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iZombie - Pilot - Advance Preview: "CW's Latest Brainchild Has A Heart All Its Own"

A traumatic event causes a pretty young woman to feel like an outsider, solve crimes, and yearn for her past love while narrating her current life situation. Sound familiar? I'm sure it does. I personally have never read an iZombie comic, so I was a little thrown off by it's initial logline when it was announced as being picked up. The only thing I knew going in was that Rob Thomas, creator of my beloved Veronica Mars was attached to the project and that was enough for me. Of course, this begs the question, why is that enough? Should we base our assumption that this will either be good, or bad just on it's similarities to Veronica Mars? Sure there are similarities, but there are also differences. If I could attempt to describe what iZombie feels like I would say it's more of a Tru Calling meets Veronica Mars with a bit of Psych mixed in where the main character is a zombie. On a network where procedurals don't seem to flourish (See Emily Owens, Beauty and the Beast) iZombie looks to be a big gamble for the network, so it's really going to depend on all parties involved to truly make this show inviting to the audience. I would wager to say the pilot does just that and no more or less, which is pretty positive depending on how you look at it.

Meet Liv: Liv (Rose McIver) is a zombie now, but up until a five months ago Liv was medical resident with a pretty good life. All that comes crashing down after she heads to party she was invited to by a coworker, at Major's (Her fiance) persistence, that changes her life forever. One minute she's refusing to take some new drug named Utopia, then the next she's waking up in a bodybag, undergoing a zombie transformation. Now Liv has changed drastically from the hyper-focused determined fireball she was to a lazy couch potato who works at the morgue. She's ended things with Major, and lost her way in life so her loved ones stage an intervention event, Potluck Tuesday to discuss her apparent PTSD stemming from that fateful night where those druggies killed each other and then set the party boat on fire(the official word on what happened). It's not like Liv doesn't know that she is no longer passionate, confident, ambitious and alive. Liv is just, now more hungry than anything else, which is why she decided to work in the morgue. Free access to brains. It is following this fateful Potluck Tuesday that Liv slips up while eating a Jane Doe's brain and is caught by her boss, Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti(Rahul Kohli). You'd think he'd be running for the hills or calling the CDC, but Ravi's just got some questions for Liv. Ravi was always a bit suspicious following the Lake Washington massacre when several of the bodies were missing significant amounts of brain mass that were explained away by fish eating at the corpses even though there was virus that suggested otherwise. Ravi is a bit of a conspiracy theorist who was let go from the CDC for being being pretty persistent that the age of zombies would one day come. He has suspected something was up with Liv since he first noticed a corpse missing a brain, and Liv just can't believe how normal he seems with all of this. Ravi gives off some major Davis from Tru Calling vibes in his excitement at discovering Liv's real identity. Their conversation is also pretty good for setting up some exposition on how Liv's being a zombie works.
Enter Clive: One thing that made Veronica Mars and Tru Calling work was the fact that our titular heroines weren't working alone in their cases,they had teams by their side to make things a little easier. iZombie looks as if it's going to function like that as well. While Veronica took on cases, Tru was more so thrust into them due to her gifts, Liv is more like Tru in this respect. See funny things happen when Liv eats someone's brains, she gains an insight into their mind and gets their memories and sometimes takes on aspects of their personalities. It happens without warning, so when Detective Clive Babineaux(Malcolm Goodwin) enters the morgue looking to see if Ravi has any new information on the Jane Doe, Liv can't help but flash on a piece of the evidence and blurt out information that is seemingly too personal for her to know. Clive demands an answer as to how she could know that, and Ravi comes to her rescue. He tells Clive that Liv is a psychic, to which she replies, "ish". Cue more expositional dialogue between Ravi and Liv. From here the show starts to hit it's groove, with Liv's flashes causing her to get more involved in Clive's investigation of our victim's death. Our case just happens to be one that involves escorts, the local weatherman and Lady Gaga. Of course Clive is a bit skeptic of Liv's psychic approach, but when she proves to be right more than once, even he is all aboard the psychic train.

Liv and Clive's chemistry is actually pretty solid, Goodwin and McIver play off each other well, especially as they are diving deep into Liv's visions to solve the murder of their Jane Doe with some pretty funny banter and awkward suspect questioning. (Also Vmars fans, Darran Norris is in the episode to and delivers one of my favorite lines, "You, young lady, need some sun") While working the case, Liv gets a flash of the moment the victim dies that awakens something in her, a passion that she had been lacking as of late. It's like she finally has found a purpose for her afterlife.The purpose being Liv solving the case of the woman's brain she ate which makes her feel alive. Though Liv puts a halt to her Cagney and Pasty partnership when Ravi gives her some hope that one day he could cure her because if she has hope she can be cured, there's hope that she can be loved. Cue the angst as Liv realizes that while she has hope, it wouldn't be fair to her ex-fiance to act on said hope. Watching Liv struggle and come to the conclusion that though her afterlife life isn't going exactly as planned, this is still her life and she has to make the best of it provides a pretty solid journey for the show's first hour. Sure, there is a murder to be solved, but it more so appears as a device to help put Liv on the path to accepting who she is.

