Tag Archives: iZombie

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.

iZombie: “Heaven Just Got a Little Bit Smoother” establishes a new and problematic normal

**This is a pretty spoilery review from start to finish.**

iZombie’s season two finale cleared the board, killing off or otherwise getting rid of the show’s major villains while ending the season with a zombie- and energy-drink-fueled conflagration that threatened to alert the whole world to Seattle’s undead problem. The first episode of season three, “Heaven Just Got a Little Bit Smoother,” is all about establishing a new baseline for the show and for all its characters, starting with everyone getting their stories straight about what happened at the Max Rager party, as the episode picks up 2.8 minutes after the last one ended. It’s a tense beginning, with Clive, Liv and Major coordinating their stories with new character Vivian Stoll (Andrea Savage) while on the other side of town Peyton, Ravi and Blaine are dealing with the aftermath of the shootout with Mr. Boss’s men after they’d kidnapped Peyton.

After this initial excitement, however, things slow down for a minute so we can get a slightly info-dumpy Liv voiceover that catches us up on the current state of the team—Liv, Ravi, Major, Peyton, and Clive—who are gathered together at Liv’s place to figure out what to do next. Liv suggests that they adopt a new “no secrets” policy between the five of them, and in the interest of that agreement tells them about her first meeting with Vivian and Vivian’s idea of making Seattle the capital of a zombie homeland. Interestingly, instead of jumping to conclusions and immediately labelling Vivian as a villain, Liv, Major and Clive take the time to set up a meeting with Vivian the next day to find out more about what she and her company (Fillmore Graves!) have planned.

Meanwhile, Blaine has headed back to his funeral home, where he’s confronted by Don E., who is convinced that Blaine is faking his amnesia. It’s an interesting and entertaining way for Blaine’s past to come back and haunt him, but even more interesting is to see a glimmer of the old Blaine when he realizes that the business is his and that Don E. and Chief were taking advantage of him when he first lost his memories. He lets Don E. quit, but before Don E. leaves, he finds Blaine’s frozen dad. It’s no surprise later in the episode to find Don E. unfreezing the old man so they can plot revenge against their mutual enemy, but it is a positive development, at least for watchers of the show. I’m encouraged that the show seems to have found a balance between Blaine having amnesia and Blaine still being Blaine, deep down.

The meeting with Vivian is delightfully unexpected. I rather thought she was going to replace Vaughn Du Clark as the show’s manically wicked corporate bad guy, and Andrea Savage would be great in that type of role, but that doesn’t seem to be the direction the show is going at all. Instead, Vivian’s preparations for “D-day” (“D” for discovery, when humans learn about the zombies in their midst) are actually mostly sensible. I mean, if she’s really concerned about humans taking military action against zombies, I’m not sure that moving every zombie man, woman and child to a tiny island is the best strategy, even if she does have her own zombie militia, but it’s not the worst idea, either. Sure, it sounds like a made-to-order target for drone strikes, but it could also work to prove that zombies are peaceable, normal people capable of existing in regular society if given the chance. If nothing else, Vivian thoroughly shows here that she’s not planning a pre-emptive strike or anything of the sort, and this gives Liv, Major and Clive quite a bit to think about regarding whether humanity is ready to know about zombies at all.

Unfortunately, after this promising start to the episode, the rest of it turns into a little bit of an overstuffed mess that all the smart, snappy dialogue in the world can’t completely make work. Here’s a list of things that happen in the final two thirds of “Heaven Just Got a Little Bit Smoother”:

