I’m already obsessed with ‘iZombie’—and its super-empowered zombie heroine

Forget vampires and werewolves. What’s trending now in the monster universe are zombies, but I’m not talking the decaying, moaning, leg-dragging, disemboweling kind of zombies. I’m talking quick-witted, saving the day, cool-girl, feminist kind of zombies. The CW’s new show iZombiewhich debuted last Tuesday (watch the pilot here), is refashioning our favorite brain-eaters into interesting, existential, albeit kinda emo, kickass members of society, and I am really into it.

Rose McIver plays Liv Moore, former aspiring doctor, current undead citizen. Liv contracted the virus from a fellow party-goer, Blaine (David Anders, The Vampire Diaries) when she, very uncharacteristically, went to a boat party on a work night. Since she woke up in a body bag on the beach the next morning, her life looks considerably different.

Liv, now that she has become a zombie, has withdrawn from her very type-A life as an aspiring doctor to work nights at the Seattle morgue, where she can hide from the world and munch on the free brains of the city’s unclaimed dead. When she eats these brains, she absorbs parts of the victims’ personalities, and can access their memories through occasional flashes, transforming her into the world’s best mystery-solver and crime-fighter.

As I type that description, I realize you’re probably rolling your eyes, hardcore. I get it; it sounds silly, but bear with me. iZombie comes from Rob Thomas,  the same creative mind that brought us Veronica Mars, and there is a lot of what I loved about Veronica in Liv. She’s whip-smart, independent, and completely conflicted about how to exist in a world that is so radically different than it was just a few months ago.

I should pause here to talk a little bit about Liv’s general situation. Since her change, she’s gone all goth, much to her roommate’s disapproval. She broke up with her fiancé, Major (Robert Buckley, One Tree Hill) because she’s afraid she’ll infect him, Major, by the way,  has perfected the dreamy “aww-shucks’ bit and is so adorable you might not be able to stand it. Liv has pretty much lost interest in everything that was so important to her before her change and is only now figuring out how to live her live as one of only two known zombies on the planet.

Blaine, her zombie creator and the only other zombie around, is her would-be nemesis. He’s full of mystery and intrigue, and  Liv can’t make sense of just how devious he really is. He is snarky and devilish and Anders plays every note of this character with irony and sarcasm.

Blaine acts as the meta commentary for the show, asking us to consider the revival of the zombie, “Welcome to Team Z,” but quoting LL Cool J as he warns, “Don’t call it a comeback.” He is dapper and funny and I am smitten with him totally.

As Liv absorbs fragments of personality from the brains she consumes, she is starting to see a world in which all sorts of things are important, instead of just succeeding. She learns to speak Czech; she becomes more artistic—all because of her, ahem, sustenance.

It’s a reawakening, of sorts, for Liv and it took her becoming undead, to really appreciate how to live. Becoming a zombie is a process of re-humanization for Liv and what makes this so incredibly cool is the show’s—and the character’s—sheer lack of self-consciousness. She doesn’t apologize for the change, and or try to equivocate her new identity. She just is what she is now.

Liv gets to become someone else, just for a moment, so she can better understand how to be herself, and the results are existential and wildly magnetic. The snappy dialogue and brisk pace call to mind an older generation of noir that is almost nonexistent in a female-led show, and the genre-bending presentation is something altogether feminist — a young, self-sustaining female zombie, saving the day for the male detectives? Novel, to say the least; groundbreaking at best.

While zombies used to represent a frightening in-between of humanity, a cannibalization of our own human nature,  Liv’s zombie-hood is the opposite of that. She is realizing who she is, not only as a human, but as a woman, and she is turning away from all the conventions that she felt obligated to satisfy — successful career, perfect relationship.  Liv is a “new” kind of zombie: a reimagined, cultivated creature, that can be anything she wants to be.

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