[This is a review of iZombie season 1, episode 3. There will be SPOILERS.]
Easily one of the most promising things to come out of Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggerio’s new show about the living dead is the concept of brains being like a drug addiction for semi-deceased protagonist Liv Moore. Each time Liv eats a brain she takes on a temporary burst of personality and memories from its owner, allowing her to both stay composed and help her friend Detective Babineaux solve murder cases.
If last week’s artistic brain was like a dose of ecstasy, making the world look suddenly brighter and sexier, then this week’s cerveaux de humain is an opioid: the brains of a sociopathic pest exterminator who counted killing people as one of his specialities – until his own life was cut short under the wheels of a car. This comes just in time for Liv, who is still reeling from her misguided flirtation with ex-fiancé Major and sees being detached from her emotions as something of a welcome break.
That’s not the only troubling encounter that Liv has to deal with. It turns out that her old hospital colleague Marcy has her own case of zombieism and hasn’t had a steady supply of brains to stave off the effects, so she’s now spending her days trapped in an abandoned shipyard and unwittingly becoming famous on the internet after a teenager manages to snap a blurry photo of her. Liv and Ravi explore the possibilities for Marcy’s future, which come down to either trying to cure her or putting her out of her misery.
The final plot thread, though it doesn’t get as much screen time as the others, sees Blaine continuing his efforts to build a hive of undead junkies who are dependent on his supply of brains, in order to keep from going full zombie. Blaine, being the pond scum that he is, switches his attention from wealthy older women to young homeless kids in order to maintain a low profile – and his latest victim is one of Major’s friends.
iZombie is, at its heart, still a light entertainment show; and as such, its examination of anti-social personality disorder doesn’t go much deeper than surface level, but the zombie-seeking-brains dynamic continues to work well on a number of metaphorical levels. Meanwhile, a less begrudging approach to the procedural aspect of the show makes this week’s double murder mystery a bit more interesting – even if it is possible to guess who the killer is from the moment they appear on screen.
There’s little emotional investment in seeing said killer brought to justice, since the audience never really gets to meet the victims – and by all accounts they weren’t very nice people anyway. As a vehicle for character development and a basic framework for each episode, however, the crime-solving is pretty serviceable. Of course, that’s not to say it would really be missed if Thomas and Ruggiero did a few episodes without a murder-of-the-week.
Some effort is also made to flesh out Liv’s flatmate, Payton, whose role thus far has been to just sort of hang around and be concerned about Liv. This week we find out that she does, in fact, have a job and a life of her own, and those happen to coincide with the case that Liv is working on. Despite getting a more substantial role this week (as she closes in on a career-making murder case), Peyton’s storyline is still really all about Liv and Liv’s changing personality and Liv’s problems. At this point it wouldn’t be surprising if Peyton turned out to be simply a figment of Liv’s imagination, like Paul Bettany’s character in A Beautiful Mind. There’s just so little substance to her.
In fact, this criticism of Peyton could be leveled at most of the supporting characters in the show. Rahul Kohli is easily one of iZombie‘s greatest strengths, but what do we really know about Ravi after three episodes – other than the fact that he works in a morgue, he’s English, and he’s interested in Liv’s zombie physiology? Clive’s characterization is similarly paper-thin; we know that he’s a cop and that he’s struggling to impress his superiors, but so far he’s largely just acted as a means by which Liv can get access to police work.
It’s natural that a show told from mostly the protagonist’s point of view will end up focusing on that protagonist, but the entire world can only revolve around Liv for so long before the audience starts to question why everyone else just feels like a prop.
Ravi: I hate to pry, but…
Liv: Says the man who keeps asking me for my urine samples.
Liv: [To Clive] Are you cool with me naming our trivia team Piggy and the Brain?
Liv: Section 8 of the Flag Code states that the American flag should never be used as apparel. Although enforcement of the code conflicts with your First Amendment right to freedom of speech, as played out in the 1990 Supreme Court case, United States v. Eichman.
Jerome: You didn’t say you was marrying Siri.
iZombie returns next Tuesday with “Live and Let Clive” @9pm on The CW. Watch a preview below: