Category Archives: Television

iZombie: The first half of Looking for Mr. Goodbrain is all about unfortunate implications

It’s not a great time to be a tertiary/guest character on iZombie in the first half of the season three finale. The title reference for “Looking for Mr. Goodbrain, Part 1” is to a 1977 film about a young woman’s self-destruction via sex and drugs, and this episode sadly has some of that movie’s worst tendencies, specifically a penchant for inflicting unreasonable punishments upon its female characters. It’s not that this is a bad episode of iZombie: it’s a good set up for next week’s finale, they made a smart choice by skipping any Blaine/Don E. stuff this week, and it ends with a genuinely surprising and upsetting turn of events. It’s just that it’s also an episode with some unfortunate implications that suck a good deal of the fun out of the room if you think much about them.

**Spoilers ahead.**

Once again, the show eschews the case of the week format in favor of having Liv eat a brain that is more intimately involved with the overarching storyline of the season. This time, the brain du jour belongs to Ravi’s old boss from the CDC, Katty Kupps, and there’s much to be infuriated about regarding this development. It’s irritating that Katty is a character who seems to have been introduced for just this purpose; she doesn’t get much backstory of her own, she hasn’t been treated with much respect in her interactions with the show’s main cast, and she’s disposed of here so brutally and with so little ceremony it feels positively indecent. When we find out, two thirds of the way through the episode, that Katty had been picking up men nightly in the hotel bar and going to bed with them, it’s hard not to put that together with the title allusion and conclude that Katty’s murder was a culmination of her own self-destructive tendencies as much as anything else. In a show that is otherwise largely sex-positive and mostly non-judgmental, this might be easy to overlook if Katty was the only woman who seemed to be being narratively punished for her sex life this week, but she’s not.

Liv, under the influence of Katty’s brain (but also having her own ambivalent feelings about her fledgling relationship with Justin) spends much of the episode following Katty’s patterns, though she does stop short of having sex with any the human men she picks up. It’s only late in the episode that Liv is tempted enough to go through with the infidelity she’s been flirting with this whole time. After finally clarifying her relationship status with Justin (they’re officially exclusive), Liv still finds herself drawn to the hotel bar, and this time she runs into Chase Graves. This hook-up has been teased most of the season, and as handsome and sweet as Justin is, Liv has definitely had a bit more straight-up chemistry with Chase (who… oh, my god, is that body for real?). Considering Liv’s poor track record with men so far, it was even easy to root for Liv and Chase, if only to protect Justin from her, but not like this. While picking up men in a hotel bar isn’t exactly Liv at her best, she and Chase have a seemingly genuine connection before going up to his room to bang on his desk, and it’s kind of heartbreaking for Liv to end the episode with a strong and well-founded suspicion that Chase might be involved in Katty’s murder, especially when it’s framed in a way that almost suggests that Liv is stupid and should have known better.

The woman who comes out the worst this week, however, and by a long shot, is Major’s friend Natalie, who took the cure he gave her and has since moved to Italy. She’s back in Seattle for a few days, however, to wrap up her affairs there and move her stuff into storage before returning to her new home, and she takes the time to visit Major and thank him for everything he’s done for her. Major is recently unemployed, having been fired from Fillmore Graves when Chase found out he was human, and he offers to help Natalie move things. After a long day of lugging boxes around, they get back to Major’s place, things get romantic, and next thing you know Natalie’s asking him to come to Italy with her and Major is saying yes. He just has to go to his Fillmore Graves going away party first, and he takes Natalie with him—and she’s promptly killed in the blast when Harley Johns shows up and suicide bombs the place. Natalie has always been something of a plot device for Major’s storyline rather than a character in her own right, but this is a pretty obvious case of fridging that is both wholly unnecessary and wildly frustrating, as it’s not at all clear based on the show’s previous treatment of Natalie whether or not Major will be deeply affected by her death. Either way, it was always bad enough that the show played the Hooker with a Heart of Gold trope so blandly straight with Natalie, and is disappointing that they so casually have killed her off right as she was about to get a happy ending. That it directly followed her having sex, in an episode where she isn’t the only woman to have bad things happen to her after having some sex, only solidifies the connection: sex leads to bad things happening to you.

