Category Archives: iZombie

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.

iZombie: “Dirt Nap Time” digs deeper into a bunch of this season’s plots

“Dirt Nap Time” contains another unremarkable case of the week as well as another tediously irritating brain for Liv to eat (though by no means as terrible as last week’s). What is lacks in case of the week panache, however, it makes up for in interesting plot developments, which are occurring at the show’s habitual near-breakneck pace this season.

**Spoilers ahead.**

The episode opens right where the last one ended, with Major having to answer for where his other dose of the cure is. Liv gets a great unlikeable moment when she refers to Natalie unkindly as Major’s “zombie hooker friend,” which she immediately apologizes for, though it’s still a bit of meanness that serves as a reminder that Liv isn’t a flawless heroine. Much of this episode is subsequently taken up with Liv trying to find out who stole the cure from the morgue, but both the prime suspects—Blaine and Don E.—convincingly deny responsibility. Interestingly, the prime suspect from the viewer’s perspective last week seemed to be Fillmore Graves, but that theory is largely weakened this week with the revelation that Justin hasn’t told anyone else about the cure yet; he was apparently waiting until he could ask Major about it.

The other thing Justin asks Major about this week is if Major minds Justin asking Liv out on a date, which is weird. On the one hand, I get it, “bro code” or whatever. On the other hand, it’s 2017. On the other other hand, it seems really early for Liv to be dating again and for Major to be so seemingly okay with it. I know that they can’t be together while Liv is still a zombie, but literally just two weeks ago they were reconnecting in a way that strongly suggests that they are (or at least ought to be) an endgame couple. I’m not a fan of overwrought relationship drama, in general, but this episode seemed to just be going to the opposite extreme with this. Maybe it shouldn’t be completely torturous for Major to see his friend going for it with Liv, and maybe Liv shouldn’t spend her whole life moping about Major, but at the same time it feels unbelievable that they wouldn’t have more feelings about what’s going on between them. That said, Liv’s date with Justin at the Scratching Post is a highlight of the episode. If it wasn’t developing so quickly, I’d have far more positive feelings about their obvious chemistry and the adorableness of their passing notes back and forth between Major.

The murder mystery this week starts off well enough, with a surprisingly promiscuous preschool teacher, but the interrogations of various persons of interest are a mixed bag and the revelation of the murderer, while somewhat unpredictable, is surprising in a way that manages to be both bad and dull. It’s weird. The worst part about it, though, is Liv’s bizarre behavior while on preschool teacher brain. It’s genuinely unsettling to see her baby talk at adult people and play with puppets in the interrogation room, and it’s for the most part extremely unfunny. iZombie is really at its best when it lets Liv’s brains-induced personality shifts show us something unexpected about the murder victims and give us a better sense of who they are as individuals. It’s that insight that makes Liv and her visions valuable for solving cases, and it’s disappointing to see the show waste two weeks in a row on over-the-top portrayals of unpleasant caricatures instead of actual characters. It diminishes interest in the murders and it makes Liv herself unlikeable while its going on.

Perhaps the most interesting storyline this week is Peyton’s work on the dominatrix murder case. She and the public defender handling the case are working together to hammer out a deal for the accused murderer, and it’s reiterated that without the guy’s confession Peyton’s case is flimsy. Indeed, when the details of the case are laid out, none of it adds up, and things take another turn for the unusual when another lawyer shows up to oust the public defender and refuse Peyton’s offer of a plea deal. When the accused hangs himself in his jail cell, Peyton goes to Ravi to ask about getting Liv to eat the guy’s brain and find out his secrets. Although the dead man has a history of mental illness that Ravi and Peyton both acknowledge that Liv won’t like, Ravi sets the brain up in his blue memory serum anyway. It’ll need to soak for ten days, so it’s uncertain if we’ll get to see new developments on this front next week or if it’ll have to wait until the episode after that.

