and humanity in check, but if she feeds, she takes on some of the victims’ personality traits and last memories. While working with Detective Babinaux (Malcolm Goodwin) she and her boss, Ravi (Rahul Kohli), claim she’s a psychic to explain he sudden visions.

The premise itself isn’t bad. It’s certainly more interesting than most procedurals and modern Zombie series. It has a lot of style and manages to keep itself silly even with the somewhat dark subjects it handles. And it has to be said, the comic-style intro and scene transitions are awesome! But it depends on Deus-Ex-Machina a bit too much, on Liv getting a vision or hulking-out (more on that later) at just the right time to solve murders or catch the criminals.

The intro panels are really fun!

The intro panels are really fun!

The episodes follow the standard procedural formula: victim, investigation, culprit apprehended. The twist is Liv eats chunks of the victim’s brains to get the visions they need to get the criminal. Along the way they deal with some of Liv’s family and romantic issues—which to me, considering she’s a zombie, feels kinda icky. But while she is the protagonist, I would love it if they explored Ravi & the Detective’s lives as well, to help us form a connection with them. Episode 4 makes some headway on this but only because it’s case-related.

So far, the episodes have stuck to the above formula down to the letter and including some voice-over commentary from Liv, which actually works in the series’ favour as it makes her an even more compelling character. When you’re supernatural, it helps to have something to connect you with us normal folk.

It’s impressive how McIver portrays the different personality traits she inherits from the brains she eats. Her boss Ravi provides the much-needed comedic relief, acting as the mad scientist, studying his zombie employee. The two actors have wonderful chemistry so their scenes are always a joy to watch. On the other hand, there isn’t any chemistry between them and the Detective, making all his scenes drag on more than they should. It doesn’t help the fact that he’s stuck in a very tired trope: the Detective using a disreputable source of information because it works. It’s been done before, masterfully so in series like Psych, but it hinges on the chemistry, which we’ve established is non-existent, and the performances. I have to give it to Malcolm Goodwin, his portrayal is very good. You can feel the stress his character deals with every day.

I was surprised at how good a villain he is!

I was surprised at how good a villain he is!

They seem to be putting David Anders’ character up to be the big bad of the season and at first I didn’t feel it, he felt less of an evil mastermind and more a bumbling sleazeball—much like he is in all his other roles. But then he zombified a one-night-stand, extorted her and has been shown to mercilessly kill people, so I quickly changed my mind! I especially like his scenes with Liv, how he tries to both get into her good graces and still manipulate her. Their Zombie-shop-talk is lovely.

The rest of the cast, however, is entirely forgettable. Even the room-mate and ex-fiancé are bland and uninteresting. Liv’s mother is the cliché overbearing mother, his brother is the cliché annoying teenage brother and so on. It’s still early in the series, I know, but the characterisation is just too weak on the secondary characters.

It’s very early to tell just how deep the ‘lore’ is. Zombies all have chalk-white skin and ash-blond hair…and no one comments on this. I’d say that’s a dead giveaway that something is definitely wrong with you. The way they feed to keep the zombie-urges at bay and keep their humanity is a bit too Vampire-y for my tastes, but it’s not bad, though I wish they explored how other Zombies react to the brain eating—is it just Live who gets a personality shift and memories or do they all? In certain situations they can ‘hulk-out’ and become unstoppable killing machines but so far it’s just another example of Deus-ex-Machina. It’s not something Liv has to struggle with, to keep at bay, but something that happens at the most convenient moment. I wish they had used it as an avenue for character growth.

Best scenes in every episode!

Best scenes in every episode!

Conclusion

So far, I’m on the fence with iZombie but the good outweighs the bad. It has an interesting premise, oozes style, Liv is a strong character and her scenes with Ravi are so fun—and good at world building—they overcome some of the series’ deficiencies.

Do note that is just a first impression based on 4 episodes.

TMA SCORE:

4/5 – Exceptional

4 responses to “First Look: iZombie

  1. Pretty much agree on all counts. I’m hoping too that a lot of the character development will happen throughout the coming episodes. I’m a massive fan of Rob Thomas, and the first season of Veronica Mars was quite similar. If he stays true to form, we should get more in-depth delving as the story develops.

    Not particularly a fan of the ex or the roomie myself. Something will have to give with them eventually, because as it stands, they really are just holding Liv’s development back.

    I love David Anders though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was going to give it a 3 at first, Average. But Episode 4 did a lot for my final score.

      I think the ex (by the way, who the hell names their son Major? He’s Major Lilywhite!) might get better now that he’s getting a new roomie of his own, but I agree, they’re not helping the development. If they were the things that kept her human, I’d understand, but a chunk of brain a day and Ravi already fill that role.

      They’re meant to be remnants of her past life, but they’re just not interesting enough!

      I do hope you’re right and we get lots more development soon!

      David Anders is one hell of a villain. He really changed my mind from his first appearance to his latest.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Major. Ridiculous name. Must be old money? 😀 You’re right though, not interesting enough, and any time Liv has screentime with them it just feels like they’re getting in the way almost. They’ll either have to find out about her, or be phased out until further down the line. Otherwise I think they could just become annoying. It is hard for the viewer to feel anything toward them when all they seem to be doing is giving Liv, our protagonist, a hard time. It’s tough to balance their likeability because we’re fully aware of what is going on, they aren’t, and as such, their attitudes toward her and their reactions have to be realistic. And while we understand that, it still kind of grates.

        The first time I saw Anders was in Alias. He was one of my favourite characters in that show. Then, of course, came Heroes, which turned into a steaming pile of crap by the end, but I did like him in it. He does amoral villain well, to be sure.

        Like

      • I do love how the mother comments on her change in career but NO ONE bats an eye at the chalk white skin and hair! Are they blind?
        They definitely need to figure it out soon or disappear. I agree they have to be realistic but they’re sort of just there, not involved in anything unless Liv initiates. If they were real people they’d be much more involved in Liv’s life and be the overall pain in the arse close friends can/should be!

        Actually the last Heroes season was really good but by then the damage was done and it was impossible to salvage the series. Hopefully the new one is better.

        I really want Liv to experience some bigger personality shift. Imagine her going full bimbo. Would be hilarious. “Ohmygod, I just totally ate that brain!”

        Or the other end of the spectrum, full on sociopath!

        I think one way to have the secondary characters do something is putting them in the way of her zombie-ness. Not because of the villain but just normal life: she’s starving and about to feed when someone visits and she has to struggle to keep herself in check.

        Moaaaar dramaaa!

        Liked by 1 person

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