The CW has been at the forefront of comic adaptations lately, having done some great things with Arrow and The Flash that make both shows fun and accessible, even for those who haven’t read the comics. Unlike what’s happened with the slowly-plotted Gotham on Fox or the struggling Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC, the CW knows its audience, and unabashedly caters to them.
Thus, it’s time to get our first angsty, young, female zombie. iZombie (from Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas) is the latest comic adaptation to come to the network, although it has gone through a number of major tweaks and changes from Chris Roberson and Michael Allred’s original story. The show stars Rose McIver as Olivia Moore, a medical resident who is turned into a zombie after a contained outbreak at a party caused by a synthetic drug. The fact that Liv only suffered a scratch and didn’t have her brains eaten means that her existence now is part human, part zombie. Her hair has turned white and her skin is waxen and pale, but otherwise, she’s as she was before — except for a new, insatiable desire for brains.
Liv (whose friends and family don’t think anything is wrong with her other than the fact that she’s suddenly partaking in questionable style choices) drops her medical gig and gets a job at the morgue instead. There, she has unfettered access to brains, thanks in part to her boss Ravi (Rahul Kohli), who considers her zombism a marvel to study, and who is her ally. But there is a twist: when Liv eats someone’s brains, she starts to take on their memories and their traits. Since that’s helpful when it comes to solving crimes, she teams up with a local, wary detective, Clive (Malcolm Goodwin), dropping hints about various murder investigations as she has her “visions.”
Throughout its first four episodes, iZombie tries to sell the idea that Liv is having to struggle mightily in hiding her identity from those around her, but the bottom line is they just don’t seem to notice enough to care. The series is a far cry from the emotionally dense and mythologically-layered BBC series In The Flesh, which explored issues of family, politics, love, and bigotry in the wake of a zombie apocalypse, but where zombies were “maintained” by a drug and reintroduced to back into their old lives, now lacking a desire to tear the flesh off of those they encounter.
iZombie doesn’t seem interested or equipped to deal with anything that deep, as it’s essentially just a procedural with a supernatural twist. Each week, Liv eats a new brain and gets caught up in a new investigation she helps solve. Show creator Rob Thomas incorporates a lot of familiar cues from Veronica Mars, but there are thematic elements from Pushing Daisies, Medium, even Tru Calling as well. Still, iZombie falls into familiar patterns and rote dialogue quickly, without seeming like it’s really reaching for anything more.
The show does posses one interesting subplot regarding a second zombie, Blaine (David Anders), who is sort of a Spike to Liv’s Buffy (although maybe it’s just the hair and the attitude). He opens up a peek into a world of other zombies who, like Liv, are living normally (they dye their hair and use bronzers) — aside from a need for brains, which Blaine’s black market provides. His culinary aspirations regarding human matter bring to mind Hannibal, but nothing about iZombie (despite its noteworthy comic-book stylings to set each scene) comes remotely close to touching that series’ aesthetics or intrigue.
Though iZombie juxtaposes its light tone with occasional blasts of brutal violence and ripe cadavers, it doesn’t play with that dichotomy enough. The cast is good and occasionally funny (particularly Kohli, who is the standout), and the storylines are comfortably familiar (fans of crime shows should, through most of the episodes, be able to guess the outcomes before they happen), iZombie can’t seem to quite raise the material to anything livelier. For those who are curious, but not ready to devour the oddball procedural immediately, it may be better to wait until Blaine’s story adds a meatier second course. Or simply look for a fix elsewhere.
Rating: ★★ Fair — Only for the dedicated
iZombie premieres at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17th.