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Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Steve Cole writes:

I happened to start watching the show iZombie and became fascinated by the clever concept, and by the considerable range of acting talent displayed by the leading actress (Rose McIvy) who has to become multiple characters in every episode.

If you haven't watched it, find a marathon and catch up quickly. This version of the zombie apocalypse is very different than others (and is, of course, loosely based on a comic book). Zombies are created by a combination of an energy drink called Max Rager and a bad batch of a designer party drug called Utopium. They came together at a party on a boat. Things got confusing because some of the people turned into zombies and others just turned into your average raging maniac. You can get infected by a zombie if they scratch you or bite you, or if you ingest their blood. Our heroine, Olivia Moore ("Liv Moore," get it?), became infected when scratched by a zombie.

In this version, Zombies are (at least at first) normally functioning people who can think and plan just as well as they could before they were infected. Even high functioning zombies have white hair, pale complexion, and a pulse rate of 10 beats per minute. The problem is that if you don't eat human brains, you degenerate into the kind of mindless drone zombie seen in every other version. A few zombies are seen in this condition and they are about as gross as the normal zombies on other shows.

Then the fun begins. Ingesting human brains means you get some glimpses of the memories of the human donor, usually toward the end of their life. It gets better. You also take on their skills, attitudes, and habits for a day or so while digesting the brain matter. There is also the minor detail that zombies can't taste much unless it's drowning in hot sauce. One more thing, zombies have the ability to more or less voluntarily go into "full-on zombie rage" which gives them considerable strength. And one last thing (borrowed from the vampire mythos): a critically injured human can be saved from death by infecting them as a zombie. But then they're the undead, so decide if that works out or not.

Liv Moore was a doctor (a surgical resident) but after she became a zombie she transferred to the medical examiner's office where it would be easy to get brains. The visions help her solve crimes. To explain them, she has convinced one of the detectives that she is a psychic. Since her "visions" lead to solved cases, the detective keeps asking for her help. Being a responsible person who didn't want to infect her beloved fiance (Major Lillywhite, yeah, you read it right), she breaks up with him, leaving him asking why. She also becomes somewhat lethargic and loses interest in her family and hobbies. Watching her friends and family (who don't know she's a zombie) try to convince her to resume a normal life is hilarious.

She has help in the form of her boss, Doctor Ravi, who easily figured out what she was even without knowing that the new zombie disease existed. He does research into the causes and cure for the condition, and reaches a successful result (sort of, it's complicated).

The antagonist is Blaine, the drug dealer who brought the bad batch of Utopium to the original boat party. He turned into a zombie (and infected Liv while she was escaping from him). Needing brains and being a criminal, he started murdering homeless people and runaway teens that nobody would miss. Then he became the biggest entrepreneur of all time. He took over a butcher shop by infecting the owner, and used it to process the dead bodies for brains that could be delivered to zombies able to pay for the service. He rounded up a bunch of criminal thugs and infected them, paying them in brains for their services (and thereby avoiding the dirty work of killing and slicing). Being a creative guy, he started infecting more people to grow his customer base, targeting really rich people who could pay big money for the brains they need. He infected a serious detective who makes sure nobody investigates anything related to Blaine. Then he found a new product in harvesting the brains of people with unusual experiences so that other zombies could share in the fun of being an astronaut (or whatever).
I won't give away the ending, but the season finale is worthy of the complicated story arc, the intricate characters, and the special sub-genre.