This is a spoiler-free review of the first two episodes of iZombie season 4, but it contains spoilers for previous seasons.
“We have a ridiculous murder to solve.”
Welcome to the walled city of New Seattle – at the end of iZombie’s game-changing third season, many of the population have been converted into zombies by a form of the virus disguised as an inoculation against infection, and only some of the surviving human population escaped before the city was walled off from the rest of America. In the middle of it all, medical examiner Liv Moore is still solving crimes by eating murder victims’ brains.
The fourth season opens with a Breaking Bad-inspired scene, with brain tube rations moving through a laboratory production line to the tune of The Felice Brothers’ Take This Bread, which gives some context to the unprecedented humanitarian crisis that has arisen. iZombie has always been on a smaller scale than something like The Walking Dead, but that has changed drastically in this season premiere, appropriately titled Are You Ready For Some Zombies?
The show’s season openers are rarely about recapping where we left the characters, especially as the story has become more serialised and less procedural, but Season 4’s open is remarkably spry with a huge change in the status quo. It’s a case-of-the-week story in which the case is inextricably linked to New Seattle’s circumstances, with a class divide between the zombies who used to be people of means and the young undead who have been disowned by their families.
Fillmore Graves, the zombie paramilitary outfit run by Jason Dohring’s Chase Graves and Robert Buckley’s ever improving Major Lilywhite, are well fed as they maintain law and order, as are Seattle PD, who have adopted Liv’s practice of investigation via brain-munching as standard. But elsewhere, kids are starving and the remaining humans, including a group called the Dead Enders and Episode 1’s murder victim, Clint Hicks, express racist sentiments about the undead population (“Stupid wall, stupid zombies…”) that has put their city on lockdown.
Underlining the tale of two cities is Liv’s experience with two edible miserables in as many episodes, from the obnoxious Seattle Seahawks fan in Episode 1 to the truly vile socialite snob she takes on in Episode 2, titled Blue Bloody. Rose McIver always has the best time here, and the way she modifies her body language to play flirty sexagenarian Mrs. Brinks, shuffling from one young boytoy to the next, is a timely reminder of the show’s many hilarious pleasures.
While the social and political ramifications seem a little trickier for the show to fully grasp over the course of these first two episodes, the show has now fully embraced its high cheese factor, or “queso!” as Ravi yells at one point when his dinner is ready. What Ravi is wearing in that scene itself illustrates the fun of the show’s personality-swapping japes, lightening the foreboding class conflict that’s brewing elsewhere.
Among the regulars, there’s still no real place for Season 1’s partly reformed Big Bad, Blaine DeBeers (David Anders), who adapts to profit from yet another shift in the formerly underground zombie society. Moreover, he’s utterly upstaged by his father, Angus (Robert Knepper), in these first two episodes. Fans will remember the grisly and clever way in which Angus was seemingly written out last season, but Knepper has been promoted to a series regular this run, complete with his own panel in the comic book-flavoured opening titles and a new role that will further complicate matters later in the season.
Off the back of a season that took bolder steps forward than ever before, iZombie’s story is running faster alongside its more enjoyable procedural elements to keep pace with its ever more prominent world-building. In the midst of the unrest, these shenanigans are no longer covert, as anti-zombie activists daub Z’s on people’s front doors. As McIver vamps in the role of Mrs. Brinks, iZombie is still a show about ridiculous murders, but there’s a lot to be said for the way we learn about this new world order through solving them.
Season 4 of iZombie is available on Netflix UK, as part of a £7.49 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive every Wednesday.