iZombie, Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”
Written by Rob Thomas & Diane Ruggiero-Wright
Directed by Rob Thomas
Airs Tuesdays at 9pm (ET) on The CW
Rob Thomas has been known to television fans for a number of shows over the years, from Veronica Mars to Party Down. His newest series, developed in conjunction with Diane Ruggiero-Wright, brings the iZombie comics to the small screen in a show of the same name. The show is centred around a morgue assistant who is also a member of the undead, and whose diet of brains comes with the side effect of absorbing the individual’s memories. The pilot episode proves lead actress Rose McIver is more than up for the role, while introducing some potentially compelling threads about Liv Moore and her abilities, as well as presenting a number of secondary characters and relationships that mostly show promise.
The character of Liv, and the way the show handles the aftermath of her death, shows a lot of promise. As the show’s premise would indicate, iZombie doesn’t go down the traditional zombie route with Liv, instead treating the death as a traumatic event and focusing more on how Liv deals with the subsequent effects. This gives the show a potentially fascinating direction to go down, as watching the kind of person Liv becomes is a large part of the pilot’s appeal, and is sure to be worth watching as the season continues. Hopefully subsequent episodes will also delve more into Liv’s pre-death life, to better give viewers an idea of what aspects of her personality stay intact between both stages of her life, and what aspects change. Liv’s inability to confide in anyone other than Ravi already sets up a key difference between her two lives, but an exploration of her pre-death life is likely to lend greater weight to her feelings of isolation, as well as helping flesh out the relationships she has to secondary characters such as her roommate and her mother. In addition, the reveal that Liv’s zombie impulses are something that need to be kept in constant check also add a level of tension to future proceedings. While it’s clearly anger that turns her away from humanity in this episode, it will be interesting to see if other strong emotions also cause Liv’s zombie nature to flare up in subsequent proceedings, and how she deals with those kinds of situations.
The premise itself is also executed well in this pilot, with unexpected depth. While the idea of a zombie who’s otherwise conscious and needs brains to survive is something that needs a fair amount of maneuvering to pull off, the writers manage to do so effectively in this pilot, making the flashbacks Liv has to Tatiana’s life feel authentic, while also remaining serviceable to the larger plot. But the most intriguing aspect is the idea that Liv takes on the personality traits of the individuals whose brain she consumes. While the pilot does have Liv adopt the kleptomaniac tendencies of Tatiana, she manages to recover without consequence, returning everything she stole before anyone notices. It will be interesting to see, however, how these traits play out in subsequent episodes. It’s unclear what aspects of the personality manifest themselves in Liv. Thus, if she only takes on the negative aspects of people, as she does with Tatiana’s kleptomania, it could present a key hurdle for her to overcome when assisting Detective Babineaux. Even if that’s not the case, however, a constantly shifting personality, with traits that go in and out, are bound to be noticed by the other individuals in Liv’s life, especially Peyton. This has the potential to put Liv in a bind down the line, and how she prepares for these situations, or how she handles them once they arise, will do a lot towards affecting the quality of the show, while also giving McIver a number of challenges over the season.
Overall, this is an engaging pilot that lays the groundwork for an entertaining series. Rose McIver is a more than capable lead, playing Liv before and after the incident in distinctly differing styles, from the way she carries herself to her general attitude. The makeup crew also does a wonderful job in giving pre-death and post-death Liv two distinct looks, to the point that it’s difficult to reconcile the idea that they’re the same person. While he doesn’t get much to do here, Malcolm Goodwin’s Detective Babineaux also shows good potential. The performer shows a solid amount of charm, and the character is given a few light-hearted moments that bode well for his expansion, from the “Cagney and Pasty” team nickname to the wry vote of confidence in Liv’s questioning methods with regards to the neighbour. The character of Major, in contrast, falls flat. While Robert Buckley and Rose McIver share a level of chemistry that sells their relationship, Major himself remains a blank slate at the end of the pilot, with nothing to really anchor Liv’s pain at pushing him away other than her own mother’s insistence and her own fond memories of the relationship. Given Evan’s reluctance at joining Liv’s intervention, hopefully future episodes focus on the relationship between brother and sister. The comic book aesthetic the show displays is a fun way to transition from scene to scene, as well as introduce some level of exposition. However, in the pilot it serves to function only as a gimmick, and if it does continue later on in the season, hopefully it comes to serve a larger purpose, as it could make a useful tool if wielded properly. These are minor issues, however, and they can be easily fixed in subsequent episodes. They’re also far outweighed by the positives the pilot displays, and iZombie makes a case for itself as a series worth sticking with to see how the season shapes up.
– Deepayan Sengupta