Miscellany:

  • I’m having a very hard time giving a shit about Blaine’s redemption arc or whatever. I always loved villainous Blaine; he’s been a great antagonist. And amnesia Blaine was a potentially interesting way to craft a redemption arc for a character who is such a garbage person. But faking-his-amnesia Blaine is just villainous Blaine with an extra layer of assholery on top, no matter how much time he spends feeling sad about Peyton dumping him.
  • Major’s decision to stay at Fillmore Graves makes sense, but there’s no way this is going to turn out well, right?
  • What happened with the guinea pig?!
  • “We don’t all want to be astronauts, Liv.”
  • “It is sorta like being the drummer for Spinal Tap.” -Ravi, on Liv’s boyfriends
  • Liv telling Don E. to “use his words” was the only laugh-out-loud moment of the episode for me.
  • So… Justin is now on video going full zombie. That’s probably not a great development for zombies in general.

iZombie: “Some Like It Hot Mess” fails at humor but succeeds at storytelling

“Some Like It Hot Mess” is season three’s first brain flop, in which Liv eats a brain from someone so unlikable that it also makes Liv herself largely unlikable and definitely unfunny. It still manages to be a decent episode, with some great emotional moments, a significant setback and a major reveal, but Liv’s “hot mess” brain is absolutely an albatross around its neck.

**Spoilers ahead.**

The episode opens with an introduction to party girl Yvonne, who will be this week’s murder victim, and she doesn’t seem like a bad sort. Self-absorbed and flighty, sure, but not the worst. However, as we get to see more of Yvonne’s personality through Liv after she eats Yvonne’s brain, it starts to grate. I’m not really sure what the joke is here, to be honest. I suppose it’s that Yvonne is vapid, talentless and irredeemably self-centered, but none of that is particularly funny, and the portrayal works mostly in cheap stereotypes without much depth of thought. While iZombie often plays with stereotypes and worn tropes for comedic value, the show’s treatment of Yvonne is genuinely unkind and oftentimes unpleasant to watch—particularly when you can tell that the show was going for a laugh and it doesn’t land.

That said, it’s possible that the writers wanted to use this experience, for Liv, as a way of reiterating for the audience why it’s so crucial to Liv that she get the cure for her zombie-ism. More than once in this episode, Liv’s brain-influenced behavior is hurtful to her friends, damaging to her relationship and/or professionally embarrassing. The thing is, this is all stuff we’ve seen many times before in one way or another, and while all of that is heightened by consuming the brain of someone as unpleasant as we’re supposed to think Yvonne was, this heightening feels superfluous. It’s especially so in light of the fact that Liv starts the episode off expressing her fatigue over the whole zombie/vision thing; this makes the cringeworthy saga of Liv on “hot mess” brains feel particularly torturous in a way that’s, frankly, at least as fatiguing for the audience as it must be for poor Liv.

The star player of the week is Robert Buckley as Major, who we first see gleefully scarfing down ice cream with his reinvigorated taste buds at the beginning of the hour. As expected, he starts to lose his memories soon enough, though not before pranking Liv by answering the door and pretending to have forgotten her. It’s a fine line to walk, and the scene could have come off as cruel, but it works largely because once Liv is inside the house we learn that Major has been writing letters to everyone he cares about—including a very fat and tear-stained one for Ravi. Major is coping, and it’s sweet. Of course, then he gets on a bus to Walla Walla, where his mom and her girlfriend (wife?) live, which is terrifying for Ravi and Liv, who have no idea where he is, but offers us an interesting and unknown before now part of Major’s backstory. He’s always been a very reactionary character, responding to things that happen to him, and the extra depth provided by even the barebones story of his parents’ divorce and his choosing his dad over his mom is a nice development, even if his mom doesn’t enter into the story again. iZombie doesn’t often include these kinds of grace notes in character development, probably because it’s such a wildly plot-heavy show.

Speaking of plot! The big revelation of the episode, of course and finally, is that Blaine has been faking his amnesia—for months. It’s Don E. who convinces Ravi of Blaine’s duplicity, and Ravi who gives Peyton this information in another scene that walks a fine line; Ravi is still hung up on Peyton, and she knows this, but Ravi does (barely) manage to deliver the news in a way that doesn’t come off as self-serving or jealous. While Peyton doesn’t take it well, she does seem to take it to heart, and it’s Peyton who smartly maneuvers Blaine into confessing it all to her: he did lose his memories, but only for a couple days, and he’s been faking ever since because it gave him the chance at a fresh start. It’s a surprisingly sympathetic performance, but we oughtn’t forget that Blaine is an actual murderer and that his sexual relationship with Peyton has been under false enough pretenses to arguably amount to rape by deception. In any case, that the memory loss is temporary is good news for Major and should be good news for Liv (who is already planning her own ice cream feast), but by the time the gang gets back to the morgue, the place has been tossed and the cure is missing. Worse, Major gave his other dose to Natalie.

