Paul Asay
Emily Clark
Kristin Smith

TV Series Review

It’s not easy being a young adult in the 21st century. The work world is competitive. The whole 9-5 thing is soooooo 1995. There’s a bewildering array of online social networks to navigate. And dating? Don’t get me started.

And if you’re dead … well, let’s just say there are worse things than being trolled on Instagram.

A Brainy Procedural

Liv Moore is an average Millennial trying to make her way in the world while dead. Oh, she’s still pretty mobile and all. And even when you’re a zombie, you’re capable of shuffling around and moaning and whatnot. But in order to stay true to at least a semblance of your former self—to keep the moaning at bay and from turning you into a George A. Romero extra—you have to keep eating copious amounts of cranial matter. Forget what they say about fish: The best brain food is, well, brains.

Lucky for Liv, she now works for a police morgue in Seattle, wherein the gray-tinged entrees are endless. And it turns out that her curious appetite is helpful in other ways, too. When Liv snacks on the recently deceased, she absorbs a bit of that person’s essence: skills, personality traits, memories. If her latest hors d’oeuvre happens to be a murder victim, well, Liv just might get a little insight into how that unfortunate soul met his or her untimely end.

That makes for good weekly police procedural fodder, for sure.

Still, Liv would like to, well, live again. And her friend and boss, Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti, just might be able to drum up a cure if he has the chance to do so. Right now, there is a cure, but it requires using the brains of human children. Something most moral zombies don’t want to do.

Still, since zombieism seems to be going around, it would be good to get that drug perfected as soon as possible. With the living dead multiplying—both true zombies and the folks like Liv who sustain themselves on a steady diet of brains—friction between them and the living living is almost sure to intensify.

A Complete Shambles?

iZombie, based on the DC Comics series, has about as much in common with AMC’s The Walking Dead as Casper the Friendly Ghost has with The Exorcist. Yes, zombies figure prominently in both shows, but CW’s program is a quirky dramedy—like if Monk was a hip, dead twentysomething. That means it’s not as gruesome as you might imagine.

While episodes can get crazy from time to time, Liv often disguises her food of choice in piles of ramen noodles or the occasional smoothie. And unlike Walking Dead, which never met a moral it didn’t try to mercilessly slay on the way to the next safe house, iZombie exhibits a surprising level of nutritious, um, brain food. Liv loves to save the day, for instance, to help others. She gives tribute to doing the right thing even when it’s hard, and she’s committed to making the best of a very bad situation.

But maybe families still shouldn’t dish up too many of these episodes quite yet. We are talking about dead people walking around and eating brains, remember. While Liv is pretty good about dealing with her condition without hurting those around her, others like her sometimes kill folks for their next meal. Violent confrontations are fairly routine, and corpses and autopsy scenes, of course, take up a great deal of screen time.

Liv also has a surprisingly lively love life, so there’s kissing and foreplay. (References are made to same-sex attraction, too.) And then there are the personalities that Liv takes on, thanks to her cerebellum diet. One week she may dine on an offed cop. But the next, she could snack on a dominatrix—opening up an entirely new can of grey matter.

iZombie, like life for Liv, isn’t nearly as horrible as it could be. But it’s a ways off from being good eats.

Episode Reviews

Aug. 1, 2019: “All’s Well That Ends Well”

Liv, Ravi, and Det. Clive Babineaux (the detective they’ve been helping solve murder cases throughout the series) race back to the zombie-quarantined city of Seattle after discovering a cure to zombie-ism. Meanwhile, civil war breaks out on the streets of Seattle between humans and zombies after the zombie military group, Fillmore-Graves, announces plans to turn every human in Seattle into a zombie—by force if necessary.

Several zombie military leaders are ambushed by humans, who then staple playing cards to their corpses (each card in their deck represents another zombie leader). Zombie soldiers discuss their orders to kill all humans on sight, including children (since kids have been throwing grenades into the zombies’ Humvees). We see multiple exchanges of gunfire and several people take multiple bullets at once. Knives and flamethrowers are used against zombies. The mother of one zombified burn victim shoots her son in the head, promising to kill all zombies for making him a zombie to begin with. Two people are pushed into a well to die, and a man is knocked unconscious with a bat. A man learns his fiancé was smothered with a pillow. Fillmore-Graves leaders discuss using a guillotine on zombies who side with the humans. A bomb goes off at the police station (later revealed to be a suicide bomber) killing several people inside.

A man takes a prescription drug to help him sleep on a plane. That drug is then stolen and slipped into the mimosa of another passenger to prevent her from discovering who Liv is. A man is given the zombie cure without his consent or knowledge. A flight attendant makes a joke about drinking when Liv asks for two mimosas. A man says his life was full of “wine, women, and song.” Another man is frisked for weapons and told to remove his shirt, which he reluctantly does after mentioning that he is a “modest man.” A bedroom joke is made. “B–ch,” “d–n,” and “h—” are each used once as well as the substitute “freaking.” God’s name is taken in vain twice. Someone is called a “preening fop.”

May 2, 2019: “Thug Death”

With the human brain supply at an all-time low in quarantined Seattle, Blaine and sidekick, Don-E, pay humans to smuggle brains across the Seattle border. Liv and detective Clive work to solve the murder of an innocent woman by zombies. Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti takes on the abrasive personality of a murderer after eating his brains. An underground group, called The Resistance, help to smuggle needy, sick children into Seattle to turn them into zombies and give them a chance at a new “life.”

Since zombies consume brains for survival, there’s quite a lot of discussion about cooking and eating brains, as well as seeing them stashed in refrigerators. A doctor works to prevent children from being harvested for their brains. A woman, known for hating zombies, pays a man to bomb an innnocent group of deadsters. Multiple death threats are made. We see a woman eaten by zombies (from a distance) and hear that her blood has been spilled.

