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SEASON PREMIERE REVIEW: iZombie 2×01 “Grumpy Old Liv”

The face of the blustering, blooming, autumnal October is a rotting one with maggots coming out the cheeks and an eye hanging on a tendril. Zombies have been the mainstay of horror both in television, film, and literature for decades, whether within or before an impending apocalypse. However, Rob Thomas’ excellent take on the genre, iZombie, is neither apocalyptic (that we know of yet) nor horror, and it is finally back in its Season Two premiere to continue it’s fiendish mirth in beating back the tide that is your typical zombie flair: blood and brawn without the brains.

iZombie retains the buddy/zombie-cop trope rooted at the core of the show, getting right back into the procedural drama that backs the series’ overarching story-line. Last season ended with heroine Liv Moore (played by Rose McIver) refusing to help save the life of her brother, Evan (Nick Purcha) in effort to keep her affliction hidden from her family and more importantly, the doctors, authorities, CIA, world, and so on. The season premiere immediately returned to form–how being a zombie and dealing with the ones you love, while also trying to do the right thing. In this case, stopping any zombie outbreak, bringing down energy drink giant Max Rager–which according to the episode made $8 billion last year–finding a roommate, and trying her best to right the ship with Major (Robert Buckley), himself only adjusting to the life of the undead.

Flat out, the show is more sharply written, more tightly directed, and is from the get-go funnier than last season, though the first scene is a bit heavy. Liv still lives with a heavy guilt for not helping her family in the midst of tragedy, and her Mother (Molly Hagan) let’s her know it. It seems harsh, but maybe Evan has forgiven her; in short he hasn’t, telling her to “go, and don’t come back.” Once again, the balance of normalcy wobbles due to Liv’s predicament.

“Grumpy Old Liv” then gets going with it’s murder of the week–an old man, Wendell, who’s the stereotypical poke-you-with-his-cane neighbor. He is working on his car much too late and night and ends up being crushed, perhaps by wicked circumstances, to death underneath it. Liv heads back to work, fork in hand, and chows down on Wendell’s grey matter to help Detective Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin) solve another murder.

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The best part of this show is when Liv takes on the characteristics of the unfortunate deceased. In the beginning, acting as a curmudgeonly old man was a bit bland and awkward, but further along the episode Liv spouts some of the best rage-fueled one-liners, and more then a few times light racial bits help keep the “comedic edge.” Of course, it’s keeps within the context of Liv’s new character. This case is no different from any of last year’s, the whodunnit aspect keeps the episode running at a fast pace, but don’t expect to scrunch face and scratch your head thinking “how will they solve it?!” In the end, a disgruntled neighbor killed him accidentally thanks to alcohol and a missing dog. Nothing really to satiate the itch until your Agatha Christie collection comes in the mail.

What truly makes iZombie successful is that the base story is just good enough that it keeps you watching until the bits from the big picture story come into play, the brain-meat and potatoes. Credit that to the writing and the humor–with references this week including a “Good God, Lemon!” Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohil) comes back strong as one of the funniest side-kicks on television, however his screen time this week seemed short comparatively with last season.

Humor aside, this episode has set up a few really intriguing storylines–backed by returning antagonists Max Rager CEO, Vaughn Du Clark (Steven Weber) and series favorite Blaine DeBeers (David Anders). Blaine has stayed within the afterlife business, opening up a funeral home which seems to be a front for selling the drug Utopium. Side effects of Utopium include anger, paleness, death, reanimation, hunger. Where Blaine is more the young energetic start-up, Du Clark is maniacal, conniving; he’s a puppeteer and has no sympathy. The last scene of him in the episode accentuates this point even more: Du Clark in his office, sitting down with Major, saying that some times things need to be sacrificed for the greater good. It’s chilling, and it made me smile ear to ear, the kind where you know something is just spot-on fantastic.

Being the premiere, there are a million things that can happen, yet as it stands I think Major’s storyline may be my most anticipated–a far cry from the majority of last season where excessively eye-rolling led to vertigo anytime I heard “Zombies are real you guys, believe me!” Or something to that effect. Something that was barely addressed was the disappearance of Peyton, though it’s been stated that she will return in some capacity. Though the writers appear to be aware of it and have done something quite interesting in the meantime.

I would say that this episode continues right where the last season left off–at its strongest. The story is promising, the characters are great, the humor is there; iZombie is still today’s finest television representation in the monster niche, and is one of the finest offerings of well-rounded television that you can find. Catch iZombie on The CW, Tuesdays at 9PM EST.

What are you biting for going into the rest of second two? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Brian Corliss