While Major is caught up with his romance with Natalie and Liv is in the midst of some kind of existential crisis, it’s Clive and Peyton who make the most of somewhat minimal screen time. New Mayor Baracus asks Peyton to be his chief of staff, which would be a significant promotion and great opportunity for an ambitious woman under thirty, but she’s still suspicious that he’s involved in the Weckler murder. Though Peyton can’t completely clear Baracus of the crime, she does test him by bringing up the case, only to find that he doesn’t show any obvious signs of guilt. Liv advises Peyton to take the job, and it seems likely that she will. Meanwhile, Clive is doing most of the heavy lifting in the actual investigation of Katty Kupps’ murder, and it leads him right back to the house where Weckler’s daughter is staying, which we find out is also the home of Carey Gold from Fillmore Graves. Between this connection and Liv finding the napkin in Chase’s room with Katty’s name and room number on it, it’s starting to look like Fillmore Graves may be up to their collective ears in whatever is going on this season.

Miscellany:

  • Ravi breaks the news to Liv about the front-page zombie story that he’s the source of, but Liv doesn’t seem to actually care that much about the source of the story and it’s somewhat glossed over in general.
  • I don’t really understand the bioterrorism red herring. I mean, it’s a red herring, obviously, and by the end of the episode it seems much more likely that Katty was investigating the zombie outbreak after all, but the bioterrorism angle never gets explored enough for it to properly do its job as a red herring.
  • I hated the trailer scenes of Liv having visions of Katty having sex with Ravi, but they weren’t terrible in context.
  • “Wake up sheeple!” surprised a cackle out of me.
  • Ravi and Liv interrogating the racist lady and then segueing to the adorable Sikh dad was perfectly done and extremely funny.
  • Harley Johns’ suicide bombing was genuinely unexpected, but it also makes so much sense for a character who has lost everyone he loved and has been turned against his will into something he hates.
  • I always miss Blaine when he’s gone, but it was a smart choice to skip him this week.

iZombie: In “Conspiracy Weary” about half the season’s chickens come home to roost

After expanding the story and cast by quite a bit in the last few weeks, “Conspiracy Weary” sees that trend reversing in preparation for the season’s two-part finale. Not all of it works, at least not entirely and not all in this episode, but it seems almost certain that some of the show’s more questionable storytelling decisions—like everything to do with Shawna—are going to turn out to be important in the next couple of weeks. Personally, I’m still not entirely sold on the necessity of these story threads, but we’ll see, starting next week, if the payoff is going to be worth the sometimes tiresome buildup.

**Spoilers ahead.**

We start at the shooting range, where shit gets very real very fast once Liv and Blaine show up. Ravi is hurt (only a little, fortunately) and Rachel flees into the night about the time that a group of Fillmore Graves soldiers shows up. Liv and Blaine take down one Bo Johns while two of the other zombie truthers are shot by the Fillmore Graves crew when they try to engage in a shootout instead of surrendering. Meanwhile, Harley Johns manages to give everyone the slip. It’s a taut, exciting action sequence, overall, and a great way to open the episode, fully delivering on the promise of last week’s cliffhanger. The zombie truther body count is even slightly surprising, since the show tends to avoid having its protagonists straight up murder people, even when they are kind of asking for it. The highlight of these early scenes, however, isn’t the action. Instead, it’s Blaine, Liv and Don. E. companionably sharing the brain of Bo Johns.

Once again, the show eschews the case of the week format in favor of advancing its bigger storylines, and Liv on conspiracy theorist brain is smartly done, with some of the funniest brain-eating-antics-related moments of the season. Liv and Peyton working to unravel the actual conspiracy surrounding Weckler’s murder and the connection to zombies is a great opportunity for their friendship to get some much-appreciated screen time, and some real strides are made in that investigation as Peyton gets the memory card Weckler was killed over and deduces that Weckler’s daughter, Tatum, is a zombie. Unfortunately, none of this is discovered before Baracus wins the mayoral election.

Liv also works with Blaine and Don E. to try and figure out where the Johns brothers’ secret property is. The guns recovered from Harley’s truck at the start of the episode turn out to be the same weapons that were used to kill Wally and Anna, which has Clive very invested in finding Harley Johns. When they finally track Harley down, however, Liv has a last-minute vision (right as Clive shoots Harey) that proves that Harley didn’t kill Wally and Anna. Fortunately/unfortunately, Harley isn’t dead; he’s a zombie, a revelation that will likely be dealt with early in next week’s episode. It seems obvious, especially in hindsight, that the Johns brothers weren’t going to turn out to be Wally’s killers, and by the end of “Conspiracy Weary” it seems likely that their deaths are tied in some unknown (and not obvious) fashion to the broader zombies vs. humans plot, the Weckler case, Baracus, and Fillmore Graves.

