One of the most exciting things about following a new show with promise is watching as everything starts to come together. A pilot lays the groundwork, then subsequent episodes slowly add pieces to the puzzle that is a fully-formed show, until suddenly that last piece arrives and everything snaps into place. After four solidly good episodes, iZombie snaps down the last piece it needs to put together a great one in “Flight Of The Living Dead.” That missing piece? Giving Liv a personal connection to the case of the week.
Up to this point, the cases of the week have been fine but mostly serviceable, there mainly to give the episodes structure and allow for character beats and development to spring up around them. This is the way all good procedurals work, and it’s a fine template for making a perfectly adequate show, but with the added twist of the zombie mythology and the track record of Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright, the procedural bits of the show didn’t feel like quite enough. By having this episode’s murder victim be a former sorority sister of Liv’s, it immediately allows for a far more interesting case with greater stakes than Liv has dealt with before since starting to work with Detective Babineaux. The best thing about it is how it shows just how much the writers understand Liv and what her reaction to this would be, immediately shifting the tone of the first morgue scene with Liv and her dead friend from quip-filled to somber, and allowing quiet moments to take over, like Liv’s decision to hold her friend’s hand as Ravi started to open her skull. It’s a lovely, small beat that resonates so well, and a perfect way to kick off the case.
It also helps that the mechanics of the case are fairly straightforward, once Liv and Clive get down to the actual investigation beats. It all boils down to a case that wouldn’t feel out of place on Veronica Mars: Liv’s friend was a daredevil who had ties to an energy drink company (the sadly realistically named Max Rager), but she was planning on outing secret emails that the company’s product was making people go psychotic, so her corporate executive friend spiked her pre-skydiving mezcal shot with GHB so she’d go crashing into the trees. On top of being straightforward, it also featured a wonderfully vain performance by Ryan Hansen as one of her pro snowboarder friends, and the introduction of a new recurring character, musician Lowell.
Lowell’s introduction is where things really start to get good, because the episode plays his reveal just right. When we first meet him, he’s simply a cute rock star with an instant fascination with Liv. It isn’t until later on, when he casually makes her a drink that registers about 100,000 on the Scoville scale, that it becomes clear he’s a lot more than just a musician looking for a date; he’s a fellow zombie, and yeah, he’s looking for a date. Expanding the world of who is a zombie started last week with the Blaine story, but to have it continue here on the “good guy” side of the coin is very interesting. Giving Liv a love interest that isn’t someone she can’t ever have is helpful as well, which is nicely acknowledged in the text by Major after he sees Liv and Lowell talking at the wake.
Beyond the case of the week, the other great accomplishment of this episode was bringing Major fully into the search for Jerome and therefore simultaneously giving him something to do outside of being Liv’s ill-fated love interest, while also tying him into the larger plot with Blaine and his zombie operation. Major going to the skate park to find Jerome and instead finding Blaine’s henchman wearing Jerome’s shoes was fairly telegraphed last week. Seeing Major go on the search and then stand his ground—in essence taking a severe beating simply because he cares for these kid—gives him a character identity and also gives Liv a personal stake into the investigation. Major’s insistence there is something really wrong also brings Clive into the mix, who goes searching on his own and finds scores of missing kid posters at the skate park, giving him a mission of his own.
This brings Major and Clive into the hunt for what is happening to these kids, which will inevitably bring in Liv and Ravi, and that’s a great way to slowly build your season-long arc. The final kicker is how you know they nail it: Just as Clive’s request to look into these missing kids gets turned down by his lieutenant in Homicide, the camera pulls back to reveal the lieutenant pouring a boatload of hot sauce into his coffee, outing him to viewers as a zombie. Evil genius, thy name is Blaine, and your minions are everywhere. The good guys sure do have their work cut out for them.
- Welcome, Lowell. Now please tell us how you became a zombie because I am dying to know.
- Once again there was a lovely little break in the episode where it seemed like the director and writer just got to do something anachronistic and fun. Last week it was the opening with Blaine, this week it is Liv’s joyful bike ride around the city. These little sequences are becoming one of my favorite things.
- Peyton remains kind of tiresome, but she seems to mostly have been used in the right way in this episode. I’m still waiting for her moment to get a bit more developed. Perhaps a murder victim close to her heart will do the trick?
- Zombie Logistics Questions Of The Week: It seems as if the prevailing wisdom is there is no safe sex with zombies, considering Lowell’s similar assertion regarding sex. I am very curious to know how everyone found this out on their own. Did they go around killing a few poor saps they picked up in bars before figuring it out?
- The Seattle/Neptune Connection: DICK CASABLANCAS! Ryan Hansen and GHB, Rob Thomas’ real OTP. Also, the fifth episode of Veronica Mars (“You Think You Know Somebody”) is where it felt like everything kicked into a higher gear, just like it did here.
- “Of everyone here who would you eat first?” “I think first I’d ask if someone could spare an apple, or half a sandwich.” I could really listen to Liv and Ravi banter all day long.