With the season 3 hitting our screens next month I’m looking back at the first two seasons of this compelling TV show created by Dianne Ruggiero and Rob Thomas (also responsible for Veronica Mars).
In the tradition of Lucifer, The Walking Dead and Preacher, iZombie is another comic to TV adaptation. Lucifer and iZombie follow a similar pattern, partnering with crime solving detectives while trying to make their lives meaningful. In spite of this and a plethora of zombie shows and films, iZombie is unique enough to really draw the viewer into its world and tongue in cheek enough to make us laugh out loud.
iZombie is a delight, especially with its male characters. Although the lead is female, Liv Moore (played by Rose McIver), most of the main players are male. These male protagonists (the good guys at least) fall prey to none of the usual toxic masculinity stereotypes. They are intelligent, funny, respectful of women and playful with each other. Ravi in particular (Liv’s boss at the morgue, played by Rahul Kohli) behaves in such a non-sexual way that until he falls for Liv’s best friend I thought he was gay. All the heroes are like this to varying degrees – Major (the ex-fiance and best friend) and Lowell (the new love interest of Liv) are exactly the way women like me would love all men to be – confident, independent and relaxed. It’s refreshing because it is rare in the media, but I would love to see more of this kind of male everywhere.
Season 1 Plot Summary (includes spoilers)
Liv trades a high-flying career in medicine and the dream fiancé, for a job as a morgue assistant and a celibate life, after being scratched at a boat party massacre and waking up as a member of the undead. As the season progresses we learn how and why the party-goers became zombies – a cocktail of tainted narcotics and a particular energy drink. We also discover that the energy drink manufacturer is aware of its potential side effects and trying to cover the evidence. The CEO of Max Rager energy drinks, Vaughn Du Clark, makes an excellent sociopathic megalomaniac and villain in seasons 1 and 2 of the show.
Liv needs to eat human brains to avoid going “Romero” and losing her humanity forever. There are lots of appropriate cultural references like this throughout the cleverly written scripts. A side effect of her new diet is that the memories and personality traits of the previous owners of these brains are inherited temporarily by Liv. The morgue assistant pretends to be psychic in order to help Clive (her unofficial police partner in the homicide department) solve the murders of the people whose brains she consumes. Each murder tends to be solved within one episode, while the larger problem of zombies, evil CEOs and criminal bosses plays out across the seasons. Rose McIver gets to play a different person each week, showing her range as an actress and also allowing for some wonderful comedic scenes. Rahul Kohli, as Ravi, magnifies this humour with his clever one-liners and cuter than cute sidekick vibe. He is the person who keeps Liv going when everything seems impossible and works tirelessly towards a cure for zombieism. It is impossible not to fall in love with the man, at least a little bit.
To complicate matters further, Liv meets Blaine, another zombie survivor from the original boat massacre. He has a Spike (Buffy) look and attitude and he plays the bad guy with a heart well, until we realise he is actually quite heartless. He creates a network of wealthy zombies to whom he provides brain-based meals on wheels at high cost, killing kids to maintain his supply. Some of these missing kids are known by Major, Liv’s ex-fiancé and when he cannot interest the police in the case he investigates it himself, unknowingly pitting himself against the zombie world and Liv who protects it and keeps it hidden. It is hard to watch Major being lied to by his best friend to the point that he checks himself into a mental hospital believing he is psychotic. It is equally hard in the second season when Major returns the favour and lies compulsively to Liv and Ravi.
At the end of the first season, Major shoots up Blaine’s zombie brain operation and is fatally injured in the process. Ironically Liv has to choose whether to make him a zombie or watch him die.
Season 2 Plot Summary (includes spoilers)
More murder cases and more personality shifts for Liv Moore. Max Rager are developing a new drink that makes people (and zombies) more powerful and rage-filled than the original brew. The company hires Major to kill zombies and thereby prevent a company scandal. A new villain arrives, Stacey Boss (played by Eddie Jemison), who is the major crimelord of Seattle and Blaine’s ex-boss. Boss is quietly terrifying, intelligent, polite and completely ruthless. The living embodiment of hard words softly spoken. So in season two we have a trio of bad guys – Blaine, Vaughn and Boss – with Major playing for both sides at different times and spending most of his time gas-lighting and lying to his friends. Retribution for season 1, perhaps.
In this season the longer running plot lines, which run through the week by week murder cases, become more important and more prominent. These often rely on convenient coincidences but as it’s a fun show we can forgive the slightly untidy narrative in places. More female protagonists are added into the mix for the second season, I’m glad to say.
The second season is more complicated than the first and many strands remain loose at the end, but as the third season is coming soon I hope these will simply continue into the episodes to come. There is still no cure for zombieism, and there are many more zombies after the action-packed finale of season two. Can Dianne Ruggiero and Rob Thomas make it a hat trick with season 3? I will be watching to find out.
If you enjoyed Lucifer – you’ll love this.