Bafflingly, we get some more of the Major and Shawna thing that started last week. She seems nice, and she encourages Major to start going out again, even convincing him to go dancing with her, but a short bit of sleuthing on Liv’s part (possibly influenced by the paranoia caused by Liv eating conspiracy theorist brains, but possibly just jealousy, though Liv denies this) turns up that Shawna has been sharing photos and videos of herself with Major since the beginning of their relationship. Here’s the thing, though. Why is Major so shocked and upset by this? He knew that she was taking pictures. He posed for them. He knew that she was active on social media, and he was aware of her Tumblr. It’s normal for people to post photos of themselves on social media, and none of what Shawna shared was particularly embarrassing. Sure, she should have been clearer in explicitly asking Major’s permission to share his image, especially considering his history as the Chaos Killer, and it makes sense that he would be upset about that, but at the same time, what did he think she was doing with all these pictures?

The show frames Shawna’s social media use as weird and suggests that she’s somehow trying to exploit Major, even though it’s not clear what she could gain here other than some notoriety (and then only if she was publicizing Major’s history). Really, though, the stuff Shawna posted is pretty run-of-the-mill honeymoon phase relationship pictures, and while she wasn’t explicit with Major about what she was doing, she also wasn’t hiding it; Liv was able to literally just google Shawna to find her totally public Tumblr. The episode takes pains to portray Shawna as “crazy,” but nothing she does actually is crazy. Even when Major unceremoniously dumps her—she very reasonably apologized and offered to take down the photos immediately when he confronted her about it—Shawna is upset but not unhinged in anyway. We’re meant to think that the shirts being sold at the end of the episode with Major’s photos on them are Shawna’s doing, but it, frankly, seems out of character for her, and it seems at least somewhat likely that this is a coincidence and that Shawna is going to turn out to have some other importance to the story. We must hope so, anyway. Otherwise, this whole Shawna subplot—introducing her just for the sex fort gag and to give Major a “crazy ex-girlfriend”—feels like a huge waste of time.

Finally, it’s not just Major who’s having girl trouble this week. Ravi’s friend and seemingly potential new love interest, Rachel, turns out to be a journalist, and she manages to get Ravi to tell her everything about zombies, which she promptly turns into a fear-mongering frontpage piece in a local newspaper. The episode ends with this, which, after the revelations of Baracus’s election win and Harley Johns being a zombie, leaves things very well set up for an exciting two-parter starting next week.

Miscellany:

  • It’s not just me, right? Chase Graves is obviously super into Liv.
  • Peyton and Clive both have the best reaction to Liv’s brain-influenced behaviors, but nothing beats the faces Clive makes when he’s just silently judging.
  • I could listen to Liv, Don E. and Blaine talk about conspiracy theories forever.
  • It seems very unethical for Peyton to pressure a child to comply with her off-the-books investigation like that. Isn’t this girl just fifteen or so?
  • How did Liv know to text Major about Harley? I mean, thank goodness she did, because I was about 95% certain poor Justin was about to die tragically like all the rest of Liv’s boyfriends, but this scenario was extremely contrived.
  • How is it possible that there aren’t officially licensed “Killer Abs” shirts already available to buy?

iZombie: “Return of the Dead Guy” wastes time dredging up the past

There’s a lot going on every week on iZombie, but “Return of the Dead Guy” is extraordinarily busy, even by iZombie standards. The show is juggling multiple different plots, even adding new ones, and while this is something iZombie has always done with mixed success, this week’s mix is more bad than good. Still, the good parts are very good. It’s just a shame that they’re tied to garbage material like “Fort Lust” that does nothing but drag down the episode.