Miscellany:

  • Clive’s exasperated “Oh, boy” when he hears a brief description of Yvonne’s personality was the single perfect comedic moment of the episode.
  • What kind of monster drinks pepper vodka straight?
  • Peyton is working that dominatrix murder case, and she points out that the confession seemed fishy with there being so little hard evidence connecting the suspect to the murder.
  • I feel like there was some point trying to be made about Nice Guys™ in the interrogation of Yvonne’s friend from the grocery store, but I don’t really know what point that was.
  • I wonder why Blaine is making Ravi’s blue stuff.
  • I have a strong suspicion that the obvious suspect isn’t who took the cure from the morgue. My money is on Fillmore Graves taking it.

iZombie: “Spanking the Zombie” is half hilarity and half heartbreak

“Spanking the Zombie” is basically half fun murder mystery and half heartrending tragedy, but somehow it works. I do have a couple quibbles about it, but it’s overall a very good episode that avoids the biggest potential pitfalls in its concept, advances the overarching plot of the show in a big way and has a strong chance of making the viewer cry like a baby at the end.

**Spoilers below.**

This week, Liv and Clive are investigating the murder of Roxanne Greer, a dominatrix known to her clients as Sweet Lady Pain. Unfortunately, Roxanne’s brain isn’t fresh. Ravi has been keeping it soaking in memory serum for a couple of weeks, which leads to one of the grosser brain-cooking scenes in the show’s history. The blue color of the liquid the brain’s been in is a very unsettling non-food color, and pan-frying it doesn’t improve the look of it. Liv is also apprehensive about eating dominatrix brain at all, and her reluctance only just manages to avoid being kinkshaming. It’s a fine line, but they manage to convey pretty effectively that it’s more about that sort of thing being outside Liv’s personal comfort zone rather than having it come off as truly judgmental.

Liv almost immediately has a vision, which turns out to be the first of many intense visions she experiences this week, an unintended effect of the memory serum—which is interesting, since it supposedly had no effect on Blaine at all. I have the feeling that chances of Blaine faking his amnesia have risen considerably with this development, though we don’t see Blaine (or Peyton) at all this week. The other interesting thing that’s done with Liv’s visions this week is that, instead of filming all the visions so the audience gets to see what Liv sees, we see much more of Liv’s visions from the point of view of other characters. It’s a neat way of showing a little more of the mechanics of this mythology, and it feels significant, though it’s not clear what the significance of this new perspective might be just yet.

The murder mystery itself is nicely twisty and provides an excuse to bring back two of my favorite minor characters: erstwhile weatherman Johnny Frost (Daran Norris) and sleazy defense attorney Brandt Stone (Ken Marino), who are even more fun together than they have been apart. Obviously neither man is the murderer, but they are instrumental in figuring out who is. While they’re at it, they bring a level of humor and snark that, along with Liv’s vamping around dominatrix-style, makes this one of the funniest cases of the week in the show’s history. The only problem with this case is the wrap-up. Once the actual murderer is captured, he basically confesses immediately—with an odd line to the effect that it doesn’t even matter how or why he murdered Roxanne—and that’s the last we see of the guy.

It’s a strange anticlimax to an otherwise entertaining story, and the crack about the murderer’s motives and the details of the crime not mattering might be meant in a meta, self-deprecating way by the show’s writers, but it mostly just feels weirdly abrupt and dismissive of the whole previous half hour of storytelling. In a way, it’s true that the show’s murder mysteries are often episode filler and comic relief between more dramatic moments and more overarching plots, but it’s not true that these stories don’t matter or that no one cares about the resolution of them, even in an episode that’s about to end with a gut punch like this one does.

This episode starts and ends with Major. First, we see him participating in his first actual mercenary mission with the Fillmore Graves crew, during which he ends up being stabbed a whole bunch of times. When he returns to Seattle, he collapses and his friend Justin brings him to the morgue, where Ravi and Liv realize that it’s time for Major to take the cure, memory loss or not. First, though, they have to keep him alive until his stab wounds heal up enough that they won’t immediately kill him when he turns human, so they stabilize him and take him home. After Ravi goes to his own bed, Liv and Major kind of rekindle their relationship and say some tragically bittersweet goodbyes. It’s beautiful and sad, and I have so much love for how messy Liv and Major’s relationship is. They never manage to be quite at the same place at the same time, but there’s something wonderful about their quiet, consistent love for each other. Next week, I guess we’ll find out if Major really is going to lose his memories and what that’s going to mean for their friend group.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

