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iZombie is having a strong second season, with Rose McIver’s Liv Moore scarfing down brains and solving crimes with ever-evolving gusto. The show could so easily be awful for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the gimmick of having Liv take on the characteristics of the person whose brains she consumes each week.
But so far, she’s done a good job of doing just enough impersonation to remind you who she’s consumed while still keeping Liv’s own wry skepticism prominent. With her loose-limbed body language and clipped “bro” speech, she was a hoot embodying a frat boy last week, and on Tuesday night’s episode, titled “Real Dead Housewives of Seattle,” she mimics the nouveau-riche mannerisms of countless matrons of the Real Housewives franchise while solving the murder of one such specimen.
It took a while, as all smart new shows do, for iZombie to find its rhythm and the proper emphasis to give to the right supporting characters. Show creator Rob Thomas applied some of his Veronica Mars style to iZombie’s framework (the tart-tongued voiceover by the show’s hero; the fast introductions and exits of a slew of characters) while retaining what worked best in the Vertigo comic book on which the show is based: The way Chris Roberson and Michael Allred gave the zombie limbo-status of their character both a surreal wackiness and a realistic poignance.
In the current season, it’s equally satisfying to see Liv helping out Malcolm Goodwin’s Police Detective Clive Babineaux on criminal cases, and Rahul Kohli’s Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti in the medical examiner’s office, where Liv works as an assistant. Goodwin, with his throaty murmur and muted reactions to Liv’s personality transformations, and Kohli, freed to turn Ravi into a more hyper yet shrewd character than he was at the start of season one, complement and enhance the showcase performance of McIver.
Right now, the show is toggling back and forth between two main bad guys — David Anders’ Blaine DeBeers, a would-be zombie-brain-drug-kingpin, and Stephen Weber as Vaughn Du Clark, the evil CEO of Max Rager, an energy-drink company, which is one of the best villain-occupations I’ve heard of in a while. Weber’s piquant performance, equal parts feigned fussiness and eye-popping anger, tips the balance for me in favoring whatever episodes he figures in most prominently. Weber is especially good tonight, facing down a possible hostile takeover of Du Clark’s company with a malicious sangfroid.
Everybody praises Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany, but where’s Rose McIver’s Emmy nomination? I’m kidding, but just kind of. McIver inhabits all her various character shifts with a deceptive ease — sometimes it’s as if she’s a ventriloquist using her own body as the dummy to express a different personality. What she’s doing is tricky; a bigger audience ought to be watching her.
iZombie airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on The CW