**Spoilers below.**

The highest stakes plot this week is, fortunately, one of the ones that works best in this episode. After Harley and his zombie truthers showed up at the morgue last week, they’ve commandeered Ravi and repaired to the gun shop, where they have Don E. imprisoned and a live video feed set up to document his declining health as they starve him of brains. With his phone confiscated and surrounded by dudes with guns, Ravi is still determined to prevent the torture planned for Don E. Eventually, Ravi manages to get Don E.’s phone and call Blaine, but by the end of the episode Ravi and Don E. are still waiting on their rescue and shit just got real. With the view counter for the livestream over 100k, Harley and his friends are ready to go to town on Don E., and the episode ends with Ravi physically blocking their way and Harley putting a literal gun to Ravi’s head. Of course, the viewer knows that Blaine is outside, with Liv, and gearing up to save the day (finally), and this does diminish the overall effect of the attempted cliffhanger, but it still works well. It’s especially nice to see Ravi getting a storyline that takes his character growth in a positive direction and gives him a chance to do something heroic.

The other storyline that works in this episode is Blaine’s, if only because villainous Blaine is vastly more fun—even absent David Anders’ singing—than nice Blaine ever was. This week, we get a showdown of sorts between Blaine and Mr. Boss, rather sooner than expected, when Boss shows up at the funeral home and shoots Blaine as soon as he opens the door. Obviously, this doesn’t go well for Boss. Blaine trusses him up, lays him out in a casket and then gives him a crash course on the existence of zombies. There’s a lot to love about Boss’s reaction to this news, which is neither the easy(-ish) acceptance of Ravi and Clive nor the fear and hatred of the truthers. Instead, Boss is skeptical, or perhaps “violently disbelieving,” and he continues trying to kill Blaine until it becomes extremely obvious that it’s not going to work. What’s less obvious is why Blaine wants Boss as a business partner after all this. It seems like the sort of thing that is obviously going to backfire at some point, probably sooner rather than later.

Interestingly, there is no regular case of the week this week. Instead, Liv finally eats the brain of the dominatrix murderer, Weckler, who Peyton thinks may have been innocent. It turns out that he wasn’t, but it also turns out that he was, himself, murdered. This is found out in scenes that involve some interesting (in a “gift to the femslash community” way) roleplay between Liv and Peyton. Liv and Clive investigate, trying to figure out who might have had Weckler murdered, but they hit a wall when Weckler’s daughter refuses to cooperate with their investigation. Also, Weckler’s daughter is a zombie, staying with a zombie family, and they’re involved somehow with Fillmore Graves since they eat tube brains. Unfortunately, this plot twist is more confusing than anything else. This episode did an okay job of establishing some of what happened with Weckler, it feels as if we’re as far away as ever from learning why, and a whole new plot just got thrown into the mix as well.

The other side effect of Weckler’s brain is that Liv experiences aspects of Weckler’s mental illness, particularly his visions of his dead wife, except Liv sees her dead boyfriend, Drake, because she apparently still has some issues to work through regarding his death by her hand. Here’s the thing, though. Liv straight up says to ghost delusion Drake that the reason she’s been throwing herself into all these different brains has been to avoid having to live in her own head and thus having to deal with actually processing the grief and trauma and guilt she feels about Drake’s death. However, she’s just spent several days on tube brains, specifically so she could be herself, unaffected by other personalities, in order to pursue her relationship with Justin, who she spends most of this week—even after being visited by ghost delusion Drake—trying to bone. And when it really comes down to it, she’s able to talk herself out of her Drake-induced doldrums relatively quickly (and successfully bone Justin). The time to address this stuff was about eight episodes ago; at this point in the season it just feels superfluous and, frankly, baffling.

Finally, for some unfathomable reason, this episode contains not just one but several check-ins with Major and his new friend Shauna, who have built themselves a blanket fort for sex. I mean. Okay. Fine. Liv is slightly jealous and weirded out by it, but not enough to stop her from going right out and sleeping with Justin. Shauna seems nice, but not in any truly sinister way, which is almost sinister just in and of itself. But the truth is there’s no particular reason for any of this stuff to have made the cut in an already busy episode. It’s late in the season to be introducing a new character that we’re supposed to care about, and Shauna isn’t particularly likeable or at all interesting. Sure, Major doesn’t have much to do now that he’s not a zombie any longer, but that’s okay. It would be better to have no Major at all than to have Major engaging in overly saccharine sexy times with a virtual stranger when there’s far more interesting stuff going on elsewhere.

