Just when you thought the market was already oversaturated with zombie movies and TV shows, Rob Thomas (the creator of ‘Veronica Mars’, not the musician) brings a new twist to the genre with ‘iZombie’. Before you ask, no, the title has nothing to do with Apple or iTunes.
Thomas actually can’t take all the credit. The show is based on a comic published under DC’s Vertigo label. Its concept also owes more than a little debt to ‘Warm Bodies’, both the book and movie. With that said, the tone and execution are unmistakably “Veronica Mars with Zombies.” Based on the first episode, I am totally OK with that.
The pilot episode sets up the premise in very short order. Rose McIver from ‘Once Upon a Time’ and ‘Masters of Sex’ plays Olivia Moore (everybody calls her “Liv,” get it?), a go-getter young trauma surgeon at a Seattle hospital. Against her better judgment, Liv agrees to go to a boat party with a friend from work, where everyone around her partakes in a new designer drug called Utopia. Before she fully understands what’s happening, the drug turns everybody into crazed zombies who tear the boat apart and cause a big fire. Liv is scratched badly on the arm and falls overboard. The next morning, she wakes up on the beach… in a body bag. A paramedic sees her sitting up and freaks out big time.
Yes, Liv is now a zombie. But she’s a conscious, fully-functional zombie with all her original thoughts and personality – just with much paler skin and a hunger for human brains. As distasteful as she finds the notion of eating brains, she will turn very dumb and mean if she doesn’t do it periodically.
The boat disaster is written off as a tragic accident, and no one else knows that Liv is a zombie. Her family and friends think she has PTSD. In order to keep her secret hidden, Liv drops out of her career track and takes a job as a coroner, which also allows her to acquire some skull meat on the sly. However, her colleague at the morgue, Ravi, notices what she’s doing and pieces together what she is. He thinks it’s super cool.
Unlike most zombie fiction, the characters in this show live in a world where zombies are just as much a part of the pop culture as they are in our real world. Liv even watches ‘Night of the Living Dead’.
After she eats some brain from a Jane Doe whose body had been found in a garbage truck, Liv experiences flashes of the girl’s memory. When the detective investigating the case, Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin from ‘Breakout Kings’), finds it suspicious that she knows so much about the victim, Ravi concocts a lie that Liv is a psychic. Babineaux thinks they’re pulling his leg, but starts to believe when the clues she drops lead him on the right trail.
It turns out that the victim was a call girl named Tatiana. Initially, Liv’s visions point to a smarmy TV weatherman as the most likely suspect, but he was just a client. Eventually, she realizes that the killer was a cop named Pratt, who murdered the girl when she stole his wedding ring. Pratt kidnaps and threatens a couple of Tatiana’s co-workers to get the ring back before his wife realizes it’s missing. Babineaux intervenes before Pratt can harm them, but Pratt runs. When Liv blocks his escape, he shoots her in the chest. Unharmed, Liv goes full zombie, crashes his car, and almost eats him until Babineaux catches up. She pulls herself together just before he sees her.
The case successfully solved, Babineaux suggests that he and Liv make good partners and should work together again.
So, yes, ‘iZombie’ looks like it will probably be a cop-buddy murder procedural, and we have plenty of those on TV already. However, the show is infused with plenty of the ‘Veronica Mars’ wit, including a snarky voiceover narration and lots of quippy dialogue banter. It’s a lot of fun. I will definitely watch again, and I hope it does well for the network.