Let the anti-Buffy tickle your funny bone.
|Monster, monster, monster!|
I’ve said this before, but I’m not a huge fab of zombie fiction. The Walking Dead (2010 - ) is very well done, but I still can’t work out why Rick and co. don’t run very fast in the opposite direction or, better still, jump in a car and drive very fast in the opposite direction. Even in AMC’s fine series, the Biters are still doing that shuffling Gumby walk that couldn’t outrun a determined tortoise.
28 Days Later (2002) is still the only truly terrifying realisation of zombies I’ve seen. In that, they move like lightning and are portrayed as the rabid animals modern zombies are clearly meant to be.
|(Image copyright: BBC)|
Fiction about recovering from being a zombie is rather more interesting. BBC3’s In the Flesh, which ran for two series over 2013-14, was about the rehabilitation of teenager Kieren Walker (Luke Newberry, left), who became one of the undead during an apocalyptic event called ‘The Rising’. The series followed his attempts, as a sufferer of PDS – Partially Deceased Syndrome – to reintegrate with his prejudiced small village; the metaphor of outsiders trying to adapt to an unforgiving community has obvious – and, if you’ll forgive me – biting contemporary parallels. In the Flesh was excellent but for some reason the BBC didn’t go for a third series.
iZombie (2015 - ) has taken the survivor scenario a step further by crossing it with the police procedural genre and Neil Simon-sharp comedy. It’s the sort of thing I could watch for days with a contented feeling and a warm smile.
Medical intern Olivia Moore - 'Liv More', geddit? - (perky Rose McIver), who handily works for the police, is bitten, becomes a zombie then unaccountably wakes up in a body bag, more or less normal again. That is, apart from the need to feast on human brains. She discovers that when she does – on the grey matter of bodies in the police body shop – she acquires some of their memories, often at the point of death. Hence her subsequent crime fighting career a la iZombie.
Olivia Moore is remarkable as the heroine in this anti-Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Funny, smart and very real, like most of the little known cast she’s seized the opportunity offered her. The only TV series she was a regular in before was Power Rangers R.P.M. (2009) as the Yellow Bear RPM Ranger. I’ve never seen it, but just by that title alone you can tell it can't have been the best career move.
Ever since Buffy, US fantasy dramas have been contractually obliged to have a cool British character, and in iZombie it’s the turn of Rahul Kohli as Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti. He’s Felix to Rose’s Sarah Manning, reigning her in when she wanders off the straight and narrow and dispensing dry one-liners. The veteran in the cast is David Anders, here not playing a Brit but cheerfully amoral as fellow zombie survivor Blaine DeBeers, a former drug dealer turned Rose’s nemesis.
Malcolm Goodwin as Detective Clive Bavineaux completes the ensemble as the straight man, in the best traditions of the police procedural often putting his job on the line to back up Rose’s spectral visions. The playing between Moore and Goodwin is a joy to watch.
Part of the series’ appeal for me is its acid, Joss Whedon-esque insight into the human condition. In one episode, Rose realises that putting her career before her partner and losing him meant that ‘parts of me were already dead before I died.’ Like Shaun of the Dead (2004) before it, iZombie suggests that, if we’re not careful, modern life will turn us all into the walking dead.
OK, iZombie isn’t Orphan Black, but it’s all the livelier because of that. Recommended.