While it doesn’t quite reach the dance-centric highs of “Five, Six, Seven, Ate,” “Death Moves Pretty Fast” is easily the best (and most cogent) episode of iZombie’s final season so far. There are still imperfections and bits of confusion, but the lows of this episode are nothing in comparison to previous episodes’ lows. It’s an episode that doesn’t rely on the introduction of new characters, one that allows room for major shifts and reveals that can really change the game moving forward. Plus, it’s always nice to have a case with a clear, definitive conclusion, not a vague wrap-up to just move on to the next point.
Ravi: “Liv’s an O.G. zombie, I once took a kickboxing class, yeah? Between the two of us, I think we can take on some doddering old crank.”
“Five, Six, Seven, Ate” was a solid reminder of the pure power of the Liv/Clive/Ravi trio, but it was a great episode for Liv/Ravi as well. This episode can’t truly channel the trio’s power again, but it does go back to the original Team Z pairing—this time with another brain that has somewhat of a co-dependent streak, if you can boil down the Ferris Bueller/Cameron Frye dynamic to that. (Oh, and this episode’s “Cameron” fries its “Ferris.” Yikes.) And it does so with quite the impressive display of just how bad Liv/Ravi are at the whole cop thing by themselves, after all these years.
Harris Burrows’ (Philip Bolden) brain is surprisingly one of the subtler Liv brains, but Rose McIver as a too cool for school ‘80s movie lead is something I’m sure none of us knew we needed until now. While McIver plays the brain much more low-key than Bolden, she really knows how to nail the scene-closing “cool guy” one-liners and make the perfect scheme face. It’s fascinating to watch too because I’m pretty sure teen characters outside of the Disney Channel stopped scheming this way post-Seth Cohen; because if the comic book nerd could take over the “cool guy” trope, it deserved to be buried. The contemporary version is pretty little lying, which requires less of a carefree attitude and more mental anguish.
The case-of-the-week is strong in both Ferris Bueller’s Day Off homages and approach, to the point where, if this were any other season, this plot could justifiably fill the whole episode. Bob Dearden’s script and Linda-Lisa Hayter’s direction thrive during the condensed version of Ferris Bueller/any ‘80s teen movie they create with this plot, even down to small things like the quick look through the high school ecosystem. The only thing missing from the three suspects split screen, for example, is the eventual “Oh Yeah” music cue. And the tight close-ups on Steve as “Harris” in the opening beats of the sting are such a tried-and-true approach to the procedural genre that it’s apparent as much detail was put into this as was in “Five, Six, Seven, Ate.”
As for the mystery of Harris’ killer, the killer is obvious, but it doesn’t take away from anything. Of course it’s Hamm (Kristian Wang) the sidekick. He’s clearly the killer as soon as he says he hates the “punny little nicknames” Harris gives him. The sidekick finally gets revenge is the obvious route. And more obviously, of course it’s not the initially obvious Blaine. Which makes it even funnier when Ravi, at the last minute, suggests the possibility to Liv. (”I’d forgotten about Blaine. … It’s probably not Blaine.”)
Al: “I can’t believe you fell for his whole… thing. You couldn’t see through it?”
It’s interesting Al asks Peyton this because it’s exactly what I brought up about Al last week: Blaine was hilariously transparent in his interactions with her, and I couldn’t believe it took noticing the mask to see through his b.s. At least Peyton got a far more genuine fraud version of Blaine during his fake amnesia bit.
I’m not sure I really understand how the writers want the audience to feel about Al, especially as she becomes a thorn in Liv, Ravi, and Peyton’s sides here. Obviously, we’re all Team Liv, Ravi, and Peyton. But the difference between the Al/Liv/Ravi scene and the Al/Peyton scene—both have these characters lying, poorly, to Al—is that Al goes personal and judgmental with Peyton. That should be the trigger that says, “We’re not supposed to be on Al’s side.” But she’s now the only character to do what iZombie’s needed to do for a long time: hold Blaine accountable for his many despicable actions. And she does it without the fear and excuses our protagonists have made for years, even before the wall went up and Blaine became “necessary” for brain smuggling.
Actually, I think I get it now: Al’s the scapegoat who takes Blaine down the messy way, so none of the main characters get their hands dirty by finally pulling the trigger. (And now they know Blaine killed Baracus and stole the cures.) Anything they do now to stop Blaine for good will be heroic, while Al exists to be the callous one who doesn’t care about the 10,000 zombie lives.
But with or without Al, things were always going south for these zombies. Because of Major’s leadership at Fillmore-Graves. Because of dissension among the ranks. Because of Renegade. Because of New Boss. Because of Dolly and CHICS and Dead Enders and domestic terrorism and bigotry. Al’s barely a character, but she does what our heroes were either—based on the story iZombie has told—too afraid or selfish to do. But if no one in Seattle can fill the brain smuggling void left by Blaine—and Liv is smuggling in humans—maybe no one should fill that void.
Enzo: “Vive Chase Graves!”
John Emmet Tracy’s a talented actor, but from the moment he appeared as Enzo, with that inscrutable fake accent that was neither a joke nor a ruse, the character was doomed. On top of that, Enzo is a traitor whose initial heel turn was cut short because the character he turned for was written off the show; now he’s a traitor whose heel turn’s for a newly-introduced character who’s completely out of sight and mind here. His actions in this episode don’t even suggest he’s working for anyone other than his short-term vision. (One could say he succeeds in fanning the human vs. zombie flame even more, but everything does that.) Can his punishment even be considered a win for the good guys when it looks to be temporary? Major will most likely need him answers about Spud, Jackson, and... the 17 other missing prisoners.
