This iZombie review contains spoilers.
iZombie Season 4, Episode 2
iZombie has launched into a true dystopia in its fourth season and, for the most part, its made for a smooth transition. However, if the second episode of the season has proven anything it’s that, while iZombie has perfected its serialized elements to become one of the most topical shows on TV, the brain-of-the-week format continues to suffer from an inconsistency of rules when it comes to its brains.
This has been an issue I’ve had with iZombie since the pilot: while it’s thoroughly entertaining to see the talented Rose McIver take on a different persona every week, the differing degrees to which the brain of the week takes over Liv’s personality is not only jarring, but keeps us from truly getting to know Liv. In episodes like this one, which saw Liv completely subsumed by the brain of a racist, rich snob of an older woman, Liv is the negative space around which all of the other characters and plot elements gravitate. We temporarily lose her to the brain, which turns her into a horrible person.
If you stop to think about what this must be like to Liv, who more or less loses complete control when a brain affects her life this, its horrifying. However, the show doesn’t address it as such. Liv’s friends constantly play it off as a joke, making a show of being affectionately irritated by Liv’s latest brain. Even Major, whom Liv is sleeping with, thinks its funny. I’m not even sure Liv could consent to sex given the seemingly all-powerful effect of this brain, but rather than address any of these issues, Liv-On-Dowager-Brain learns some new sex tricks from the brain is played as a joke.
At this point, you might make the argument that Liv is still herself, even when she’s on a brain, but that doesn’t seem to always be the case. As we learned when Liv ate Katty Kupps’ brain last season and slept with Chase Graves, a brain can make Liv do something she normally wouldn’t. This is further backed up by “Blue Bloody,” which sees Dowager Liv stoically refuse to sneak a sick boy out of the city… until the brain starts to wear off. I’d like to know what Liv’s perspective on all of this is. How does she feel about so losing control when she is on brains? How does that trauma affect her? It’s well past time iZombie started asking some of these questions.
It says a lot about how well this show works in other ways that the narrative issues surrounding Liv’s character and her brain personalities don’t ruin this show. It helps that Liv and the murders of the week are often the most comedic parts of the episode. It further helps that iZombie has started to explore some seriously topical issues in some wonderful genre ways. In “Blue Bloody,” Major and his Fillmore Graves comrades are a stand-in for the real-world police (even if Major claims them to be a “peacekeeper”). When one of Major’s zombie youth roughs up a human, even going so far as to scratch them, you have sympathy for her—she should not be out on those streets with this authority—but you also have sympathy for the victim and his friend who is filming the whole thing. New Seattle deserves to see this, even if Major doesn’t want them to.
The best part of the entire episode comes when Major is forced to choose between his friends and his duty when his Fillmore Graves patrol catches Liv and Ravi trying to sneak a sick kid out of the city. Major chooses his friends—this time—but he resents that they made him choose at all. Later, when he confronts Liv about it (in another affecting scene), Liv wonders what happened to the Major who would do anything to help a sick kid. We know Major well enough to see it from his perspective—he is trying to help kids, his zombie youth—but Liv is right. This world they live in is unjust, and Major has become an implicit part of the system. If anyone can pull him away from that, it’s going to be someone who knows him as well as Liv does.
That’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, however. Major ends their friends with benefits thing, too upset about the way Liv apparently sees him to continue. It’s the second romantic relationship that seems to be crashing and burning in this episode. The other is the ongoing romance between Clive and Bozzio. They continue to see each other, they continue to love each other, but are unable to have sex because of Dale’s zombie status and Clive’s human status. Clive is desperate enough that he goes to Ravi for advice, and starts taking SSRIs to curb his libido. When Dale finds out, she vows to find another solution, but Clive is a realist; he sees the writing on the wall.
Meanwhile, Angus is quickly gathering followers as a zombie religious leader. It helps that he’s giving out brains like candy in a parade, easily luring in the most vulnerable zombie populations in the city. In one memorable moment, we see Angus stop the vehicle he’s preaching from to talk to a zombie girl who looks like a young Liv. He gives her something to believe in, and it’s easy to see why she and others like her would follow him. At this point, it’s unclear what Angus’ endgame is. He seems to genuinely believe what he’s preaching, which perhaps makes him that much more dangerous. The Angus moments in this episode were somewhat out-of-sync with the tone of the rest of the episode, but iZombie tends to know what it’s doing when it comes to these slow burn plots.
Filling in the New Seattle world in another direction, we meet Renegade, the woman who seems to organize the coyotes that smuggle desperate people in and out of the city. She is a determined, compassionate figure, one who claims she has met Liv and Ravi before. She’s a person to keep an eye on, and a fascinating addition to this new world order. As the season progresses and Liv and her friends are forced to make more choices about where their loyalties lie, I have a feeling Renegade will come to play a bigger role.