This review contains spoilers.
4.4 Brainless In Seattle Part 2
It’s tricky to write about something politically topical. The closer it becomes to reality, the harder it is not to project all of your own values and beliefs onto the genre reflection of our reality. Usually, this is a good thing—it’s a goal of speculative fiction storytelling to start conversations by framing a real-world problem in an off-kilter, supernatural way. However, when a show is too wishy-washy with its exploration, it can leave the telling confused and even problematic.
This is what’s happening, thus far, with iZombie‘s depiction of police brutality and abuse of power through the portrayal of Major’s Fillmore Graves soldiers. In tonight’s episode, Major and his cronies become so desperate to find the video of one of their own scratching a human, they literally shoot up a bar, using their institutional, armed-to-the-teeth power to get what they want. Fillmore Graves has become judge, jury, and executioner, and that’s too much power for any one organisation to hold, let alone one that is so decidedly pro-zombie in a city that has both humans and zombies populations.
I can see where iZombie is trying to go with this, I really can, and it’s an admirable pursuit. However, because Major is a main character, the balance of the narrative is off. So far, no one we really know has called Major out on his actions, save for a brief conversation with Liv. Furthermore, narratively, it doesn’t seem like iZombie wants to take too harsh a stance on Major’s actions. I get it; he’s a puppy. But, now, he’s a puppy who’s causing some serious trauma to the citizens of New Seattle, the citizens he claims to be trying to protect. It’s a realistically horrific way a good person can get pulled into a bad situation, and I’d love for iZombie to commit to the horror of it.
One of the reasons why iZombie probably hasn’t committed to the horror of Major and Fillmore Graves is because this show is still, ostensibly, a dramedy. We already have enough tonal whiplash jumping from Major’s stuff to Liv’s stuff. This week, we see Liv continues to move through the world on romantic comedy brain, which, sadly, is a bit tired after two weeks of play, making its cariacture of women who love romance just feel a bit mean.
While the generic elements of the brain—most especially Liv’s voiceover a la Bridget Jones Diary and the continued use of 90s pop ballads—were wonderful, the show belittled Liv’s search for true love too much for the generic elements to truly work. If iZombie wanted to properly do a romantic comedy brain that bled into the very fabric of the show, then it would have had to take Liv’s search for love and human connection more seriously. Romantic comedies are nothing if not earnest, and there is something brave and powerful in that optimistic vulnerability that iZombie completely misses, to the story’s detriment.
A much more effective brain for this episode came in Blaine’s reluctant consumption of the super honest man who knew the location of Renegade. Blaine is a deceitful character, not in the sense that we don’t know he is always in it for himself, but definitely in the particulars. He uses sarcasm and humour to obscure the depth of his wrongdoing and, delivered with the charisma of David Anders, it’s hard not to like Blaine, even though we all know he is a terrible, terrible person. Brainless in Seattle Part 2 really hammered that latter point home in some hilarious, yet chilling ways. Blaine openly admits to his customers that he murders the people he is eating. He tells his employee that he is being underpaid and exploited. He tells a random couple that Chase Graves is blackmailing him.
Blaine’s honesty is so effective here because it doesn’t matter. Not really. Just like villainy in real life, it’s usually just below the surface. Everyone knows what the world’s injustices are, but we also all (for the most part) accept the status quo. It’s not that we don’t see the world’s problems; its that we feel powerless, for whatever reason, to change them. iZombie has done a good job of setting up a New Seattle where the same is true. It’s really not that hard for anyone with a brain to guess that Blaine is getting his fancy brains through less-than-legal means. Having it said explicitly doesn’t really change anything. That’s the true, genius horror of this show.
Inevitably, Blaine’s brain gets him what he wanted: the location of Renegade. He and his henchman bring her to Chase Graves, who told Blaine he would release him from his blackmail agreement should he deliver the most moral of all coyotes to Fillmore Graves. The episode ends with Chase seemingly ready to do something villainous in regards to Renegade, but will he really? This show tends to zig when you think it will zag, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Chase had something more complex to offer Renegade. After all, he’s not a bad person, per se. He’s a desperate one who has let his fear dictate the abuse of his power in some terrible ways, but that is not the same thing as Blaine’s greed.
My favorite moment of the episode has to go to Clive, who continues to be this show’s unsung hero. It’s a thankless job playing the straight man to Liv’s brain-of-the-week shenanigans, but Clive does it with humility and grace. And, perhaps most importantly, he also calls Liv out on her bullshit. When Liv tries to interfere with Clive’s love life yet again, he firmly tells her that she can’t use her brain-of-the-week as an excuse for her behavior. Not only is this an in-universe call-out of one of this show’s weakest narrative elements, it also tells us a lot about Clive’s character. Guys, he loves Dale Bozzio. Like, really loves her. For an episode that is mostly only superficially about romance, Clive’s mature defense of his relationship with Bozzio was by far the most romantic. You don’t have to be silly to do romance, iZombie. Often, love is the least silly thing in the world.