The Walking Dead may attract huge numbers of eyeballs, but when it comes to brains, iZombie has it beaten to death. The new CW show splices together two gene pools — an excellent comic-book source (a 2010-12 Vertigo Comics series from Mike Allred and Chris Roberson) and TV-adaptation by Veronica Mars’s Rob Thomas and Dianne Ruggerio-Wright — to create a charming and even, yes, inspiring new series.
Liv (Rose McIver) is a studious, budding young heart surgeon who’s bitten by zombies after she reluctantly attends a wild party. (Not the least of iZombie’s refreshing subtexts is the belief that as often as not, it’s better to just stay home and read a book.) Flash-forward five months later, and Liv is a depressed zombie who’s lost the will to pursue her career and the guy to whom she was engaged. As she voiceovers us: “I have post-traumatic ennui.”
Abandoning her studies, she takes a slacker job in a morgue, mostly just to be near some of the fresh brain matter she needs to eat to stay alive. But in the genre-dominated pop culture we live in, morgue equals death equals murder, an equation that compels Liv’s instinctively curious intellect to try and solve a few crimes between bites of brain doused in hot sauce.
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You can trace the lineage of the TV version of iZombie back beyond Veronica Mars (clever voiceover; intelligent if reluctant female semi-hero) to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (monster-movie lore as a metaphor for Otherness, alienation, and the cleansing threat feminism poses to everyday misogyny).
Unlike so many TV shows featuring fast-talking twentysomethings, iZombie doesn’t trade on cheap cynicism or jaded moodiness. At the start of the pilot, Liv is truly in despair that she will never have a happy life. At the end of the hour, she’s given us thrills, laughs, and hope: “I can choose to be a decent person,” she tells us. Turns out being undead is the most enlivening thing she’s ever experienced, and it gives iZombie a rush few other new shows possess.
iZombie airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on The CW.