Miscellany:

  • Mr. Boss sneaking in and out of his own house while his wife is on the phone with her lawyer or the life insurance company or whatever was a smart, funny intro to the episode.
  • Even as Blaine is expanding his business, there’s some grumbling in his crew about how things are going.
  • Curious to find out who Rachel is. My money is on FBI, but we’ll see.

iZombie: “Twenty-Sided, Die” is the best episode

“Twenty-Sided, Die” is by far the strongest episode of the season so far, and it’s probably my personal favorite episode of iZombie of all time. It’s got a good case of the week along with some excellent big picture plot development, and Liv gets to DM a D&D game for her friends. Spoiler: It’s glorious.

**Real spoilers below.**

Last week’s episode ended on a tense note, with Ravi going alone and unarmed into a meeting for the local zombie conspiracy theorists, and this episode starts with showing us how that goes. Fortunately, it’s not as awful as it could have been, and Ravi gets out intact, but it’s definitely a meeting full of bad news for Seattle’s zombies. Harley Johns has identified Floyd Baracus as a zombie, and he’s got files on numerous other people he suspects. He’s also got a plan to kidnap a zombie and starve it, then publicize it in order to convince the public of the existence of zombies and to highlight the threat they pose. Thinking quickly, Ravi reveals his identity and claims to be working on a zombie vaccine, urging Harley and the others to delay their plans. At the end of the episode, however, we find out that even Ravi’s sensible urging of caution isn’t enough to stop Harley and his brother from capturing a zombie at the first opportunity. They’ve collared a berserk Don E. and brought him straight to Ravi thinking that Ravi might have a tranquilizer that would calm Don E. down.

Don E. is going berserk, of course, because he’s gotten into Blaine’s new product: the brain of a WWII veteran and ladies’ man that has been soaking in Ravi’s blue memory serum liquid for twenty days. After Tanner enjoys the experience after eating a tiny sliver of the blue brain as a test, Don E. takes a much larger piece for a spin, and it looks like they’ve discovered the potential downside of the product. Too bad Blaine isn’t around to know about it. Riding the high of the initial successful test of blue brains, Blaine heads out to the well where he dumped his dad last week to have a nice, long gloat. Too top off the list of things Blaine doesn’t know about that might derail Blaine’s optimism, the episode ends with Mr. Boss coming back to town, an unexpected development that doesn’t bode well for pretty much any of the main cast and adds yet another subplot to an already packed story.

This week’s murder mystery is a weird one. A dungeon master running a weekly D&D game night is poisoned, and his circle of gamer friends—including police sketch artist Jimmy and IT guy Vampire Steve—come under suspicion for the crime. However, as Liv and Clive slowly clear each member of the group, they stumble upon a hidden room at the DM’s apartment that houses some advanced looking computers tied to Russian power plants. It’s weird, and it’s even weirder when the case goes unsolved by the end of the episode. Apparently, it’s a situation that’s enough about Liv and Clive’s pay grade that the FBI takes over, which offers a chance for Dale Bozzio to come back and break Clive’s (and our) heart all over again. It’s unclear so far whether this is the end of this case and the final nail in the coffin of the Clive-Dale romance or if this is yet another new story thread being woven into the mix, but it seems awful late in the season to be bringing back not one, but two characters that it seemed we’d seen the last of so long ago.

The highlight of the episode is Liv on dungeon master brains. Sure, her dice-rolling outside the game setting is odd and leans a little too hard on supernerd stereotypes, but Liv pressing her friends into service so she can run a D&D session in an effort to trigger a vision is everything perfect about this show. Of course Peyton is the kind of player who asks why they can’t just kill the quest giver for the reward instead of going on the quest. Ravi resuscitating Peyton’s character to keep her in the game was hilarious—and of course Ravi is an engaged and knowledgeable player despite mocking this particular kind of nerdery. Obviously Major plays a paladin. And even more obviously, Clive is the guy who isn’t into it until he is and then he’s really into it. It’s a scene that is clearly written and filmed with love for the game and deep knowledge and care of the show’s characters, and everyone in it seems to be having so much fun it’s infectious. I would definitely watch this group play D&D Critical Role-style, is what I’m saying.

