Brain/Case of the Week: A member of the Asian mob who was murdered for being a cop informant
New Twist on the Formula: Liv’s visions of the victim’s memories prominently feature Clive, leading her to believe he may have had something to do with the murder when in fact it’s simply from his time with Vice when he was deep undercover. Due to Liv’s doubts, though, she investigates the murder case without Clive’s assistance for around half the episode, and as a result the killer attacks her in her own apartment.
Liv’s Absorbed Ability of the Week: Kung Fu, allowing Liv to at least temporarily fight off her attacker at the end before resorting to her zombie powers.
Liv’s Absorbed Comic Relief Personality Quirk of the Week: Paranoia since the victim was constantly worrying that the mob would discover he was ratting on them. Not actually used a whole lot in the episode, mostly to reinforce why she wouldn’t trust Clive and to enhance her already heightened anxiety in the CW romance portion of the episode.
CW Romance: Liv freaks out when her ex-fiance Major loses a roommate and appears headed toward having his new girlfriend move in with him. So, she manipulates Ravi into moving in with him. Now, the show has an organic reason for more interactions between Major and Liv.
Serial Advancement: Blaine crushes an attempt by two of his underlings to set up their own brain peddling operation, and he replaces them with goons he has hanging in a meat locker, indicating one way he maintains order is to rule by fear and punish employees who displease him by putting them on ice. Plus, it’s confirmed that Blaine killed that kid from Major’s halfway house. Those brains he’s selling have to come from somewhere, right?
The Sad Voice-Over Wrap-Up Explaining What Liv Learned, Preferably Referencing That She’s Technically Dead: “I know it’s not a different sun that came up this morning, but somehow it looks sunnier. Ravi is hitting it off with Major, who seems willing to give me another shot at this ‘friends’ thing. The pretending to be something I’m not isn’t over, but at least Sammy’s brain is out of my system, finally. I am so ready to start looking forward instead of constantly watching my back. What’s that old zombie saying? Today is the first day of your half-dead life”
This was the “What would it look like if Liv and Ravi tried to solve a crime on their own?” but it was also the “How exactly does Blaine’s operation work?” episode. These two things did not go together particularly well, connecting to one another in no real way. However, taken on their own they were both incredibly enjoyable, although audience patience may have varied for Blaine’s dimwitted, muscle-bound henchman debating the finer points of betrayal and monopolies. I could have done with fewer jokes relating to their longing for the gym, just as I could have done without Major’s ex-roomate using clearly ADR’ed phrases like “This is whack, bro” to describe his anger upon moving out. Little things like that as well as having Liv quote The Matrix with her “I know Kung Fu” moment, sometimes remind me that iZombie was created and is being run by a 49-year-old white guy (Rob Thomas) (or suggest that I’m old enough to remember when phrases like “this is whack, bro” were relevant, but not young enough to realize that they’ve come back around again…that can’t be right, can it?).
That all being said, the split-focus between Liv and Blaine did allow for a fantastic opening sequence highlighting Blaine’s life with his client/girlfriend, a jaunty Sufjan Stevens song with the word “Zombie” in its title underscoring a montage of the beautification ritual Blaine undergoes to pass for human. I’m a little thrown by the idea that the woman he turned into a zombie would now be his quasi-girlfriend, loyal to the point of turning on the clueless henchman when they try to poach her. She is, after all, Blaine’s victim, but I read it as self-preservation mixed with maybe some vague zombie-themed notion of him being the first person to make her truly feel alive in forever…or whatever. In general, though, it was a lot of fun seeing Blaine in his natural habitat as the brain peddling king of the town. The runner throughout the episode of his’s gourmet chef friend coming up with succulent new recipes for brain-themed dishes was a particularly nice touch, recalling a very Joss Whedon-esque mindset, such as an Angel season 5 episode in which a werewolf is abducted only to then be auctioned off on the supernatural foodie market where werewolf is considered a delicacy.
