The CW’s hopes to inject fresh life into Tuesday nights with the debut of Rob Thomas’ serialized procedural, iZombie. How does it fare?
Let’s bitch it out…
Full confession: I am a huge fan of Thomas’ former cult hit, Veronica Mars, so I have been anxiously awaiting iZombie ever since The CW announced its pick-up last May. It’s been a long time to wait, but seeing the promotional material and the trailers filled me with excitement, even as I warily acknowledged just how indebted this new show is to its spiritual predecessor.
The fact that iZombie‘s protagonist, Liv Moore (Rose McIver), is a whole lot like Veronica Mars may be considered a negative trait by some, but I think it’s actually part of the new series’ best assets. Whatever fears I had that this would be “zombie Veronica” were quickly assuaged during this pilot, which despite employing a familiar detective narrative structure and voice-over narration still manages to distinguish itself. It helps that McIver is especially winning in the lead role, firmly creating a character that feels lived-in, sympathetic and engaging. It’s no small feat considering that Liv spends the better part of the pilot suffering from ennui. Wake up, Liv! Even a zombie child knows that just because you’re undead doesn’t mean you have to stop living.
The sense of hope – a mild ray of sunshine in Liv’s darkened existence – is the major distinguishing piece between this and Veronica Mars. The first season of the teen girl detective series focused on a season-long case that involved a brutal murder and the rape of its protagonist (hardly sunshine-y topics despite the warm California setting). iZombie takes the alternate approach: situating the series in grey Seattle and colourless locations such as the morgue should make for a fairly grim aesthetic, but the subject matter and Liv’s pop-of-colour wardrobe routinely inject warmth and comfort into the proceedings (I was especially fond of how her pale skin and white hair help to draw out the vibrant reds and purples in her tops).
The humour in the series is a welcome addition to television and The CW network more specifically. It has a kindred spirit in the youth network’s Jane The Virgin which also deftly blends comedy and drama; iZombie also offers a feminine complement to the more male-driven genre series on The CW such as Supernatural and the two DC superhero properties, The Flash and Arrow. It will be nice to watch a girl who can kick butt both literally and figuratively (with her acerbic wit).
As for this pilot specifically, it’s fairly traditional. We’re introduced to our main cast of characters, including the boss, Dr Ravi (Rahul Kohli), the partner, Detective Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin), the family – mother Eva (Molly Hagan) and, briefly, brother Evan (Nick Purcha). There’s also an ex, Major (Robert Buckley) and an exasperated roommate/friend, but she made so little an impression that I can’t even be bothered to look up her name. The case of the week – because we are delving into procedural territory (grrr!) – is similarly non-threatening, although it does allow the series to introduce its DNA structure. Tidbits such as the repercussions of eating brains (memory flashbacks, new skills), the visual language of the visions, and the rationale for helping Babineaux (psychic!) are all laid out clearly and expediently. Hopefully this means that we will just launch into things moving forward. It seems to me that these cases will never be the show’s strong suit, as they often weren’t in Veronica Mars compared to, say, Pushing Daisies, but they’re a means to an end. And for a pilot, that’s all you can really ask for.
- Everyone notice that the man who attacks and infects Liv at the fatal boat party is none other than genre master David Anders (aka Alias‘ Stark)? Clearly we’ll be seeing more of him moving forward, especially now that he’s showing up in Liv’s new vision.
- While I applaud the writers for not making too much out of Babineaux’s acceptance of Liv’s ludicrous explanation for catching the bad guy, can we all agree that it was a really, really bad excuse? The fact that he doesn’t question her lie makes it difficult to believe the guy’s credibility as an investigator.
- Much has been made in other online reviews about the on-the-nose names (Liv Moore; Major Lilywhite). I kinda like it because it seems like the show is in on the joke.
- The opening credits and the post-commercial images are courtesy of Michael Allred, the original comic artist. Also: if you’re thinking of checking out the source material for insight on where the series is going, you’re in for a surprise. The comic has a much greater wealth of supernatural creatures, so this is a fairly loose adaptation. With that said, the comics are an enjoyably kooky read if you’re into that sort of thing.
- I’ll probably miss Ellie – Liv’s ghost bestie – the most. This show could do with another prominent female cast member.
- Finally, kudos to the prop master / food wrangler for making those brains look suitably disgusting. Unlike the delicious human cuisine on Hannibal, the indignity of eating human parts on this show looks like a chore. I can understand why Liv needs the equivalent of 6 chillies to taste anything on that gelatinous goop.
- Marci, Liv’s med school nemesis (seeing Major waiting for Liv): “So basically every day of your life is the end of Sixteen Candles?”
- Major (citing the number of women who would kill to be with him): “Exactly four.”
- Ravi (mocking the explanation for the boat massacre’s missing brains) “Because we all know rainbow trout go straight for the cranium.”
- Weatherman Johnny Frost (uncertain whether Tatiana worked regularly with Tess): “I don’t know. After all, I only doubled the fun once on my birthday.”
- Liv (questioning her involvement in police work to Babineaux): “I’m standing in a hallway waiting to sniff a call girl.”
- Tess (translating for Babineaux, after Liv insults her): “Romanian mean girl.”
- Liv (after Ravi associates her work with Babineaux to an Elton John song): “Yes, Sir Elton specifically references dead call girls in the Circle of Life.”
Your turn: what did you think of the first episode? Are you in for the long haul? Did the show give you Veronica Mars flashbacks (for better or worse)? Did Liv’s excuse for her abilities take you out of the show? Would you like to see another female character? Sound off below.
iZombie airs Tuesdays at 9pm EST on The CW. Here’s a glimpse of next week’s episode