Miscellany:

  • After the meeting at the beginning of the episode, Ravi meets a photographer named Rachel, who I’m curious to see more of. She wants to photograph a zombie, but it also seems like she could be a possible new love interest for Ravi.
  • Ravi hiding all Major’s hatemail is very sweet.
  • Major inviting this Shawna woman over sight unseen is just weird. (Also just plain ill-advised.)
  • Not as weird as how totally fine Major is with Liv dating Justin. He’s even giving Liv his stash of brain tubes so she can be herself with Justin.
  • It’s also not as weird as Liv being much more girlfriend-y with Justin than has really been established so far. This show has never been a romance-heavy program, but we’ve only seen them go on a couple of dates, and things onscreen have been decidedly PG so far. I dunno. It’s fine. Honestly, I’m just worried for Justin. He seems nice, and Liv’s boyfriends do not have a great life expectancy.
  • Liv finally meets Chase Graves, and he’s intense. Also, flirting with Liv? I kind of ship it because I’m trash, but also because I’m firmly on Team Protect Justin.
  • Peyton is getting increasingly suspicious about the dominatrix murder case, especially when her boss Baracus tells her to drop it and then Liv tells her that Baracus was one of the dominatrix’s clients.
  • Best line delivery of the episode: Clive shouting, “Where is the lich?!”

iZombie: “Eat a Knievel” takes some risks, but not necessarily the right ones

After a couple of lackluster episodes, I had high hopes for “Eat a Knievel” after seeing the preview for it last week. Eh. It’s alright. The case of the week is decent, if predictable, and there’s some major progress made in some of the show’s other plotlines as well. Not all the plot progress is great, and there’s at least one highly questionable turn of events, but “Eat a Knievel” is at least a solid enough episode to deserve its extremely rad title.

**Spoilers ahead.**

The best development of the week is Blaine’s return to villainy. Last week ended with Blaine shot and left for dead by one of his dad’s flunkies; this week starts with Blaine hunting down one of his own ex-clients to ask for a scratch and directions to where Don E. and Angus are working. It ends with Blaine encasing his father’s feet in cement and dropping him into a well on their family property before heading off to have an almost-touching reunion with Don E. Blaine has always been best as a villain, and his amnesiac turn sucked a good deal of the life out of him; returned to zombie form and freed from the constraints of trying to be a better man, he showed more vim and vigor this week than he has in the whole rest of the season so far. The only thing missing was a Blaine musical number.

The other event of significance is the apparent murder of Vivian Stoll, right after she figured out that Major is human. This is the questionable part of things. The arrival of Vivian and Fillmore Graves on the scene at the end of season two was promising, and they figured largely in the first couple episodes of season three before being moved to a decidedly back burner in recent weeks so the show could focus more on the personal drama of Major’s illness and de-zombie-fying and Blaine’s faked amnesia. While we’ve seen some of the Fillmore Graves crew (mostly in Major’s storyline), there hasn’t been any new development on the bigger Fillmore Graves storyline (whatever that’s supposed to be) in weeks.

When one of the first scenes in this episode was a sort of update meeting with Clive, Liv and Major reporting to Vivian, it seemed that we might be coming back around to some of the bigger picture zombie stuff that Fillmore Graves represents. Instead, what we get is the Fillmore Graves leadership team killed and the company taken over by Vivian’s brother-in-law, who’s some kind of aggressively militaristic loose cannon. It’s unlikely that any good will come of this change in management, and it seems at least somewhat likely that the new guy is behind Vivian’s death to begin with, but with Vivian dead Major’s secret (that he’s human again) is still safe—even if Major himself is decidedly less so.

The case of the week involved the murder of one “Finn Vincible,” who is less Evel Knievel (excellent episode title pun, though) and more Jackass. The identity of the murderer—Finn Vincible’s producer, Rudy—is heavily telegraphed from the very start of the investigation, though it takes most of the episode to ferret out his motive. Because this season seems to be all about investigating the murders of the worst people, we learn that Finn “pranked” Rudy by supposedly fake-banging Rudy’s then-girlfriend-now-wife. Rudy only finds out that the affair was real when his wife gives birth to a baby that is obviously Finn’s, so Rudy sabotages one of Finn’s stunts. There aren’t too many surprises here, and it would have been nice to get a little more interaction with Finn’s acquaintances, but it’s a totally serviceable murder mystery that doesn’t interfere too much with all the much more interesting and significant stuff that’s happening around it in this episode.

