Rob Thomas breaks down iZombie's happy ending — and why it's so different from Veronica Mars
'I’ve always known that, hey, I’m not doing a noir show for once! Let’s give them the happy ending!' the showrunner says
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the iZombie series finale, “All’s Well That Ends Well.”
Turns out that the zombie apocalypse actually ends happily ever after. Who would have thought?
After five seasons of building toward an all-out war between humans and zombies, iZombie signed off with a series finale that saw every main character not only survive, but also get the perfect future they deserved. Major (Robert Buckley) took what he thought was the zombie cure on live TV, intending to die for the cause, but after an intense showdown it was revealed to actually be a fake dose, as Ravi (Rahul Kohli) swapped it out to inject the head zombie of the antihuman movement instead, proving the zombie cure’s effectiveness to the world. A flash-forward epilogue set 10 years in the future then explained how that act ended the human-zombie war, as well as where everyone ended up.
In a “virtualcast” (think podcast but with futuristic virtual reality), America the Virtual host Byron Deceasey (played by Chris Lowell in a surprise cameo) brought together Ravi, Peyton (Aly Michalka), and Clive (Malcolm Goodwin) for an episode on the 10th anniversary of the Battle for Seattle, which ended the war. Ten years in the future, Clive and Dale (Jessica Harmon) were still happily married, and co-captains of the San Francisco PD. Peyton and Ravi were still together, with Peyton working as a DA in Atlanta and Ravi serving as the head of the CDC (despite making a good chunk of change from book deals and speaking appearances after becoming famous for discovering the cure for zombies). But Liv (Rose McIver) and Major were conspicuously absent from the episode.
As Byron recapped the aftermath of Major taking the “cure” on live television (with the public still unaware he was given a fake dose), we learned that his big heroic act had the desired effect. Zombies were no longer considered an apocalyptic threat with the cure being mass-produced, and that meant brain donations resumed. The sick and dying flocked to Seattle to be turned into zombies, and the city was rebuilt and rebranded as a peaceful place where zombies and humans lived side by side.
But here’s where the virtualcast took a turn for the extremely heartbreaking: Byron revealed that Liv was allegedly killed by an anti-zombie suicide bomber… unless you believed the rumor she survived (being Renegade earned her legendary outlaw status even in death). Clive, Ravi and Peyton all confirmed that they believed she died in the explosion, but Major didn’t. According to the trio, he had continued to dig in the wreckage of the morgue along with the group of orphans he took in. But since some anti-zombie human Dead Enders still existed along with their leader, Dolly Durkins (Jennifer Irwin), they were still hunting him down as one of the most well-known faces of Fillmore Graves. He was forced to go into hiding, and hadn’t been seen in a decade.
iZombie could have ended on that ambiguous note, with fans left to wonder forever whether Liv really died and what happened to Major. But thankfully, creator and showrunner Rob Thomas did us a solid and gave a definitive answer in the final minutes. A flashback scene showed that not only did Liv survive, she also reunited (physically and romantically!) with Major. They were living happily together (and married, based on that ring on Liv’s finger) as zombies with their little family of adopted orphans on Zombie Island (the dream became a reality!). And after Byron signed off the virtualcast, Liv and Major signed on to reunite with the whole gang, revealing that the friend group does this every so often to catch up — with Major telling the same dad jokes every single time (because, of course). But since they’re all living in separate places, they all miss each other, which prompts Liv and Major to extend an offer to the gang to come live with them forever on Zombie Island… and they all actually seem to consider it. Fade to black!
Riding that high of pure pop culture happiness, EW spoke with Thomas to break down the ending, why this was the plan from the very beginning of the series, why iZombie’s finale is oh so incredibly opposite from Thomas’ controversial Veronica Mars shocker, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Last time we talked, you were more hands-on with Hulu’s Veronica Mars revival than with iZombie’s final season, so when did you come back to iZombie?
ROB THOMAS: I was in the room breaking the first seven episodes [of the final season], and I was in there for the writing and shooting of the first five. And then Diane [Ruggiero-Wright] and I came back on the last two, episodes 12 and 13.
Did you always know you were going to end on this flash-forward epilogue?
That only occurred to me when we started breaking that episode. Even though what played out was all stuff that we had on the board for a long time, the idea of a flash-forward virtualcast, that didn’t come to me until really the week I started breaking the episode.
How has the series ending changed over the course of the five seasons? Is it still the same idea from when you first created the show?
The broad strokes remain the same. I think you could have asked me five years ago how will the show end and I would have said that our crew will be victorious in some way, and Major and Liv will find their way back to each other. I’ve always known that, hey, I’m not doing a noir show for once! Let’s give them the happy ending! That much has always been in my head. I had no idea that Ravi and Peyton would end up together. That is just a product of those two are fun on screen together, they work well together, people like them together. That was a new idea. I probably would have told you that Blaine [David Anders] would have died in the finale, but I was happier with where we ended up. I like him living forever at the bottom of a well with Don E. [Bryce Hodgson], who hates him, down there with him. That only occurred to us about midway through the final season, how we would end with those two.
That definitely felt like poetic justice.
