[This is a review of the iZombie season 3 premiere. There will be SPOILERS.]
The CW's zombie drama iZombie returns for season 3 after nearly a year hiatus since the season 2 finale, which saw Liv Moore infiltrate a Max Rager party with her friend/ex-boyfriend Major and friend/partner, detective Clive Babineaux. They faced off against a new breed of zombie, dubbed Super Max zombies (which are more typical zombies in that they cannot be reasoned with) due to their creation through the Super Max energy drink and tainted utopium. The season 2 finale featured a number of revelations, perhaps most personally notable being Liv coming out to Clive as a zombie, finally bringing him into the loop on the issue of zombies in Seattle.
However, even more notable in terms of the trajectory of iZombie's overarching story was the revelation that Vivian Stoll, a private military contractor who bought out Max Rager (whose acquisition served as the cause for the company's party), employs an army of zombies that's preparing for a time when humans learn of their existence. Additionally, Vivian explained to Liv that she has plans to establish a zombie homeland in Seattle -- a place where the undead can live openly without fear of being hunted by humans.
In the iZombie season 3 premiere, 'Heaven Just Got a Little Bit Smoother' - directed by Dan Etheridge and written by showrunner Rob Thomas -- Liv and her friends decompress from all the revelations of the season 2 finale. Plus, Liv digs deeper into Vivian Stoll's plan for Seattle and the formation of her small zombie army while Major deals with the fallout of being exonerated for the Chaos Killer murders.
In many ways 'Heaven Just Got a Little Bit Smoother' is a typical season premiere -- it follows up on the major reveals of the previous season finale, offers necessary exposition in the wake of the bombshells dropped at the end of last year, and sets up the new normal for the show. In this way, iZombie's new episode is a typical season premiere, but it's an atypical episode of The CW's zombie drama -- and that's a good thing. iZombie typically follows a procedural format, with a case-of-the-week grounding the series as the episodes also develop the overarching storylines of each season.
However, the season 2 finale featured an even bigger upheaval of iZombie's status quo than the finale of season 1, and the series needed to take an entire episode to give its characters -- and viewers -- time to process the events of the Max Rager massacre. The party -- and the death of previous big bad Vaughn Du Clark -- essentially ended Max Rager's run as Liv's main antagonist in iZombie, with the company having been acquired by Vivian Stoll's Fillmore-Graves Enterprises. On the morning after the Max Rager massacre, Vivian leads Liv, Major, and Clive through a tour of their facility and offers a brief outline of her company's plan to build a sustainable and disconnected homeland for zombies.
The introduction of Vivian Stoll's zombie homeland presents a few compelling questions for iZombie season 3 to tackle. As Vivian makes the case for her zombie utopia, she explains that her company is determined to provide a safe haven for zombies -- for those who are different from humans and who humans would seek to destroy out of fear. It's an honorable pursuit, but one that seems too good to be true. Vivian and her company are preparing for D-Day (Discovery Day, the day humans learns about the existence of zombies) and the worst case scenario, while Liv and Clive struggle with whether or not they should team up with Fillmore-Graves.
The questions are: Could humanity handle the knowledge that there are zombies living amongst them? Can Liv trust that humans won't attempt to destroy all zombies? Can Clive pick a side, either human or zombie? Major, for his part, appears to side with Fillmore-Graves, taking a job with the company in the wake of his life being turned upside down by his time as a Chaos Killer suspect. Meanwhile, Ravi continues to remain impartial as well, working on perfecting the cure for zombieism. Elsewhere, Blaine and Peyton grow closer after their own eventful night in the season 2 finale dealing with Stacey Boss.
Of course, though the season 3 premiere doesn't follow the typical structure of an iZombie episode, it does still feature Liv being affected by the brains she's eaten. However, rather than provide comedic relief or necessary information to drive the plot forward, they facilitate some of Liv's emotional arc in 'Heaven Just Got a Little Bit Smoother'. In the season 2 finale, Liv was forced to kill her boyfriend who had been turned into a Super Max zombie in order to save Clive from becoming a zombie himself. Since she's eaten soldier brains, it takes some time for her to be able to process the events of that night, and her part in it.
iZombie has always been at its strongest when developing the show's various characters, and their relationships with each other -- which is particularly compelling when zombies like Liv and Major are influenced by the brains they've eaten. That aspect of the show remains strong throughout the season 3 premiere, especially in Liv and Clive's partnership, which has become much more of a close friendship since she revealed she's a zombie. They share a handful of moments in 'Heaven Just Got a Little Bit Smoother' that help slow down the pace of the episode and ground the more expository elements of the premiere with an emotional throughline.
All in all, the season 3 premiere of iZombie sets up another year of the series featuring plenty of what fans love about it: the humor, the character dynamics, and the fun twist on classic zombie tropes. iZombie will get back to its more typical format in the second episode of season 3, and begin to tackle the overarching mysteries set up in the final moments of 'Heaven Just Got a Little Bit Smoother'. It remains to be seen who murdered Wally's family -- a crime that makes the human/zombie war personal for Clive -- and whether or not Vivian Stoll can truly be trusted.
That said, it's clear iZombie season 3 will dive deeper into its zombie world, as the existence of zombies gets ever harder to hide from humans. In fact, the season 3 premiere introduces Ravi's old boss from the CDC, who threatens the zombie secret even as Ravi assures Liv it won't be a problem. Still, with everything packed into the season 3 premiere, we won't know exactly what to expect from this new season of iZombie until next week. But if the series continues to play to its strengths while developing these new storylines, season 3 has the potential to be the best season of the series yet.
iZombie season 3 continues next Tuesday with 'Zombie Knows Best' at 9pm on The CW.