If the past few episodes have been iZombie on high gear, “Abra Cadaver” is the show shifting slightly downward and taking a few needed, oxygen-rich breaths to recharge. There are still plenty of moving parts sprinkled throughout the episode—from plot developments in the ongoing arcs to some key relationship developments—but for the most part the concentration is on the magic-themed murder of the week and the kooky brain that comes with it.

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For the sake of full disclosure, I must confess: I pretty much hate magic in all of its forms, so a magic-themed murder of the week case was never primed to be my favorite thing simply due to uncontrollable personal bias. To the show’s credit, the folks making it clearly love magic—or at least have a lot of fun poking fun at its clichés—and that affection comes through loud and clear. The best part of the whole thing might be both Ravi’s delight in all things magic (he subscribes to the PrestoFest magic convention newsletter, because of course he does), and Clive’s disgust at Ravi’s delight. Ravi is especially endearing after Liv eats the murder victim’s brain and starts doing tricks, declaring it the “best brain ever.”

As for the murder case itself, that’s more of a mixed bag. Victim Sid Wicked is a death obsessed, goth-themed magician who made a nasty name for himself by stealing tricks from some magicians and exposing the method behind the magic of others. His brain is a weird mix of cheesy magic tricks and generic Wicca clichés that mostly exist to affect Liv’s personal relationship with Major (more on this in a bit), and while the episode still manages to be quite funny, the humor that comes from the brain doesn’t land as much as it should. The biggest thing that kept nagging throughout: This was a death-obsessed brain, affecting the personality of a person who is actually dead and faces her own mortality in a way few others could. It feels like this should affect Liv in a very specific way, but the episode never quite makes that connection, despite it being right at its fingertips the whole time.

The murder of the week case might have been a bit lacking, but the other parts of the episode were still fairly strong. The biggest thing that happened plot-wise is in regards to the as-yet-unknown nexus between Clive’s Meat Cute investigation and Agent Bozzio’s case, as Blaine finds out about the investigation and enlists Liv’s help to figure out who is doing the deed before Bozzio can. This leads them to Bozzio’s house, where they intercept the forensics report from the brain in Suzuki’s freezer and Liv replaces it with a false report that shows the specimen was a cow’s brain instead. There is a deceptive amount of plot movement here despite fairly little screen time, as we get Blaine looped into this story, Clive pointed away from answers, and the information that Bozzio has no idea Major might be involved—but she does have a picture of Minor hanging out in her case files, just waiting to be discovered and make the connection. The most compelling moment is the mystery woman who drops a package at Bozzio’s doorstep, containing what is surely something that will have some sort of important consequences.

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The remainder of the episode is focused on the various relationships on the show, specifically the ones of the romantic variety. After a few weeks of newly-reunited bliss, the happy glow is starting to wear off for Major as he begins to realize what dating this new version of Liv will actually entail. He seems pretty accepting of the “no sex” part of the deal, but the constant personality shifts are a bit harder for him to take. On the upside, this leads to a great friendship scene between Major, Ravi, and Peyton as they talk about zombie Liv in a way the show never could before everyone was in the know. On the downside, Liv’s death-obsessed brain is a tough one for Major to handle, and by the end of the episode he might not be rethinking the entire relationship, but he’s certainly at least rethinking how much of this he can handle. All of this works fairly well and feels like a necessary extension of this story. Major jumped fast from a self-destructive downer to happy and in this relationship, so having some blowback was inevitable. How far that blowback extends is yet to be seen.

The other relationship in flux here is Ravi and Peyton, as Ravi is having his own difficulties adjusting to having Peyton back in town—and as his roommate, to boot. Ravi starts questioning his relationship with Stephanie, as she seems far more into him than he is into her. This story isn’t nearly as well developed as the Liv and Major one, and poor Stephanie suffers a bit for it. After looking pretty darn cool in her first appearance, she’s wedged into an over-the-top scary girlfriend role here that feels a bit forced, even for a character we barely know at all. It’s all in service to get to the moment where Ravi breaks it off with her and then tries to make a move on Peyton, who quickly rejects him (all while possibly flirting herself with Blaine, which, oh boy). It’s hard to blame Peyton for not wanting to dive back into a relationship with someone she was barely dating before she left—especially when that guy is her roommate now—but Peyton. It’s Ravi. You’re going to have to come up with a much better argument for staying away in order for us to understand how you can resist.

Stray observations:

  • Love Clive getting a love interest in Bozzio, even though that is sure to become totally messy once both their investigations progress.
  • Did anyone think Meers was a dude and not a woman with a bad wig and a fake moustache? For even one second? That was not a great reveal, unless we were supposed to know Meers was the killer all along.
  • Rahul Kohli is very good at chugging an entire pint. Bravo, sir.
  • David Anders singing needs to be a recurring feature, please.
  • “This is the best brain ever! I almost want to start killing magicians so it never ends.”
  • “How long were you standing there?” “One second less than would have been creepy.”
  • “Today she left me a voicemail about how drowning would be a beautiful way to die. But otherwise, you know, same old Liv.”
  • “Did you eat Edgar Allen Poe?”
  • “Twitter: A vast collection of humanity’s impetuous thought vomiting.”

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