Rose McIver, Robert Buckley (The CW)

iZombie’s season two premiere established that this season is going to go even darker than the first, and this darkness is quickly confirmed in “Zombie Bro,” an episode that presents itself as somewhat light and funny right before twisting the knife and bringing the pain at the end. That the show can so easily nail both tones within an episode without showing any sort of narrative strain is impressive, and even more impressive is that this week’s episode managed to bring a fair amount of pathos to even the case of the week.

Cases of the week on iZombie have mostly been useful so far to bring in fun guest stars and give Rose McIver a chance to do a wide variety of hilarious things while hopped up on murdered-people brains. Rarer is when the cases themselves—especially ones not connected to any of the main characters on a personal level—manage to go a bit deeper like the case did here. The fraternity setting of the murder works as the perfect setup for humor and ridiculousness throughout the episode, but the show does something sneaky and manages to turn the murder itself into a devastating tragedy, which isn’t revealed until the very last scene. When fraternity pledge captain Chad is murdered, the obvious choice for the suspect is someone Chad hurt by being an idiot frat boy. The writers wisely swerve from the obvious here, instead presenting Chad as an idiot frat boy, but not one so horrible he was murdered. Instead, he had the unfortunate fate to share a name with a Chad who killed someone in a drunk driving accident, and that someone’s son accidentally murdered the wrong Chad in revenge.

It’s gutting because the murderer took one look at Wrong Chad and saw a frat boy idiot, exactly the type of person who he thought would kill someone in a drunk driving accident, and killed him without another thought. Now he has to live with killing an innocent person, a revelation which completely devastates him in the end. This is two episodes in a row where the murderer made a horrible mistake when committing the crime; first by accidentally killing the neighbor last week in a fit of rage, and here by killing the wrong person. The themes of these crimes—and the guilt they so obviously give those who committed them—really work to compliment the themes of the season so far in a deftly impressive way.

The biggest way the themes of guilt in the cases of the week are reflected in the regular cast of characters is obviously in Major’s storyline. Last week, there were a lot of questions about whether or not Major killed his zombie personal training client. While the question isn’t explicitly answered here, the episode starts with Major wracked with guilt while watching the man’s children beg for information to bring him home on the news. This, combined with the confirmation later during his conversation with Ravi that Major knows there is no more of the cure left, strongly leads me to believe that the murder in the premiere wasn’t some sort of elaborate fake out. Major’s continued descent into self-destructive loathing throughout the episode only confirms it, as he dives into what looks like it could end up being a very dangerous relationship with Utopium in order to dull the pain. I’m quite frankly stunned and impressed the show is so willing to let Major go so far down the rabbit hole, because although it’s excruciating to watch on an emotional level, its execution and importance to the overall season story is pretty darn fantastic.

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The biggest heartbreak of Major’s story might be the glimmer of hope Liv got that things might be returning to normal between them, right before it’s all snatched away again. Major quite understandably still wants nothing to do with Liv, but when Liv rescues him from Utopium oblivion in a club and he allows himself to be comforted by her, she believes they are on the right track to becoming at least tentative friends again. The sight of him laying on her lap is genuinely heartbreaking, as is the end when he rejects her overtures towards friendship once he’s sober, right before getting high again—this time alone in his room.

If there are bright spots amid the darkness, it’s in Blaine’s story, which is a bit amusing considering Blaine’s story involves organized crime, murder, drug dealing, and a wicked twist when it comes to his family situation. Blaine starting a funeral home to keep up his brain supply was just good business, but Blaine isn’t happy settling for just good business. He wants to take over the city, taking down local crime legend Mr. Boss and taking his place (yes, Mr. Boss is his name—but I’m thinking a bigger reveal is to come). To do this, he has his crony hire four “desirable” drug dealers to put in the big clubs, then has those four drug dealers killed. It’s all a setup to blame it on Mr. Boss, with Blaine then going to a zombie friend in the district attorney’s office and essentially blackmailing him into taking down Mr. Boss once and for all.

Where things really get interesting is when Blaine goes to visit his father, and we learn a lot more about the twisted mess that is Blaine’s life and backstory. Blaine is only the latest in a long line of villains to have a fraught relationship with his father, but Blaine’s story takes it to the next level by revealing that the first victim of Blaine’s brains-for-cash operation was none other than dear old dad. It’s deliciously evil, but is accompanied by enough hints that Blaine’s father is no prince himself that it’s a delightful sort of evil. I mentioned last week that any worries I had about them softening Blaine once he was human again were unfounded. At this point those worries are long gone, and even the idea that I ever had those worries at all makes me look foolish. iZombie is doubling down on evil Blaine, and every additional evil step only makes the show that much better.

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Stray observations:

  • Robert Knepper is absolutely perfect casting as Blaine’s father. His scene with David Anders was fantastic.
  • So…is Mr. Boss going to turn out to be Blaine’s dad? Or am I overanalyzing that?
  • Liv made nachos in the microwave? Have some standards, Liv. At least use a toaster oven.
  • Liv’s frat boy glee at learning the furry twist was absolutely hilarious. In general, the bro dialogue here was pretty stellar and Rose McIver sold the hell out of it.
  • Fraternity brother Brody yelling “Daaaaaaaamn!” into commercial break was maybe the hardest I’ve laughed at this show, ever.
  • A Dylan McDermott/Dermot Mulroney joke! It’s extra funny because it helped them solve the case.
  • Major named Ravi’s beard Princess Sparkles and now I have to believe Major is a big fan of The O.C.
  • High Ravi is pretty hilarious as well, especially him dancing shirtless on the stage at the club and then later listening to all of his ridiculous voicemails that were supposed to be “research.”
  • “You’re like that box of chocolates in Forrest Gump, I never know what I’m going to get.” At least Clive finally overtly acknowledges Liv’s multiple personalities.
  • “Well I hope you like Jager bombs and homoerotic subtext.”
  • “You bought a grenade out of the trunk of a car. How can you not figure out how to buy drugs at a nightclub?”
  • “He babied you.” “He loved me. You just don’t know the difference.” Blaine maybe has feelings!

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