Liv on jackass brain isn’t as hilarious as she could have been, but she’s also not nearly as insufferable and unfunny as she was on the last couple brains she’s had. It’s almost all worth it for the shot of Liv sitting in on an interrogation with staples in her face; Clive’s facial expression in that scene alone is almost enough to carry the whole episode. His reaction faces to Liv’s antics have always been great, but they’re reaching a whole new level of amazing now that Clive knows that Liv is a zombie and understands how the brains affect her. The other thing that happens with Liv on jackass brains is her second date with Justin. She cooks up some brains for him so they can be on the same brain together, and then they go out and play with lawn darts before sharing a nice kiss. It’s really too bad that Justin seems doomed; I like him a lot (even if it does still seem weird how fast Liv has moved past Major), but he’s already had multiple foreshadowing events that suggest that the iZombie universe is out to kill him.

The episode finishes with Liv and Ravi trying to sneak into an anti-zombie conspiracy theorist event, but Liv is forced to turn back at the door when they realize that the zombie-haters are checking blood pressure at the door to prevent exactly this sort of thing. In the end, we’re left with an almost-cliffhanger—I mean, it’s tense, but it’s not really high stakes enough for proper cliffhanger status—as Ravi enters into the anti-zombie event alone to find out what these folks know and how organized they really are.

Miscellany:

  • “Stop talking. You had me at ‘money.’”
  • I suppose this episode finally lays to rest the theory that it was the Fillmore Graves folk who stole the cure from the morgue. The more I think about it, the more my money is on Blaine as the culprit. We saw him messing around with making his own batch of Ravi’s blue memory serum, so could Blaine be looking to sell the cure for top dollar and then charge people for the memory serum as well to “cure” the temporary amnesia? With no other likely suspects, this seems as plausible as any other theories I’ve seen.

Into the Badlands: In “Wolf’s Breath, Dragon Fire,” are you fucking kidding me with this?

Sometimes a show is disappointing for doing the easy, predictable thing. Into the Badlands, however, disappoints by doing something so unexpectedly cruel it verges on nihilistic.

**Spoilers ahead.**

As a conclusion to the season, “Wolf’s Breath, Dragon Fire” is far better than the season one finale at wrapping things up, but there’s still quite a lot of unanswered questions and unfinished business by the end, even regarding the show’s biggest storylines. Unfortunately, basically everything in the episode is completely overshadowed by the senselessly unnecessary and tragic death of Veil, which is hands down the most infuriating thing I’ve seen on television so far in 2017.

It’s been a tough season for Veil from start to finish, as she’s spent ten episodes as Quinn’s prisoner, trying to survive and protect her infant son from Quinn’s increasing brain tumor-fueled madness and violence. The damsel in distress trope is played out enough on its own, but it worked well for most of the season, partly because there’s still a certain amount of novelty in the damselled romantic lead being a black woman and partly because Veil has had numerous opportunities throughout the season to distinguish herself as a strong character with as much agency as her volatile circumstances have allowed.

In a sense, this continues in the finale; Veil’s death is, more or less, by her own hand as she runs herself through in order to strike a killing blow against Quinn. But the way that we get to that point in the first place is just absurd, even for a show in which characters routinely take a bananas amount of punishment before dying. Quinn, having survived Sunny’s season one attempt on his life—nursed back to health by Veil herself—has survived a brain tumor all this season. He’s survived the Widow and Lydia and even just narrowly missed out on another attempt on his life by Veil on their wedding night. Just in this episode, Quinn survives his own explosion to collapse the tunnels of his hideout, and he then survives being impaled through chest twice before he even lays hands on Veil. Honestly, just the idea that Sunny wouldn’t make damn sure of a killing blow of his own before turning his back on Quinn is absolutely mindboggling, and it costs Veil her life.

Honestly, I just don’t know if I can keep watching this show after this. It’s the second time this season that a woman has been blatantly fridged (I haven’t forgotten Ava), and that this time it’s the only woman of color in the main cast is unforgivable. Veil was a great character who was a valuable bit of representation in a show with a tendency to give white women the more exciting, ass-kicking storylines. Even through all the shit Veil had to put up with this season—which, frankly, got to be straight up torture porn at times—she endured and schemed and was constantly waiting for her moment to escape. There’s no reason at all to have Veil sacrifice herself in this way except to reorient the narrative so that the viewer is reminded that this show really is all about Sunny after all.

I suppose, in Sunny’s story, Veil is disposable. Which… fine. But I don’t want to watch a story where that’s the case, especially when we’ve been told all season that it wasn’t.

