iZombie: “Cape Town” is thick with narrative justice

This season of iZombie has been an examination of how Liv’s zombie-ism affects her life and relationships, and this episode really digs deep into the ideas that it’s introduced over the last few weeks. “Cape Town” opens with the inevitable argument between Liv and Major after last week’s ending, moves on to the murder of a masked vigilante, has some fun with new villain Stacey Boss, and then hurtles towards a devastating nadir of a midseason finale.

The biggest surprise of the episode, for me, anyway, was the slight abatement of my hatred for Major. This was helped along by “Cape Town”’s B-plot, which explained Major’s situation a little better and worked to make a little more sense out of what’s going on with his zombie-freezing operation. It’s definitely a case of “telling” rather than “showing,” but it works here, with Major spending most of the episode having a heart to heart with a suicidal zombie prostitute. It’s surprising enough that the show handles this material sensitively and respectfully, but that Major comes out of it a somewhat more-polished turd than he was before is a real achievement.

My only serious complaint about Major’s scenes this week is that the woman he spends all this time talking to is never named. I appreciate that the show does such a good job of differentiating between the woman’s choice to engage in sex work and the sex slavery that’s made her suicidal, and her story is definitely a heart wrenching way to offer a sort of worst (or at least worse) case scenario of the zombie experience. It helps Major to understand Liv a little better, though it’s too little, too late for now, as we see at the end of the episode. Still, the Major stuff this week was effective. When Liv breaks things off, I actually felt bad for him on some level—even if it was on a level somewhere underneath my cheering for even the temporary ending of this relationship.

Ultimately, “Cape Town” becomes an attempt to answer some of the existential questions raised by the predicament of Liv and the other zombies. We see how integral to Liv’s identity her job is and how important her zombie powers have become to her, but we also see how her being a zombie interferes with her ability to function. For all that Liv disparages the masked vigilantes that (apparently) Seattle is just infested with, she sees herself in much the same way. The difference is that Liv actually does have super powers, even if they do come with some significant drawbacks.

In this way, “Cape Town” is also a great example of the show doing some of its best work as an interrogation of genre more generally. The masked hero conceit may be a little on the nose, but it’s well done, and this episode utilizes a lot of smart humor to balance out its darker elements and keep it from just being crushingly depressing.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • Ravi’s face when Liv starts spouting super hero platitudes is amazing. No one could be more delighted by this turn of events than Ravi is.
  • Stacey Boss is quickly becoming my favorite villain in the history of this show. I have a deep appreciation for disgustingly banal evildoers, and this guy is a perfect example of the type.
  • “I’m a brain dealer, not a doctor!”
  • I’m a little surprised at how easily Liv decides to make another zombie. Worth it for Blaine’s “Welcome to Team Z” speech, though.
  • Peyton is missing again this week, as are Gilda/Rita and Dale. I thought Peyton would be back for sure, with both Boss and Blaine in the episode, but no such luck.
  • It’s also getting a little tiresome for women of color to only be included in this show as murderers, negative stereotypes, and otherwise disposable characters.
  • The breakup between Clive and Liv is about a million times more devastating than the one between Liv and Major.
  • Ravi’s face when he sees Hope, though, is the saddest thing in the whole episode. I feel like Ravi’s face is always the place to look when you want to know how to feel about this show.

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