Surprisingly, some of the most impressive parts of iZombie are the police-procedural aspects. The show has an inherently interesting hook: When Liv eats someone’s brains, she inherits their memories and parts of their personalities. These memories show up in flashes, often triggered by a noise or sight that’s familiar to the deceased. Zombie Liv wants to help people just as much as pre-zombie Liv did, so she uses her “powers” to aid homicide detective Clive (Malcolm Goodwin) in solving the murders of people who end up in the morgue where she works. She explains this through psychic powers, and iZombie cleverly employs Clive as someone who is basically willing to believe this nonsense (then again, I suppose it is more believable than zombies) and doesn’t ask too many questions. He’s surprisingly light for Liv’s “partner,” with iZombie quickly pushing away the notion of this becoming a “surly veteran and optimistic rookie” buddy-cop comedy — though Clive does joke that the two could be Cagney & Pasty. This characterization is important in that it keeps the show from falling into too many procedural cliché (they are there, though; at one point, Liv actually says, “We need to find who did this and nail his ass to the wall).
It also helps that Liv temporarily inherits skills (painting and kung-fu) and personalities (kleptomania), instead of just memories, making her essentially a different person after every brain-filled meal — sometimes a sensual painter, sometimes a sociopath. But these personalities work more as an addition to her real, strong personality, rather than completely overtaking it. There are times when she succumbs, but this internal struggle just adds to what is already fun about the series. In fact, Liv’s struggles are all wonderfully deep for what is, on the surface, a silly zombie show: her interpersonal relationships, her attempts to reconcile with her ex, her pangs of yearning for her old life, and her glimpses of what her new zombie life could be like if she lost control.
iZombie still has a few kinks to work out, such as how long Liv can keep her secret from her family and from Clive, who certainly won’t buy the psychic story forever. It is occasionally a bit too cloying, with voice-overs like, “There were parts of me that were dead before I was even zombie,” though that’s to be expected, considering the main character’s name is Liv Moore — the writers are practically nudging you in the ribs. But the strength of the series and talent of the actors are already firmly on display throughout the first four episodes. Despite all the similarities, it’s clear that iZombie has what it takes to crawl out of Veronica Mars‘ shadow and grow into its own.