NOTE: Spoilers from throughout the fifth and final season of, “iZombie” are present in this review
iZombie has certainly come a long way since its humble, quirky beginnings in 2015. What originally began as a tongue-in-cheek police procedural during its first season eventually grew into a wide-reaching, city-scale cold war dramedy themed around the rise of the undead. By the time iZombie made it to a fifth and final season, Seattle itself had ultimately become ground zero for a zombie epidemic, one that constantly threatens to spill over into the world at large! Granted, protagonist, Liv Moore and her allies still found plenty of time to solve procedural-style murder cases amid this chaos, each with a new victim and a ridiculous new brain-induced personality for Liv to go with them, but it’s nonetheless a shame that iZombie ended up losing some of its initial magic by the end, even if it’s commendable that the show dared to stretch its weird premise as far as it ultimately did.
Even by the end of its pre-determined final season however, iZombie still ultimately had barely anything to do with the Vertigo/DC-published comic books that originally inspired it, outside of the recognizable ghostly appearance of its zombies (at least, when they didn’t cover it up with makeup), and outside of Liv’s occasional trotting out of her undercover alias, Gwen Dylan, the lead character of the iZombie comic books. Still, the show nonetheless carved out its own competent niche on The CW’s midseason/Summer lineup, with some of its better seasons even managing to surpass the storytelling and entertainment value of the original comic books, particularly its sophomore season, which was the only full-sized season that The CW green-lit. The iZombie TV show may not be the least bit faithful to its source material, particularly since the very premise and identity of the main character are different from said source material, but it’s a testament to the fact that deviating from the source material isn’t always a bad thing, even if iZombie’s comic book connection is so tenuous that it might as well have been a completely original series under a different name.
Again though, by the time iZombie had made it to a fifth season, against the odds, it was clear that the series was starting to run out of steam. The murder cases felt less thought-out, the character drama started to feel more juvenile, and that familiar ‘CW Syndrome’ started to seep into the show to a much more noticeable degree. Perhaps the show just stretched its premise too far, or perhaps its greatest ideas were used up during the first two (and best) seasons. Whatever the case, there’s not much to read into regarding iZombie’s final season, beyond some of its disappointingly squandered ideas, and its handful of final story resolutions that it managed to get right.
First, the better ideas, which begin with Liv assuming control of the late Renegade’s coyote organization, smuggling humans and zombies alike in and out of New Seattle, which continues to be barred off from the rest of the world. Liv pulling double-duty as both the most wanted coyote in the city, and the same plucky medical examiner at the Seattle PD who solves the vast majority of the precinct’s murder cases, alongside her ever-reliable police partner, Clive Babineaux, remains a compelling hook that provides plenty of entertainment. iZombie’s final season was clearly saving a few of its most inspired brains for the show’s last bow as well, including a co-dependent dancer brain, a perfectionist master chef brain, and an over-the-top hard-boiled detective brain, all of which provided some standout moments of comedy and character for Liv, after she consumed them.
Some of the storylines of the final season really weren’t bad either. Chief among these was Liv’s reconciliation with her long-lost, drug addict father, Martin Roberts. Liv discovering a lost part of her family history was great enough, but even better was the inspired twist of Martin being Beanpole Bob, the original chemist who accidentally created zombies with tainted Utopium and Max Rager, on top of being the very first zombie himself! Likewise, the series’ favourite bugbear, Blaine also found himself constantly down and out, only to later get back on the upswing, being that resilient enemy that refuses to just lay down and die. Liv and Blaine were the real stars throughout much of the season, though Peyton’s last tumultuous term as mayor of New Seattle, and Major’s trials and ultimate failure to keep order through Fillmore-Graves, also had plenty of solid dramatic turns. Ravi’s story arcs weren’t quite as consistent, especially when Ravi spent so much of the season moping and/or corresponding with the CDC about a zombie cure, but Ravi still managed some decent moments too, especially when the show paired him with Liv on a few choice murder cases.
That brings me to the weak points of iZombie’s final season however, and easily the biggest among these are the villains. iZombie’s increasingly ridiculous and juvenile baddies were a serious problem throughout the show’s last batch of episodes, especially when there was so many of them! Even some of the better villains, like the returning Stacey Boss and his newly-revealed niece and co-conspirator, Al Bronson, ended up feeling shafted, since the show just ultimately drops them without any real resolution. Even worse however are the warring human/zombie factions shared between Dolly Durkins and Martin respectively, who mindlessly escalate the war without much real relatable reason or personality, beyond causing destruction for its own sake. Martin is ultimately taken out by Enzo before the end of the season as well, who takes his place as the show’s ultimate zombie big bad, and needless to say, that’s a huge disappointment. Even worse is that Dolly remains at large by the end of the series finale as well, suggesting that the battles between humans and zombies in New Seattle just keep raging off-screen. That certainly doesn’t feel like a very satisfying resolution.
Indeed, despite several of iZombie’s final murder cases being fun to watch in the moment, the constantly lacklustre and frustrating resolutions were way too frequent a problem both in the show’s procedural element, and the show’s overall story arc. Despite several enjoyable whodunits in concept, the lame, afterthought killers throughout much of the final season’s episodes repeatedly dragged them down. Likewise, iZombie’s overall ending felt so half-baked and uninspired that it practically borders on insulting, hand-waving away many of the show’s present character struggles, yet perpetuating the human/zombie war seemingly indefinitely. This feels like the show trying to have its cake and eat it too, forcing an unbelievably false Hollywood ending that mostly fails to wrap up the show’s ongoing storylines on a satisfying note, yet one that still leaves the door open for a potential iZombie revival in the future, despite the fact that iZombie already feels like it should have been cancelled at least one or two seasons ago. This is the only reason I can think of for the majority of the show’s villains remaining at large in the end, save for Blaine and Don E., who are thanklessly pushed into Angus’ well in the most anti-climactic way possible during the series finale. Considering that these two are supposed to be the protagonists’ main enemies, they went down like chumps, and that’s infuriating, even if the door is still technically open for them to return in a potential iZombie revival down the road.
That begs the question though; Should iZombie ever be revived in the far-flung future? Sure, co-showrunner, Rob Thomas’ other former CW procedural, Veronica Mars has managed to defy the reaper twice now, but iZombie appears to have run out of its best ideas years ago, leaving it practically chugging on fumes for its fifth and final season. The show’s last helping of episodes is still entertaining enough to get by, but it nonetheless feels like iZombie is a shadow of what it once was during its first two seasons especially, despite its commendable creative ambition in its more recent seasons. iZombie can’t really fall back on its Vertigo/DC comic book inspiration either, since it barely has anything at all to do with those source comics, even at the end of its run. So, what you’re ultimately left with is an acceptable, but disappointing final season that doesn’t provide a truly satisfying ending for The CW’s cult favourite zombie procedural dramedy. Maybe iZombie can one day rise from its grave and provide a more definitive final battle against its many lingering threats, but these last thirteen episodes of the show’s original run have nonetheless left me frustratingly ambivalent about this world ever truly solving its zombie problem.
- Some fun cases-of-the-week, with amusing brains to go with them
- Liv discovering her long-lost father, and his awesome true agenda
- Major's, Ravi's and Peyton's last-ditch efforts to save New Seattle
- The overall series ending is frustrating and lame
- Too many cases-of-the-week have lacklustre killers and motives
- The human/zombie war's escalation is too frequently shallow and juvenile