It would be easy to roll your eyes at the prospect of another zombie story. The undead have infected pop culture, a swarming horde that seems to appear constantly in movies, television, video games, and comic books. Generally, most of these stories seem to move and act the same. They are horrific, violent, and gory. You’ve seen one zombie, you’ve seen them all, right? We’re ready for something different and that’s where iZombie comes in. The new series from Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas tells a completely different kind of undead story, one that is funny, campy, and packed with a lot of heart.
Very loosely based on the comic book series by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, iZombie is the story of Liv Moore, a young, ambitious med student whose life comes to a starling halt when she is infected by the undead. Her newfound affliction – if you call being undead an “affliction” – leads her to a career in the Coroner’s Office and a growing disconnection from her friends and family. But here’s the rub: when Liv eats the brain of a murder victim, she gains some of their memories, feelings, and abilities. She uses this zombie superpower to do what people on TV always do — solve crimes.
The idea of a zombie procedural television show sounds pretty bizarre, and indeed it could easily be a train wreck if it were not for Rose McIver. As Liv, she is spectacular. She drifts through scenes, bored with the living, quipping at every turn. She’s funny and captivating. You can’t take your eyes off her, even when she’s microwaving brains and drinking hot sauce. McIver is just charming as all hell, a true pleasure to watch. Her deadpan delivery and sly smile make iZombie worth watching.
That said, this first episode suffers from what many pilot episodes suffer from, and that’s information overload. Smartly, director and showrunner Rob Thomas breezes through Liv’s origin story, quickly throwing us into the crime of week. The format is instantly apparent and we get a clear sense of just how iZombie is going to be structured. The only drag is that we have to meet an entire cast of characters – police detectives, medical examiners, Liv’s mother, brother, roommate, ex-fiancé, etc. – and most of them just fly by, without adding much weight to any scene or moment.
Malcolm Goodwin is the one exception. As Detective Babineaux, he gets a lot of screen time opposite Rose McIver. He’s fun to watch, although not the most convincing police detective. He glides into the show wearing bizarrely fitted suits (he looks like he’s cosplaying as Lupin the 3rd), dangling evidence from open murder cases in front of Liv, smiling, looking like he’s having way too much fun. He’s goofy, but in a good way. Watching McIver and Goodwin play off of each other is the best part of the entire pilot. It’s their relationship that’ll keep you coming back, week after week.
What is not likely to keep you coming back is the crimes zombie and detective solve. If the case they work in this first episode is any indication, Liv and Detective Babineaux will use her exceptional gift to hunt down the bad guys of Generic Crime Show A, B, and C. Hopefully, this will change quickly and the series will put a compelling spin on the cases, because what we get in this pilot is vanilla with a capital V.
All in all, iZombie is a lot of fun. Rose McIver is a delight as Liv Moore. Sure, it has that familiar procedural show setup, but that doesn’t stop it from being totally engaging. If the cases get a little more interesting and the supporting cast becomes more than set dressing, iZombie has the chance to become a real hit. Who knew the story of a crime-solving zombie could be so great? The pilot might not be a home run, but it plants enough interesting seeds that tuning in next week is a no-brainer.
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