“I’m standing in a hallway waiting to smell a call girl. This? Is vibe-appropriate.”
iZombie is based on a graphic novel by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred. So before we get into anything else let’s go ahead and tackle one of the more pressing questions when it comes to a book adaptation and that is–how faithful is the adaptation to the source material? In a word? Not. So before you read any further anyone who’s looking for a faithful adaptation of the graphic novel will have to look elsewhere, possibly in the realm of fanvids and the like, in order to find what they’re looking for.
iZombie is very entertaining and a lot of the credit for that is due to Rob Thomas who helmed other popular shows like Veronica Mars and the 90210 reboot. He has said when he was approached by The CW to develop this project that they were looking for another female-driven show that captured the spirit of Veronica Mars as well as perennial favorite Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And so Rob along with fellow co-creator Diane Ruggiero-Wright (who also worked on Veronica Mars) give us the character of Olivia “Liv” Moore (Rose McIver, The Lovely Bones). They have managed to echo Veronica Mars and Buffy Summers very well in the character of Liv, providing her with not just a snarky outlook on life but an underlying vulnerability which really resonates with viewers.
The premise of the show is complex enough that the decision was made to retell it every single episode in the form of an opening credit montage of comic book panels with the theme song played over them. Medical resident Liv Moore gets turned into a zombie and her entire life changes. Instead of becoming a doctor she becomes an assistant to the medical examiner which conveniently gives her access to brains. An unexpected upside of her new vocation is her boss Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli, I’ll Be Home Soon), who possesses a high state of curiosity and a surprising lack of fear when it comes to Liv’s condition, which he becomes aware of almost immediately. He is excited at the prospect of studying zombie-ism and trying to develop a cure. It is this quest which will drive the entire 13 episodes of Season One more than anything else.
Eating dead people’s brains doesn’t just keep Liv alive (er, undead) however, it also gives her visions of that person’s life and provides clues to their death. Liv decides to use this side effect to assuage her guilt at having to eat brains. So she pretends to be a psychic, teaming up with Seattle Police Department Homicide Detective Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin, Breakout Kings), going along with him as he interrogates witnesses, inspects crime scenes, and whatever else is necessary in order to solve the murder of the person she’s currently eating.
So there’s a bit of a formula to the episodes of the First Season. We have a murder, Liv eats the murder victim’s brain, and we understand more about their life through not only investigating the murder but also through the side effects that Liv experiences as a result of her special diet. In addition to the murder we also are concerned with Liv’s personal life or rather lack thereof since she broke off her engagement with boyfriend Major Lillywhite played by former One Tree Hill star Robert Buckley. Everyone in Liv’s life knows about what has become known as “The Boat Party”, which is the night Liv was turned but as far as the public is aware there was a huge party that ended in tragedy when the boat caught fire and almost everyone on board was killed. So as a survivor of that tragedy Liv gets some leeway in terms of the changes she’s undergone (though no one is happy with her) however no one but her boss understands the truth behind what’s going on. No one that is except for Blaine (David Anders, The Revenant), the man (well zombie) who infected Liv and comes back into her life in an unexpected way, serving as the villain of the piece. So we worry about murder as well as about Liv’s secret coming out all the while trying to stop Blaine from doing whatever he’s doing and hoping that this will be the week Ravi is able to manufacture an effective cure.
The other side effect of eating brains is that some of the more dominant personality traits of the person pass temporarily to Liv as long as she is on a diet of that person’s brain. This is where the more comedic elements of the show’s writing are really able to shine and also McIver’s acting chops. She really gets a chance to flex her muscles in this role, going from week to week never the same character twice. She could be paranoid one week, sure that aliens are out to get her, and the next she’s an artist, criticizing everything around her and trying desperately to translate her feelings into some sort of artistic expression.
I mentioned before that iZombie definitely harkens back to the tones of both Veronica Mars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer but it definitely hold its own even without any familiarity with those other shows. It’s funny, the mysteries are interesting to say the least, and it is always a treat to see how the murder of the week is going to affect Liv in any of the ways in which it can. It is easy to recommend iZombie, there isn’t really a lot of competition although many people have drawn a comparison between it and the ABC Family show Stitchers. However the only real similarity between those two shows (and I watched both shows’ first seasons) is that the murder victim’s brain is somehow used to help solve the murder. Otherwise they are coming at the concept from two entirely different places and you don’t have to choose one over the other.
The cast is very likeable and interacts well on screen. Anders always shines when he takes on the more villainous roles and Blaine is no exception. His repartee is always a highlight for me. Buckley plays the scorned lover well, with echoes of that same hangdog-lost-puppy-type vibe that he employed so often especially towards the end of One Tree Hill‘s run. Rahul Kohli embraces his role as comic relief without hesitation and he’s able to portray Ravi without making him goofy or over the top which is a very fine line with his character. But McIver is the star of the show make no doubt. If she wasn’t successful as Liv it doesn’t matter about anything else and it looks like she is having an absolute blast filming the show.
The technical specs are nothing to write home about but nothing to complain about overly much either. The tendency to pack as many episodes per disc (five in this case) means we have some compression related issues but they aren’t going to really mess with your viewing. The 1.78:1 transfer boasts a natural palette and doesn’t really suffer from glitches per se, so you’ll have few complaints from either that or the audio side of things. The audio is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and I didn’t find myself needing to turn up the volume or adjust any settings. Overall I would declare them servicable.
In terms of special features we have the panel from 2014 San Diego Comic-Con as well as some deleted scenes. The liner notes detail exactly which episodes have special features associated with them and you have the choice of watching the deleted scenes from the episode menu they are attached to. The Comic-Con panel is an unusual choice but appreciated as you get a sense of the actors outside of the roles they play.
Undead and unguilty.