First episode impressions: ‘iZombie’ Season 5 (TV review)

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ast season, when “iZombie” constructed its new reality wherein the U.S. government and the Fillmore Graves corporation team up to keep zombies and humans behind a wall in Seattle, I thought “This can’t last.” As “iZombie’s” fifth and final season (8 p.m. Eastern Thursdays on The CW) opens, we’re starting to see the specifics of why it can’t last. Meanwhile, creators Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright are maintaining their delicate balance wherein Liv Moore (Rose McIver) and newly zombified Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli) behave in humorous ways depending on whose brain they most recently consumed.

It’s a balance that one could argue does not work. After all, life should not be a chuckle-fest if you’re a Seattle resident – human or zombie – living as a permanent hostage of the government’s holding-pattern strategy. This is not how dystopian near-futures are supposed to look. On the other hand, history suggests that people can adjust to extreme conditions.

I suspect Season 5’s thesis statement will be that people can’t live in a “safe” but isolated city forever.

And I admit that when I watch “iZombie,” I don’t think about the absurdities; Thomas (who writes the Season 5 premiere, “Thug Death”) and Ruggiero-Wright have created a complex sociopolitical landscape and pseudo-scientific zombie mythology over the course of four years, so I’m merely watching the latest developments in an inherently absurd world.

That said, there are parallels to be drawn with real history. I suspect Season 5’s thesis statement will be that people can’t live in a “safe” but isolated city forever. So far, we’re seeing specific reasons why specific individuals are itching to leave. Major (Robert Buckley) — now the head of Fillmore Graves after last season’s dispatching of Chase Graves (Jason Dohring), the ultimate champion of martial law — is going through a folder of humans who have petitioned to leave Seattle. A woman who got caught behind the wall while visiting, and is now separated from her husband and kid, doesn’t qualify for release.

Even setting specific cases aside and looking at the issue broadly, most people chafe at the very notion of being stuck in one place – let alone the reality of it. Even a Seattle native who never leaves town and loves the constant drizzle and the Seahawks and Mariners likely hates the idea that he can’t leave.

People interested in scientific ethics might also enjoy “iZombie,” although since I haven’t been keeping a scorecard, I couldn’t recount all the shifts in the how and why of zombiism over the first four seasons. The latest development, as discovered separately by Ravi in the Seattle PD morgue and by federal government scientist Dr. Collier (Quinta Brunson), is that there is a zombie cure. But this cure comes from the postmortem brains of children with a certain medical condition. Ravi knows releasing this information will result in those children being hunted – whether the hunters are “bad guys” are “good guys” isn’t relevant.

Adding to the complexity of Season 5’s setup, some people want to sneak in to Seattle because they have an incurable medical condition and can only live on by becoming a zombie. Calling herself Renegade, Liv leads the not-as-underground-as-it-used-to-be team that smuggles these kids in. The season premiere ends on a cliffhanger with Baron (Francis Capra, a “Veronica Mars” veteran like Dohring) trying to sneak three kids past the various officials demanding to see papers.

Of course, what we as viewers see happening isn’t what the population outside of Seattle knows. They get their information via politics and the media. Seattle government official Peyton (Aly Michalka) is a mouthpiece for the POV that zombies and humans can continue to live in this delicate balance.

All of these sociopolitics should make for a fascinating final season on a macro level. But in a given episode, it’s the lighter elements that make “iZombie” fun to watch, especially since the budget is clearly much less than when the series began (for example, a van explosion happens off screen to save on the cost of the stunt). Smarmy Seattle newsman Johnny Frost (Daran Norris, yet another “Veronica” veteran) getting handsy with the unamused Peyton on a TV talk show is humorous in “Thug Death.” Meanwhile, Ravi eats the brain of someone named Thumb Breaker, allowing Kohli to give a wild one-off performance similar to what McIver used to do weekly.

Now Liv shares the spotlight, but it’s her turn to eat the brain-of-the-week in episode two: that of a calorie-counting fitness nut. As absurdly convoluted as “iZombie’s” wider mythology is, this still must be one of the most fun current TV shows to write for – and to act for, especially if you’re Kohli or McIver. It’s pretty fun to watch, too.