For a more in-depth write-up of just how fucked up this all is and why it’s hurtful and disappointing, be sure to check out Monique Jones’s piece on the episode over at Black Girl Nerds.

Doctor Who: “Extremis” isn’t nearly as interesting an experiment as Steven Moffat thinks it is

**This is a spoilery review.**

You can tell, watching “Extremis,” that Steven Moffat thinks he’s very clever. It’s a Moffat episode through and through, with all the self-satisfied smugness and overwrought convolutions that come along with that. The thing is, “Extremis” isn’t experimental or groundbreaking or particularly intriguing. It’s what amounts to a dream sequence mashed together with an extended flashback. Which is fine. But there’s not much actual story here, just exposition about the past and set-up for the future, none of which is nearly as compelling as Steven Moffat seems to think it is.

Perhaps the most significant part of the episode, if only because it’s the part of the episode that’s easiest to make good sense of, is the flashbacks that work on multiple levels. Most viewers have been saying for weeks that the vault under the university must contain Missy, and this is confirmed in “Extremis.”  While it’s not clear what for (and it could be any number of things, really), sometime shortly after the end of the Doctor’s time on Darillium Missy is sentenced to death, and the Doctor is summoned to be her executioner. While the Doctor hems and haws about whether he should pull the kill lever and Missy begs for her life, Nardole shows up and reads to the Doctor from River Song’s diary. He’s been sent by River to take care of the Doctor, which explains why he’s been lurking around all season, just waiting for this episode to have something important to do.

The other half of the episode finds the Doctor (seemingly) called upon by no less personage than the Pope himself to help translate an important religious text. It’s this part of the episode that is most frustratingly Moffat-eque, falling apart to a large degree if you think about it for more than a minute. There are some great moments, both humorous and dramatic, and we’re introduced to a menacing new enemy of humanity, but the truth is that the Veritas and the Doctor’s quest to understand it just doesn’t add up to anything that makes much sense at all. In the end, we learn that what we’ve been watching is simply a simulation being run by an invading species of aliens to work through how they’re going to get past Earth’s defenses. As other characters commit suicide in droves at their realization of their own unreality and his friends simply dissolve into pixels, the AI Doctor inside the simulation puts it all together and turns out to be so lifelike that his own way of dealing with unreality is to send an email to the real Doctor and let him know what’s going on, setting up what seems to be the big bad of the season.

Unfortunately, none of this holds up to much scrutiny. The biggest unanswered question, though, is a simple one, and the lack of an answer undermines the whole premise of the episode: If what we are watching, for most of the episode, is a simulation put on by aliens with a plan to invade Earth, and the real Doctor doesn’t find out about any of this until the end of the episode when the simulation Doctor contacts him, where did the invading aliens get the data for their simulation? And if they can either access data (such as the Doctor’s blindness) that only the Doctor and Nardole know about and they can build a meticulously lifelike simulation for their purposes, are they seriously still limited by a quirk of random number generation? Also, they can’t lock down their network so that their own AIs can’t become self-aware and contact real people outside the simulation? It’s such a common Moffat-era Who problem that complaints about it are frankly just banal at this point.

In the end, “Extremis” isn’t nearly as profound or experimental as Steven Moffat intends it to be, but it nonetheless manages to be entertaining. The Pope and several Cardinals pouring out of Bill’s bedroom to interrupt her date is legit hilarious, even if it does happen in the simulation. The Doctor’s suggestion to Bill that she go for it with real life Penny, even though Bill thinks Penny is out of her league, is sweet. Michelle Gomez is a constant delight as Missy. There are some interesting ideas about religion and faith being explored, even if only in the most facile manner. Like many a Moffat-penned episode, “Extremis” is fine as long as one doesn’t think too hard about it.

Miscellany:

  • One Moffat-era trope I wish would disappear forever is people all over the universe being absolutely terrified of the Doctor’s wrath after basically reading the first page of his Google search results. It’s tiresome and patronizing, and the Doctor isn’t actually that dangerous unless you’re a Dalek.
  • I hope we get to see more of Bill with Penny, who seems nice.
  • The visual comparison of River Song’s diary to a Bible is potentially interesting, but it’s pretty much left at that.
  • After last week’s episode using zombie imagery of a kind, it seemed redundant to have this one do the same, even if it was a different take on the zombie look and especially if these zombie aliens are going to make another appearance or two.