iZombie: “Dead Beat” and “Salivation Army” were an amazing end to a great season

Wow. Just. Wow. iZombie sure knows how to end a season. It would probably be impossible for a show as sprawling and juggling so many concurrent plots as iZombie to wrap everything up to everyone’s satisfaction, and I do have some issues with the finale, but mostly I’m just blown away by how overall excellent it turned out to be. Between “Dead Beat” and “Salivation Army” there was enough resolution to feel some closure at the end of the season, but there are still a few loose ends and a potentially great setup for next season’s big bad.

“Dead Beat” is all about the fallout from Major’s arrest at the end of last week’s episode, and it brings all of the Chaos Killer stuff to a satisfying, if heartwrenching, close. It’s legitimately great television, possibly the best episode of the season. Dale and Clive struggle to build their respective cases against Major while Ravi and Liv try to find a way to get Major the brains that he needs to stay human, and it’s so tense. The episode opens with the FBI showing up to search Ravi and Major’s house, which totally blindsides Liv and culminates in Ravi’s arrest as a possible accessory to murder.

Things get worse before they get better, though. The show is a little hand-wavy about exactly how Ravi avoids charges, but he’s soon out of police custody and able to work with Liv and Peyton to try and find solutions to Major’s problems. With Ravi and Liv both cut off from the morgue, they go to Blaine for brains, only to be denied by Don E, who is still taking advantage of Blaine’s amnesia in order to take over the business. Next, Ravi and Liv decide to unfreeze one of Major’s “victims” in order to weaken the case against him, only to find that someone else has already found Major’s storage space and removed the bodies.

This whole episode is an exercise in creating just the right amount of tension for the characters so that it’s believable and the stakes feel truly high, and it’s proof that iZombie isn’t afraid to go dark. Things get seriously harrowing as Major’s condition deteriorates, and the sense of urgency that pervades the episode is marvelously crafted and makes Liv’s eventual confession to Clive about all the zombie stuff—and Clive’s reaction—a great scene of high drama. This drama is further heightened by the amount of time “Dead Beat” dedicates to Clive and Dale’s police work. These two work really well together, and though their relationship hasn’t gotten a ton of screen time in the back half of this season they have an easy chemistry and a lived-in dynamic that feels real and makes the fallout from Clive’s decision to drop the case against Major hard to watch. I’m not entirely thrilled with Dale being gone—though I think we can still hope to see her next season—but at least she didn’t die tragically.

Dale’s confrontation with Clive is only topped in this episode by the penultimate scene in the morgue, when Liv is attacked by Vaughn’s hired gun, Janko, and Ravi comes to the rescue. It’s not often that we see Rahul Kohli do such physical work on the show, but he pulls it off. I loved that he was so quick on the uptake and didn’t even pause before rushing out to retrieve Liv from the assassin. Kohli also really sells Ravi’s trauma after killing the man, and his shell-shocked reaction felt natural to the character. My only quibble here is how quickly he seemed to recover at the end of the episode. I always enjoy the Liv-Major-Ravi-Peyton friend group hanging out together, and their final get together here is in some ways a nice way to end an overall extremely dark episode, but Ravi’s quick recovery after killing a man in self-defense and Major’s similarly speedy rebound from his time in jail both felt a little too sunny. That said, the moment passes quickly, interrupted by Liv’s vision of the rest of Major’s abducted zombies, who are still alive in Vaughn Du Clark’s basement laboratory.

“Salivation Army” (which is an amazing episode title) opens the morning after Liv’s vision. Peyton is upset because the mayor has called off her investigation of Mr. Boss’s crime ring, and the whole gang has to figure out what to do about the zombies locked up in the Max Rager basement. Fortunately, Major has a plan, albeit a shaky one, to infiltrate the upcoming party that Vaughn is throwing to celebrate the sale of the company to some obviously shady military contractors—Fillmore Graves Enterprises, which is an excellently silly name.