A Reason to be Not Alive: Of course, the case is wrapped up by the end of the episode, following Liv's revelation to embrace who she is. Sure, she never thought that she'd be a zombie psychic who eats brains and solves murders, but she has a chance to help people. Sure, she's pretty bad at coming up with lies to cover her tracks (see her explanation as to how she survives a gunshot) but saving lives made her feel pretty badass.Embracing that she is the only undead person to walk to the earth and can never be normal is no longer who she is, it is just what she is, but who she is someone with a purpose. Now she has got a confidant determined to cure her, and a chance to work with the police and get justice for all the people who can't get it themselves. Though she may not be as alone in this undead thing as she thought she was either.
The Full Potential: At this moment, I have yet to watch episode two, so I don't know just how the quality improves or drops. I'm basing all of this on the pilot alone. I'll just say it... iZombie, deserves to be a success. iZombie has some serious potential. It has wit and banter sure to be a hit with the Veronica Mars fans, but is also has a story all it's own to tell. I've watched the pilot three times and each time it gets more enjoyable. Rose McIver brings life to Liv in a way that is free from comparisons. Sure, the show has similarities to other shows, but what show doesn't? The show has the right amount of wit and angst that makes the characters likeable. Major(Robert Buckley), and Peyton(Aly Michalka) don't get much to do in the pilot, but with all due respect it is not about them. It's about Liv and her journey from her battling with her status as undead to accepting her status as an undead crime solver. So much of Liv died when she became undead so having Ravi's faith she can be more and working with Clive to give justice to victims(of both murder and the post-mortem eating of their brain) help her become the new-yet same fireball Liv. My concern was how exactly do you take a zombie lead and make them relatable and likeable? By portraying that Liv struggles with the fact that her life has changed so drastically is how they make her likeable. I think most people can relate to the struggle with change, struggling with the fact that we can't always get what we wanted because life throws us curveballs and that we can either wallow in what our life has become, or we can embrace it and make the most of it. I do think that Liv having hope to be cured plays a significant role in this change in her attitude, but I'm hoping that she truly comes to terms with the fact that this could be her life and realizes it's not so bad.

I really took a liking to both Ravi and Clive as well. While the pilot doesn't give us too much insight into Clive's past, the time spent between him and Liv is time well spent. Goodwin and McIver have true buddy cop chemistry in non-romantic way that makes it fun to watch them. I like that they established that she's some sort of psychic so soon because it makes it somewhat believable as to why he would continue to partner with her on cases rather than dragging out as to why they become partners of sorts. (You tell him she's a zombie that gets flashes from brains, it would probably be a problem, but you tell him she's a psychic, its all blue skies and premonitions.) Though I am intrigued to know what his response will be when the time comes that he starts to realize that zombies are real and she might be one of them. In the mean time though, I think viewers will get a kick out of just how enjoyable these two are together. The same can be said for Ravi, who is just adorable as Liv's confidant and could be savior. We can't possibly understand in just the pilot why exactly he is keeping her secret for her, but it's nice that he is and that he generally supports what she is doing, solving the murder of the woman's brain she ate.

The fact the show is going to be a procedural helps to reassure me that it has quite a few places to go. People die all the time so there will be plenty of cases to solve, and all people are different, so watching Liv take on attributes of each one, some with more troublesome traits than others should be entertaining as well. Watching Liv speak some Romanian and be a Kleptomaniac gave the show some quirk that jelled well so i look forward to seeing Liv with more quirk. There is a scene at the end that hints at an overlapping arc to be carried out, but for the most part the emotional arc was the more established one in the pilot. I am curious as to how the subsequent hours will work, will they be more procedural focused with minimal character angst and slight focus on a bigger mystery? Or will it delve more into what it means to be a zombie in this mythos while juggling both the procedural aspect and the romance angle and the arc hinted at in the final moments is dealt with later? Either way I'm down for the ride.
I know some of the comic book fans will probably be disappointed that it doesn't quite follow the cannon of the books, and I know some Veronica Mars fans will feel it's just a knock off, but I say take away your expectations and look at it like a separate entity. The show may have the same brains behind it as Veronica and the comic(DC and Thomas) but the show has a heart all its own in Rose McIver who brings her performance of an undead and confused young woman to life with such charisma its hard not to root for her. There is so much potential in the show that it begs to be watched, and it'd be a crime to let any preconcieved notions to get in the way of enjoying the show. For a show centered around a member of the living dead, it is pretty lively.

Pilot Grade: B. There are few kinks to be worked out, but the show is funny and engaging and has a premise with potential. Not quite buzzy, hashtag levels must-see TV, but a solid, charming show that calls for a weekly appointment.

I wanted to do a section of some non-spoilery great lines, so I started watching for a fourth time, but there is just too much witty goodness to keep track of!

Do you plan on checking out iZombie? What are you most excited for? What would make you want to keep watching and what would make you stop? How do you think the premiere will rate post Flash? Have you ever read any of the comics? Do you think the show will have to deal with a lot of comparisons to Veronica Mars? What type of show are you looking for in iZombie, a quirky procedural or mythos based? Sound off below!

iZombie premieres Tuesday, March 17th at 9pm following The Flash on the CW.

About the Author - Winston Mize
Winston is a 24 year old goofball, born in the north, and currently living in the south. He loves TV.... for some it's coffee, for him it's TV talk that gets his day going. He wants to be a screenwriter, and watches some of everything. You name it, he's probably checked it out. And he would like you to know that it is okay for a 24 year old to play with action figures... well, he does anyway
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