David Anders, Jessica Harmon
Photo: Katie Yu (The CW)

If last week’s iZombie was an example of the show being an interesting mess, in contrast this week it’s mostly just a mess. There are a lot of disparate stories and tones, and none of them manage to coalesce into anything resembling a cohesive episode.

The strangest thing about this episode is that the majority of it was spent on things that don’t feel like they matter much, in both the long and short term. The biggest example of this is Isobel’s story, which is sweet but still manages to feel a lot like filler (between other things that only feel like slightly more than filler). Isobel’s sudden foregrounding in the show is odd in a way that’s hard to articulate, but especially odd here because most of her screen time is spent either bingeing a television show or talking about how she’s going to die soon. Isobel’s purpose as the person who can potentially save the human race is important one in the world of the show, but it’s hard to see how exactly she fits in to the actual show as a character. The actress who plays Isobel (Izabela Vidovic), however, is charming and talented and at least gives her a very pleasant screen presence.

One thing I appreciate that the show is trying to do this season is to use the brain of the week in different ways than simply for solving a murder, even if this week’s brain isn’t a great example of doing it well. Instead of using (the returning, then immediately dying) Detective Benedetto’s brain to do a lot of legwork with Clive, Liv immediately gets suspended from field work for being too physical on the job and the brain is instead relegated to mostly useless background noise. At least Liv gets to wear a cute hat.

The real purpose of Detective Benedetto’s return is twofold: First, to give the episode a cop movie framework to use for comedic purposes, and secondly to bring back gang member AJ who we’ve previously seen in both seasons one and three. Both of these endeavors end up being a little dicey, especially the decision to use Benedetto’s brain as an excuse to make a few cop movie jokes without using any of the fun, action-packed sequences that go with those jokes. Instead we get a meta joke about how they don’t have the budget and a few (admittedly well-acted) sequences from Malcolm Goodwin where he reenacts things that happen offscreen. Overall it’s an idea that could have worked if the execution was better, but as-is ended up falling a bit flat. Action movies need that action.

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As for AJ’s return, that becomes important at the end when it’s revealed that AJ and his gang are the ones who are really controlling the black market brain tube market. Russ is just their inside man. This will obviously be more important in regards to Major’s story going forward, but it doesn’t do much here except make AJ’s return a little more clever than it seemed at first. Major’s whole quest to infiltrate this operation has been a particularly inert storyline for the most part, and it remains that here even with this reveal.

The other main story is the capture and interrogation of one of Liv’s coyotes by Fillmore Graves. The issue with this story—other than it being strangely plotted within the episode in general—is that the story, like a lot of the disparate parts of the whole New Seattle saga, feels shoved into this episode without a lot of care for the overall arc of the season. We don’t know Curtis before this episode and suddenly he becomes the key to not revealing Liv’s entire operation, but it’s a problem very easy to solve by scratching him so they can’t eat his brains for his memories. The only real purposes of Curtis’ capture were to introduce the French Fillmore Graves guy to Brother Love’s church and for Major to figure out that Liv is the acting Renegade now. Beyond that, were we supposed to care about Curtis’ story or him as a character? There simply wasn’t enough build-up to make that possible.

This is one example of many stories this season of where the plotting just doesn’t seem up to the intricacies and long-term thoughtfulness that previous seasons had. iZombie has always been a show that introduces a lot of storylines and slowly starts weaving them together, but this season the weaving together still doesn’t seem to be happening. I appreciate that the show is trying to do something structurally different. The first four episodes were introducing the audience to this new world, then the next few were about building the myth of Renegade and giving Liv something to fight for, but ever since Liv has taken over the plotting hasn’t kept up with the promise that idea held.

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We are now three episodes from the end of the season and what, solidly, has the show built? There’s Liv and her quest to help people as Renegade. There’s the threat of Brother Love and his zombie followers. There’s the shortage of brains for the masses. There’s Fillmore Graves and their military-like rule. Then there’s Blaine, a wild card who could go any way the plot needs him to. It’s not too difficult to see how some of these things could overlap, but in order to get there the writers are going to need to show their work way more than they have in these past five episodes or so. Otherwise the mess is going to take over.

Stray observations

  • Usually I like the episode title puns but I hate this one. It doesn’t make sense. It’s just replacing words with other words.
  • So Liv and Levon are dating? It would have been nice to see some middle ground between Levon turning Liv down during her pick-up artist brain phase and them sitting on the couch together here and then going off to her bedroom. The writers of this show are very weird about writing relationships in general, but this was one of the more egregious examples of weirdness.
  • Sorry but I’m not equipped for Chase making jokes about wanting Major to kiss him on the mouth. That’s unfair.
  • Clive gets a very personal, emotional monologue about the state of his relationship and of course Liv was on a brain and therefore doesn’t appreciate it. Clive gets no respect.
  • I did enjoy the big montage to show the passing of time, especially that montage’s connection with the gang binge watching Zombie High.
  • Is Blaine really converted by his father’s religious nonsense, or is he just assuming Angus’ quest to have zombies be superior will help him in his real estate scheme? The church murdering Blaine’s evil nanny was pretty horrifying.
  • Ravi attempting to protect Isobel’s virtue was fairly obnoxious but at least both Liv and Isobel thought he was being mostly ridiculous.

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