Netflix UK TV review: iZombie Season 5 (spoilers)
9/10 Total Rating 6/10
Goodnight, New Seattle, Genre finally catches up with iZombie in this shaky but eventually satisfying farewell.
Warning: This review contains spoilers for iZombie Season 5. Not seen it? Read our spoiler-free review of the opening episodes.
Now that it’s all over, it’s fair to say iZombie will be missed, but not nearly as much as we’ve missed the show it was when it first started in 2015. While creators Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright were off developing the fourth season of Veronica Mars, the Vertigo comic-inspired saga of New Seattle has hurtled onwards, becoming ever more congested with one-note characters and miserable contrivances as it’s gone.
iZombie is a show that started ahead of the curve, bucking all the conventions of a supernatural drama with a fresh, funny, genre-savvy take on its leisurely zombie apocalypse. In the early seasons, the stakes were limited to doctor-turned-medical-examiner Liv Moore (Rose McIver) not outing herself as a zombie while helping to solve “ridiculous murders”, but over time, the show has become bogged down in genre.
As discussed in our season preview, this final 13-episode run presents a show where the characters are primarily concerned with keeping its quarantined locale from being nuked by the US government, a scale on which a darkly comic show like this was never meant to operate.
In the midst of it all, Liv has become a bit of a floating protagonist and for the first 10 episodes of the season, she’s largely buffered around by the giant, often incomprehensible plot machinations at work. This includes an influx of new characters who have been piled in way too late, including human supremacist organiser Dolly Durkins (Jennifer Irwin), scheming chemist Martin Roberts (Bill Wise), and magazine journalist Al Bronson (Gage Golightly), all plates that need to keep spinning at a point where the story should really be homing in on the characters we know.
In Seasons 4 and 5, the show has lost focus as it’s started to show us a bigger picture. It’s not so bad when the terrific supporting characters are brought to the fore – Clive (Malcolm Goodwin), Ravi (Rahul Kohli) and Major (Robert Buckley) are absolutely priceless, as ever – but it’s always at the expense of the hero. When problems that should affect Liv are only put in a city-wide context, it’s like asking us to empathise with a traffic jam rather than any of the drivers stuck in it.
Among all the subplots jockeying for position, perhaps the nadir is the creation of a TV show called “Hi, Zombie”, in which several of the comic relief characters from previous seasons attempt to create a network sitcom as please-don’t-nuke-us propaganda for the wider US audience. With all the love in the world for previous seasons of this show, we’d have pushed the button.
Happily, iZombie is a show that can sustain cases-of-the-week later in its run than other shows of this kind, and many of the highlights of Season 5 harken back to the early “eat a brain, take on a new personality” escapades. Episode 3, Five Six Seven Ate, boasts two courses for Liv, meaning that she plays both halves of a quick-footed couple set to compete in a dancing TV contest, while trying to train Ravi up to help her catch their killers.
The season bucks its ideas up for the final three episodes, starting with the brilliant drag murder mystery Killer Queen and concluding with a two-parter penned by Ruggiero-Wright and Thomas. The finale is inevitably messy, with loose ends galore, but it’s ultimately satisfying in the way it sets out to wrap up character arcs rather than civilisation as we know it.
It’s not a good sign, though, when more than half of a show’s final season feels skippable, just to get to the cathartic ending that its creators intended all along, and once the dense and downbeat plotting brings it to a standstill, the more generic dramatic aspects finally catch up with it. But iZombie has always been best when it allows its regulars to shine and it’s worth finishing the show just to give a send-off to these endlessly likeable characters.