Is iZombie bloody fun or brain dead?

The much anticipated iZombie, the CW TV adaptation of the graphic novel by the creators of Veronica Mars, finally premiered last night. But the big question is: does it live up to all the hype? Let’s take a look.

The story follows Olivia Moore, a medical student with a great life. She’s a promising student and she’s engaged with a perfect guy. One night, she reluctantly attends a yacht party that turns into a zombie massacre. She survives, but gets infected. Surrounded by a culture that’s obsessed with killing zombies, she doesn’t dare tell anyone what’s happened to her.

But it radically changes her life nonetheless. She breaks up with her fiancé to keep him safe, becomes depressed and withdrawn to the point where her family stage a painfully awkward intervention, and takes a job at the morgue, where she has easy access to the brains she craves. Going too long without brains, she explains, makes her “duller” and, she fears, would eventually turn her into a mindless killer. The only person who knows is her boss, Ravi, and that’s only because he figured it out on his own.

It turns out that when she eats a person’s brain, she absorbs their memories and personality. This gets her into trouble when she blurts out too much information to Clive Babinaux, a rookie police detective investigating the death of a prostitute whose brain she just ate. Under the excuse that she’s psychic, Liv ends up helping Babinaux investigate his case.

The effects are disappointing. The brains look like plastic, and when Liv gets a “vision”, we get POV shots that are literally through the deceased’s eyes. We see them blinking and everything. That’s overkill. A POV shot is disorienting enough without the blinking. They also try to frame the beginning of scenes as comic book panels. That’s not a real issue, but it’s a stylistic flourish at best, a gimmick at worst.

The writers have a real exposition problem. The intervention scene, for instance, is an awkward mask for telling us that Liv is depressed. By which I mean that it’s a scene that’s trying to pretend to be there for plot reasons, and fails because the expository dialogue is no less grating on my ears.

Liv’s voice over is also mainly there for exposition. It’s not nearly as awkward as the intervention scene’s dialogue, but as a fan of Veronica Mars, it’s more worrisome to me. I could be convinced otherwise, but right now it just makes the show feel like Veronica Mars fanfiction. You really have to earn a voice over. On Veronica Mars, it worked perfectly both because it was so well written, and because it was an homage to film noir. Here, though, it’s neither of those things. So far, at least, it’s just a crutch. The one exception to that is this line that could have been spoken by Veronica herself, if she were a zombie: “When you die, life goes on without you. When you’re among the undead, you’re around to watch.”

And look, I get it, there’s a lot that needs explaining, and a certain amount of exposition is necessary. But there are good ways to go about it, smarter ways that assume a smarter audience than this does.

The episode finds its groove, though, as Liv and Babinaux investigate the murder. They have great, fun banter. When Liv gets a vision of the prostitute dying, she suddenly becomes determined to catch her killer. That’s a great moment, because we needed that. Before then, Liv has no stakes in the investigation – she’s only there out of a sense of obligation. Now that Liv is more interested, I’m just a little more interested too.

The way all the clues come together, leading to an “aha!” moment, is another moment that channels Veronica Mars. But this time, it’s a good thing. It’s a nice twist that’s well set up. And I can’t say I didn’t like the way Liv jumps on the hood of the fleeing murderer’s car, punches through the windshield, and crashes the car into a tree. Let it not be said that I think this show is boring.

And really, it has a lot of promise. It all depends on the execution of the season arc. This can’t turn into a procedural, crime-of-the-week thing. That would bore me out of my mind. But if we get a more complex story than that (and it does look like we will), one that really raises the stakes in an urgent way for Liv, it might make for some great TV. Only time will tell, so lets hope that things pick up.

iZombie Review: 'Pilot'
While the episode itself has a few poorly executed moments, it finds its groove eventually. And most importantly, it sets the groundwork for what could turn out to be an interesting show.
  • Fun as hell
  • Clever twist
  • Has potential
  • Some awkward dialogue
  • Risks being derivative of Veronica Mars
8Overall Score
Reader Rating: (2 Votes)
54%

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About The Author

I saw 'Mars Attacks!' in theaters when I was five. I still think it's the greatest horror movie for five year olds ever made.