iZombie: Season 3
Just when it seems that the current genre du jour has exceeded its saturation point something comes along to reset you a bar of tolerance allowing you to enjoy an entirely novel spin on the hackneyed tropes and stereotypes. It appears that zombies are all the rage with a veritable tsunami of TV shows and movies inundating dedicated horror fans. This is not to suggest that the market is devoid of quality examples of the genre. Among the most popular in the genre is AMC’s undead franchise featuring ‘The Walking Dead’ and its spinoff, ‘Fear the Walking Dead.' Both are examples of television of the highest quality where the onus of driving the story is character development relegating the titular rambling corpses to a function akin to the classic Hitchcockian McGuffin, more important to the characters within the context of the series than the viewers. Three years ago, some network executives working at the CW network decided to break away from their standard format and attempt something very different. Eschewing the usual teen angst affecting a group of preternaturally attractive teens they turned to the undead for a change of pace. The result was ‘iZombie.' There is still an abundance of attractive people but for a substantial number of characters their daily ablutions including concealing that they are pale, drab zombies. Its tongue in cheek irreverence for the traditional somber atmosphere associated with such plot devices replaced with an incredible balance of mystery, action using character-driven drama. The third season released on home media, and thankfully the network has approved the forth. If somehow you have missed this show, claw your way out of that grave and get caught up before the new season begins.
The third season picks up minutes after the previous season’s fade to black. Liv Moore (Rose McIver) has been working at the Portland City Morgue with Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli), an occupation that provides her with an endless, and untraceable source of human brains. Over the previous two seasons, Liv has also been assisting a homicide detective with the Portland Police, Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin). Up until this season, Liv has been using the convenient side effect of assuming the memories and personality of the donor for her latest cerebral culinary partaking. She had been passing it off as psychic visions, but finally, Clive is brought in to the truth. This method of a murder investigation, ‘questioning the victim,' is used with a more science fiction in the Freeform series, ‘Stitchers.' It was about time Clive was let in on the actual source of Liv’s amazingly accurate clues. Initially, such a ruse can be useful to provide an expository shortcut for the audience, but if left unresolved for a prolonged period it creates a contextual problem. Clive was an astute detective before Liv entered his life. It is incredulous to continue to receive a professional investigator. Having him a full member of ‘Team Liv’ broadened the possible plot lines and was conducive to effectively telling the next phase of the story,
There is one point of commonality with zombie stories; they constantly increase their numbers. It was less obvious with this Portland outbreak, but the number of zombies has been steadily increasing. It is always crucial to provide the functional parameters that define the specific incarnation of zombie. The traditional Romero zombie is slow, lumbering and mindless driven only by the need to feed. Contrary to that, the Portland undead is mostly identical to their pre-infected selves. The most notable physical change is the nearly complete loss of pigmentation in skin and hair. Liv chooses to rock the albino look, but those intent on passing need only hit the tanning salon and apply some hair dye. It is only when the zombie it forced to miss several meals that they go ‘full zombie.' The change is manifested with blood red eyes, snarling, and uncontrollable bloodlust.
Most of the infected proceed in that direction. This led to an underground movement preparing for the inescapable day the public discovers the truth; zombies are real and among us. It is only if A corporation has undertaking the responsibility of gathering and protecting the nascent zombie nation, Fillmore-Graves, led by its CEO, Chase Graves (Jason Dohring). Yes, the series does display a penchant for ironic names, ‘fill more graves’ ‘Live More’ just two examples. This is a nod to the graphic novel origins of the material. The organization is full service for all their undead needs. Zombies and their families are relocated, protected and trained in the meticulous details required for successfully passing as human. A substantial amount of their resources is involved in maintaining a standing militia. This undead ‘Delta Force,' it extremely well trained and equipped. To avoid the side effect of assuming the memories and personalities of the ‘donor,' the scientists for the company have devised a paste made by homogenizing several different brains. Served in a plastic tube like a yogurt treat.
In this day of ubiquitous cell phone cameras and social media, it is impossible to expect to keep anything secret for long. A chance photo of Liv in full zombie mode gets out, and soon the conspiracy theories are rapidly proliferating. Along with are the inevitable natural collection of ‘dedicated citizens’ banding together to stop the unnatural menace. One group moves from rhetoric to action by slaughtering a zombie family including a young, child. Liv’s ex-fiancé, Major Lilywhite (Robert Buckley), who was turned by Liv to save his life. When Ravi formulates a cure, they test it on Major returning him to human. The problem is, Major joined the Fillmore-Grave special forces unit. He fits in well but being human threatens his standing with his new comrades. Liv and Clive attempt to infiltrate a meeting of the group, but there is a catch, to be allowed admittance they check heat beats. Zombies are easily identified by it being exceptionally slow. A side plot provides a touch of the dark humor that has garnered the much-deserved success of the series. When a zombie captured by the vigilantes, the situation degrades into a morass of confusion and errors.
The goal of the Fillmore-Graves corporation is to survive Discovery day and create a detente with the living. They don’t expect acceptance and integration. What they are working towards is to create a sanctuary, Zombie Island. This provided a means to infuse a fresh, robust feel to the central narrative by shifting the focus from the zombies hiding from the world to the change in paradigm to an emergent culture fighting to establish their identity. In a break from the usual heavy-handed approach common to many television series to overly identify with current events. They concentrate of the ‘minority’ at hand effectively drawing the audience firmly into their plight. This maximized the audience involvement in the major, story\and themes. It is a commonplace to juxtapose the central, overall story with episodic tales resolved within the hour. The brilliant plot device created as part of the foundation of the driving mythos is having the consumer experience a personality change based on the experience of the main course. Liv dislikes the taste of raw brains every time dinner times rolls around Liv includes brain as the featured ingredient in an elaborately prepared dish. Her cuisine runs the gamut from stir fry to casseroles it is a highlight of the episode is watching her preparations. This leads to the signature aspect of the series, watching Liv become overcome by a strange personality. Whether she becomes a raunchy teacher or a dominatrix the personality change goes beyond just an excuse to introduce plot plots it is an opportunity for the talented Ms. McIver to showcase her diverse abilities. From an artistic perspective, this format allows the actress to explore a myriad of characters for comic effect completely consistent with the dramatic nature of the series. The good news is season four is on the horizon, so for once a deserving show is appreciated by the network.