This is a spoiler-free review of iZombie Season 3.
From the title down, iZombie is a show that is considerably better than it sounds. On paper, a CW show about the personal trials and tribulations of a zombie who solves murders by eating brains and taking on victims’ personalities and memories, sounds like the illogical extreme of the dormant sexy supernatural fad. But as good as it was before, it evolves well beyond expectations in its daring third season, the best so far.
As mentioned in our first look review, Season 3 picks up with undead medical examiner Liv Moore (Rose McIver) and her friends in the police feeling ever more uneasy about the possibility of Discovery Day – the name that zombie paramilitary outfit Fillmore-Graves give to the day that ordinary mortals find out about their existence. All the while, Seattle’s growing zombie population creates booming industries in defence and dining, which are more deeply explored here than before.
In those first two episodes, we noted the clean divide between arc elements in the first and the more enjoyable procedural parts in the second. For the rest of the season, the writers gradually perfect a hugely entertaining balance act between both, which breaks away from the procedural format of previous seasons without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Our favourite parts usually involve McIver playing up the personality of the brain of the week, and Season 3 gives us plenty on that front, from a mindfulness teacher to a former lover of Ravi’s. For us, the undoubted highlight comes with the murder of a roleplay dungeon master, which at first seems like it’s going to have Big Bang Theory-levels of disdain for its subject but culminates in a hilarious table-top setpiece that ropes in all of the regulars.
But with new season arcs coming to the fore, it’s really refreshing to see that iZombie can still surprise long-time fans too. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the potentially eye-rolling plot turn that sees Liv eat the brain of a dominatrix, which turns out to be a lot funnier than expected, but also sets up a major subplot involving the corruption of former DA Baracus, (we pity the fool who can’t enjoy this show’s shameless punning).
Our plucky medical examiners are truly beset on all sides here, from the development of Fillmore-Graves and the introduction of Veronica Mars alum Jason Dohring as a powerful zombie to the persistence of the alt-right Harley Johns, an all-too-human gun nut who vows to prove that zombies exist and hasten their extermination. These two opposing forces feed each other’s paranoia and Liv and the other every-zombies are caught in the middle.
Somewhat marooned in the midst of all this is Blaine (David Anders), whose unconvincing romance with Liv’s roommate, Peyton (Aly Michalka), segues into further tangles with his father (Robert Knepper) and the ever-delightful Don-E (Bryce Hodgson), as they open a zombie micro-pub, called The Scratching Post. The latter is more entertaining than the former, but, apart from a few good episodes in the middle, the show’s first Big Bad hasn’t been integrated into the regular cast as seamlessly as they might hope.
Other returning characters and plot threads are better handled. There are enjoyable guest appearances for Daran Noris’ smug anchorman, Johnny Frost, and Ken Marino’s unctuous lawyer, and Robert Buckley gets a good, character-defining line in melancholy, as the consequences of Major’s “Chaos Killer” spree last season come to bear on his social life. Malcolm Goodwin and Rahul Kohli have previously left him in the dust, but to look at his evolution from an upstanding pillar of the community in Season 1 to a pariah in this run makes up a lot of ground between them.
Overall, the show has moved on dramatically since Season 1 and even Season 2, and the lack of a distinctive Big Bad is more than made up for by the long-running mysteries that have been set up. It still works as a procedural when they delve back into that, but Season 3 of iZombie is a show that builds and builds its already impressive world, and doesn’t neatly wrap things up in time for what turns out to be a game-changing finale. It’s not brain food, but it never bites off more than it can chew.
Season 3 of iZombie is available on Netflix UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive every Wednesday.