Jim’s TV reviews: iZombie Ep. 101 – Pilot

iZombie is the latest comics-to-tv offering on the CW.  More or less based on the Chris Roberson/Mike Allred comic of the same name, the tv effort by series creators Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars) and Diane Ruggiero-Wright premiered on the CW this past Tuesday.

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iZombie tells the tale of Liv More (har har), a young and promising med student whose life is cut short by an “inexplicable zombie outbreak” during a late-night party on a yacht.  Surviving (sort of…well, not really) the attack, Liv finds herself balancing the line between dead and undead. She has a compulsion to eat human brains, the unhealthy pallor most often associated with fans of The Cure, an inability to sleep, loss of sensitivity to taste, and an overall lack of enthusiasm.

When she doesn’t give in to her new eating disorder, Liv goes full-on feral zombie.  Logically, she quits her hospital internship and finds work at a local police morgue, wherein she might dine on the occasional deceased victim’s frontal or occipital.  She is thus informed of one of her special zombie “gifts”:  A psychic connection to the victim’s experiences.  Feeling emotionally connected to her supper, Liv helps her police compatriots track down killers.

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iZombie on the CW focuses squarely on the quirk.  It rarely surrenders the light-hearted tone in favor of the type of deeply personal emotional exploration one might expect from a new undead. Instead, it exposes Liv’s plight, lightly and with a dash of snarky inner monologue, through her relationships: Her caring but meddlesome match-maker mom, her bewildered and at-arms-length former fiance, her concerned roommate.  This is all very intentional, and very in keeping with what you’d expect on this network. Nevertheless, series lead Rose McIver manages some really interesting depth.  She communicates quite a bit of empathy-inducing emotion from the character using quick micro-expressions and ticks.  A quick furrow of the brow, a brief frown, a softening of the eyes…she knows how to navigate a series where ennui is the new normal for her character.  She comes off as lovable and sincere, even though much of the passion and determination of her former life is behind her.

The pilot moved a bit too quickly from the questions raised by its origin-story opening, instead heading straight for weekly procedural territory.  But there was enough quirk, enough performance from McIver, and enough originality to the premise to keep me in my seat. Most interesting was how the pilot left open the question whether Liv’s ennui was more a cover for human despair and regret over the secrecy between her and her loved ones, or whether it stemmed more from her zombie nature. Looking forward to more from this series, but cautiously:  If it surrenders to “corpse of the week” too quickly, I’ll be dropping it soon.

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