Meanwhile, Mr. Boss is making his move against Don E, sending a couple of his hired guys to take out the competition. Poor Chief takes a bullet between the eyes, but Don E manages to only take a couple to the chest, while also deflecting attention to Blaine. The ensuing B-plot is by far the weakest part of the finale, unfortunately. After apparently getting back together with Ravi early in the episode, Peyton finds herself kidnapped by Mr. Boss’s guys in order to draw out Blaine based upon Don E’s claim that Blaine was in love with the DA. This leaves Ravi and Blaine to work together in order to rescue Peyton—they play the damsel in distress trope pretty straight—and leads to a bizarre sequence in which Blaine (still supposedly suffering from amnesia) rushes in like John McClane to save Peyton, and then Ravi walks in on Blaine comforting Peyton and feels jealous. It’s a subplot that borders on nonsensical, utilizes stupid sexist tropes, and doesn’t actually resolve the Mr. Boss storyline, Blaine’s amnesia, or anything else at all. I’m fine with having Boss carry over into the next season since I like him as a villain, but I could have done without literally everything else that happened regarding him this episode.

On the bright side, the Max Rager plot works really well, and I loved getting to see Liv, Major, and Clive work together to deal with the zombie outbreak at the party—obviously this was a thing that was going to happen after all the teasing and threatening of the zombie apocalypse in the last couple of episodes—and, ultimately, deal with Vaughn Du Clark. The final sequence in the Max Rager basement is for the most part really well-done, if a bit rushed-feeling. It’s basically just an emotional rollercoaster as Liv and company find the imprisoned zombies, encounter Rita, are separated by Vaughn, figure out that Drake has been damaged by the “cure” that was tested on him, have to fight their way free of it all again, during which Liv has to kill Drake to save Clive, then Major abandons Vaughn to Rita… It’s a whole lot of climax to jam into just a few minutes in a single episode, but they manage to pull it off, leaving me with just a couple of quibbles.

First, I would have liked to see Liv get a little more time to mourn Drake and process her having to be the one who killed him. Sure, I get the feeling that really this whole thing is more about Liv’s friendship with Clive than anything else, but still. Drake played a relatively significant role in Liv’s life this season, and it seems like his death was about everything but him and his relationship with Liv—especially since getting Drake out of the way opens the door to Liv getting back together with Major again. I’m not a huge fan of love triangles, but this is the second time that Liv has had a love interest killed off in order to make room for Major. If they’re an endgame couple, fine, but simply killing off other guys when they become inconvenient is lazy writing, and it diminishes any emotional investment the audience can even have in Liv’s love life if we know that her boyfriends are disposable.

Second, I’m a little bummed out about Rita dying. Her time as a zombie, and especially her final interactions with her father, made her a somewhat more sympathetic character, and I would have loved to see what she would do while under the influence of Vaughn’s brain. She would have made a great sidekick to Vivian, even, if she could have ingratiated herself to the new boss. Alternatively, she could have been an interesting frenemy for Liv if the show would ever seriously consider dedicating some time to Liv’s relationships with other women. It just seems like a missed opportunity, is all. There’s a certain sense of justice to the way that Rita and Vaughn met their ends, but I just really liked Rita and could see other potential uses for the character even in the absence of her father.

Of the two episodes that make up the finale, “Dead Beat” is definitely the stronger one, focused as it is, really, on just barreling towards bringing Clive in on the zombie secret and doing a last little bit of final setup for “Salivation Army.” The final episode of the season is sadly weighed down by a frankly ridiculous secondary plot. It wasn’t awful, though, and Vaughn’s ending in particular was a pretty much perfect way to wrap up this chapter of the show. Passing the villain torch to Vivian and her zombie army creates a ton of new and potentially interesting storytelling opportunities, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • Brant Stone is exactly the sort of delightfully sleazy lawyer I would expect to be friends with Vaughn Du Clark.
  • “We now take Bitcoin!” Oh, Don E. Never change.
  • I can’t wait until Blaine gets his memories back, if he hasn’t already. Amnesia Blaine is just not that much fun to watch.
  •  “…as a friend.” Clive is generally so undemonstrative about his friendship with Liv, and his pleading with her to think about her decision to stand by Major is genuinely touching and represents a real evolution of the character.
  • Major and Liv are definitely the biggest Peyton and Ravi shippers of all. Major’s “Sup!” and the looks of delight on both their faces might have been the single funniest moment of the night.
  • “A prison theme. White people.”
  • “Who knew that this evil underground lair gig would have actual perks?”
  • “A massive zombie outbreak means never having to say you’re sorry.”
  • Vivian Stoll is already a fascinating character, and she basically steals every scene she’s in. The Matchbox 20 cover at the end while Vivian and her people snack on Rob Thomas’s brain helps to create an absolutely perfect final tableau to end the season with.

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