CW show injects new energy into the supernatural zombie genre

by Dylan Carlson Sirvent, ’19

Every Tuesday at 9:00 pm CW Network brings us a new iZOMBIE storyline to American households. The intro title accompanied with punk-rock music and comic-book graphics instantly pull you into the show.

Medical resident Olivia ‘Liz’ Moore has a regular life set on a path to success. However, one fateful night when Liz goes to a party, things take a turn for the – well – supernatural. After a zombie scratches Liz, she enters the universe of the undead and leaves the human world behind. Estranged from her past life, Liz distances herself from her family and now ex-fiancé, Major (Robert Buckley). With her newfound desire for brains, she becomes an undead mortician who feeds on victims’ brains for survival. Soon, she learns that her brain-based diet enables her to experience victim’s’ memories in the form of visions which she uses to solve murders. She becomes a crime-fighter with cop Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin) and boss Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli). Together Ravi, Clive, and Liz face a black market of brains run by Blaine DeBeers (David Anders), hell-bent mistresses, sociopathic hit men, and many other blood-curdling foes.

If iZOMBIE sounds like it is a comic book, it was, and a very good one, created by award-winning authors Chris Roberson and Michael Allred. Now it is a highly-acclaimed TV series which was nominated for Breakout Series by the Teen Choice Award.  It also won Best New Fandom of the Year from mtvU Fandom Awards. This series is brought to you by the creators of Veronica Mars, Diane Ruggiero and Rob Thomas. Although based on the comic book, the show is different in some respects. In the comic book, Olivia’s name is Gwen, and she is a gravedigger, not a mortician. Nonetheless, the story’s foundations and plot lines are quite similar — the main protagonists are both zombies and the crime-fighting nature of Liv and Co. and Gwen and Co. follow a very similar format in which in every new storyline, a new character is introduced and fought against, whether it be a criminal or a monster.

Courtesy CW Network

Courtesy CW Network

The development of the characters is exquisite. Pale-haired, milky-toned Liz has an identity crisis, she is confused on how to act human in a zombie state around her family and ex-fiancé. This psychological crisis is perfectly personified  by the personality changes Liz experiences whenever she eats a victim’s’ brain. Liz becomes who she eats. In every new episode, she is someone different, going from being an inspired artist to a sociopathic hitman. You never see what’s coming next.

The characters evolve as the story progresses. Some become cynical and darker while others become more comfortable in their (zombie) skin. The evolution  is continuous, slowly building to the climax. Tensions grow between Liz and her mother, as does the tension between Major and Liz, with Ravi trapped in the middle. Each character in the show come to a clash in the finale; one that offers many strange and unpredictable plot twists.

The progression of the storyline is strong and well carried out. However, the personality changes of Liz in every episode make it difficult for the audience to get to know her. iZOMBIE shows Liz in a variety of ways, some protagonistically and others antagonistically. Liz’s personality is unpredictable thus making it challenging to form a personal connection with her. The many sophisticated and evolving characters are bound up in complex storylines that make it challenging to follow the show from start to finish. Without a progressive storyline and personal connection to Liv, it is hard to truly care about the show since it becomes difficult to relate to the characters.

While iZOMBIE is a dark comedy with a comedic storyline and blood-curdling graphics, the visual and narrative parallels are very distinct. The visuals are too graphic and violent, and this creates a disconnect between the aesthetic and comedic elements of the show. In this case, the marriage of opposites doesn’t work.

iZOMBIE injects fresh energy into the supernatural genre. The multiple-storyline nature of the show and complex evolutions of the characters work in its maiden season. However, it begs the question whether this complexity will be its long-term success or eventual downfall. iZOMBIE  could very well experience the downfall that Heroes (which was taken off the air five seasons) suffered as the result of its complexity — intertwining storylines and extreme evolution of dozens of characters. Nonetheless, if the format of iZOMBIE works, it could become the next heroine cult-pop hit, following the same vein as Veronica Mars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Only time will tell… for now, enjoy the originality and creative stories iZOMBIE brings to American households every week on Tuesday nights. Gather round, tuck into a blanket and enjoy!