Thursday, 19 March 2015

Review: The CW's iZOMBIE

Thursday, 19 March 2015


From the creator of Veronica Mars, here comes another breezy detective caper with an intelligent, courageous female at its centre. iZOMBIE, as if the title didn't give it away, is an altogether more high-concept series (loosely based on an obscure 2010 comic-book), about an overachieving doctor called Liv Moore (Rose McIver) whose life's dealt a curveball when she survives a zombie attack during a party and discovers she's become one of the undead. Cursed with permanently pale skin and a desire to eat brains, Liv's promising medical career takes a back-step into mortuary assistance—helping coroner Dr Ravi Chakrabati (Rahul Kohli) examine bodies she can surreptitiously raid for yummy grey matter. Complicating her eating arrangement, feasting on dead brain has the unexpected side-effect of giving Liv visions from the deceased's memories—which proves useful in the case of unsolved murder victims...

Sometimes a great concept comes along and you wonder why nobody's thought of it before, and that's certainly true of iZombie. It's easy to see why Rob Marshall and Diane Ruggiero-Wright latched on this comic's premise, before stripping away its more bizarre elements to create a fun and spirited crime caper that straddles genres.

It has the sass of a typical CW drama aimed at teens, but weaves in fantastical elements to keep horror fans amused—if never scared. iZombie has little desire to frighten its audience, with the creepiest scenes being monochrome footage from Night of the Living Dead played on a television. Who knows if iZombie will broaden its range to deliver genuine frights in the future, but if this pilot's any indication the creators are aiming for sub-Buffy levels of spookiness. That's not a bad thing, although I'd hoped for something edgier—along the lines of Being Human.

iZombie's a perfectly enjoyable show, don't get me wrong. The underlying premise is excellent and the core actors are fun to watch in these roles; although I was slightly disappointed the main setup is Liv partnering Seattle cop Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin), who doesn't know she's undead and instead thinks she's psychic. A lot of the pilot involves Liv's apparent "ESP", to such an extent the show could arguably have ditched its zombie element. It's a psychic cop show with a zombie undertone, really, and once Liv starts realising she can inherit abilities and skills from digesting brain matter you could argue we're also edging into Dollhouse territory. Still, it's probably a good thing iZombie has different cards to play and a fun mythology to build—including the whereabouts of a meaner zombie called Blaine DeBeers (David Anders) who 'turned' Liv into the walking dead.

Overall, iZombie delivered an enjoyable debut that introduced the main players and its crazy concept very well. I especially liked how pre-zombie Liv was so vibrant and extroverted, whereas the zombie-Liv's so mournful and filled with ennui, which her family amusingly believe is a symptom of PTSD. I just hope future instalments will be riskier and funnier, because there's an unshakeable feeling iZombie could become generic if it doesn't find ways to surprise its audience. Most things that worked about this premiere were conceptual, or the thrill of uncovering a new show's inner-workings. The rest was merely adequate fun with a few good performances from McIver, Kohli and Goodwin.

This is a new show I'll be watching more of, but in the hope its serialised elements and zombie mythology proves irresistible, and therefore worth sitting through what's ultimately yet another weekly murder-mystery show.

written by Rob Thomas & Diane Ruggiero-Wright (based on the comics by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred) • directed by Rob Thomas • 17 March 2015 • The CW