Yeah. [Laughs] It was a way for both Liv and Don E. to give Blaine his comeuppance. Both of them got a piece of it. Don E. shoves him down the well and then Liv shoves Don E. down the well with him. That felt good to us.
Confession: I was shocked by how badly I felt for Don E. getting stuck down there with him forever, because he’s just as evil as Blaine, if not worse, and definitely deserved it. But his story in the final season finding the love of his life, I weirdly felt bad for him to end up here!
[Laughs] I get it too! He’s got a lot of charm to him. He does seem like a more decent guy than Blaine. Certainly Don E. has done some things worthy of eternity in a well, so don’t lose much sleep for him.
The end of the flash-forward feels a little ambiguous, with Liv and Major offering Ravi, Peyton, and Clive a literal forever home Zombie Island. In your mind, are the three humans actually considering reuniting for good by moving there?
I have my own idea in my head about whether the friends said, “You know what? We’ll live on a deserted island with your zombie family!” I have a definite view, but I don’t know that I want to give my answer to it. I kind of like the audience getting to put them wherever they want in their own minds. And that’s the end of that.
What was your ultimate goal with ending the series on such a happy note for all the characters? I’m still shocked none of them died.
I felt like if all of America was watching iZombie, our nation would be healed by now. [Laughs] Unfortunately, doing our share, that didn’t happen. But that was really what I was going for: the lessening of eternal strife in America. I don’t think we accomplished it, sadly.
Maybe you did on a smaller scale?
The whole theme of iZombie was, can the middle hold? In Seattle, in zombie-controlled Seattle, the middle held. It did not give in to the extremes on either side. The middle held. That’s what I wanted to demonstrate.
I’m so happy that Liv and Major end up together, because we’ve been waiting for this, maybe not so patiently, for so many seasons. And is this just me trying to will something into existence, or was that a wedding ring on Liv and Major’s fingers?
It was! It was. They’re married. [Laughs] You’re welcome!
The human-vs.-zombie war may have ended, but there are still so many lingering story lines even 10 years later, like the Dead Enders still hunting down well-known zombies, Seattle become a rebranded zombie city, the creation and sustainment of Zombie Island, and more. Would you ever consider doing a spin-off or revisiting this story at some point in the future?
I don’t think it’s going to happen for iZombie. Though if in the future there is a call for more iZombie, I love this group of actors so much, I would be game to work with them any time, anywhere. Obviously if we never do another iZombie I predict that you will see these actors in future projects of mine. I just adore them all.
This is a big few weeks for you, since you also just debuted another high-profile finale with Veronica Mars season 4, which decidedly did not end on a happy note. Obviously that one saw an extremely passionate response from fans, so has that made you worry about how this one will be received?
I’m probably happy that I provided a happier ending in iZombie. I think this one is more apt to make fans excited than Veronica Mars. But with Veronica Mars, because I imagined that show was going to go on and we were going to continue to do more mysteries, I wasn’t building that as the grand ending of the series, whereas I was on iZombie. The closest I had ever thought I was writing the end of the entire Veronica Mars universe was when I wrote the movie. In the end of the movie, I did give the audience a reasonably happy ending with Veronica [Kristen Bell] back working as a private detective and she and Logan [Jason Dohring] back together. It’s only now that I’m starting to believe I’m going to get the opportunity to do a bunch more [seasons of Veronica Mars] that that happy ending didn’t work for me moving forward.
If Veronica Mars is the shot, then iZombie is definitely the chaser.
[Laughs] I may steal that… I really can’t go online these days. I will find out the reaction secondhand through Google alerts the next day. Hopefully it’s more positive.
Was there anything you wanted to include in the final season or series as a whole that didn’t end up fitting?
We finally did get some stuff about her family into this final season. I would have liked to have put more meat on those bones. It’s just we had so many characters to give their own story lines that it just became unwieldy. We had a hard time fitting in all that story we had for the series regulars that adding story lines for family members — they were written several times and in a few places shot, and they just kept getting pushed further down the road. I do regret that.
At least we finally got it in the final season. That was great payoff.
We had intended to have them in the finale as well, but we ran out of room. There just wasn’t room for them. At least we know that they’re well and Liv has, to some degree, patched up that relationship. That felt good.
What would we have seen with them in the finale?
You would have gotten a bigger dose of the rapprochement. It had to go so quickly in episode 12 that I just think you would have gotten to play a couple more pages on screen of them working through their history. But episode 12 was such a roller coaster ride, it was so quick-moving that there wasn’t a lot of time for heartfelt scenes. I know that the plan would have been for them to be on that plane back to Portland with them, but we just couldn’t make it happen.
What are you most proud of from this series now that it’s over?
It was a fun place to go to work for five years. It was really the happiest place on Earth. As a television writer, there are so many things that can make your life miserable — a bad relationship with a studio, a bad relationship with a network, a cast that doesn’t like each other or makes your life difficult, a crew that isn’t good, all sorts of things that can make doing television a grind — and we had none of that. It was five years of people going to work happy. In terms of storytelling, I’m fine with where we got on iZombie. I’m not even sure if they told me, “You could have a sixth and seventh season,” I’m not sure what I would have even done with them. I didn’t mind ending the story here. The thing that I will get misty over is not coming to work with this team, from top to bottom. It was a really great ride.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.