It's been a long time coming, but there's finally a new kickass female (non-post (present time, series lead) hero back on the CW, following in the footsteps of Veronica Mars and Buffy Summers. Now, those are not comparisons that are made lightly, and time will only tell if iZombie will join those ranks, though Mars creator Rob Thomas is behind the wheel, but right now the odds are looking pretty good for one Liv Moore. And even before we get there, it's a heck of a fun and and entertaining show.
iZombie is loosely based on a comic of the same name published by Vertigo/DC (apparently the CW is going hoping to have at least half their shows be based on DC properties by next year...). It's the not-so-simple story of Liv Moore (get it, she lives more after death) who is scratched by a zombie bad guy at the world's worst boat party and wakes up in a body bag craving brains. Instead of returning to her promising medical internship she gets a job at county the morgue so she can have access to brains.
Much like in my favorite ZomRomCom Warm Bodies, the zombies of iZombie absorb some pf the memories and personality traits of the brains they eat. Liv uses this skill to help solve murders pretending to be a psychis and teaming with Seattle homicide detective Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin). The only person who knows her secret is the main medical examiner and her boss, Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli). Zombies in this world can pass for normal, albeit pale, people and do normal human things like eat and hook up; but if they don't get brains on the regular they devolve into the regular, mindless zombies we all know.
The series is a very good balance of a procedural mystery )each week there's a new brain to eat and murder to solve), engrossing dramedy, and good old monster show. The conceit of Liv absorbing new personality aspects each week reminds me strongly of Dollhouse, but instead of our heroine being a blank slate, each new persona helps Liv earn a bit more about herself and navigate the rough waters of her new (after) life. The strongest episode by far in this respect was episode three, "The Exterminator," where Liv ingests the brains of a sociopathic hitman and faces some of the darkest and most difficult consequences of zombie life with terrifying detachment.
It's a testament to the talent and charm of lead actress Rose McIver that this all succeeds. She does an excellent job of remaining Liv while phasing through so many different personas. She also is wonderful at portraying Liv herself, who is at time melancholy, hesitant and dangerous but also, compassionate, resilient and funny. The rest of the cast as well is great - and I've been happy to see as the series has progressed how seemingly one note characters like Liv's dumped fiance Major (Robert Buckley) have grown and been worked into the overarching mythos and mystery of the overall zombie problem.
Two other are Kohli and David Anders and bad Zombie Blaine. Kohli is a delight every time he's on screen, in turns dryly funny (he is British), surprisingly nerdy and determinedly optimistic. Anders, who I've loved as bad guys since back in his days on Alias is supremely creepy as the evil Blaine, whose plots to make it rich on the xombie brain market are part of the running mystery of the show. Another welcome edition has been erstwhile King Arthur Bradley James as an undead love interest for Liv.
The series has a few other great things going for it: A pacific Northwest setting (yay), an incredible rate of puns per episode (my favorite is the butcher shop called "Meat cute") and genuinely interesting murders of the week. My fangirl heart is very happy to see a cast full of people of color and women. Seriously, only two of the top billed actors are white guys, and one is evil! The writing is sharp and fun and each week expands the world and deepens the characters. Another advantage the series has is that it's only slated for 13 episodes this season, meaning the mystery isn't languishing and we learn new clues each week. It is hard to see how the show and characters might evolve and change in the long run or in a longer second season, but for now it's things are evolving nicely.
So, my final word? If you enjoy smart TV, smart ladies and fun mysteries watch this show. But, uh, not while you're eating....