Zombies may not die, but sadly, TV shows about them eventually do. iZombie, The CW’s self-described “zom-com-rom-dram” based on the DC Vertigo series by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred, begins what will ultimately be its final thirteen episodes with tomorrow’s season premiere. For fans who have eagerly awaited the show’s return, it’s bound to be a little bittersweet—as it is for the many actors, writers and producers who work on the show.
“The tough part is saying goodbye,” affirms Executive Producer Rob Thomas. “Going to the wrap party in January and saying goodbye to the crew and the cast, knowing we won’t be working together. This truly has been the happiest show I’ve ever worked on, just in terms of going to work and liking who you hang out with. Enjoying doing the show and being proud of it—leaving that has been difficult.”
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” shares actor David Anders, who plays Blaine on the series. “Any way you want to stack it, to find out that we were picked up for a fifth season, and then immediately turn around the next day and be told that it was our last season… There was a roller coaster of emotion, but Rob and Diane [Ruggiero-Wright] let us know that this is the best thing that could possibly happen.”
While no one who works creatively in television likes learning that their show has been canceled, there’s definitely a silver lining in being given a full season to bring things to a proper conclusion.
“Getting to end the show when I know I’m going to get to end the show… It’s really the first time in my career,” Thomas explains. “I would say every season of television I have ever done has been on the bubble. Not knowing if the end of the season would be the end of the show has always created difficulties—what do we save and what do we give away? This year, knowing that there was going to be an ending was actually kind of liberating. As a writer, that part was kind of fun.”
For Thomas, the situation was unusual for other reasons as well. Proving that good fortune and good timing are two very different things, the creator of Veronica Mars found himself working on a return season for his fan favorite detective series while also writing the swan song for iZombie.
“I knew going into the season that I would be on iZombie for the first four months, and then I would leave to do Veronica Mars, and then come back to write the finale of iZombie,” he shares. “It was imperative that we had a plan. We have one board in the writers’ room that just has all the beats that have to play out so that by the final episode, these things have been accomplished. This is as planned out as we’ve probably ever been.”
One part of the plan is relying a bit less on procedural-like murder cases this year in favor of telling a greater, more far-reaching story.
“In every year, but I would say this year more than most, the closer we get to the end of the season, the smaller the case of the week becomes,” says Thomas. “We certainly go out with a bang. We try to have a really giant, action-packed episode every season finale. This year, I think we have back to back action-packed episodes to the finish the series off.”
For Anders’ Blaine, the enterprising villain certainly starts the season in a good place, having made a lucrative agreement with the militaristic Fillmore-Graves.
“Blaine’s living the best life he’s ever had when we see him,” Anders reveals. “There’s a whole montage with him at his new beautiful house, surrounded by beautiful women. Everything’s going great and according to plan. Fillmore-Graves needs him and he needs Fillmore-Graves’ money, or he likes it, at least. Fillmore-Graves is trying to keep New Seattle in order as best they can. It’s very much the Wild West inside of its walls. It’s easier said than done, getting everyone to check their guns at the saloon door.”
The precarious state of New Seattle will be a dominant theme on iZombie, something that Thomas and his writing team see as reflective of the current state of the world. As viewers undoubtedly noticed, iZombie began exploring political themes last season, but the series seems less interested in taking an ideological side than expressing its creators’ concerns over the state of our society.
“We’re in a nation that is as polarized as ever, and I feel like we’re asking the question [with iZombie]—‘Will the center hold?’” explains Thomas. “This thing we call America, is it going to be split apart? That’s what we want to play with Seattle. There are militant humans, and there are militant zombies. Both sides are very afraid that if they don’t act first, they’re going to be decimated. It’s an incredibly fragile peace in Seattle, and it only becomes worse. When the U.S. government stops the shipment of brains to Seattle at the end of season four, it makes things much tougher. In season five, it’s a powder keg. The heroes of our show are really just trying to convince Seattle that it’s worth all hanging together rather than fracturing.”
Of course, this is iZombie we’re talking about here. The show cuts its commentary with plenty of humor, and this upcoming season is no different. As is typical, many of these come via the increasingly eccentric brains that Rose McIver’s Liv finds herself consuming, and according to Thomas, one of the best comes early in the season.
“One of my favorites of all time is Liv on codependent dancer brain [in the third episode],” he shares. “That one made me so happy. The dancer part was fun in it, but the added Diane Ruggiero-Wright genius of making it a codependent dancer so that Liv could rope Ravi into the whole thing? That really made that episode fun for me.”
That’s really just the beginning, though, which becomes clear as Thomas continues. “Another fun moment is Liv and Ravi both accidentally eat the brain of a hard-edged car salesman, and it just happens to be when they’re trying to sell tickets for a policeman raffle. That gets incredibly out of hand. They both start sounding like Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. Then there’s another one where the most popular kid at a high school gets murdered, and he happens to be a kid that throws wild parties and lives next to Blaine, so Blaine’s a lead suspect. But the kid in question turns out to be quite a bit like Ferris Bueller, so it’s kind of Liv on Ferris Bueller brain. That’s another really fun one.”
Speaking of Blaine, he gets his brain-influenced moments to shine as well, something that Anders was more than ready for.
“I wish I was asked to convey brains more,” he admits. “In this coming season, I do a femme fatale brain, like in ’40s and ’50s film noir, which is fun. That same episode, Rose is doing a fast-talking private eye, so we have a bunch of fast-talking scenes with each other. It’s fantastic.”
iZombie’s new season may just be getting started, but since it’s the last, the show’s creator can’t help but look back at how far the series has come.
“It’s certainly evolved,” Thomas acknowledges. “In the original pilot, Liv eats a brain and it’s a kleptomaniac prostitute from Romania. The original idea was that in every brain, Liv gets one good thing and one bad thing. We thought about it as a tool.
“But as we moved along, it was less about finding a tool that would help her solve the case or not solve the case. It became, what brain would be fun? What would be a fun thing for the audience to watch at home? We’re going to look for fun scenes and fun brains, and if we sometimes have to sacrifice realism—whatever realism is in a world with zombies that eat brains and get visions—we’re going do just fine in our quest to make sure it’s a fun show.”
Of course, as fans know, iZombie may be fun…but it still has plenty of teeth.
iZombie returns to The CW on Thursday at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST). For all the latest iZombie news, features and conversation, click here.