Written by Dylan Brandsema
When iZombie was announced by DC Comics and The CW roughly a year ago, just about nobody was excited. Despite critical acclaim for the original comic, it wasn’t a very popular series (unlike Flash and Batman, for example, which have both had recent TV serial treatments), so it was sort of a risky move from those involved to adapt it into a primetime cable series. It revolves around hard-working twenty-something Olivia “Liv” Moore (Rose McIver) who, during a boat party, is invaded by a spontaneous zombie feeding frenzy and turned into a zombie herself. She soon discovers, in trying to live her life as normal as possible, that can she experience the memories of the deceased by eating their brains. She then uses this new-found ability to help solve a murder, assisting the police via her job at the morgue. The concept is creative, but sadly, the execution is quite the opposite, which unfortunately makes for an extremely lackluster premiere.
The premiere begins with our progantist doing some sort of nursing stuff, arguing with her co-worker, then suddenly, she’s going out with her fiance on a party boat. The party then gets invaded by the zombies, and when she wakes up and discovers she’s a zombie…and then she goes home and starts arguing with her family. That’s just the first five minutes. The introduction to the characters and story is so rushed and so contrived and it allows absolutely no time for character development. Characters come and go in with no time for the audience to absorb their purpose or personality. The first minutes are almost like watching a recap as opposed to legitimate scenes, and it is here where the aura of failure is established that continues throughout the episode.
Despite it’s crazy sci-fi concept, iZombie sets out to be a very character-driven series. Liv her boss at work, Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli), and police detective Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin) are its three main subjects. McIver and co. do a passable job, despite the awful writing and the abysmal attempts at humor, but it’s nothing that will turn heads. No one here is going for the Emmy, but they’re ‘good enough.’ Sadly, these just-okay performances are the best part about this show.
Even with McIver’s respectable performance as the lead, it doesn’t do much to help her character. Liv is neither relatable nor engaging enough to carry the story. She doesn’t do it alone, of course, as she uses her brain-eating-induced visions to aid Dr. Chakrabarti and detective Babineaux in the ongoing murder investigation of a popular online call girl. Not surprisingly, the few short scenes revolving strictly around the police and their search for the killer are much more riveting then anything else involving Liv. This is of no fault of the actors, but of the writing and story direction. How is that is you ask? Because they are scenes that involve real people talking about real issues grounded in reality, and they are enjoyable for that reason. Now, of course this is a sci-fi series, but most of the fantasy elements of the story are either not explored enough or pushed way too far to the point of ridiculousness. But let’s talk about that…
As expected, when talking about a show with “Zombie” in the title, the elephant in the room, is, well, the zombie element. In this series, they are so skewed, slanted and silly that at times they’re almost nonexistent. After Liv gets mauled by a zombie hoard (which, by the way, are probably the worst-looking “zombies” ever put on film – scraggly hair and a little bit of blood in the corner of the mouth does not a zombie make), she becomes a zombie herself, and, as stated, attains memory-reading power through eating the brains of the dead. However, is she really a zombie? What constitutes as undead? According to this show, a zombie is someone with pale skin, a flawless complexion, and perfect teeth, who eats the brains of the already-deceased…sometimes. The show makes it clear that her blood still flows and that her heart still beats, so what, aside from brain consumption, makes her a zombie? It’s not as if she thinks she’s a zombie but she’s really something else either (unless that’s something we discover down the road) – she says she’s a zombie, Chakrabarti claims to know she’s a zombie, and the show is convinced she is, despite no evidence to support this claim. This leads into the discussion about the dumbing down of the “zombie” genre.
In the old days, a zombie was someone who came back from the dead, and over time, it became someone who was infected by an already-existent zombie and then began to exhibit symptoms of their infector. Now, it seems zombies can be….whatever anyone wants it to be. If this show wants to claim a zombie to be someone he walks and talks like a human, eats like a human (brains excluded), participates in general human activities, and still looks, in scope, like a human being should, then so be it, but I don’t buy it. There’s even scenes towards the beginning of the episode in Liv’s home where her family begin question her appearance with questions like “Are you emo?”, Why are you pale, are you sick?”. Clearly, she’s not very dead, despite the show trying so hard to convince us otherwise. Either commit full time or don’t commit at all – in a show like this, if your characters can’t believe she’s a zombie then neither can your audience. That’s one thing this show has proven in only one episode that it is not very good at: Logistics.
Viewers paying full attention are more than likely going to be asking themselves a variety of questions concerning the show’s level of rationality: Why doesn’t she just wear make-up to cover up her zombie state? She puts on make-up later in the episode when she stalks her ex-fiance who we know nothing about, so why doesn’t she do it all the time? Why, after five months of zombie life, does she still try to sleep every night when she knows for a fact that she cannot? And of course the murder victim’s cell phone stayed on for almost a week after she was murdered, because, ya know…plot advancements! Almost nothing here makes any sense. Just because you’ve created a story not entirely based in reality, that doesn’t mean the rules of logic and reasonable thinking don’t apply, and that, above all else, is iZombie’s biggest downfall.
But let’s conclude with the story. At the end of this premiere, we find our killer. Without giving away details, they find him, and he gets what’s he deserves, then that’s it. No real revelation happens concerning our characters, and the outlining story, in spite of the logistical problems, is wrapped up adequately. There’s an extremely quick and desperately tacked-on “twist” cliffhanger on the ending concerning Liv’s memories, but, similar to the opening prologue, you’ll miss it if you blink.
So where do we go from here? In all honesty, who cares? This pilot did absolutely nothing to make the audience care enough to continue watching, and it’s nowhere as strong as a series premiere of this caliber should be. Was it entertaining? Sure, in small measures. Was it interesting? Only mildly. Was the material strong enough for viewers be invested the story and the characters involved? Not for a second.
iZombie is trying to turn the zombie genre on its ass, but instead is winding kicking it’s own.
Overall rating: 3/10
iZombie airs Tuesday nights on The CW Network.