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Image: Saeed Adyani / Netflix

The Quirks of Being Undead: Santa Clarita Diet and iZombie

With shows like the Walking Dead still lumbering on and even Zombieland getting a sequel in 2019, it’s clear that the undead aren’t going away anytime soon. Since the release of Night of the Living Dead, Zombies have had a tight grip in our culture across a wide array of mediums, and for a good reason. They work as an effective catalyst to show how humanity can be lost to fear and how society can collapse or unite in the face of the end.

In more recent years however, zombie media has shifted the focus from simply fighting the dead to actually being dead. Two shows which made a success of this are the Netflix Original Santa Clarita Diet and The CW’s apology for making Riverdale: iZombie. Both shows have finished airing as of 2019. It therefore is now an appropriate time to dive into what made them both so bloody (pun intended) fun and whether they are worth your time.

Our heroines must now ensure their zombie state remains secret, and, more pressingly, find human flesh to satisfy their hunger

Both shows have the same starting premise. Our main heroines, Sheila in Santa and Liv Moore (get it) in iZombie, get turned into zombies and now must after-live with the consequences. Both of our heroines can now live forever and have a new lust for life, but also must now ensure their zombie state remains secret, and, more pressingly, find human flesh to satisfy their hunger.

For anyone who doesn’t handle gore well, iZombie and especially Santa will not be for you. The former focuses mostly on brain consumption (and shows a number of creative ways to cook them) while Sheila, in the latter, is a particularly messy eater of human flesh. That being said, they both have quite an optimistic, fun and self-aware tone which make them light viewing most of the time.

Santa Clarita Diet is a suburban comedy with the added bonus of having a zombie twist. Its main couple, Sheila and Joel, are living a boring suburban life with their teenage daughter Abby, until their priorities radically change after one horrific dinner. Much of the comedy stems from how inept Joel and Sheila are at murder and being parents, which makes the gory parts of the show easier to swallow.

You quickly come to care for this dysfunctional family, partly because they’re all lovably hopeless but also because they genuinely care for one another

The show definitely takes a few episodes to get going but you quickly come to care for this dysfunctional family, partly because they’re all lovably hopeless but also because they genuinely care for one another. Sheila and Joel have wonderful chemistry as a couple and Abby is one of the best teenage characters in recent years – smarter than her parents but still struggling around boys and with her identity as a potential activist. Even Eric, the nerdy sidekick and foil to Abby, proves to be a lot of fun as he finds himself embroiled in the lives of the living dead. With episodes running at 20-minutes long, it’s a light, funny and extremely bloody show which gradually grows more absurd, but in the best way possible.

iZombie makes for an ideal follow-up if you’re still hungry for more. Using the template of a crime-procedural, it follows new zombie Liv Moore, who gives up her career to work in the morgue in order to get access to brains. However, there are side effects to her new diet. She gets flashbacks of the murder victims’ lives, and temporarily takes on the victim’s personality. The former makes her perfect to help out as a crime investigator and the latter makes her perfect as an entertaining lead, as every week switches from dominatrix to frat boy to dancer to Youtuber. Like many of The CW’s shows this is a very self-aware, silly and pop-culture fuelled ride. Its developing plot is intriguing, it has wonderful villains to face our quipping heroes and while the show itself sometimes wobbles under requirements, the characters are enough to see you through the mayhem.

If both shows have deficiencies however it’s in their endings. Santa was cancelled after three seasons and ends on a cliffhanger. iZombie has the opposite problem, and  ties up all its loose threads so tight that it struggles in an overdone epilogue. That being said, if you’re not already sick to death of the undead, the journeys here may just be worth it.

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