  • “Frankly, I resent being questioned every time a hooker or stripper or dominatrix gets killed in this town.”
  • All of Liv’s scenes with Jimmy the sketch artist were excellent.
  • Lack of Ravi/Peyton/Blaine drama was a definite plus this week. Ravi actually got to be likable again.
  • Don E. makes a new zombie/friend, and the Scratching Post is open for business, but this storyline felt decidedly tertiary and was completely disconnected from the main story this week. It’s fine, and cool scene with them playing air guitar together on the bar, but I still don’t see where this stuff is going.
  • No follow-up on Justin’s shock when he learns about the zombie cure, and he isn’t fully briefed on it before he disappears from the episode, but I can only imagine that this is going to be a big deal in the next week or two. Surely he will go back to Fillmore Graves and tell people there, and I have a feeling it’s not going to go over well.
  • “Give me a new name. One that’s less silly.” Oh, Major.

iZombie: “Wag the Tongue Slowly” hangs some decent plot progress on a slight case of the week

After last week’s fast-paced hour of watching Ravi metaphorically punch himself in the crotch over and over again, “Wag the Tongue Slowly” is a bit lighter and, for the most part, a lot more fun. There’s no particular aspect of the episode that stands out as excellent, but there are modest advances made on all the season’s important storylines so far and the murder mystery of the week is entertaining, even if it is predictable. Even still, the episode ends on something of a low note, which makes me concerned about how far and deep the overall sense of foreboding they’re building is going to go and what that means for the characters we’ve come to love over the last couple of years. iZombie has always had a feeling of tragedy about it, but that’s being explored this season to a far greater degree than ever before.

**Spoilers below.**

The episode begins and ends with Blaine still not having recovered his memories of his previous life, which doesn’t bode well for Major or, eventually, Liv, who would also like to someday not be a zombie. However, this is potentially good news for Blaine and Peyton, who are very cozy now. There’s an interesting dynamic between Peyton and her friends because of this, but there’s a problem: no one in the situation comes off looking particularly good. Peyton’s an Assistant DA, which makes her involvement with Blaine—amnesia or not—a pretty significant ethical issue. Ravi’s been a disaster over Peyton all season. Major is relatively chill, though more due to fatalism than anything else, and Liv was actually kind of monstrous towards Peyton this week, piling on a guilt trip as if it’s Peyton’s fault that the memory serum isn’t working.

It’s an ugly moment for Liv, and an interesting choice to include in an episode where Liv eats the brain of someone so unlikable, especially when it seems clear that this ugliness is all Liv. Similarly, at the start of the episode, before Liv even partakes of gossip brain, she gives a recap of Ravi’s exploits last week that borders on mean-spirited. It’s not as if Liv has always been a perfectly likable protagonist, but her friendships with other characters are central to the show and a key to its popularity. This unkindness is a sharp corner in Liv that hasn’t been explored before. There’s always been some question of how much of Liv’s personality is her and how much is from the brains she eats, and this episode presents another possibility—that the brains might (at least sometimes) act as an intensifier for Liv’s personality rather than taking over her personality.

Meanwhile, Major finally makes some progress in his search for Natalie, with Ravi’s help of course. I could have done with more of Major and Ravi hanging out together, but it’s good to see some actual movement on this storyline, even if it turns out to be frustrating. Major actually finds Natalie, who’s awake and apparently trapped by some zombie businessman who’s keeping her locked up in a hotel, although it doesn’t seem as if she’s there entirely against her will. Needless to say, she’s not happy to see Major, and she insists that he leave her where she is so he doesn’t get himself killed. Before leaving, Major gives Natalie a dose of the zombie cure and a heads up about the amnesia thing, which is, frankly, a strange place to leave things. It doesn’t explain who took Natalie or why, it doesn’t resolve Major’s hunt for her except in the most basic fashion, and leaving a syringe of the zombie cure out in the wild feels like set-up for it to be used for purposes other than its intended one. Ravi’s Don Quixote allusion is nice, as is the use of “I Don Quixote” in the background, though.

