iZombie: “The Hurt Stalker” is a showcase for some of this show’s biggest problems

I feel like I’m decidedly in the minority with my ambivalence about “The Hurt Stalker” when all the other reviews of it I’ve seen have been glowing. It’s not a bad episode, and it tells us a lot more about Clive, who has been desperately in need of characterization for some time now, but a lot of the episode deals with Liv and Major drama, which is my least favorite thing about this season so far. Probably because Liv and Major drama is objectively boring, and this episode really highlighted to me just how unfair and hypocritical Major is being through all of this.

First, though, we get a big dose of Clive stuff right at the beginning of the episode, as he’s the initial suspect in the murder investigation of the week. It turns out the woman who was murdered was someone Clive dated a few months ago and who subsequently stalked him and menaced his new girlfriend. The evidence against Clive, of course—his gun was the murder weapon, and he had threatened the murdered woman just an hour before her death—is obviously too damning for him to actually be the killer, so the challenge for Liv and Ravi this week is to clear Clive’s name by finding the real murderer.

My biggest problem with the Clive stuff this week is that, while we do learn a lot more about him—He plays piano! He cooks! He love Game of Thrones!—all of this information is literally told to us in one conversation with Dale very early in the episode. There are a couple of scenes later in the episode where this information is revisited, but there’s nothing new introduced after of this initial reveal. As adorable as it is seeing Ravi poking gentle fun at Clive about Game of Thrones and watching Liv and Ravi together trying to get Clive to admit to cooking for them, it can’t reasonably be counted as characterization when Dale told us all about it in thirty seconds twenty minutes ago.

The other order of the day is more exploration of what Liv and Major’s relationship looks like now that she’s a zombie. There’s some great stuff going on here, and a couple of really powerful moments, but I can’t help feeling frustrated at how Major seems to have already checked out of the relationship. At the same time Major’s tendency to hold Liv to an entirely unfair standard continues to be infuriating. By the end of “The Hurt Stalker,” I was heartbroken for Liv, but for entirely different reasons than I think the show intends for us to be. Major is just the worst, and Liv does not deserve what he’s going to end up putting her through.

I missed Blaine and Peyton this week, but Vaughn du Clark was back, which was nice. I loved the scene between him and Gilda/Rita, although that was pretty much the only part of the episode where she showed to advantage. The rest of her time on screen was spent being subtly hostile towards Liv—who is totally oblivious, apparently, to the fact that her roommate hates her—and being creepily jealous over Major, who she also despises. I’d be the last person to argue that there’s no place for the occasional one-dimensional character in fiction, but Gilda/Rita is just terrible. She seems to be motivated pretty much only by hatred and spite, with no softer feelings at all, and she verges on being a misogynistic caricature at times.

As much as I love this show, it continues to be plagued by serious problems in the way it chooses to represent women. Liv is a great character, and I like Peyton, but Peyton is rarely around and even more rarely in scenes with Liv, in spite of their purported best friendship. Dale could be promising, but we only ever see her with (or about) Clive, and Gilda/Rita could be a wonderful antagonist if the show was willing to dedicate more time to developing her, but they don’t. For a show that is so well-known and well-loved for its excellent female protagonist, it’s a shame that it can’t figure out how to better utilize its supporting cast of women.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • Liv in jail felt like a situation with legitimately high stakes, but I feel like the woman she shared a cell with who was screaming about Ferguson felt like a horrendously racist caricature of a black criminal “playing the race card.” There are seldom women of color on this show, and that this one was set up in such a way that the show seems to be implying that she almost deserves to have her brain eaten is pretty horrifying.
  • As much as I can’t stand Major and Liv together, the engagement ring in the safe was really well-done.
  • Best use of “Karma Chameleon” ever.
  • It’s never a good idea to go snooping in your significant other’s devices, and that clearly doesn’t work out for Liv here, but I hate that this whole episode worked to essentially minimize and delegitimize Liv’s feelings and deflect her valid concerns about her relationship with Major—who is in fact being dishonest with Liv about multiple, important, probably deal-breaking things that she deserves to know about.

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