  • Ravi isn’t dealing well with the news that Peyton and Blaine slept together, and he’s being a dick about it. Peyton hasn’t been entirely fair to Ravi, what with totally bailing on him without a word and all, but Ravi needs to grow the fuck up. I almost audibly cheered when Liv told him to stop it.
  • Peyton goes to see Blaine to thank him for saving her life, and he asks her straight up if they’re a couple. Whatever conversation that leads to happens off-screen, however, which makes it not really clear to anyone, viewer included, exactly where these two stand.
  • Major is looking for a job, but everyone still thinks he’s probably the Chaos Killer, which sucks. He eventually takes a job at Fillmore Graves. Because of course he does.
  • Ravi and Clive have a genuinely excellently done expository scene where they talk a lot about Ravi’s seventeen remaining doses of zombie cure and Liv and Major’s options re: getting cured and losing their memories versus just sticking this zombie thing out for a while longer. We’re also reminded that Major must make a choice sooner rather than later before the first non-working cure he took horribly kills him.
  • The security guard from the Max Rager party goes on a right-wing conspiracy theory radio show and spills about the zombies he saw tearing through the event. Liv and Clive try to stop him, but this only makes matters worse by adding fuel to the government cover-up fire.
  • Liv keeps staying on soldier brains to try and keep from feeling her feelings about having to shoot Drake, but it obviously stops working. Clive gets her extremely drunk, off-screen, which is sweet, but now it feels like the show is trying to avoid letting anyone have any feelings about this.
  • Peyton is being harassed and/or threatened on Twitter, and it frightens her. She tries to call Ravi, who petulantly refuses to answer the call, so instead she turns to Blaine for comfort. Nice going, Ravi.

What I want to talk about is the end of the episode. Early on, when Vivian is showing Liv, Major and Clive around Fillmore Graves and explaining what they do there, they meet a little boy, Wally, who knows Clive. It turns out that Wally and his parents are zombies, but they also used to be Clive’s neighbors, and Clive is happy to see Wally again so they agree to make plans to get together later. At one point in the hour, we hear a caller on the radio talking about how he thinks his neighbors are zombies, and the episode ends with Wally and his parents being murdered, each one shot in the head, presumably for being zombies. I suppose this can be interpreted, generously, as a way for the show to make the zombies’ potential plight real and to give Clive a very personal reason to care about what happens to the zombies in case his friendship with Liv isn’t enough.

Okay, sure. But there is a lot of weird coding going on here. While Malcolm Goodwin and Rahul Kohli have been regular cast members since day one, the show has otherwise struggled at times with diversity and hasn’t spent much time dwelling on race at all. However. There are some definite parallels emerging between the zombie experience and the experiences of immigrants and people of color in the US, and it’s uncomfortable, to say the least. All but one of the show’s notable zombies (good and bad) before now have been white, and it’s bad optics—at the very least—for the first black zombie family on the show, including a young child, the be murdered before we’ve even been properly introduced to them. At worst, it’s lazily racist shorthand to reiterate—in case the violent anti-zombie rhetoric that sounds very like ordinary right-wing vitriol wasn’t enough—that the show’s white zombies are, in the universe of the show, an oppressed minority. That the instigator of the anti-zombie frenzy that led to Wally and his family’s murders is also black doesn’t seem coincidental. It’s weird messaging all around, and I’m not sure that I’m willing to give it the generous interpretation when the show has failed on race in several other ways.

Finally, and still speaking of race, let’s talk about why this show, now in its third season and having received criticism for it for years, still can’t seem to cast a woman of color in any significant role. In addition to Vivian Stoll, the show also introduced us to Ravi’s ex-boss, Katty Kupps (*groan*), who is (surprise, surprise) also white. Listen. I love this show, and I love Liv and Peyton, and I liked Gilda or Rita or whatever her name was last season, but the most memorable woman of color that’s ever been on the show is memorable primarily for being a horrendously offensive racist stereotype of black women. No woman of color has ever had a multi-episode arc, and Liv has never been shown to be friendly with any woman of color. We couldn’t even get a woman of color as a love interest for Clive, who when he was dating dated a white woman, or Ravi, who is very hung up on Peyton.

This is bullshit. Women of color deserve better, and white women don’t deserve to always have even fictional worlds revolving around them a hundred percent of the time. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised later this season, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

  • Considering this show’s predilection for slightly on the nose joke-y names, I googled “Stoll” and was not disappointed: Vivian Stoll could be roughly translated to “life support.”
  • So… do zombie kids grow up? Or are they trapped as children forever? This is important.
  • “We’re trying to keep a secret here.”
  • “I don’t like thinking about that!”
  • David Anders should sing in every episode.
  • Aly Michalka has finally gotten promoted to series regular, which means we should be seeing a lot more of Peyton from here on out.