The murder mystery, as I already mentioned, is a predictable one, but it’s still fun to watch. Office gossip Cheryl is underdeveloped as a victim, and what we do learn about her isn’t flattering. It’s no surprise that she’s pissed off everyone she works with to the point that they’re willing to play a dangerous “prank” on her. It was mildly surprising that Cheryl’s death wasn’t actually intentional, but the basic method of her death was obvious as soon as they started introducing all the people she worked with and every one of them had strong motives. These fast-paced interrogation montages are something the show has done before, and I like it every time, but this time was made even better by the hilarious faces Clive makes throughout. His and Liv’s “Ahhhh!” when they learn that Cheryl was a gossip was perfectly timed and a laugh out loud moment.

The final piece of story that is touched on this week is the ongoing investigation of the murder of Wally and his family. Liv and Clive split a stack of messages from an online forum between them to look for evidence, and they find information that points them towards a local shooting range that turns out to be run by a man whose brother died at the recent Max Rager party. He claims to have solid proof of the existence of zombies—at least of the shambling type—and he’s also got a conviction that “you can’t murder what ain’t alive.” While the shooting range owner has an alibi and Liv and Clive don’t have any solid evidence against him, this surely isn’t the last we’ve seen of this fellow.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

  • “That can’t be the best use of taxpayer dollars.”
  • “Dude, don’t pitch problems.”
  • Ravi’s obsession with the porn actress was kind of extra gross after his behavior last week. Guess he’s just gonna wallow for a while in that hole he dug.
  • Wham Bam Gun Range. That is all.

iZombie: In “Eat, Pray, Liv,” Ravi digs the deepest hole. He lives there now.

After the big shake-up in the season two finale and dealing with the fallout from those events in the first couple episodes of season three, iZombie is already getting back to a more routine formula, and that’s not a bad thing. The case of the week concerns a murdered yoga instructor, and it’s a below average mystery at best. There are a couple of good Liv and Clive moments during their murder investigation, and it’s interesting to see Clive getting more comfortable with Liv’s zombie abilities, but the main events of the episode all concern secondary characters.

**Spoilers ahead.**

Major is working his way through mercenary training at Fillmore Graves, where it turns out that having been a personal trainer and generally fit still puts him way behind a group of guys who were apparently already mercenaries before they even became zombies. Major also doesn’t like the brain tubes that they eat at Fillmore Graves: “It’s like someone ate old brains, then yogurt, and then mommy birded them into a tube.” Which sounds about right, but Major has bigger problems. As we’ve already been reminded last week, the non-working version of the zombie cure that Major took will likely kill him if nothing else is done, and this week Major starts exhibiting some symptoms, mostly in the form of a persistent cough that Ravi diagnoses as a mild case of pneumonia. It’s a more tangible reminder, this time, that Major’s time is potentially very limited, and this episode sees him taking more steps to try and find Natalie, a quest that has a new urgency with Major being unable to deny anymore that he may be dying. Also of interest this week are Major’s several long, sad looks at Liv. He’s obviously still in love with her, but it remains to be see whether he is going to say anything to her about it or if he’s just going to keep suffering in silence.

Blaine’s dad, Angus DeBeers, is back and in a big way. First, Angus gets his lawyer to come with him to take back Blaine’s inheritance, which gives us yet another scene that proves Blaine isn’t faking his amnesia. Angus then spends the rest of the episode working with Don E. to open a new zombie club. It’s not entirely clear what exactly they’re planning to do here and how they’re somehow going to turn it into a revenge against Blaine, but they’ve got the place, it’s zombies only, and Don E. is about to go on a scratching spree. It’ll be interesting to see how these plans work out, especially for Angus, who doesn’t seem able to inspire much loyalty in his new lackey, judging by the wistful look we see Don E. giving Blaine at the end of the episode. And let me just say, Don E. staring wistfully at Blaine through a rain-covered window might be my favorite single image of the season so far.

The big thing I want to talk about this week, however, is Ravi and Peyton. I haven’t been thrilled with how Ravi has been behaving the last couple of weeks, and I’ve been concerned that his sad man story might be dragged out for a long time. I shouldn’t have worried. This is the episode where Ravi torpedoes his relationship with Peyton and possibly their whole friend group.

After Liv stops putting up with his constant moaning about Peyton and tells him to go talk to Peyton about it, that’s exactly what Ravi does. Peyton is at first receptive to his apology, as she’s been confused and hurt about Ravi’s coldness towards her, but things go off the rails quickly, with Ravi seeming to low key blame Peyton for his intrusive thoughts and then framing his apology to her in such a way that it’s clear he’s expecting his apology to be reciprocated. It’s the worst sort of sexist bullshit, and Peyton is not having it. She doesn’t have anything to apologize for, she’s not responsible for Ravi’s intrusive thoughts, and she’s got her own shit to deal with. It’s not often that we get to see a woman on television deliver such a great shutdown of men’s garbage like this, and it’s even rarer to see it portrayed as entirely justified and correct. It’s not that Ravi is completely unsympathetic; it’s just that he is completely in the wrong here and being monstrously unfair to and manipulative of Peyton.

