‘iZombie’ offers sympathy for its ghoulish protagonist


Three stars

iZombie Sundays, 9 p.m., the CW.

Zombies are all over pop culture, but they generally don’t get any sympathy. Nobody feels bad when Rick guns down walkers on The Walking Dead or when hordes of the undead get wiped out in World War Z. But the new CW dramedy iZombie, based very loosely on the comic-book series by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred, presents a relative rarity: a zombie protagonist. Liv Moore (Rose McIver) is a promising young medical resident who finds herself in the middle of a freak zombie outbreak and wakes up undead. Liv isn’t a mindless walking corpse, though; as long as she consumes a regular supply of brains, she remains completely rational and looks mostly like a normal (if very pale) person. Lucky for Liv, she lands a job as an assistant medical examiner, which provides her with all the brains she can eat.

Aside from keeping her sane, the brain-eating has another side effect: It gives her access to the memories and certain personality traits of the brain’s previous owner, so soon Liv is having visions of murder victims’ last moments and teaming up with a homicide detective (Malcolm Goodwin) to help him solve their murders. So iZombie is, ultimately, a crime procedural, albeit a quirky one, and Liv’s visions often just serve as plot devices to move the mystery of the week along. While the cases aren’t any better or worse than those on other procedurals, the zombie angle gives each mystery personal stakes for Liv, and there are lurching long-term subplots in the background, most notably an evil fellow zombie (David Anders) who is setting up an undead criminal empire.

Developed by the team behind Veronica Mars, iZombie has a similarly sophisticated and snarky heroine who shares her thoughts in voiceover, and McIver shows impressive range as Liv. The supporting characters aren’t quite as fully formed yet, but if Veronica Mars is any indication, they soon will be. While it doesn’t have much in common with its source material (in which the main character was part of a larger monster cosmology and ended up having to save the universe), iZombie seems to be building a distinctive little world of its own.

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