Her name is Olivia Moore, and she is a hero, in the way that the heroes used to be. Gung-ho. Fearless. Certain of their righteousness, virtue, and skill. Full of life and a want to bring life to others. We meet her all in a hurry, rushing at us, racing to save someone’s day. She’s an aspiring heart surgeon interning at a Seattle hospital and she’s got a patient on a gurney who’s coding. He’s cyanotic. Also known as “blue disease.” Blocked respiration. Can’t breathe. Blue Boy needs a real MD, stat, but Dr. Jeffries is MIA and time is running out. Should she wait? No! She will not wait! For she is a hero! She can do this!
Liv (Rose McIver) takes a syringe with a long needle and drives it into Blue Boy’s chest the way John Travolta impaled Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction. If she misses, her patient dies. But her aim is true—she’s a hero after all—and pulls back on the sucky-plunger-thingie (like I know syringes!) and unblocks whatever was blocking Blue Boy’s breathing. Victory! Even Liv’s fellow intern—a rival of sorts—is all Damn, Girl! Check you out! impressed. “You have all the makings of a nemesis, but I actually kind of like you,” Marcie tells Liv. (Who knew the business of saving lives was dog-eat-dog competitive?) Marcia invites her to a rager on a boat. Liv balks, but Marcie pushes, and the button Marcie tries to hit to motivate Liv to party down is interesting given the themes of this episode: It will “show everyone that you’re not an overachieving pain in the ass.” Nobody likes a goodie-goodie. But why?
Liv still says no. She has a date with her fiancé, a major hunk named… Major (seriously)… who has a passing resemblance to Ben on Felicity. (The guy who wasn’t the guy who’s been on Scandal.) (So Scott Speedman, but actually played by Robert Buckley.) Marcia takes a gander and quips: “So basically every day of your life is like Sixteen Candles?” But Major thinks Liv should go to the party, because in addition to being majorly hunky, Major is also majorly supportive of his future’s wife current flourishing in all aspects of her personhood, including her social game. He tells her that they’ll have the rest of their long, shared lives to enjoy each other; tonight, she should seize the moment and invest in some other relationships. Besides: “What’s the worst that can happen?”
Oh, Major. Sweet, sweet naive Major. Don’t you know the title of your show?
Smash-cut to: Party yacht zom-pocalypse! It’s a rager, alright. Revelers turned into revenants are chasing revelers who have not, snapping and chomping at them with hungry-hungry-hippo jaws. Liv hides underneath a table, looking for an escape route. She makes a dash for it and bumps into a drug dealer who’s been slinging some new designer dope called Utopium. This low-life is played by David Anders, formerly of Alias and Heroes, and he’s actually worse than a low-life, because he has no life at all: He’s been transmogrified into a member of the walking dead. He wants to nosh on Liv. She squirts away, but not before Formerly Of Heroes and Alias Anders swipes at her, sending her overboard and leaving her with a Dark Mark that resembles the logo for Monster energy drink. This is probably no coincidence. Seriously, google it. I’ll wait.
Changed my mind while you were checking that out. Probably coincidence.
Next thing Liv knows, she’s bolting upright out of a yellow body bag and spitting up lake water. But she’s not alive. She’s been changed. Transformed into something monstrous, something darkly marked and death-eating. She has gone fish cold, her hair bleached shock white, her complexion the pallor of paste. She has become Death! She has become a Pale Rider! A White Walker, but a grungy-adorable one! She is—c’mon Major! You can get this! – I, ZOMBIE!
Suffering such a fate probably does qualify as “the worst that can happen” by bacchanal boating with work friends. But the pilot for The CW’s iZombie—adapted by Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas and longtime writing partner Diane Ruggiero from a comic book by Chris Robertson and Michael Allred—uses Liv’s tragic spiral from activist doc to life-sapped slacker to bite at some cultural conditions: Disillusionment, cynicism, and the rise of anti-hero cool that has rendered heroism uncool. Of course, it’s not like we don’t have good reason to question representations and meanings of “old-fashioned heroism” when we live in a culture where role models fail us by betraying their values, abusing their power, or simply by being hypocritical phonies. Not for nothing that the pilot gave us a fake-smiley weatherman whose shiny-happy visage masks some loathsome licentiousness, or made an adulterous psycho cop its villain. So the world kinda sucks, and our horror-pulp pop reflects that. Yet there’s pondering artfully made dark fantasy that expresses our dismay and despair with The Way Things Are, and there’s rabidly consuming it without much thought. What’s the cost of over-identifying with desperate men who break bad, with catastrophe-rocked souls who go batty-vigilante, with lifeless, soulless sleepwalkers who just eat eat eat to assuage their insatiable ache? Has our fascination with abomination become—to borrow one of the pilot’s pop references—a “Bad Romance”?
NEXT: Let’s meet Zombie Liv