The CW has always been the trash genre show channel of my heart. So when they started advertising their new show, iZombie, which aired last week, I was skeptical but interested. Skeptical because it is a trash genre channel (seriously, don’t even talk to me about the major fail surrounding their longtime running shows like Vampire Diaries and Supernatural) and because riffing titles from I, Robot and combining it with Apple branded meme shenanigans is kind of a pet peeve of mine.
But I liked zombies. My 2014 nanowrimo was about zombies. So I decided to watch the pilot.
I am very glad that I did because that pilot was delightful.
I don’t envy pilots. They bear a heavy weight on their shoulders. They have to introduce the main characters, introduce conflicts, world-build all while crafting a well paced first episode with an interesting plot.
They did a good job with the balancing act.
The comic book motif was a lovely way to stylize the introduction. It also was a gentle reminder to the viewers not to take it too seriously. Wonder drugs that turns people into zombies? Who cares if it doesn’t make sense–it’s not supposed to. It’s a comic book story, so sit back and have fun.
I think that a lot of times shows rely on the zany one line wonders, and even though Liv sometimes ventures into that territory, she carries a depth of sincerity that is utterly believable. Also, the well placed, disbelieving “what” was welcome as well. That Liv sometimes didn’t have a witty rejoinder or a snide remark was–real.
Just as real was her ally, Ravi. I believe his character could easily have come off as overbearing or a bit too zealous–either treating Liv as a novelty or as something to be used/feared/amused by etc. But he didn’t–he treated Liv as a person with an illness that could be treated.
Which follows up with the idea that Liv’s case of the zombies sounds very similar to depression. She sits in her room, barely able to get out of bed. She can’t sleep. She’s barely functioning. Her friends and family think she has PTSD but she says she has post traumatic what’s the point.
Even her name is a pun not just on her zombie-ism, but on her depression as well. “Liv” and “live” sound the same after all, and every time her friends and family try to coax her back into the habits of her old life, as they try and convince her to get back out there, it’s almost a chant: Live, Olivia, Live.
Which brings us, of course, to Clive. I also don’t think it’s an accident that Detective Babineaux’s name is based on the word “live” — I mean sure, the “i” is long in Clive, but I find it very interesting that they chose to linguistically link the dynamic duo in this way. Liv might be a zombie, might work with the dead bodies whose homicides Clive is in the business of solving, but ultimately, the show is indicating that their business is going to be about living.
And that to me is beautifully optimistic, which is actually a quality that seems to be missing from most zombie narratives. Obviously, iZombie winked to its predecessors–Liv is the embodiment of meta as she watches zombie movies in her zombie research, but I think that the nod is necessary.
Zombies have so much history. Now, we have The Walking Dead, The Last of Us, that one Brad Pitt movie, and so on and so forth inundating modern lit with zombies–and that’s just off the top of my head for the screen (zombie books are a different story). Almost always, zombies are used as a criticism of contemporary culture, specifically how humans are creatively apathetic, too plugged into their technology, their video games, or their meaningless 9 to 5 job to be of any great value to society. Shaun of the Dead is a perfect example of the explicit and metaphorical zombies. iZombie is very much aware that it does not exist in a void, but in context with all of these other narratives, and furthermore, they are departing from these pessimistic themes. They couldn’t have said it any plainer than when they had Liv having fun and playing with a bunch of kids at her mom’s fundraiser.
That, probably, is what I liked best about iZombie. It wants to live. It wants its characters to live and to have hope and meaning in their lives.
Liv found hope not just when she was able to find a sense of purpose in her life after death, but when she was able to forge meaningful interpersonal relationships with Ravi and with Clive. Whereas zombieism is used to point an accusing finger and say, look at today’s people who are too absolved in themselves or even worse, you have an infectious disease–better kill you! iZombie says no. Even if you feel like a zombie, even if you feel like you have no purpose, even if you are depressed or ill, your life still has meaning, and hey guess what, so do you.
I look forward to the rest of the season to see how well it lives up to these opening themes.
One thing I am nervous about: i get burned out with the Better Keep That Big Secret Trope. I want Clive to know about Liv. I want Clive and Ravi and Olivia to be a dynamic trio.
So I’m keeping my fingers cross that Clive will be finding out very soon.
I mean, he has to. They’re partners, after all.