Things get worse later on when Ravi and Liv get Blaine to come to the morgue so they can try to convince him to test the memory restoration serum that Ravi has come up with. Blaine, very understandably, doesn’t really want to have his memories back. He doesn’t remember the evil things he did, and his amnesia offers him the chance for a fresh start. Ravi argues that Blaine owes them this, and Ravi goes on a bit of a rant that culminates with him confessing his love to Peyton. Blaine finally agrees to test the memory serum, but Peyton isn’t immediately responsive to Ravi’s declaration of love, so Ravi goes out and sleeps with his old boss, Katty. This is found out when Peyton shows up at Ravi’s place. They’re talking in the foyer, Ravi kisses Peyton, and then Katty drops a wine glass in the other room, at which point Peyton walks into the kitchen and sees the other woman wearing no pants. The whole situation is on the one hand almost laughably contrived but on the other hand not exactly out of character for Ravi at this point. Once again, Peyton is not putting up with Ravi’s shit, though, and she leaves, immediately, and goes to join Liv and Major to listen to Blaine singing.

I almost feel bad for Ravi, but only in the way that I would feel bad for anyone who repeatedly punched themselves in the crotch for no reason. He just makes all the worst possible decision with how he deals with his feelings for Peyton, and it’s hard to watch. It’s, honestly, something of a bold move for the show. Ravi is a fan favorite character, partly because he’s generally delightful, and this storyline forces the viewer to see him in a very different and extremely unflattering light. That said, I am so glad that it’s made so clear that he’s the bad guy here. Peyton hasn’t done anything wrong, and Ravi hasn’t done anything right with her for a while now. We’re seeing something of a darker side to Ravi this season, and while I’m glad this storyline is moving along quickly I also hope the show doesn’t let Ravi out the hole he’s dug for himself anytime soon. He’s not the worst, and he’s not irredeemable, but they definitely should take their time.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

  • Blaine’s new job is as a lounge singer, which is obviously/hopefully just a perfect excuse to have David Anders sing every week.
  • Justin seems nice, and I’m glad Major is making a friend. They’re adorable together, and I feel like there’s already a subtext of “It would be a shame if something happened to one of them,” and I hate that subtext.

iZombie: “Zombie Knows Best” would be better if it wasn’t a showcase for Whiteness

iZombie is a show that has always struggled with issues of race (and even, at times, gender), and “Zombie Knows Best” functions as a showpiece of several of the show’s general race/gender problems. I suspect it’s a writers’ room (more like Whiteness room) problem, to be honest. Still, it manages (though not impressively) to be a solid episode with some enjoyable moments. Clive gets some much needed, albeit extremely belated, backstory; we learn some more about what’s going on at Fillmore Graves; there’s a decent-but-not-stand-out case of the week; and for all that there are significant flaws in the execution of it, Liv and Major on father-daughter brains still delivers some humor if you don’t think too hard about any of it. I’d like to see the show do better, but this episode could have been worse.

**Spoilers below.**

The episode opens with Clive being questioned by Detective Cavanaugh, which seems to have taken place the night before the events that make up this week’s case. Cavanaugh wants to know more about Clive’s relationship with Wally. Clive at first tries to downplay the relationship, but he’s forced to spill when Cavanaugh pulls out a photo of Clive with Wally and his mother, Anna (Caitlin Stryker), in which they all look very cozy. Clive’s answer to Cavanaugh and his memories of Wally and Anna are metered out over the course of the episode, and we learn that Anna’s husband was abusive, which landed him in prison. While the husband was in prison, Clive grew close to Anna and Wally, almost becoming romantically involved with Anna before he went undercover and Anna and Wally moved in with Anna’s brother, Caleb, and somehow got turned into zombies, at which point Anna sent Clive a letter telling him they didn’t want to keep in touch.

