Aly Michalka (left), Rose McIver/The CW

At this point, iZombie is a good enough show that I’m ready to stop cutting it any slack. This is both a form of praise for the show as a whole and an indictment on the one part of it that still isn’t quite up to the quality of the rest of the show: the case of the week. It’s a bit of a boring thing to point out week after week, but when the rest of the show is clicking the way iZombie is right now, it’s hard not to single out the one thing that still doesn’t quite fully work.

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Thus the main problem with “Dead Air” is that the case of the week is kind of boring. The secret to a good iZombie case of the week so far is a mixture of good guest stars, a dose of humorous dialogue, and an interesting brain for Liv to eat and gain personality traits from, and this episode falls a bit short on all three. The case revolves around a radio talk show host who specializes in love and sex advice, until one day she’s murdered while on the air. When Liv eats her brain, she then starts to analyze both her sex and love life and the ones of the people closest to her, and in the process becomes more than a little bit of a pill. This leads to a pretty good story for her and Ravi—more on that shortly—but the episode never quite lands the tie-in to Liv’s relationship with Lowell that it seems to want to make. The goal is for Liv to use the brain’s personality traits to examine the depth of her connection to Lowell in relation to her connection to Major, but it never really commits to the idea, preferring to use the sex expert side of the brain as an excuse to get some sexy times in between the two. (Not that sexy times between the two is bad, mind you. It’s actually quite good.)

The biggest sin of the case of the week is that it feels a bit perfunctory in a way most of the past cases haven’t, despite a decent guest star turn from Aaron Douglas as a gross morning shock jock who has a show called “The Morning Hurl.” The radio show producer is fairly obviously the killer from the beginning, which makes the twists of the story lose weight. It’s the first case that just seemed to fall completely flat, outside of one thing: The way it affected how Liv and Ravi interacted when Ravi asked Liv to set him up with Peyton.

Ever since Ravi moved in with Major and Liv’s world got just that much smaller, it’s only been a matter of time until Ravi and Peyton meet and her world becomes a completely closed circle. That happens here when Ravi sees Peyton use her tough district attorney skills to get Major released from jail, and he immediately takes a shine to her—understandable, since it’s literally the most interesting she’s been in the entire season. When Ravi asks Liv for some assistance in securing a date with Peyton, Liv immediately shies away from committing to it, partly because of her past experience watching Peyton date men without emotionally committing to them. Liv’s concern comes from a place of love, but the brain she eats has that concern come out more like she doesn’t think Ravi is good enough for Peyton, causing him to go around Liv completely and ask her out. It’s the first time we see Liv and Ravi not completely on the same page, and it adds a nice depth to their relationship, bringing it beyond pure ally and banter buddy to something ultimately deeper.

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A bigger and most interesting story, however, is Major and his slow journey toward figuring out exactly what is going on with the missing kids and the nascent zombie outbreak. Even hearing that Jerome and Eddie’s remains were found on the compound doesn’t stop him, as the brain in the car and the “Candyman” wearing Jerome’s shoes give him nagging questions he cannot answer. His arrest for breaking into the car gets him fired, dumped by his new girlfriend, and then ultimately does something even more interesting: causes him to start to lie to Liv in order to cover his tracks. As soon as Liv hears about the brain in the car, she’s in scramble mode trying to get Major off the scent of zombies. At first it seems like he’s taking her advice to drop the whole thing, but we soon find out that is just a ruse to get her off his back, and he goes back to researching on his own. The season’s slow arc of Major from a bland, boring love interest to a guy who is allowing his entire life to crumble around him in search of answers is by far my favorite thing iZombie has done over the course of the season. Turning a character who seemed to only exist to be a love interest into a character with his own motivations, drive, and story completely separate from Liv—while dovetailing with that story at the same time—is some tricky long-term plotting, and it is totally working.

Where the episode fully redeems itself from its case of the week is in the final montage, when everything in Liv’s life goes from “generally kind of okay” to “definitely not okay, no way.” Ravi’s special zombie rat decides to take a nice big bite out of his hand, Major buys a gun, Liv eats a brain at Lowell’s apartment that turns out to be Jerome’s, and then Liv is on a literal collision course with Blaine immediately after as Blaine goes to deliver more brains to Lowell. In a span of a minute, Liv goes from a zombie with good human friends and a nice zombie boyfriend, to a zombie with a new maybe-zombie friend and a questionable zombie boyfriend who is somehow in cahoots with the zombie crime lord of Seattle. What a difference an elevator ride makes.

Stray observations:

  • Suspicions confirmed: Blaine is in cahoots with the Lieutenant, but the Lieutenant is a much more reluctant partner than I originally assumed. It looks like Blaine is forcing him to cover up all his crimes in return for brains, and the only question is how long the Lieutenant will go along?
  • What does Blaine mean when he says that Liv has a special role in his operation? Ruh roh!
  • They are really getting a kick out of how gross they can make Major’s pretty face. This week’s face is impressively gross.
  • “Sorry, I instinctively take my shirt off every time someone knocks on the door.” At least Lowell is aware he’s being objectified.
  • “Everything the police tell you in this town is a lie.” Seattle and Neptune have a lot in common.

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