This iZombie review contains spoilers.
iZombie Season 3, Episode 12
A week after I wrote a review lamenting iZombie‘s inability to tell a specific story with its ambitious plot, the show gives us one of its best episodes ever… one that literally ends with a bang. iZombie has always had a talent for metaphorically blowing up its plot lines in unexpected and upsetting ways (i.e. having Blaine kill Lowell in Season 1), but it’s been awhile since it was able to make one of its devastating twists feel so heavy. Harley’s bombing of Major’s going away party definitely falls into that category.
iZombie has been incredibly ambitious with its thematic subject matter this season, using Harley and his zombie truther friends as a thinly-veiled allegory for the white supremacist movement seemingly on the rise (or at least more visible) in our country right now. In the beginning of the season, I’m not sure how effective the exploration was as iZombie only skimmed the surface of the zombie truther movement. As the season races towards its finish, however, it’s not holding back on its horrifying depiction of what hate-driven terror truly looks like. And it’s doing it all on a zombie show.
I attended a panel called “Television in a Trumped Up America” earlier this month at the ATX TV Festival. In it, writers and showrunners discussed how their writing has changed (or not) post-Trump’s election and what responsibility an artist has (or not) in such divisive, angry times. It would have been interesting to hear iZombie‘s Rob Thomas or Diane Ruggiero’s perspectives on the subject. In a sea of shows scrambling to tell stories that are relevant in our new reality, iZombie is one step ahead of them, daring to cast white men as the “terrorist” in a way that they so often are in real life and are so rarely depicted on TV. (This is a particularly impressive feat considering most of iZombie Season 3 was written and filmed mostly prior to Trump’s election.)
It didn’t seem a coincidence that an episode that ended with Harley blowing up an entire house filled with people and zombies also included a scene in which a rich white woman casually delivered some horrifically racist statements about the Sikh man who had been sitting next to her on a flight. And she did it all to Ravi, another brown man. He was the one to “decode” her racism in a scene that was played for some laughs, but was also deathly serious. It was like watching the anti-24. iZombie doesn’t get enough credit for the ways in which it throws sharp, critical social commentary into its fast-paced narrative — or for the ways in which it deals with some very heavy subjects while still, ostensibly, being a show with comedic sensibilities.
But enough gushing. How does Harley’s attack play into the larger narrative of this show? Well, it’s hard to tell how this is going to escalate things right now, as the development happened at the very end of the episode, but this will no doubt up the stakes. How will Fillmore Graves respond? Harley just took out most of their zombie mercenary army. Something tells me Chase Graves will not take this lying down. Will he allow Major to rejoin his family now that their numbers are so dwindled?
Speaking of Chase, let’s talk about his hook up with Liv, which raised some interesting questions about what you are or are not responsible for when you are on a brain — a subject that, somehow, hasn’t come up before. (What happens if Liv eats the brain of a killer? Or someone with suicidal thoughts? This raises the brain-eating stakes in some scary, dramatically-rich ways.) Because she’s on Katty’s brain, Liv can’t stop sleeping with random men, which wouldn’t be a big deal if she a) chose it for herself and b) wasn’t trying to commit to her relationship with Justin.
I wish iZombie had explored Liv’s lack of control when she is on a brain before this because it circumvents one of the chief problems of the show: it’s frequent inability to tell us who Liv is. If Liv is sometime fighting against aspects of the brains, or at least commenting on it, then we’re learning something more about her. I could empathize with and understand Liv’s character better in this episode than I have been able to for a long while.
This episode went past the obvious brain-related joke of “Wouldn’t it be funny if Liv ate the brain of someone who has slept with Ravi?” and reached for higher-hanging fruit. I’d like to see them demonstrate that kind of brain-related narrative ambition more often, like they did in the beginning of this show when Liv would deliver emo monologues about what this week’s new brain taught her. (Am I the only one who liked this narrative device?)
And what of the napkin with Katty’s number Liv found on Chase’s bedside table? Did he kill Katty? It certainly seems likely, given that Katty was arguably on the zombie trail. However, would iZombie tease that reveal so heavily? Is this a red herring? Chase has been a relatively enigmatic character thus far, so it’s hard to guess what he is or isn’t possible of.
I’d like to take a moment to pay tribute to Katty who was kind of a great character. Ravi might not have liked her very much, but, as far as I could tell, she was a woman who went for what she wanted — both in her career and her personal life. She didn’t deserve to die… even if it did put into motion a whole string of interesting plot developments.
One of those developments? Clive’s discovery that one of the people Katty was investigating in relation to the “Aleutian flu outbreak” was the daughter of a Fillmore Graves higher-up. Did Patrice accidentally (or purposefully) start a zombie outbreak on that plane from Paris? Or was it, perhaps, her mother, who could have also easily been on that plane? What is Fillmore Graves up to? I kind of love that, at this late point in the season, I still have no idea, but trust iZombie to have an excellent explanation waiting for me in the season finale.
All in all, this episode pulled the trigger on some long-running plots and characters that proved how patient and well-planned this show can be. The biggest example may have been the return of Natalie, who gives Major a happy ending of sorts before her untimely, unfair death in Harley’s explosion. Natalie has always been a symbol for Major’s redemption — at least in his own eyes (I’m not sure if I believe Major has done anything that requires redemption).
The fact that Major allowed himself to agree to go to Positano with Natalie shows how much this character has grown. It was a pretty healthy choice, even if Major would have likely invitably returned to help the people he cares about in Seattle. If anyone needs a vacation, it’s Major. However, it wasn’t meant to be. Poor Major just can’t catch a break, and now he will most likely be more committed to the zombie cause than ever. He not only lost Natalie, but most of his new found family in that blast.
Meanwhile, Baracus has offered Peyton a job as his new chief of staff. In a lesser show, I would assume, like Peyton does, that this is a buy off. But this show tends to be more complex than that. Does Baracus really just want a chief of staff who is in the zombie know? Or is there something at play here? Like the Fillmore Graves mystery, I am eager to see what iZombie‘s explanation for the Weckler mystery will be in the season finale. I have a feeling it’s gonna be good.