I have long been a fan of Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars anyone?) and my dream job (other than what I do now) would be to collaborate with him on a project. (Or, Rob Thomas and Joss Whedon.) Other than the fact that I’m not funny (really — I’m not. I don’t write humor. But I can do the suspense and story really well and have someone else write the humor.) I loved the ComicCon iZombie panel that featured not only the actors, but Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright, his co–creator for the show. These are people who think like I do! LOL. Writers are certainly a strange lot.
Anyway, my kids will probably kill me, but I watched iZombie without them (yet will have no problem watching it again.)
Last month, I wrote an article for Heroes & Heartbreakers about why iZombie is the perfect show to watch for those who love BONES. I won’t go into details here (but you can read the article!), but to summarize iZombie has dark humor, great characters, and is at its core a police procedural/ensemble buddy show. Just like Bones.
But what I didn’t write about was the quality of the storytelling–and why iZombie is arguably the most underrated show on television today.
Click through for a recap semi-spoilery recap of Season 3, Episode 1: “Heaven Just Got a Little Bit Smoother.”
The main character of iZombie is LIV MOORE, a former medical resident who goes to a party and wakes up part of the undead. She gets a job as the assistant M.E. RAVI CHAKRABARTI, who knows all about her from the beginning. As an assistant medical examiner, Liv has access to all the brains she needs to keep her sanity and soul intact (if you don’t eat brains, you become like a Walking Dead zombie and go all out murderous crazy.) A side-effect of brain eating is that Liv takes on some of the personality traits and knowledge of the person she ate (Rose McIver is just AMAZING in this role.) She and Ravi convince DETECTIVE CLIVE BABINEAUX that she is psychic, which he believes (because it’s easier to believe in psychics than zombies.) MAJOR LILLYWHITE is Liv’s former fiance, who she broke up with when she found out she was a zombie. They’ve had two seasons where they’ve regained their friendship, and Major is hugely conflicted. Liv infected him when he was dying so he wouldn’t die at the end of season one, and he was given a cure, which was temporary … and will eventually kill him. So he’s back to being a zombie, but on borrowed time. He’s a genuinely nice guy who is constantly being tested. PEYTON, a deputy district attorney, is Liv’s best friend; BLAINE is a former bad guy and great character who drives a lot of the conflict (both his past and future actions, I’m sure!); and now we have Detective CAVANAUGH who works with Clive and may be a help … or a hindrance.
Season 3 opened 2.8 minutes after the end of Season 2 (which was fun!) We have a new bad guy (or is she?) in Vivian Stoll, the head of Fillmore Graves (LOL). She heads of a mercenary group filled mostly of zombies as they prepare for D-Day (Discovery Day) when the human population learns that there are brain-eating zombies among them.
The writers had two primary tasks ahead of them for this episode, and they nailed it. The first was the get the characters out of the explosive season two finale where a lot of people died in a massive zombie outbreak at Max Rager (I will miss the fabulous Steven Webber as the Big Bad … he is such a terrific narcissistic character!) Fillmore Graves and Vivian were instrumental in this: they destroyed all the evidence (explosion anyone?) and then worked with the survivors to get them all on the same page. Another plus was that Major Lillywhite, Liv’s former fiance and current bestie, was cleared of being the Chaos Killer (the victims are alive, after all — sort of!), but true to life, people generally only remember the bad they read about and even though he was cleared, that news doesn’t make the headlines.
The second primary task was the set up the core conflicts for the season in an organic way. There are several, and by the end of the episode I was really looking forward to next week and how all these dynamics will continue to play out.
1) Clive is not a zombie. He wasn’t on board with the keeping the zombies a secret thing, but after the episode climax, he is. Because it’s clear that Major’s prediction–that as soon as humans find out that zombies are real–zombies will be hunted and it will be war. This will create potential conflict because while Vivian and our heroes are right now on the same page, Vivian and Fillmore Graves clearly have tunnel vision. An antagonist that is also an ally always makes for great storytelling.
2) Peyton (Liv’s best friend/roommate) is involved in a triangle with Ravi (the M.E. who knows all about zombies from the beginning and is Liv’s biggest ally) and Blaine, the former Big Bad zombie who was cured by Ravi but now has retrograde amnesia. Blaine was NOT a nice guy (he intentionally infected rich people and turned them into zombies in season one, then extorted them to keep them in brains — which he took from homeless teens.) But Blaine has a now doesn’t know how awful he was (he’s learning) and he’s also not a zombie anymore. Peyton and Ravi had a thing and want a thing, but between their things, Blaine and Peyton had a one-night stand and have an attraction to each other. Perfect example of Smart Pretty Prosecutor torn between Good Guy Ravi and Bad Boy Blaine.
3) Ravi has another potential conflict (only hinted at but it’ll get bigger) where his former boss (who fired him) is now with the CDC and is investigating the Max Rager incident … and she may get close to the truth.
4) Fillmore Graves: Vivian and her mercenaries are currently on the same side as Liv and her people, but what happens when they have a conflict? As will most certainly happen because Vivian will do anything to protect her zombies (she intentionally infected herself after her husband was infected because she would rather be undead with her husband than live a life without him.) I absolutely love, love, love how the writers have incorporated this new and complex plot into the show. Last season we knew that Max Rager was all bad, there was very little good about the bad guy (in fact, nothing good.) Now? We have a much bigger moral gray area and a bigger world for our characters to play in.
5) Over-arching mystery. Who killed the family of zombies at the end of episode one? Is this going to be the over-arching mystery that needs to be solved? (Season One it was disappearing homeless teens; Season Two it was the Chaos Killer.) There are of course other over-arching storylines, but this feels like the primary thread that will ultimately be resolved in the season climax.
6) They didn’t really touch upon Major/Liv’s relationship, but that will likely come later … though the ComicCon panel said Liv will get another love interest (and this one won’t be killed off!) Major’s primary conflict is that 1) he’s dying from the cure that didn’t work, so is on borrowed time (Ravi is working on it … but Cure Two will render Major without his memories, so probably will only be used as a last resort.) 2) People still think he was the Chaos Killer (proving he wasn’t notwithstanding) and so he goes to work for Fillmore Graves … which I can see pros and cons coming from that relationship a mile away. But it will be fun!
I give the premiere an A-. It was a solid opening, absolutely fabulous, and the only thing really missing was the “murder of the week.” They ended with a triple homicide, which will clearly propel the season forward (a family of zombies were executed and Detective Clive Babineaux, our non-zombie cop who now (finally!) is in the know about Liv and the group, who was on the fence about working with Fillmore Graves, is now on board — though he has to work on his own time to solve the murders because his partner has no knowledge of the zombie population — or that the family was murdered because they were zombies. The only reason I didn’t give it an A+ was because some of the set-ups felt too neat and unless they totally surprise me, I already suspect how the conflict/story is going to go related to Fillmore Graves, Liv and Clive.
However, just because I tend to figure these things out, doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy every minute of this show. I was hugely disappointed that they delayed the season until April, and I hope and pray that doesn’t mean they’re canceling it. I LOVE this show. It’s one of the BEST shows on the air — writing and acting. I hope it sticks around for a few more years.
Here’s a fun interview with Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright where they talk about the upcoming series and some of the conversations from the writers room — fun stuff!
And if you want a longer recap, EW has one here.
Have you seen iZombie? What say you?