As for Liv, perhaps it was a little early to temporarily separate her from Clive in a friendship loyalty test. Then again, perhaps it was actually the completely right time, early enough in the run of the show that Liv and Clive don’t really know each other that well yet. Plus, we already knew Clive was newly transferred to homicide from vice, and this filled us in on the “why” part of that equation. It’s jarring when a CW show attempts to tackle meaty drama, and that’s how I felt when Clive delivered his speech explaining how he had gone so deep undercover that he’d lost himself. It’s like when Arrow tried to do an American Sniper thing for Deadshot in a series of flashbacks a couple of episodes ago. It more comes off like “Nice try, but I don’t think you’re actually capable of pulling that off beyond painting in extreme broad strokes.” However, iZombie’s take on a subject so dramatically rich that entire movies have been devoted to it (like Johnny Depp in Donnie Brosco) was more reserved, and Clive’s delivery of the dialogue so effective without resorting to obvious actorly tricks that I imagine most viewers probably didn’t give it a second thought, buying the drama right away. By the end, Liv and Clive’s reconciliation was a testament to Rose McIver and Malcolm Goodwin’s enjoyable rapport, the pair already making for an effective “partners/developing friendship” relationship in the vein of many a cop procedural before them.
That really just leaves Major, who is around to provide the show its CW-mandated romance. To my mind, it is the least effective aspect of the show to this point, and my opinion of that is in no way changed just because we’ve now seen that Robert Buckley clearly holds his own in the pantheon of muscle-bound, shirtless men on the CW. Beyond giving us the now obligatory “Show off the abs, dude!” moment, Liv showing up at Major’s apartment with the peace-offering of coffee was seemingly just there so she could have an awkward moment with his new girlfriend, asking us to accept that Liv never anticipated the huge likelihood that if she stopped by unannounced she might bump into the new girl. Yet I find myself really liking Major, especially now that I’ve learned to accept that his name is “Major” (just as I’ve almost learned to accept that Liv’s full name is “Liv Moore” like the laziest of lazy character names for a zombie show). Buckley and the writers have given him an odd quirkiness, like he’s some distant cousin of Brandon Routh’s screwball comedy billionaire Ray Palmer on Arrow. He greets his ex-fiance suddenly looking like a zombie (seriously, why is no one alarmed that her skin tone completely changed?) and completely changing personalities from week to week with a smile and a joke and maybe a shrug instead of any the more obvious reactions. Plus, he makes fast friends with Ravi, which makes him even more likable by association. It is kind of schlocky and sitcom 101 of them to suddenly have Ravi living with Major, and it does kind of paint Liv in a negative light (e.g., Does she really have the right to keep stringing Major along and standing in his way from moving in if she can’t bring herself to tell him the truth about her, um, situation?). But I’ll take it.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This was the “What would it look like if Liv and Ravi tried to solve a crime on their own?” but it was also the “How exactly does Blaine’s operation work?” episode. These two things did not go together particularly well, connecting to one another in no real way. However, taken on their own they were both incredibly enjoyable,
2. Veronica Mars Moment #2: Liv ignoring Ravi’s quasi-orders by declining to simply “sleep on it” and instead placing a tracer on Clive’s car was a vintage Veronica disobeying her dad moment.
3. Zombie Logistic Question: Again, I’m still totally confused about this. Every other zombie in this universe temporarily absorbs the memories and quirks of the victims they consume, right? Or is Liz somehow special?
4. At WonderCon, it was revealed that in the original pilot script for iZombie there was an entire subplot explaining why Clive would be willing to believe Liv’s story that she’s a psychic, positioning him as an initially extreme skeptic who only becomes a reluctant believer by the very end. So, they are aware that it’s odd for Clive to simply go along with an albino girl from the coroner’s office claiming to be a psychic.
5. Wow, Liv’s brother was way more of a non-entity than I expected. I fully anticipated that he would see Liv in her full-on zombie mode at the end thus quickly giving us another character who knows her secret. Alas, she pulled herself together just in time.
6. Remember the Buffy episode with the idiotic vampire cowboy brothers who received more screen time than you expected and were surprisingly kind of funny? That’s Blaine’s henchmen in this episode.
THE SECOND OPINION
AVClub: “This episode might have stumbled at times trying to fit everything in, but it stumbled due to ambition, and that’s nothing but a good thing. I’ll take ten shows that want to do too much and overstep over one content to coast by doing just enough.”