The only way for that writing to work is with a cast that can pull it off, and iZombie is showing that it has that in spades in season 2. McIver’s bipolar Liv Moore (both a great pun and, surprisingly, a heartfelt central message of the show) never feels exasperating or unpalatable, even when she’s morphing slowly into an unknown, perhaps deplorable character we’ve never met before. Her Liv-ness remains intact under the various adrenaline junkies, gamers, or – in this week’s premiere – grumpy old men, that she inhabits via her weekly dose of brains, after being slathered in hot sauce and tossed into a bowl of spaghetti, of course. Even her name shines with humor and highlights another amazing writing feat of the show: the zombie puns both abundant and deeply funny, populating everything from episode names to commercial break title cards.
It’s that serialized premise that provides iZombie with its best and worst assets. There’s something giddy about discovering what kind of brain Liv will consume this week, and watching her transform to solve a crime has resulted in a show that feels fun and fresh, despite its obvious individualized Frankenstein pastiche. The week-by-week mysteries also manage to feel somewhat unpredictable, mostly painting a murder that wasn’t at the hands of a mustache-twirling psychopath but a sympathetic person who made a dumb choice. But, on the other hand, that formula feels limiting and stifling to the show’s overall genius, and I’m more than ready for it to explore its weirder paths – Major as a zombie assassin; the motivation of evil soda corporation Max Rager – at the expense of its brains-of-the-week formula.
With its questionable title and elevator pitch-ready formula, iZombie is a series that’s been far too easy to overlook and dismiss. Sure it’s straightforward and not particularly challenging in the mystery or mythology department, but what iZombie is practically over-encumbered with is wit, sarcasm, and an endearing penchant to know the difference between the two, and when to deploy them for peak effectiveness. It’s also quietly clever, poking fun at topics like American consumerism with a subtle skewering that manages to feel simultaneously over-the-top and prescient. The CW has a handful of comic-book adaptations blossoming on the network, and they’re all quite good. At this point in each of their respective runs, however, I’d say only iZombie is currently great.
Witty without being annoying and funny without resorting to obnoxiousness, everything in iZombie just clicks so beautifully - from its just-quirky-enough mythology to some truly gut-punch dialogue - that only the most cynical will be able to resist.