TV Review | iZombie | Season 1
Season Summary: Once a doctor on the fast track, Liv Moore is now a zombie turned crime-solver who gets insights from eating the brains of murder victims.
iZombie’s first season is a strange beast, that is oddly-paced and lacking in a specific idea of what it should be. A random zombie outbreak sets everything off and the show becomes a police procedural with a twist, before the last few episodes become heavily-serialised and telling a single story.
It’s a bit weird to watch as you get used to the ‘case of the week’ being wrapped up in each episode, so when the last five episodes form one continuous story it does feel a little strange. Doubly so as I spent the first few episodes wondering when the show was going to deal with the zombie incident that gives the show its basic premise.
Even then, with that last set of episodes dealing with one on-going story, there’s no closure by the time the final episode arrives. It all feels a little underwhelming by the time the credits of the final episode begins because it simply feels like the ending of several of the previous episodes, rather than a clean breaking point for the next season to launch from.
It doesn’t really help that the central antagonist, Blaine (played by David Anders), feels particularly generic and a little boring. It doesn’t help that the show keeps letting him get away with whatever he wants for as long as it does, because it makes the rest of the main cast feel ineffectual.
That’s not to criticise Anders’ performance, as his character definitely comes across as charismatic and intelligent enough to put his plan into action. He actually reminds a lot of William Sadler, which is very much a compliment, who was equally charming and devious as Sloane in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
As for the protagonists, Rose McIver is fantastic as the pun-named intelligent zombie Liv Moore, with some brilliant comedic timing and line delivery, matched by how well she carries off the dramatic side when needed. Yet another actress to add to the long list of ‘why isn’t she in more stuff’?
The only real issue with her character is how exaggerated the characteristics are that she picks up from the brains she eats over the course of the season. It often leads to some fantastic humour, and even an excellent martial arts fight scene, but that overemphasis of certain personality quirks does occasionally prove wearing by the end of an episode.
Equally great is Rahul Kohli as Ravi, Liv’s boss at the morgue, and his style of humour is different to Liv’s, but blends with it perfectly. The character does struggle to get established much beyond science geek early on, but once he starts to get fleshed out, Kohli shines with the material he’s given.
In fact, my favourite scene of the season features him and Bradley James as another zombie (and brief love interest for Liv), where their characters bond over football and their mutual dislike of Chelsea. Non-football fans probably won’t care that much, but it was the scene that made me laugh the loudest in the season.
Then there’s the character of Clive Babineaux (played by Malcolm Goodwin), who I really like and looks early on like a key part of the series, but kind of fades into the background as the season goes on, serving more as a supporting character in other arcs rather than having a substantial story of his own to work through.
One of those characters Clive supports is the preposterously-named Major Lilywhite (Robert Buckley). It really doesn’t help that a lot of scenes are set in a police station and you have to regularly remind yourself that Major is his name and not the rank of someone in the precinct.
It doesn’t help matters that I found Major’s arc to be a little boring in this season. When not dealing with plot matters, the character does seem like he could be fun, but is stuck in an unengaging revenge plot that feels almost mundane compared to the zombie activities making up most of the action.
The last truly major character is a little odd for me, as Peyton (played by Aly Michalka) looks distractingly like a friend of mine. So just bear that in mind when I say that I really like her character and want her to have more screen time in the future, as Michalka certainly looks like she’s having fun with the role.
In fact, she’s part of my favourite dramatic scene of the season, when she discovers what Liv really is, leading to Rose McIver seriously channelling Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy in a tearful conversation. I hope that these two get to share more screen time in future seasons as they are great together.
Unfortunately, it's inescapable that such an enjoyable cast are handicapped by this season not feeling balanced between each episode telling its own story while moving longer-term narratives forward. There’s definitely a lot to enjoy here, but also a number of things that will frustrate.
Season 1 of iZombie is enjoyable, if lacking in focus. I like pretty much the entire main cast and the performances they give, but it’s the season’s ‘arc that’s the problem: questions are left hanging for too long, making the last few episodes almost feel rushed and ending in an anticlimactic fashion.