A teen boy seeks refuge for himself and his two sisters from a sexually abusive foster father. Ravi is jealous when another man flirts with his girlfriend (touching her back and leg). Blaine wears boxers and two women lie in his bed (covered only by a sheet). A couple kisses.

A woman drinks wine. A man thanks “the great zombie in the sky” for his good fortune. God’s name is misused once and words like “d–n,” “b–ch,” “h—,” “screwed” and “sucks” are heard once or twice.

iZombie: Feb. 26, 2018 “Are You Ready for Some Zombies?”

A vaccine, contaminated with zombie blood, has been recently distributed to the human population. Now there’s a zombie outbreak, humans are fleeing Seattle and a wall is being built to protect those still in the city. Major Lilywhite tries to counsel the new zombie youth. Liv and Clive search for the murderer of a factory worker. Ravi is developing a craving for brains and Blaine seeks to expand his brain-harvesting business.

While Liv and Clive search for the murderer, they go to a brain processing plant where lots of blood and brains are seen. They’re told that people have been “ground to death” in mixing bowls.

There’s careless joking from soldiers, who are part of a private army employed by the Fillmore-Grave corporation, about death and “getting nuked.” Soldiers (armed with plenty of guns and ammo) are set on fire from Molotov cocktails by troubled “zombie youth.” The soldiers have also created a guillotine to scare zombies from causing more chaos.

Blaine is keeping his zombified father, Angus, in a well. Angus later escapes and goes on a murdering rampage while trying to recruit for a zombie army.

Ravi, showing zombie-like signs, eats the brain of a “naturist,” causing him to walk around in the nude (though we don’t see his penis or backside).

We hear the word “d–k” and “a–” used once and the words “b–ch” and “d—” used twice. Also phrases such as “sons of b–ches,” “suck it” and “they’re cocky.” Zombies are called “stupid,” “idiots,” “trash” and “freaks.” Also Shakespearean insults are hurled, such as “harlot” and “knave.”

Women wear short dresses and shirts revealing cleavage. There’s also mention of “boys and girls” prostituting themselves for “brain tubes.” Some zombie teens are abused by their parents and kicked out of their homes. Alcohol is consumed. There’s a reference to porn and sex, and characters express their anger, sometimes violently. Zombies eat brains, and viewers see dead bodies.

iZombie: May 1, 2017 “Spanking the Zombie”

A professional dominatrix who called herself “Sweet Lady Pain” is murdered—strangled by her own whip. When Liv eats her brains (breading them and frying them up in a pan), she not only sees some of the dominatrix’s last professional sessions, she takes on that woman’s characteristics—peppering both friends and suspects with a steady barrage of pain-inflected innuendo.

Major (Liv’s sometime boyfriend) is given a memory-wiping cure at the end of the episode, but not before he and Liv apparently have sex. (They kiss frantically and rip off each other’s shirts before the camera looks away.) Liv’s dominatrix memories also are problematic: We see her intimidating three of her male customers, who wear bondage gear, a female French maid outfit and a Catholic schoolboy suit, respectively. Some are hit with various implements; one shouts his “safe word” (“climate change”). The “schoolboy” tries to recite prayers in Latin while being hit with a ruler. Liv and her detective friend, Clive Babineaux, investigate the dominatrix’s “dungeon,” which is filled with all manner of suggestive fetish gear (including what looks to be a leather swing). “This is where you end up when your parents don’t tell you they love you,” Babineaux sadly intones.

Major, serving as a “zombie mercenary,” gets stabbed several times in the gut by a terrorist assailant. We see the blows land and, later, the resulting bloody and bruising wounds. (A medic also pulls a bullet from his back.) Major later retches violently, apparently close to yet another form of death. He also sees one of his compatriots throw a mysterious bag in his footlocker: He opens the locker and sees several human heads submerged in ice. We hear the dead dominatrix call someone a “horrid, thumb-sucking bed wetter.” Liv, under the influence of the dominatrix, calls someone a “piggy” and asks them to fetch her some gloves. There’s lots of talk about an impending, violent conflict.

Don E, another zombie, opens a zombie-centric nightclub called The Scratching Post, drafting the shambling stoner Tanner as his first employee. Dozens of people are shown drinking during the club’s opening night, with Don E guzzling booze straight from the bottle. Characters say “a–,” “b–ch,” “h—” and “d–k.” God’s name is misused twice. A transitional slide reads “Zero trucks given.”

iZombie: April 28, 2015

“Maternity Liv”

Liv munches on the brain of a young, now-deceased but recently pregnant girl who underwent a serious eight-month trauma. Because the girl’s gray matter is loaded with motherly hormones, Liv suddenly feels a strange attachment to the baby (who survives), as well as gaining a far better understanding of her own mother. Meanwhile, her budding relationship with a fellow zombie hits a snag after her would-be boyfriend eats the brains of a gay doctor.

Liv kisses her beau a couple of times. She talks about a guy trying to make out with her after she vomited up garlic bread.

The dead pregnant woman’s skin is grotesquely discolored. Autopsy scars are visible in the morgue. Punches are traded and a girl falls from a window. Two bad guys get gunned down, one in cold blood. Liv gets shot in her leg. A policeman gets shot in the chest. (He’s also a zombie, so he “survives.”) We learn that murderers have kept and killed about a dozen teens. Liv eats a noodle dish presumably fortified with brains. Her boyfriend sips a brain smoothie. Someone discovers slabs of meat and a brain in a car. Rats devour one another.

There’s talk of someone skipping school because of alcohol and drugs. Liv and her boyfriend drink alcohol. Characters say “a–” and “d–n” once each and “h—” a half-dozen times. God’s name is abused at least six times.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Emily Clark
Emily Clark

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).

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