I’ve been singing the praises of the creative and freewheeling approach The CW’s iZombie has taken to the zombie genre. By virtually erasing the visible and behavioral lines between humans and zombies — as long as they get their brains –the “pretty zombies” of iZombie take on the poignancy and universality of any closeted minority desperate to avoid exposure.
iZombie – New Sub-Genre
By creating — thus far imperfect — cure(s) for zombie-ism, we see characters slipping back and forth between human and zombie states as the show explores such large themes as love and friendship in a time of plague, loyalty to individuals vs the greater good, exploitation of the desperate and dependent, and the responsibilities of those with special knowledge or power.
Furthermore, by placing lead character Liv Moore (the very appealing Rose McIver) as medical examiner at the county morgue, she is able to avail herself of the brains of murder victims, thereby both meeting her nutritional requirements to remain human-like, and giving her insight into solving the murder of the week. In this universe, when zombies eat a brain, they temporarily take on the personality traits of the individual consumed, and have flashes of that person’s memories, as in Warm Bodies. Very convenient in a police procedural.
This also allows the show to have fun with the quirks of each personality McIver assumes from episode to episode — Real Housewife, frat bro, method actor, country singer, basketball coach, wannabe super hero, etc — and display her astonishing acting range, which is almost as impressive as Tatiana Maslany playing multiple clone roles in Orphan Black.
Where’s the Horror?
All of this has pushed straightforward zombie horror onto the back burner… until last week’s two-part iZombie Season 2 finale, “Dead Beat”/”Salivation Army,” where the show took a dramatic turn down apocalypse street and wiped out half the cast in a traditional zombie outbreak with blood, guts, screaming, and chomping horror.
Without delving too deeply into the complex but entertaining plot, Liv and her ex-fiance Major — both on ex-special forces brain — decide to crash the private Max Rager party and free the captive zombies held secretly for experimentation by crazed energy drink mogul Vaughn Du Clark (delightfully over-the-top Steven Weber). Vaughn is as entertaining as he is evil, tossing off one-liners like, “Couple of more deaths, we’ll be able to change this Lifetime movie into a Greek tragedy.”
Did I mention Rob Thomas, of Matchbox 20 fame, is performing at the party? Why Rob Thomas? Did he happen to be passing through Vancouver where the show is filmed? No, it’s way better than that: the show co-creator and exec producer is ALSO named “Rob Thomas“! This is just one more bit of random inspiration that the show regularly busts out to the bewilderment and delight of its fans.
There’s the Horror
I am a bit fuzzy on the exact whys and wherefores of the chaotic outbreak, but Max Rager scientists find tainted utopium from the original boat party where Liv was attacked and turned, chase it down with the Super Max energy drink, and go zombie bananas, running amok at the party, munching on singing Rob Thomas and panicking guests. Liv’s current boyfriend and heroic undercover detective Drake, among the captive zombies to be rescued, is also in full-on Romero mode because of experiments performed upon him, and tragically has to be shot by Liv.
Meanwhile, evil Vaughn gets trapped in the elevator with zombies including his own daughter Rita, and gets graphically chomped. Rita, with whom Major had a brief fling, then threatens Liv and Major has to kill her. When things look bleakest, a zombie swat team arrives, led by Vivian who has just bought the Max Rager company from Vaughn, and they quickly dispatch all the remaining rampaging zombies and save what remains of the day.
Vivian is a (human-like) zombie! So is her swat team! She has big plans and wants Liv involved! But that’s for Season 3.
iZombie Season 2 went out in a blaze of glory reminding us that this is a romantic dramedy/police procedural/HORROR show, and the horror can bust out impressively at any moment.
(all images courtesy The CW)