I have a theory that it is impossible to make a bad heist episode of television, as long as there’s even a modicum of effort. However, it is possible to have a bad episode of a heist show. Food for thought. Even in a season as uneven as this one, there’s very little chance that iZombie could have gone wrong with “Bye, Zombies.” I have another personal theory that Diane Ruggiero-Wright (who penned this episode) is the Spondoolieverse (what I decided to call Rob Thomas shows in my Veronica Mars season four reviews) writer who holds all of this together. Her specialty has always been really highlighting in the humor of these worlds in conjunction with that world-building that’s always so important, so it makes absolute sense that this would be her last episode of the series. “Bye, Zombies” combines the humor of the heist with the culmination of major plot points from this season and beyond. In addition to the heist, there is the greenlight on the zombie-human war heading into the finale—as well as Major finally being ousted as Fillmore-Graves captain—as well as Blaine finally, completely reveling in his villainy
Retinal scans, key cards, Russian accents—“Bye, Zombies” has it all. As a farewell to the series, it makes sense that there would be one last mission for the original trio. (The episode even features a scene with all five of our heroes in the same room together.) As Ravi reminds Clive here, he’s a cop with “partners,” plural, and we can’t forget that.
Because of the heist dynamic and how much goes on in the rest of the episode, “Bye, Zombies” makes it easy to forget how rough of a start it has. It opens with a Liv voiceover, and it’s clear that she is stressed the hell out. But that opening voiceover isn’t just a look into Liv’s state of mind—as it’s not even on the forefront of her mind soon enough—it’s an up-close look at just how contrived and miserable this season has been:
“Another beautiful day in New Seattle. Shame the terminally ill kidnapping victims can’t go sight-seeing … No classes today, kids. That tutor you all loved? He was lying to us and helped with a plan to spread zombieism outside the wall. Yes, my long-lost dad, the drug addict who accidentally created zombies, was one of the masterminds, but he had a change of heart right before I watched him get killed … Radical humans want zombies dead. Radical zombies want humans dead. There’s still a threat we’ll all be nuked, and, oh, yeah, the city is running out of brains … I want to lay down right here, in this very spot and never move. But I won’t. The cure is coming. I have to believe that everything is gonna be okay because what’s the alternative?”
Liv’s optimism at the end highlights what makes her a good character, but the voiceover is another reminder of how much the light and fun have been taken out of iZombie. That’s why it’s the rare late-season show where the cases-of-the-week are far more welcome than the larger arcs because those at least feature the charm that this show used to have in spades. Not just in little bursts. But then the episode becomes a heist episode, complete with the Ocean’s 11/Hustle/Leverage score that comes with it. There is no case-of-the-week this time, just the hunt for the cure this time. And because this isn’t really for a case, “Bye, Zombies” is the rare episode of iZombie where Liv (and Ravi) is actively using brains for the purposes of something cool. The “something cool” is still a mission though, and it’s with this that it strikes me: Had iZombie went to the mission well for brains (and the picking and choosing to do it), it probably would have had fewer issues with brain personalities being too overwhelming.
At the same time, the lengths Liv and Ravi have to go to in order to get some of these brains would make it kind of hard to root for literal grave robbers. But using brains in a much more precise way could have really opened up the world of iZombie, even if it wouldn’t necessarily be the best for cases. (“Five, Six, Seven… Ate!” is the smaller-scale version of this from this season—specifically tied to a case—with Liv eating both victims’ brains.) Clive as the George Clooney of the trio allows Malcolm Goodwin to cut a rug in a way I didn’t know Clooney (or any Batman) could, while pickpocket Liv’s frustration with Ravi’s no-nonsense Russian hacker personality through the first phase makes them feel like a real heist team. It’s also amazing which brain personalities just seem natural for Rose McIver to play, because pickpocket brain really, really does. It all especially works because every bit character they encounter during the heist has a personality as well, from Gladys the frisky head of HR, to the racist security guard, and the CDC employee who gives Russian Ravi a piece of her mind about the time he nailed and bailed. (Not the best, Ravi. Not the best.)
The heist actually goes off without a hitch, even with the final twist of them convincing Saxon to unlock the safe for them. It’s all predictable, but predictable isn’t bad, especially when the point is to prove you know the genre. (It’s surprising director Michael Wale hadn’t directed another heist episode or show before this.) You also want predictable here—from the heist plan rundown on—especially when that leads to our heroes finding the cure.
