I have a rule, unless a show is particularly egregious (or dumb), I’ll give it 3 episodes. If I can’t remember plot points or character names after 3 episodes, I’m out. If I spend more time rolling my eyes at poor writing than with my eyes on the screen, I’m out. If I’m left angry or annoyed, I’m out.
First, I want to like this show more than I do.
The first episode was charming. Young doctor with a promising career (and the requisite fiancé) decides to cut loose a little and goes to a party. Illicit drug use leads a zombie outbreak… I think anyone can guess where this is going.
Skip to episode 2, “Brother, Can You Spare a Brain?” and SPOILERS galore.
Let’s start with the little stuff:
“It’s always the wife” – when murder-victim (Javier Abano) of the week is found with a paintbrush shoved through his eye, the, thus far, incompetent Detective Babineaux announces “it’s always the wife.” In reality, wives and girlfriends are so much more likely to be murdered by the men in their lives, making this plotline just asinine. But maybe it’s a misdirect, Babineaux will realize his rush to judgment has a mistake and hindered the investigation… But no. Of course, the wife did it in a fit of jealous rage.
“Don’t have sex – you’ll die 1” According to Lola Abano (the murder-victim’s wife) – they had an open marriage. She’s actually in their home being comforted by “her favorite of her husband’s lovers.” Wait is this a positive portrayal of consensual non-monogamy…. I was hopeful too fast. Later Detective Babineaux will proclaim Lola is lying. According to him, women are never ok with consensual non-monogamy. Of course, he is once again right. (Reality note, women are more likely to be polyamorous and are often the instigators of non-monogamy).
“Don’t have sex – you’ll die 2” in general the non-traditional sex lives of the Abano’s are the cause of their strife and Javier’s murder.
“Don’t have sex – you’ll die 3” second zombie, Blaine DeBeers, meets a woman in a bar – they have sex and she’s infected with zombie. He then extorts money from her to supply her with brains. *Let this be a lesson attractive older women, the sexy guy in the bar isn’t actually interested in you (you’re old after all). Oh and if you have sex, you’ll get zombie.
“Don’t have sex – you’ll die 4… or at least be shamed” Eating Latin-Male -Steretype’s brain turns Liv into a sex-crazed maniac. When she eats brains, she gets the memories and skills of the dead. So in this episode she can speak Spanish, draw and paint, and has a huge sex drive. There’s a running theme of Liv being shamed for expressing her sexuality. Certainly, she shows a lack of professionalism in her encounters with both Tito and Tasha (I think that was her name, Lola’s favorite of Javier’s lovers)… The overall vibe is women don’t express sexual feelings (with Tito there are even further consequences for her expression).
“Don’t have sex – you’ll die 5… or at least you’ll hurt his feelings” Liv, under the influence of stereotypical Latin Artist brain (I’ll let you work those stereotypes out), goes to former fiancé’s house. She attempts to seduce him. He rejects her, but it’s his destroyed face we linger on.
“Lesbianism for the Male Gaze” Liv eyeing Tasha and flirting with her is set up to be hot (just unexpected) while her same behavior toward Tito is shown to be ridiculous and is shamed far more heavily.
“Stalking is a Joke” This is one trope I’m sick to death of. Tasha has a stalker ex-boyfriend. Through Liv’s super-power, we see stalker boy, bust in on Javier and Tasha and trash one of Javier’s paintings (with a “now I’ve destroyed something you love” line). I’m not sure if Javier has destroyed Tasha and Tito’s love, or if sex with Javier destroyed Tasha. But it’s all cool, because later when Tito shows up at the art show-wake, Tasha sees Liv and Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti enter the party with Babineaux. She assumes Chakrabarti is a cop too and demands he eject Tito from the party, citing her restraining order against him. Chakrabarti uses this as a way to flirt with her. Um, eww. But Tito is just a stalker right, that’s like a joke, right? Except it’s not. Stalking is horrifying, terrifying, and utterly life-denying.
But first prize has to go to “Assaulting Women as Plot-Point without Consequence to Victim.” In this episode, Liv is reintroduced to the man who infected her with zombie. Remember the party she went to (note to women, don’t go to parties – it’s ok to let loose, but only a little) that’s where she met Blaine DeBeers (who tried to get her high), then goes into zombie mode and scratches her. Now that she’s a zombie, She, of course, has unexplained dreams wherein she can see through his eyes. She uses her police connections to find him. Again, there’s very little response from Liv. This is the man who physically assaulted her. His attack on her has destroyed her life (and made her undead). Her only concern seems to be that she doesn’t trust him around Dr. Chakrabarti. Worse, this episode ends with a cheery, “how becoming a zombie has helped me learn to live” monologue for Liv. Assault, and within this episode the parallel between STIs and Zombie-disease, is totally an event to learn from for women. Yup, when someone assaults you, learn how to paint? WTF?
This is followed up with the attempted RAPE of Liv by stalker-Tito. Tito catches her alone at the Party/Wake/Artshow. He says he’s never heard of Good Cop “horny cop” – She apologizes for “objectifying him,” but he doesn’t care. Woman shows sexual interest equals woman he can fuck. He grabs her, and she ultimately goes “full on zombie” and breaks his nose. Of course at this point, she’s also solved the murder. There’s no reaction from her at the attempted rape. In fact, she seems unfazed when Tito, now revived with a broken nose, comes storming out “Look what you did to me you albino bitch” – Babineaux knocks him out and tells Liv he has more handcuffs in his car. Attemped rape, shake it off Liv – it’s not a big deal at all.
Are we supposed to assume that Babineaux is going to arrest Tito? Of course, the exchanges point to a stark contrast, that Liv as Liv, cannot defend herself. She must use her dehumanizing-zombie powers to escape from her attacker. Babineaux, on the other hand, can almost without effort knock a man unconscious.
Of course, the episode still ends with Liv’s “I’m really alive” monologue. She makes a painting for her shared apartment. She talks about all the time she wasted “studying for a career she cannot have” instead of “spending time with her ex-boyfriend.” Yup, fuck med school; she should have spent more time with my boyfriend (regardless of the fact that her medical background allows her to have a job that sustains her humanity).
Did I mention I really wanted to like this show?