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IZOMBIE Post-Mortem: A CW Zombie Apocalypse

Season 1 of The CW’s iZombie wrapped up this week, but a full-on zombie apocalypse may be coming to the series next season. But this is The CW’s version of the zombie apocalypse, which is worlds away from the one depicted in The Walking Dead.

Before we go any further, there are some spoilers for iZombie Season 1 ahead. You’ve been warned!

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Diving into iZombie, it’s worth noting that this series is based on the DC/Vertigo comic book series created by writer Chris Roberson and artist Mike Allred. Ultimately though, it also has very little in common with the source material other than the idea of a young female zombie who has to eat brains in order to maintain her humanity.

Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas and his writing partner, Diane Ruggiero-Wright, adapted iZombie for television, and they changed the name and backstory of the main character in addition to adding a police procedural element to the show. Basically, Liv Moore (Rose McIver) gets visions from the brains that she eats and she passes herself off as a psychic while using that knowledge to help solve murders alongside Seattle PD’s Detective Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin).

Essentially, iZombie mixes its modern Veronica Mars with a little Buffy the Vampire Slayer… but it’s a surprisingly potent mix. McIver really does seem like the heir to the throne left by Kristen Bell and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Liv’s got a very Veronica Mars-like sense of humor, and she doesn’t feel out of place with the weirder aspects of the series. McIver’s ability to emote is also impressive, so she makes Liv very sympathetic. She’s definitely a character worth building a show around.

The greatest strength of iZombie is that Thomas and Ruggiero-Wright do character-based humor really well. They also managed to give most of their supporting characters meaningful subplots throughout the season. Liv’s ex-fiancé; Major Lilywhite (Seriously?! That’s his name?!) was pinning after Liv when the series began, but he transformed into a Travis Bickle-like anti-zombie crusader. Robert Buckley could have been lost in a thankless role, but instead, Major was one of the best parts of the first season.

David Anders
David Anders has been a reliable TV villain ever since Alias, but I don’t think he’s ever had as much fun on screen as he’s clearly having on this show. Anders plays Blaine DeBeers, the zombie who infected Liv in the pilot episode. Blaine is unquestionably the villain of the first season, but Anders plays him with such charm and humor that it’s hard not to like him. Blaine had his own subplots in the majority of the first season as he turned the zombie apocalypse into a workable business model for himself…even if that business model required the death of innocent people. And that’s what put Major on Blaine’s trail in the first place.

Blaine may also turn out to be a weakness for this series, as the iZombie writers have clearly fallen in love with him. While the way that Blaine survived the events of this week’s season finale was clever, there is a real danger in overusing a great villain. We’ve seen this before on TV. Sometimes it works out, like the way that Buffy the Vampire Slayer used Spike. Then there are the times that it didn’t work, like Sylar’s erratic storylines on Heroes. That reluctance to move on from Blaine could cause some problems down the line if the writers don’t have the confidence that they can create another Big Bad as interesting and as fun as this one.

Among the supporting cast, Rahul Kohli also had a very strong turn as Liv’s primary ally and confidant, Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti. Kohli’s character had to have the right balance of humor and gravitas while dealing with his attempts to cure Liv’s condition. But he really nailed it. The show was a little awkward in the way that it forced Ravi and Major to become roommates. However, that turned out to be the right call, as it united the two sides of Liv’s world.

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As is the case with many first seasons, iZombie didn’t get everything right off the bat. The police procedural elements often felt less interesting than the burgeoning zombie underground and Liv’s personal drama. Thankfully, Babineaux wasn’t played as a buffoon, and McIver does have good chemistry with Goodwin. But it still feels like the whole police angle was just a necessary evil to get this show on the air.

The rest of the supporting cast isn’t quite as lucky. Although Liv’s mother, Eva (Molly Hagan); and Liv’s brother, Evan (Nick Purcha) were around since the pilot episode, the series failed to make either one of them register as a character in their own right. One of the cliffhangers of the season finale hinges upon Liv’s willingness to let Evan die rather than infect him…which would have been great if we had been made to care about Evan one way or another.

Then there’s Peyton Charles (Aly Michalka), Liv’s roommate and former close friend. Michalka was actually pretty good in the role when she was given something to do. Peyton dating Ravi turned out to be a pretty charming subplot. But iZombie dropped the ball by letting Peyton in on Liv’s secret without bothering to follow up on that in the season finale. If Peyton is going to matter on this series, she can’t just disappear when things are getting interesting.

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The setup for iZombie Season 2 is intriguing. Blaine has been infecting people all season, and he promised a zombie apocalypse in Seattle if he isn’t able to keep providing the newly turned zombies with fresh brains. Remember, these aren’t Walking Dead zombies. The zombies on this show have the mental clarity to realize what they’re doing, and they can still act like themselves if they’re on a steady diet of brains. So society isn’t going to fall overnight to this brand of zombies, but they could become a very big problem for Liv in the future.

Above all else, iZombie’s first season was a lot of fun and very compelling. There is a second season of iZombie coming next fall, which potentially means that we’ll get a full season of 22 to 23 episodes. The show has a lot of promise, but it doesn’t have a big fanbase that can guarantee a renewal year after year.

That’s where you come in, Nerdist readers. This show is well worth catching up on, and at least half of the first season is on Hulu for free. If iZombie is going to survive long term, it needs fans to recruit other fans and continue spreading the word.

Share your thoughts on iZombie Season 1 in the comment section below!

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