Season 4 of iZombie sees an enormous change to the series’ status quo, one that moves beyond the familiar formula of characters maintaining a dual existence in order to keep their status as zombies concealed from the rest of the world, and in doing so, frees the show up to explore its conceit from a new angle. Were it not for the show following such a clear path over its past three seasons, the circumstances of ’Are You Ready For Some Zombies?’ might look a lot more like the series had undergone a soft reboot. As it stands, iZombie is doing what too few shows do: moving what is essentially a procedural forward in ways that have a huge effect on its main characters. The trick is: the show manages to do it without altering the dynamics that make it work in the first place.
Seattle is now New Seattle, a city that’s been walled off from the rest of the world due to the zombie population explosion at the end of the previous season. The word “new” is kind of scary in this sense, as it opens the door for a new world order, one that the people of Seattle are still adjusting to, as humans and zombies are put in a tough situation where one half of the population is keenly aware they’re food for the other half. That is enough to make things in the walled city somewhat tense, and tensions naturally rise due to basic human nature, the presence of Fillmore-Graves security teams prowling the neighborhoods, and fire starters like Blaine DeBeers and his father Angus vigorously stirring the pot.
It's a welcome change of pace; one that’s made more interesting by the fact that it wasn’t done under the pretense of absolute necessity. The status quo was blown up by the narrative’s own volition. There was nothing wrong with iZombie at the end of season 3; it could have changed course from the storyline’s plans to infect a huge part of Seattle’s population with the virus that turns people into zombies and gone back to business as usual. At its heart, the show is a procedural; it’s built to go on and on and to perpetuate a single premise for as long as it possibly can. As such, making the change to its characters’ circumstances by not only outing zombies but creating a situation in which they have to be recognized by a population that might not want them brings a welcome sense of gravity to the proceedings.
That doesn’t alter the tone of the show, though. iZombie is still a comedy with a somewhat demented brain-munching edge. That much is made clear when Liv chows down on the noodle of this week’s murder victim — a diehard Seattle Seahawks fan with a considerable dislike for zombies. The result is Liv on sports fanatic brain, which affords Rose McIver a chance to turn the interrogation of a suspect with Clive into a debate over which team is superior, the Seahawks or the 49ers. It also makes for a nice joke when she refers to going full-on zombie as “beast mode”.
But, Marshawn Lynch jokes aside, Liv zombie-ing out in front of a civilian without any repercussions is kind of a big deal, and one of the ways the changes to series give the writers new methods to play around with the zombie concept, despite using the same tools they always have. That carries over into other characters, too, like Blaine and Angus. Blaine is essentially working with Chase Graves’ boot on his neck, forced to feed him intel on illegal zombie goings-on in exchange for keeping his enterprise afloat. Meanwhile his father, Angus, who’s been at the bottom of a well, is driven insane by his time down there and has confused his son’s spiteful ramblings for the word of God. After an aggrieved employee of Blaine’s sets him free, Angus sets to become a zombie preacher, using murder to entice his would-be flock.
What makes the premiere work so well is that even though ‘Are You Ready For Some Zombies?’ has to push through a laundry list of updates for each character — including Ravi’s monthly zombie-ism and Major working for Fillmore-Graves — it still looks and feels like a regular episode of iZombie. The show’s procedural element still drives the premiere, meaning the hour has to weave the changes into the larger tapestry of the series, which it manages to do without breaking a sweat or resorting to too much exposition without merit. The show’s writers know there’re 12 more episodes to explore Ravi’s condition or the morality of Major’s brain-rich position at Fillmore-Graves while civilian zombies are starving and struggling on the streets of Seattle. And so, a big part of the effort put into the season 4 premiere becomes not over-explaining things, while still acknowledging the changes openly, mostly through the actions of the show's core characters, as they’re the ones who actually have to respond to the brave new world in which they find themselves.
iZombie season 4 is a solid premiere made better by its ability to shake things up. The follow through to revealing zombies to the world at the end of last season is one that works almost entirely in the show’s favor, creating plenty of new avenues to explore without sacrificing what made the series work in the first place. It’s a brave new world for The CW’s non-superhero comic book adaptation, and from the look of things, it’s gong to be one worth sticking around for.
iZombie continues next Monday with ‘Blue Bloody’ @9pm on The CW.