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.

iZombie: “Reflections on How Liv Used to Be” sets things up for a great season finale

After last week’s slightly frenetic episode and with a two-part finale scheduled for next week, I rather expected “Reflections on How Liv Used to Be” to have a lot more going on than it turned out to. Instead of another frantically-paced hour of setup for the season finale, however, this episode actually slows things down considerably and takes its time dealing with the fallout from last week before ramping back up and ending on a significant cliffhanger.

Probably the biggest event of last week’s episode was Ravi’s confrontation with Major at the end of the episode, which was further complicated with Major’s return to zombie form, and these two get a good amount of screen time this week as they work through their situation. When Major wakes up, Ravi is waiting for an explanation about the Chaos Killer stuff, and that part of things is sorted relatively quickly, though both men agree that they won’t tell Liv, at least for now. This makes their most pressing issue Major’s rezombification and possibly impending death. Major’s immediate need for brains is filled with the last of the happiness brain from a few episodes ago, which is great on several levels, and it’s interesting to see how Major, the guy who at one point would rather have died than be a zombie, is handling it now—better, obviously, than when he’d just had the whole zombie thing sprung on him, but also, importantly, better in a way that seems to indicate real character growth on his part.

The bad news, of course, is that the zombie cure that Ravi has currently developed has some very negative side effects. Blaine still hasn’t gotten his memories back, and is struggling to just make it through his days. On the one hand, this generates one of the best scenes of the episode, when Ravi tells Blaine all the evil shit he’s done and then Major walks in and introduces himself absurdly cheerfully. On the other hand, it’s starting to be actually difficult to watch as Blaine goes through the motions of his life and is shamelessly taken advantage of by Don E and Chief. I mean, there’s no way that this is going to end well for either of those two, because surely Blaine’s memories are going to come back sooner or later, but it’s tough to watch in the meantime.

The case of the week is somewhat forgettable, functioning primarily as a way to give us a look at something like Liv’s pre-zombie normal. Unfortunately, that character work is overshadowed by the ways in which all the show’s various storylines are being systematically tied together. I’m not sure what’s going to happen with Drake, but his colleague in Vice plays a major role in this episode and provides several important pieces of information. He even mentions the z-word in connection with the Utopium trade, though he scoffs at the idea. Clive is so close—and yet so far away—to putting it all together, but this weeks’ award for good detective work has to go to Dale, who finally gets a break in her hunt for the Chaos Killer.

The bait and switch ending of this episode is a masterful piece of high tension television. Major is planning to purposefully infect Vaughn with zombieism, but Vaughn is being tipped off about Major’s failure to actually kill any of the people he’s been supposed to murder. Just as that situation is about to erupt, Dale makes her move, and the episode ends with Major facedown on the floor being arrested. There are several things going on at once here, and all of them are exciting. The last couple episodes have been steadily chipping away at various characters’ secrecy and connecting all of the show’s numerous plots to each other. Next week, we get to see just how much everyone figures out. It seems as if the only way out of some of these situations is going to be total transparency and honesty, but that literally never happens on television. I can’t wait to see what happens instead.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • “Can we play hooky and follow him around all day?”
  • Don E and Chief playing bluegrass was delightful.
  • Peyton is back to hassle Blaine about flaking on helping her nail Mr. Boss for doing so much crime.
  • Vaughn has Rita locked up in the basement, and she looks like she could cheerfully murder him, which I consider a likely event by the end of next week’s finale.
  • Robert Buckley has teased a character death next week. My money would be on Dale or Drake, but this could also be a good time to off Major, who has had a great arc this season and is probably at his most likeable since the beginning of the show, making his death the most potentially impactful. Major’s death could also have been foreshadowed this week with his blithe attitude about the cure and his seemingly sanguine feelings about being a zombie.