Olivia Moore is young, confident and assured, a medical resident whose colleagues affectionately refer to her as “an over-achieving pain in the ass.” Or at least that was her life before she died. Persuaded by her unfeasibly handsome fiancé to cut loose for once, she attends a boat party to which she has been invited. “What’s the worst that could happen? Try an inexplicable zombie outbreak.”
Developed by Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright, the creator and executive producer of popular teen detective Veronica Mars, the show is loosely inspired by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred’s short lived Vertigo comic book iZOMBIE and has received an order of thirteen episodes indicating the CW channel has confidence in the format.
The latest iteration of the global phenomenon which has become obsessed with all things zombie, The Walking Dead it’s not, though fortunately neither does it aspire to be a direct variation on that theme such as SyFy’s also-ran cash-in Z Nation. Its disinterest in taking itself seriously indicated within the opening moments, the cartoon titles crafted by original artist Allred establish that this quiet apocalypse is firmly intended for the CW’s preferred youth audience.
Awakening on the shore already in a body bag, Liv was apparently the only survivor of the massacre; five months have passed, and she has concealed the change in her status from everyone though not the changes in her life. Afraid of infecting Major (Robert Buckley) she broke up with him, she has transferred to the morgue as a coroner’s assistant in order to reduce her interactions with living humans and ensure ready access to brains, and her family are so worried about her indifference to life they ambush her with an intervention.
Peppered with the snappy and uber-cool dialogue followers of the caseload of Neptune’s youngest private detective have become accustomed to, if anything iZombie follows that character and template too closely, a diminutive blonde ever present in the voiceover of her own life investigating the “case of the week” while simultaneously gathering clues which will build up to a season long mystery, here relating to the designer drug making the rounds at the boat party courtesy of partially deceased drug dealer Blaine DeBeers (Heroes’ David Anders).
Able to access the memories of those she has recently consumed, in order to cover herself Liv is forced to pretend she has psychic flashes as she assists recently reassigned police detective Clive Babinaux (Malcolm Goodwin) in his investigation of the murder of a kleptomaniac call girl whose light fingered tendencies she has also inherited, but with clues, connections and a suspect practically throwing themselves at Liv and Babinaux what should be the hook of the episode feels like a sub-Murder, She Wrote afterthought, insufficiently convincing or compelling.
Whisking along in fun fashion, the pilot suffers overly from the modern trend enforced upon producers obliged to place all their cards on the table immediately, as was the case with the recently broadcast Constantine. Rather than playing the long game of the first season of Veronica Mars, here everything is unambiguously laid exposition, Liv aware of her undead status, powers and requirements rather than discovering them: “If I don’t eat I become dumber, meaner, and I’m afraid that if I let it go long enough I’ll go all George Romero.”
While this is in some ways a preferable alternative to another origin story (was in necessary for Peter Parker to be bitten again in The Amazing Spider-Man? Will it be necessary for The Fantastic Four to be irradiated yet again this summer?), that pace remains unbroken for the rest of the episode.
So rushed and swiftly concluded as to feel more like the edited highlights of the investigation, the crammed episode is more akin to a “proof of concept” showreel demonstrating the possibilities to the network than a considered pilot balancing the elements, the show is at its most embarrassingly heavy handed when the soundtrack swells with faux emotion as Liv pays an unannounced visit to reconnect with Major only to find him on the sofa with another girl playing zombie killing video games (oh the humanity!) and in her closing “true life lessons” monologue after she reconciles with her family.
Once Upon a Time’s Rose McIver is undeniably comfortable in the role of Liv but so far she is insufficiently individual, her lines and delivery only a shade of peroxide away from Kristen Bell. Tonally, the show has a similar taste to the baked goods of Ned the Piemaker on Bryan Fuller’s Pushing Daisies; ironically Fuller had already done dead girl on Dead Like Me, vision girl on Wonderfalls and went on to gourmet death on Hannibal.
While pleasingly diverting in the short term, if she is not to run the risk of beheading come renewal time Liv needs to find her own voice.