This is the most we’ve learned about Clive since the show started, and it’s by far the most real Clive has ever felt. It’s just unfortunate that Anna and Wally had to be fridged in order for Clive to develop as a character, especially when we see how wonderful Anna is and especially especially considering how few women of color have been featured on this show in any kind of positive capacity. And listen. I get it. I understand that this is all about Clive’s regrets and doubts and what-might-have-beens. It’s meant to give a previously enigmatic character some more depth and shape, and there’s nothing like a tragedy to make that happen. However, this is the same show that screwed around for months having Clive date that Dale woman last year only to have nothing ever come of it. They could easily have introduced Wally and then Anna as a love interest for Clive, given them basically the same backstory with the abusive husband and zombification and lost contact, and written a story about Clive reconnecting with Anna and coming to terms with her being a zombie as he comes to terms with the whole zombie thing in general. Instead, we get a pretty much textbook fridging leading to what is moving towards revenge quest territory.

Anna deserves better, and the audience deserves better than this kind of lazy, cliché nonsense, no matter how cleverly the story is told in intricately woven together flashbacks.

The case of the week concerns a father and daughter, Stan and Cindy Chen, who are killed in an obviously suspicious hit-and-run. When Cindy’s friend Winslow sent Cindy a photo of Winslow in bed with her step-dad, Cindy showed it to her father, who insisted that they had to tell the authorities, which turns out to be a motive for murder when Winslow’s mom finds out. There are a couple of interesting twists and turns here, and even a nicely done red herring moment—when we see Major’s flashback to Cindy showing her dad the image on her phone and exclaiming “gross,” the context suggests (briefly) that it could be something zombie-related—but the truth is that this whole case just seems like an excuse to have Liv and Major eat these brains for humor reasons.

Literally as soon as we meet Winslow’s mom it’s obvious that she’s the murderer and the case is solved without much more trouble. Much more time is spent on Major and Liv being entertainingly effected by Cindy and Stan’s brains, which is definitely funny, and it helps to lighten things up since Clive’s story line this week is so dark and sad, but it’s a bit of a cheap laugh. Robert Buckley hamming it up stereotypical teenage girl style loses its charm quickly, and dad Liv isn’t much better. The problem with both of these is that they rely on only stereotypes for their characterization this week, and they’re positively archaic stereotypes at that. Teen girl Major could have been based on the teen daughter in any movie from about 1975 to the present, and Liv’s dad brain seems straight out of the 1950s. Neither of them give us any insight whatsoever into who Cindy and Stan were as individuals, though we know that they were killed on the way to an ice skating practice at 4 am and that they surely had complex internal lives that weren’t boring clichés. That Cindy and Stan were Asian American is entirely ignored in favor of playing with the lower-hanging fruit of “jokes” that are more “relatable.” I suppose it’s for the best that they didn’t go for mocking Asian stereotypes, but I don’t think what they did do, just ignoring the individuality of the characters altogether, is much better.

The worst effect of this is that it makes it difficult to become emotionally invested in the murder victims. Instead, the audience is encouraged to identify more with rich white girl Winslow. Even though Winslow isn’t painted as a particularly sympathetic victim, she still gets significantly more screen time than Cindy and Stan Chen together. We never even learn if Cindy has a mother or if Stan has a wife, and we certainly never meet her if she exists. However, we meet Winslow’s mother and step-dad, we see their business, we learn their history and see something of their family dynamic. It’s a lot of information about them and a lot of attention paid to Winslow’s victimization—we even get to see her skeevy step-dad’s booking on screen—but we don’t meet a single other soul who’s even met Cindy or Stan. I doubt this is maliciously intended, and it’s common for the show to focus on suspects and the main cast rather than on its murder victims, who are often simple plot devices, but still. They usually do better than this at giving us an idea of who their murder victims are and why we should care about them, at least for forty or so minutes.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

  • Clive’s flashback mustache is surprisingly hot.
  • Liv’s “King of the Grill” apron might be my favorite thing about the episode.
  • Ravi’s angst over Peyton is already boring, and it, frankly, makes him seem like kind of an asshole.
  • Speaking of Peyton, she’s absent this week, as is Blaine. They’re missed, but I don’t know when they could have been squeezed into the hour.
  • The Fillmore Graves zombies eat a mash of different brains that keeps them from having the personality shifts and flashbacks that Liv and Major experience.
  • While much of dad Liv fell a little flat for me, “In this house we eat brains and solve murders!” made me laugh.
  • I’m not sure about the creepy IT guy. His role here seems like a new character introduction, but he’s weird and unfunny and bland enough that I can’t even remember his name. He’d definitely be an unnecessary addition to an already large cast.