In the back of my head, I was worried that the show would be difficult to keep up long-term. As much as I enjoyed last season, it did get a bit formulaic after a few weeks. Every episode–every episode–followed the same plot of an “A” plot with Liv (Rose McIver) solving some murder by absorbing the victim’s memories, and a “B” plot which developed the long-term continuity of the show. Last season, this largely concerned the origins of the zombie virus, and the fact that a zombie crook, Blaine (David Anders), was spreading brain addiction like a drug dealer. This was fine, but repetitive, and fandom eventually takes notice of repetition and inevitably becomes frustrated by it. “Formula” shows with a “problem/monster of the week” can grow stale, as you can eventually set your watch to when in the show the problem will be resolved. (It’s usually in the last 5 minutes of airtime, allowing just enough time to wrap up the side emotional drama and sometimes have a musical montage.) Smallville, House, Quantum Leap, and other shows like this all worked fine, but became predictable after a fashion.
So, back to iZombie: here we are in Season 2, and it’s sticking with the A/B plot premise–with a twist on the “B.” The “A” plot concerned Liv continuing to pose as a “psychic” who helps the police solve murders, with her boss Detective Babineaux (Malcom Goodwin) being comically unaware of her zombieism. This week’s particular victim was the stereotypical grumpy codger that most of us find ourselves turning into when we own our first lawn and find kids on it. If this episode had any weakness, it’s that Liv’s absorption of the codger’s personality didn’t really shine through as much as it has with past absorptions. Liv displayed some grumpiness, but it’s not very convincing when a twentysomething woman has to impersonate an eightysomething old coot. Outside of one off-color racist comment (appropriately done for the context and the network), I didn’t quite buy McIver’s performance as an old guy. The rest of the story resolved itself fine.
But what of the “B” plot? Last season had the ongoing undercurrent of Blaine’s growing zombie network, and Liv’s boyfriend Major (Robert Buckley) working to expose and destroy it for feeding on young kids. That plot was largely wrapped up last season with Liv sacrificing her opportunity to cure herself by using the cure on Blaine instead. However, through a series of misfortunes, she ended up alienating both Major and her family. Blaine was beaten, but the other zombie infectees were still out there. One of my other big complaints last season (and I only had a few–believe me, I love this show) was that for a zombie show, it was way too heavy on the zombies. It seemed that by the season’s climax, everyone was getting infected and it was becoming far too tedious.
This season fixes that problem by reversing the trend. Rather than zombieism spreading, this season’s continuity thread will apparently focus on reducing it. The company responsible for the illness wants to cover it up, and they’ve hired Major to hunt down the surviving zombies and kill them. Keep in mind, this isn’t like The Walking Dead where the zombies are soulless automatons who can be eliminated without guilt. iZombie‘s monsters are, in fact, ordinary people caught in a deadly addiction. Liv herself illustrates that it’s manageable and that she wants to return to normal. Nonetheless, this season is clearly setting up zombie elimination as its running plot–an interesting reversal on what happened last season, and a great means of keeping this season fresh.
iZombie isn’t perfect, but it’s far from a failure either. It’s an excellent young adult comedy/drama that mixes in just enough sci-fi elements to open it to larger audiences. I would like to see the show try to break out of the “crime of the week” formula at least once this season, but so far, the continued use of the show’s standard operating procedure hasn’t grown stale yet.
Rating: Four hot sauces out of five.