Perhaps even more important in a TV show season than the finale episode is its penultimate episode. The penultimate episode must effectively build tension by tying together disparate plot threads from the course of the season. It must answer some questions by posing larger, unexpected, and higher-stake ones. It must send the audience careening into the season finale with enough narrative energy to see the season through. iZombie hit all of these marks with Season 1, Episode 12 (“Dead Rat, Live Rat, Brown Rat, White Rat”).
iZombie’s weakest episodes have been the ones that eschew zombie drama (and, often with it, the personal drama of Liv’s life) to focus on murder-of-the-week plots. This wasn’t as much of a problem earlier in the season when the stakes were lower, but as the zombie plot thickened with major moments like Lowell’s death, it became harder and harder to believe that Liv would be not only willing to keep her zombie identity a secret from most of the people in ther life, but that she would be able to.
The highlight of tonight’s ep came when Liv revealed her true self to someone for the first time. Sure, Ravi has known since the pilot, but it was never Liv’s choice to tell him. Plus, he was not someone who knew her before her turn to zombie-ism. Peyton is one of her closest friends, as this episode did a good job reminding us of. She has stuck with Liv through her recent rough patches. To see Liv open up to her was such a heroic moment, even if it was prompted by Peyton see Liv in full-on zombie mode and ended badly. This was a moment when, to some small degree, Liv accepted herself — the self that she is now. After last week’s fake out, this moment of truth was badly needed and all the more heartbreaking for Peyton’s ambiguous response.
What would an episode of iZombie be without Major placing himself in harm’s way? This week, it involves him posing as a city inspector (Agent Carter-style) to inspect Meat Cute, aka the cover for Blaine’s brains business. Surprise! This doesn’t end well, with Major tied up in Blaine’s meat freezer, about to be tortured for the whereabouts of Blaine’s missing astronaut brains. Other viewers might be frustrated with Major’s tendency to wander stupidly into dangerous situations, but I can’t help but stay endeared to his character. He is an unexpectedly refreshing combination of bachelor-in-distress and knight-in-shining-armor. He just keeps trying, even as the closest people in his life continue to keep secrets that put him in further danger. Perhaps Peyton will tell him the truth?
Liv’s little brother is also wandering into danger — i.e. through the door of Meat Cute. Blaine now has his sights set on him, which can’t end well. Though it’s horrifying to think of what Blaine might do to Liv’s brother, this moment would mean more if we knew Liv’s brother a bit better, as could have watching a bound and gagged Major listen to Blaine’s interaction with Liv’s brother. These two presumably know one another well, given that Major was engaged to marry Liv. As great as this episode was, it’s moments like these that highlight the relative unevenness and untapped potential of this first season.
Finally, who is killing off the I Know What You Did Last Summer teenagers? Sure, Sebastian killed the cheerleader and could have taken out the others, but the death of the punk girl could not have been Sebastian, as Liv had already taken him out at this point. With only one episode left in its thoroughly entertaining first season, iZombie has a lot of questions to answer. But, with a penultimate episode as great as this one was, it has done a stellar job setting itself up for success.