Speaking of predictable, despite Major (especially) and the rest of the gang’s talk about wanting to avoid war, it’s been clear this entire season was always going to lead there. The problem is, it’s not just an organic war between humans and zombies; it’s a war between humans who follow Dolly Durkins and zombies who follow Enzo Lambert. Ideally, this type of conflict would at least be written in a way where both sides have at least a single good point, even though iZombie clearly wants its audience to root completely for the third option (the cure) and not those first two or the fourth (nuking the whole city). But the Dead Enders are bigots and domestic terrorists, while the zombies—due to Martin’s influence—are now just “white” supremacists. (While this season of iZombie eventually pumped the brakes on trying to create a one-to-one comparison between its world and the real world, Spud’s/Tater’s “White Lives Matter” line from “Dead Lift” still happened.) This season has been quite convoluted, yet it wants simplicity when it comes to the sides, by actively avoid the possibility of having its audience consider for even a second that any non-cure side is a viable option.
But a large part of this also comes down to who the faces of these regimes are. Enzo isn’t a good villain. He’s not even a good character. In professional wrestling terms, he’s a heel with go-away heat: You don’t want to see him get his ass kicked, you don’t want to see him get his comeuppance. You simply don’t want to see him, plain and simple. Even worse, you don’t want to hear him. Dolly Durkins, on the other hand, showed promise at the beginning of the season, but as things have progressed, she’s only remained one-note. (Hey, where’s her zombie son that only existed to inform us she has a zombie son she disowned? Did he join Enzo’s side? Did he die?) In fact, that’s the problem with Dolly and Enzo, and it was even the problem with Martin until it was decided that all he needed to change his insane beliefs was the love of his estranged daughter. Honestly, maybe this season shouldn’t have featured the return of Mr. Boss, because having a really compelling, layered villain waiting in the wings only highlights the competition’s weaknesses. Technically, Blaine is the true Big Bad of the season, but that has been simmering; these are the faces of the civil war, which means they should still matter as more than just human Bad Guy and zombie Bad Guy.
This final season has been committed to reminding the audience that Blaine is a monster. It doesn’t matter how charming or witty he can be or how much he looks like Sark from Alias: He is evil. Having the Freylich kids kidnapped and smuggled into Seattle should have done the trick to prevent anyone watching from ever asking if Blaine would have redemption in the end; but assuming it didn’t, this episode’s actions must.
Blaine: “Wait. Were you… Sweetie, honey, baby. Were you still secretly hoping I was a good guy? Yeah. I was too.”
This isn’t just Blaine asking Peyton, this is Dianne Ruggiero-Wright and all of iZombie making a definitive statement about Blaine and his alignment, which is something rare in genre shows. Especially on The CW, where everyone is swoon-worthy. The “Yeah. I was too.” shuts the door on the possibility that he can change, unlike his attempt this season at a Peyton do-over in the form of Gage Golightly’s Al. Blaine is a murderer (children, adults), a kidnapper (children, adults), and a smuggler (children, adults). He’s a megalomaniac who cares only for material possessions and thinks of women as property. (Aly Michalka sells Peyton’s fear and resignation that there really is no good in him well.) So he’s also a much better villain than both Enzo and Dolly combined.
While Blaine has done all these terrible things, he doesn’t regret them for even a second. At the same time, this entire season has featured Ravi blaming himself for so much. For everything, really. He blames himself for Isobel, he blames himself for the Freylich kids being targeted, he blames himself for not being able to create a cure. So with Saxon taking the tainted Utopium formula for himself to work with a pharmaceutical company—not on a cure but instead a chronic treatment that will make more money—he also blames himself for handing over the Utopium to Saxon in the first place. So when Saxon’s reaction to the trio getting to the formula is not to admit his wrongdoing but instead to try to bribe Ravi, of course Ravi goes into full-on zombie mode (for the first time). He has spent a season—a series, even—watching people like Blaine and Saxon get away with everything, while he does the right thing and keeps getting screwed. He’s, understandably, tired of the fact that people keep getting hurt and he’s just supposed to move on like it’s okay. It’s not okay.
Next week’s series finale has a lot of work to do. It’s unclear if it will be able to retroactively improve this season or not, but it also has the task of wrapping up an entire series and its world. There most likely won’t be another heist during that episode, so it’ll have a lot to do in order to succeed.
- Thanks to Ashley for filling in for me last week. All I really have to add about last week’s episode is that we now officially have confirmation that the Martin story was a waste of time. Or really, more of a stall tactic until we could get to… this.
- General Mills orchestrates a massacre at his own daughter’s human-zombie memorial. I certainly won’t miss him after next week.
- While heist movies and shows have a very specific type of score to get you in the mood, the episode’s sound mixing is quite distracting before it gets to that point. The score during Liv’s opening voiceover about all of the things that have happened this season is extremely distracting (on top of her also moving around and talking to the kids) and that continues with the scene where Ravi tells her what Saxton did, as it drowns out the very emotional moment of defeat Ravi is feeling then.
- Liv: “We’re brainstorming. There are some good ideas.”
Ravi: “Like the one I had.”
Liv: “And some not so good ideas.”
Liv: “Which inspire better ideas.”
Ravi: “Oh my god—spy pen.” While Liv’s GoPro idea is bad, let’s not forget that Ravi’s first idea is to Cyrano Charli.