Ultimately, “Death Moves Pretty Fast” works as well as it does not just because of the strong, focused story but because it also ignores some of the weakest parts of the season for once. There’s no Renegade (despite introducing a major mole problem last week), no sign of the new zombie Big Bad “New Boss” (not even in the previouslies of an episode heavily featuring his minion), no Hi, Zombie (which probably can’t help things for zombie PR at this point, can it?), no real-world comparisons forcing their way in. Even with the darker bits, the episode has a sense of lightness that is much appreciated, if only for this brief moment. Like Ferris making Cameron skip school for a day to live a little, it’s all just a temporary fix.
- This is the second week in a row of me writing an iZombie review at far from 100%. Hopefully it will be the last. Because I am out of flu medication and vitamin C.
- Since Quinta Brunson’s in the previouslies, I’ll shout-out this The New Negroes video. Brunson’s the MVP in a video that includes Open Mike Eagle, Tawny Newsome, Malcolm Barrett, and Method Man. She’s not in this episode though, but hopefully she shows up again.
- The episode leans heavily into the Ferris Bueller of it all after the initial Pump Up the Volume—which is from 1990—and generic ‘80s vibe, but the focus probably helped in writing the episode. (Pretty Woman also came out in 1990, but Brianne Tju—who plays Amy—nailing the jewelry box bit in the vision makes the reference worth it.)
- No one in this episode says “WANG CHUNG OR I’LL KICK YOUR ASS!”
- Blaine: “Now, I’m needed. I’m appreciated. People stop me on the street just to shake my hand. That kind of thing never happened to the man I was before. It’s not bad.” This will most likely inform what he does next, after reading the Freylich/cure article.
- Liv tells Ravi it’s not his fault the Freylich information got out, but the episode kind of accepts that it is. It’s upsetting to watch Ravi beat himself up—Rahul Kohli shines in those hard moments—but it makes sense. He should’ve told Isobel’s mother not to tell anyone about the cure. Is it bad writing for Ravi not to have thought of that? No, he was understandably thinking with his heart, not head.
- Ravi: “Clive! You may have a fractured vertebra. You can’t keep detectiving through a broken back. You’re not Batman.”
Clive: “You don’t know that.” 1. Dale is daddy, Clive is Batman. 2. Malcolm Goodwin directed next week’s episode, which better explains the choice to put Clive out of commission. 3. Clive Babineaux’s Day Off
- Liv: “I know how to fix your chakra, Barti. We’re gonna solve a case.”
Ravi: “First of all, they’ll be no further wordplay with my name.” Mmhmm.
- Ravi: “Well, he’s dead now, so...”
Liv: “You’re under arrest for murder.” They’ve reached an all-time low in intimidation factor.
- Hamm: “That’s how life was for Harris. Things just worked out for him. Except, you know, getting murdered.” Liv reacts like it’s a sweet memory and not clear motive for murder.
- Ravi: “One doesn’t catch dementia. It’s not like a cold.” Don’t give Riverdale ideas.
- Of course she’s a hypocrite, but Dolly was working with zombies to get the Alzheimer brains (a monstrous act) into the tubes, right? What do the zombies get out of this? Humans aren’t working at the brain plant, right? And Enzo learns brain plant key cards are missing, but why are they missing?
- Major: “Where are my shoulder pads? Mom will know.” Robert Buckley destroyed me with that one line.
- I was disappointed when I realized there’d be no “SAVE HARRIS” bit... then the episode had the impromptu singalong to “Come On Eileen,” the Dexys Midnight Runners song famously covered by the Bueller-inspired ska band Save Ferris.
- Steve’s a vampire godsend in this episode, basically the opposite of Jimmy last week. Poor guy just wanted a nap and ended up getting shot.
- Ravi “Just send it to Clive.”
Liv: “I don’t work for Clive.”
Ravi: “You do, actually. And for me.”
- Reasons the Al character’s a zombie: 1. To make the Blaine flirtation seem like it can go somewhere. 2. So she can get the vision needed for her story. 3. That’s it. There was such a throwaway line about her fingernails last week that people even missed that she’s a zombie. In a show where zombie identity is such a big deal, Al sticks out as the plot device she is because of her lack of zombie identity. In fact, she and Liv eat the same brain, and while Liv’s personality changes from the first bite, Al’s doesn’t. Is it because Al doesn’t have friends? Should we feel bad for Al?
- This is why Blaine is such a dangerous character: He actually likes Al (who might also be a Peyton proxy, based on this episode) and makes an effort, and when she blows him off, he just goes back to his meaningless hook-ups. So we’re supposed to feel bad for him right? But even with a woman who makes him want to be a better man, that doesn’t erase that he’s still a bad guy, as much as he pretends it does.
- Major (on Ravi’s voicemail): “Anyway, you complete me. See you later.”
- Not only does Don E clearly need companionship, Liv and Al could both easily tell it was in him that terrible hippie disguise in their vision(s). He needs a win.
- Harris’ twitter handle? @HeyBatterBatterSwingBatter.
- This show has me torn between knowing that nuking a city shouldn’t ever be considered and acknowledging that Seattle was a mistake and should be wiped off the face of the Earth.
- Liv (to camera): “Did I mean for Steve to get shot? Of course not. Could the plan have gone better? Sure. But ask yourself: Could it also have gone worse?”
Clive (on Facetime): “Yes! That’s the point.”
- Major: “Who’d want to unthaw our prisoners? And why?” It was Enzo, but seriously, take a number.
- The title’s another Ferris Bueller reference (“Life moves pretty fast...”), but it also works with the reveal of those 17 prisoners-turned-Romeros, in all their slow glory.