This review contains spoilers.
1.2 Brother, Can You Spare A Brain?
Second episodes are always a bit tricky, especially in the soapy-procedural bracket iZombie belongs to, but re-establishing the premise doesn’t always have to be a drag. There are characters we’ve already met, a structure we’ve been introduced to and relationships stuck in one place by necessity but, as the show has proven with Brother, Can You Spare a Brain?, it can build on the foundation, rather than simply re-explain.
Hence Blaine (David Anders), a fellow zombie and someone who appears to be the series’ first ongoing villain. He’s great for a number of very clear reasons, and he dominates episode two with snark, charm and menace that sets us up nicely for whatever shenanigans he plans to get up to over the course of the upcoming season.
In another echo of Tru Calling (aside from, you know, the entire premise), Blaine comes into the morgue as an ally and potential friend for Liv, offering insight into her condition, someone to talk to on the same level, and possibly even someone who knows what happened to her that night on the boat. But he’s somewhat responsible, and Liv knows it. She’s a Rob Thomas heroine, after all, and doesn’t trust suspicious people.
And she shouldn’t, we learn, as he’s actually just a con-artist intent on making life as easy as possible for himself by any means necessary. His intentions with Liv aren’t entirely clear at this point, but it’s possible that he’s just keeping her and Ravi on side until he’s sure whether or not Ravi can indeed cure the condition.
There’s also the underlying possibility that he wants to bring about the zombie apocalypse, so we can’t rule that out just yet either. He’s the only other undead character we’ve met, including in flashbacks, so he certainly knows more than he’s saying.
But without Blaine, it really would be your typical episode two, with Liv eating brains that set her on a case, which she solves with the help of Clive and Ravi. Her powers are fleshed out a little more, as we discover that she not only gets the memories of her dinner’s former host, but also some of the personality traits.
This little detail would definitely raise some Dollhouse-esque red flags if we hadn’t already gotten such a clear picture of Liv as a character outside of her first two cases, but it’s still a mild concern when amped up to the level seen here. The device is not just there to give Liv and the audience clues to solving the case of the week, but also to offer humour and drama and development for our protagonist.
It’s a shortcut to development, though, and that’s rarely as good as the real thing. The show wants Liv to reawaken to the beauty around her, when in life she was always wrapped up in her ambition, but she gets there by taking on the personality of a skeezy artist who was cheating on his wife with his agent’s daughter. It’s funny, at points, but when done on a weekly basis there’s a chance we’ll lose the real Liv in the process.
I’m not too worried, though, as Liv is still an absolute delight in those moments where she gets to be herself, and this episode did a good job of having Clive and Ravi around in the background without them feeling superfluous. Major, Liv’s jilted fiancé, also got some more to do this week, endearing the audience to him by simply rejecting his ex’s advances.
He may just break the curse of the bland TV love interest, even if it’s too soon to tell for sure.
So this was a good example of a follow-up episode, as follow-up episodes go. Blaine’s a good addition and everything to love about the pilot is still here in episode two. Despite my concerns, the show is still a confident, exciting genre show that’s doing stuff we’re not seeing right now, and for that I’ll forgive a lot.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Pilot, here.
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