‘iZombie: Season One’ on Netflix

Rose McIver is an undead detective in 'iZombie'

iZombie: Season One, developed by Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas from the comic book by Mike Allred, is a comic mystery series with an undead heroine playing detective.

Rose McIver is Olivia, a medical student in Seattle who awakens after a yacht party gone disastrous and finds out that the reason she has no heartbeat is that she’s a zombie. In fact, Olivia is another TV character who is ostensibly devoid of emotion yet is constantly tormented by the reverberations her life has on the people around her. She can’t relate to friends and family, and there’s no way she’s dropping this bombshell on them, but she’s also determined to hold on to whatever humanity is left. So Olivia drops out of med school, breaks up with her fiancé, invests a small fortune in make-up to cover up her pallor, and gets a job as a coroner’s assistant for access to the one thing that sustains her: human brains. Turns out that’s a giveaway for her boss Ravi (Rahul Kohli), who strangely enough is thrilled when he confirms his suspicions. Wouldn’t you know the coroner is a zombie buff. More than that, he’s determined to look for a cure.

Devouring brain matter, however, also has a side-effect. It gives her access to the memories of the dead, including murder victims, and she uses her insights to help a young police detective (Malcom Goodwin) solve crimes. (She passes off her insights as the visions of a psychic.) It also floods her with the victim’s personality and emotional life for a few days, giving her something of a schizophrenic quality that is mostly played for humor.

The supernatural elements are woven through real world experiences and mystery series conventions, which gives the show a lighter tone and a very different take on the undead than The Walking Dead and its ilk. In fact, one character (played by David Anders as a kind of undead drug dealer) turns this zombie business into a money-making opportunity selling brains like take-out to other zombies. The show has a self-aware narration and a cheeky sensibility that has become a trademark of the CW network and the mix of horror, mystery, young adult drama, and witty humor found an audience. The second season is currently in progress.

18 episodes. Queue it up!

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Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears in Vulture, Turner Classic Movies online, Keyframe, and Parallax View.

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