iZombie: “Eternal Sunshine of the Caffeinated Mind” takes some very dark turns

“Eternal Sunshine of the Caffeinated Mind” has the best case of the week so far this season, which is good because it’s able to carry an otherwise overstuffed and scattered-feeling episode. It’s not a bad episode. In fact, it’s quite good. It’s just that there’s an enormous amount of story here and several big developments, not all of which are satisfactorily resolved by the end of the hour. What’s most interesting about this episode, though, is how overall dark it is. It’s not uncommon for a comedic case of the week to lighten up the show, but this week’s case is as grim as anything else in the episode.

This was a week for adventurous camera work, which is neat. iZombie has always been a show with a distinctive visual style, and it’s good to see it trying some new things. The murder that kicks off the case of the week happens outside a coffee shop, and it’s filmed from inside where we can just see the air conditioner drop like an anvil on top of Leslie when she walks outside to see some chalk art. Later, while Clive and Liv are investigating the murder, the discovery of a clue is filmed from inside a toilet, which is another very cool shot, subtly funny (because toilet) but not too clever and not silly, either.

For most of this season, the cases of the week have seemed to fade into the background while Liv dealt with other things going on in her rather hectic life, but this episode finds Liv pretty much fully engaged in an actual investigation, and most of her time (until about the last five minutes of the episode) is spent actually working on solving the mystery. It’s the most she’s interacted one on one with Clive in ages, and I’d forgotten how much I love them together. They’re complemented in “Eternal Sunshine” by a great guest cast that includes Kacey Rohl (Hannibal and The Magicians) as the daughter of the murdered woman and Oscar Nunez (The Office) as Leslie’s ex and the owner of a much grumpier coffee shop across the street from Positivity. The only black mark on this little saga is that one of the first persons of interest in the case is Pam, Liv’s cellmate from her brief stint in jail earlier this season. Sadly, Pam is still basically a borderline racist caricature who is used primarily for comic relief in a way that is just uncomfortable to watch now as it was a few months ago.

The actual murder mystery, as it unravels, isn’t particularly complex, but that’s a good thing. What’s really important about it is the way it supports the thematic tone of the rest of the episode and seems to foreshadow darker times ahead for Liv and company. Liv and Clive are a great team, but sometimes the bad guy gets away—or, in this case, gets her boyfriend to take the fall for her. This case of the week isn’t breaking any new ground or upending any expectations, but it’s a good piece of solid storytelling, and it’s one of the most compelling cases Liv has worked on in a while and it just manages to hold together the rest of this episode which works at varying degrees of less well than the murder mystery.

Blaine is making good on his agreement to pay back Stacey Boss the eighty grand Boss said he owes, but things change when Boss’s henchman remembers Blaine’s old nickname, “Chinatown”—and more importantly, how Blaine earned that moniker. Boss is understandably furious and decides to take Blaine out once and for all, which ends with Blaine’s throat slit and his lifeless body buried in a shallow grave. Of course, this isn’t the end of Blaine, who has been exhibiting zombie symptoms for a little while now, and we don’t even have to wait until next week to see Blaine burst from the ground and terrify a group of birdwatching girl scouts. I can’t wait to see Boss’s face when he finds out Blaine is still alive.

Meanwhile, Drake turns out to be an undercover cop, which is something I did not see coming. On the one hand, I’m happy to know that Liv’s new love interest isn’t really one of the bad guys. On the other hand, I’m now concerned that he’s going to end up going the way of Lowell—especially in light of Major’s continued presence (and newfound commitment to honesty) in Liv’s life. I also hate that so much of the episode was spent dealing with Drake stuff. This could have been about a two-minute-long reveal, but instead it was dragged out over much longer than that, and several scenes. It’s not the worst use of time this show has ever exhibited, and I’ve seen a lot of folks excited because Drake’s handler is played by the guy who I guess played the dad on Veronica Mars. Having never gotten into that show, though, I didn’t even make that connection until I read it elsewhere, and I still can’t bring myself to care enough about it to make it worth all the screen time this stuff was given.

The penultimate scene of the episode starts with Major showing up at Liv’s place with the intention of telling her all about the Max Rager and Chaos Killer stuff, but he bails when Gilda/Rita shows up—but not before calling her Rita, which tips Liv off to her roommate’s identity. Although Liv doesn’t know about Rita’s relationship to Vaughn Du Clark, yet, it’s still a small catharsis to see Liv punch Rita in the face and kick her out of the house. I’m not thrilled that this essentially amounts to them fighting over a boy, especially when that boy is Major, and especially when it had started to look like Liv might be moving on, but (and maybe, probably, I’m being overly optimistic) maybe this means that Peyton will move back in with Liv and we’ll get to see more of her in the future.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • “…the crown jewel of our empire…” Oh, Ravi, you beautiful man.
  • There was a piece of sidewalk in Leslie’s brain.
  • Gary Derryberry.
  • I love Don E.’s reaction when he sees Candy eating brains, but Candy’s reaction to his reaction is equally hilarious.
  • David Anders needs to sing more often on this show. Total sploosh.
  • Stacey Boss is a genuinely scary villain, and his D&D speech to Blaine was amazing.

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