vulture recommends

Why It’s Time to Start Watching iZombie

Rose McIver as Liv. Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW

I admit, iZombie is an incredibly goofy-sounding show. After a disastrous night out, Liv Moore wakes up with pale skin, white hair, and a craving for hot-sauce-covered brains. She dumps her fiancé, gets a job at the morgue, and develops a rough case of “posttraumatic ennui” — after all, what do you do with your life when you’re no longer technically alive? Solve murders, it turns out.

And yet, despite sounding like a network pitch meeting gone wrong (“So she’s a zombie, but she solves crimes!”), the show is profoundly endearing. It is both fun to watch and surprisingly affecting, a balance iZombie creators Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright perfected on their previous show, the great teen noir Veronica Mars. But while both shows are about young women attempting to move on from a life-upending event, Liv is older and more uncertain than Veronica; consequently, iZombie is more searching than its predecessor, less about overcoming a world that feels stacked against you, and more about finding your place in it. Here are five more reasons you should give this weird zombie procedural dramedy a chance.

1. The names.
This is a show where the main character is a zombie named Liv Moore — clearly the names aren’t terribly subtle, but they do have flair. Liv’s absurdly attractive, aggressively perfect ex-fiancé is named Major Lilywhite (and has a dog named Minor). There’s a funeral home called Shady Plots, which doubles as a front for nefarious activities. Oh, and the name of Seattle’s crime lord? Mr. Boss.

2. The effortless blend of laughter and heartbreak.
Not to mix my supernatural metaphors, but iZombie is something of a Frankenstein show: It combines a case-of-the-week structure with zombie mythology, pop-culture jokes, and just a touch of existential angst to create something greater than the sum of its parts. It’s able to do this because of the depth of its characterizations, which provide grounding and logic for even the silliest bits and darkest twists. Liv helps solve crimes not just because she’s the protagonist in a crime procedural, but because using her zombie powers to solve crimes is the only way she can find meaning in what’s happened to her. As perfect as Major may seem, he also suffers from a pathological need to play the hero, which causes as many problems as it solves. Even the characters’ most insane-seeming choices (like buying a grenade launcher out of a guy’s trunk) are based in recognizable motivations, allowing it to swing between laugh-out-loud comedy and heartbreaking drama with a surprising speed.

3. The brains.
Eating brains has side effects. For one, Liv has visions of the person’s memories — a nifty skill for her crime-solving sideline. But more important, she picks up some of the dead person’s personality and skills: contract-killer-brain leaves her emotionless, frat-boy brain leads her to pull juvenile pranks, stalker-brain makes her insanely jealous, and so on. The brains vary from hilarious to chilling, sometimes serving as a punch line and sometimes as a plot device, but Liv’s attempts to cope with the constant personality churn expose the deeper cracks in her identity. Or, as she puts it, “I’m always Britney, but sometimes I’m ‘Hit Me One More Time’ Britney, and sometimes I’m shaved-head, smashing-car-windows Britney.”

4. The one-liners.
Looking for quips? iZombie has quips. The jokes come a mile a minute, from every character. Antagonist Blaine describes himself as “an acquired taste, like gazpacho or that free U2 album.” In response to a hypothetical about how many women would kill to be with him, Major replies, “Exactly four. Yeah I’ve met them. Quality women. I don’t know who they plan on killing or why they think that’s my thing, but they’re super hot and ready for murder.” Even the generally taciturn Clive, Liv’s cop partner, occasionally gets in on the action, like responding to socialite-brain Liv’s insistence that he drive around to pick her up with, “What am I, Driving Miss Crazy?” The jokes are packed so tightly you’ll probably miss half of them the first time through, but that just makes re-watching all the better.

5. Ravi.
As previously noted, all of iZombie’s characters are wonderful. But Ravi, Liv’s boss at the morgue and closest confidante, is unquestionably the best. From the very beginning of the show, when he responds to confirmation of Liv’s undead state with curiosity bordering on glee, Ravi is a source of constant delight. He accepts Liv’s condition without judgment (and is endlessly entertained by each new brain) but never stops looking for a cure. Pair him with any character for instant enjoyment, whether he’s bantering with Liv over a crime scene, torturing Clive with his love of Game of Thrones, or scrapping with Blaine over a zombie-killing serum. Ravi’s also the rare Indian man on TV who not only has a love life, but is confident about it. “I’m a tall doctor with fantastic hair and a British accent,” he tells Liv. “I don’t even need to be this attractive — it’s just icing.” Pretty great icing, honestly.

iZombie: Why It’s Time to Start Watching