iZombie doesn’t have a good name. It sounds like someone smashed together two of the most recognizable cultural trends of the 2000s, then released a TV show about it in 2015. And it’s on the CW, a network most well-known for sexy young people shockingly stabbing each other.
But iZombie is also really good. It’s a clever mix of the supernatural and the mundane, the procedural with the serialized, the dramatic and the silly. It’s back tonight, starting the second half of what so far has been a fantastic second season.
And it has a secret weapon for converting skeptics, just a couple minutes into every single episode: its intro.
This has everything you want in an opening: it’s got energy, it’s got style, and it explains what’s going on with the show. The first time I saw it I went from “I don’t know about this” to “all right, I’m in!”
So let’s take a look at what makes the iZombie intro such a great, well, introduction for the show.
“Stop, I’m Already Dead” is a 2006 song from Deadboy and the Elephantmen. It’s actually a bit of a mess of a song, running through three or four different ideas without settling on one in particular. The parts which get edited into the show’s intro, though, are the best elements of the song, which creates immediate momentum for the show.
But the type of song also tells a story here. “Stop, I’m Already Dead” sounds exactly like the 2006 song it is, toward the end of the garage rock revival and before the Appalachian forest trend in modern popular rock, all pounding drums, guttural noises, and driving guitars — clearly more Strokes than Mumfords. It announces that iZombie isn’t a teen show — not that teen shows are bad, but it would be inaccurate — and it does so without calling direct attention to itself.
iZombie is based on a Vertigo comic book of the same name, by writer Chris Roberson and artist Michael Allred, who was hired to draw the show’s introduction. Allred is an important figure in comics for his incredibly distinctive style, mixing mundane faces with over-the-top emotions. He’s arguably most famous for his time on X-Factor/X-Statix at the start of the 2000s, a hyperviolent-but-loving satire of superheroes and celebrity.
Allred’s style screams that its story is something both dramatic and silly, serious but able to poke fun at itself. iZombie, developed by Veronica Mars creative team Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright, is decidedly of the same school. It’s both witty and dark, using those wild swings of emotion and short-term/long-term plots to be consistently entertaining. The show’s story and pace isn’t the same as the comic’s, but the style shows the distinct parallels between the two.
“How does a show about zombies even work?” is a pretty valid question right off the bat for iZombie. The intro doesn’t explain directly, but it does show the pieces of the puzzle. Cop partner. Visions from brain-eating. Confused fiancé. It doesn’t describe exactly what’s going on (the show’s main villain isn’t even labeled in it) but it provides enough to make for a comforting baseline.
(For the uninitiated: the main character Liv is a zombie who works at the morgue for brains. She gets the personalities of and visions from the people whose brains she eats, which she uses to help solve crimes. And maybe prevent the zombie apocalypse.)
It also sticks in the brain — comic-style sequential art is well-documented as one of the best ways to teach. iZombie never has an issue with characters’ roles being unclear.
Perhaps the best thing about the iZombie intro is that it’s fast. The TV show intro is something of a lost art, with networks cutting back to the point where some of them — like iZombie’s network-mate The Vampire Diaries — have only a title card up for a couple seconds. So propulsive, effective introductions like, for example, Buffy’s 49-second credits just don’t exist anymore.
Clocking in at roughly 25 seconds, iZombie’s sequence is short enough to not get in the way of the episode, while conveying all the important comfort, motivation, and information the show needs. It’s a great beginning, which should bash through any skepticism that a show called iZombie might not be good.