- Major: “Quick question: Is any of that true or are you just doing the Tom Cruise monologue from Mission Impossible one for your own amusement?”
- Of all the new bits and characters we’ve had to remember in this season, the best bit of continuity actually comes from something that didn’t seem that important at the time: with the fact that Liv was able to get Russian hacker brain by finally giving the manager at Le Dome the missing remoulade recipe (from “Filleted To Rest”).
- Blaine: “Acrobat brain, huh? New man in your life? I’ll take that glare as a ‘no’. It’s probably for the best—you’re not that great with boyfriends, are you?” This is the episode’s first reminder that Blaine is, in fact, the worst. R.I.P. Lowell (who Blaine actually killed), Drake (who was a national treasure), Levon (who somehow got Paul Rudd to do a voiceover on a documentary that never should’ve existed), and Justin (who had escaped the curse of Liv’s exes, only to instead lose his personality after the break-up, betray his best friend, and then die)
- There is no official proposal or engagement, but Ravi and Peyton both have moments that scream “I hear wedding bells.” They’re both on the same page too.
- Clive: “The real get is Angelo de Marco, pickpocket, con man, petty thief. Rumor was, he could take the diamond out of an earring without removing the earring.”
Liv: “The rotting brain of a dead pickpocket. This is the nicest thing anyone’s ever given me.” It really is.
- Liv and Major go down memory lane—absolutely normal for a final season—and end up kissing before she leaves for Atlanta. This episode doesn’t quite sell that Liv and Ravi aren’t going to come home as well as it wants to, but as for the kiss itself? The season hasn’t earned it—in fact, it seems like it’s actively chosen to refuse to let them have chemistry together the rare times they interact—but the only version of the series finale I’ve imagined where they don’t end up together is one where Seattle is nuked.
- While the Michelle plot this season was not great, that Dale (who is back!) made a friend out of it is. Dale remains Daddy.
- Clive: “I mean, they need the Clooney. What’s Ocean’s 11 without George Cloney?”
Dale: “Ocean’s 10, with Brad Pitt. Can I please tell you what the real problem is? You’re the Clooney.”
- It’s the little things that matter. Like both Clive and Don E being so amazed that you have to go through a closet to get into Renegade house.
- At first, I wanted to say “Like father, like daughter” when it came to Liv rocking Buffy’ wig from “Halloween;” but it worked as intended in the long run, with Liv ultimately channeling the power of Natasha Romanoff (in Iron Man 2).
- Clive: “We are in the South now. You don’t put stolen jewelry in a black man’s pocket.”
Liv: “It’s not in your pocket.”
Clive: “I just made a terrible mistake.” Also, Liv speaking in heist lingo is one of those moments where a character just clicks for McIver. I believe it more than Liv’s tears over Martin from last week.
- Liv: “Okay. So, here we go again. Last night’s pre-heist heist, was it flawless? No. Did we kick ass and take names? Metaphorically, we did. Are we finished? Not by a long shot.” Does this have the same structure as a particular scene in the Veronica Mars season four finale? Yes.
- After all those Skypes, Charli finally exists in-person alongside other characters. She and Ravi finally meet! While he’s on his monthlies, just like when they first met via Skype. And she gets his praise, American Ninja Warrior-style. iZombie even pulls a Happy Endings, having Liv and Ravi continue their celebration through the commercial.
- R.I.P…. I’m seeing that this coyote’s name was Stan. Look, names are hard on this show: Because Emy Aneke (who plays Spud/Tader) showed up in an early episode as a different character (Matthew Voss in “The Hurt Stalker”), now (this is recent) IMDB credits in every episode as that character. He’s not still that character.
- Poor Don E is clearly miserable when Liv and Ravi are at the club, but they don’t even ask why. Not so poor Don E for being part of Blaine’s child-smuggling plan, especially since you’d think that would trigger his memories of Darcy (not just tacos).
- Don E: “Here’s what I don’t get: how in the hell did the Ricky Gervais face-making-knob bag woman like that? The guy ain’t rich, he’s barely a doctor. I mean, yeah, the hair, whatever, and I guess the accent. But I do have to say, the sweater and the cords thing sometimes works for him.”
- Ravi: “Yeah, and I’m the one who called you to say someone broke into your lab. My American accent’s on point.” Ravi is the best, but Rahul Kohli’s American accent? I saw his episode of Supergirl. American accents are hard.
- They probably should’ve had Major get the Max Rager earlier, right? You know, just in case he was overthrown and left for dead.
- While we’ve known Martin’s goal was zombie supremacy, we’ve never actually known what the plan was. Apparently, it hinges on the trained Romeros creating a new breed of even more dangerous zombies. Which explains Martin’s introductory speech about zombies’ role in the evolutionary chain, despite zombies seeming like a step toward devolution. Because once everyone’s a zombie, then what? No more human brains.