Robert Buckley, Rose McIver

Four episodes in and iZombie is ready to get complicated. The show has done a great job in a short time period in setting the tone of the iZombie world, establishing (most of) its characters, and laying the groundwork for the weekly murder mysteries. While “Live And Let Clive” continues all of these missions, it also has an ambitious new mission of its own: to begin to flesh out the dark, seedy underbelly of Blaine’s own little zombie underworld. This leads to a jam-packed episode that might not all quite fit together in the end, but does it with enough confidence that it almost doesn’t matter.

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This episode is also the first time the show significantly strays from Liv’s point of view, spending a big chunk of time exploring exactly what the heck Blaine is up to with his cash-for-brains operation. The episode announces its intentions early on, opening on Blaine in bed with his new zombie friend/client Jackie before transitioning into a nifty Sufjan Stevens-scored sequence detailing exactly what they both do in order to hide their most zombie-like qualities. (It involves spray tans, hair dye, manicures, and really disgusting-looking brain smoothies. If you’re going to eat brains, at least throw some peanut butter in there, guys, and ditch the kale.) The sequence is so visually striking that it almost feels like it’s out of a completely different show, so it’s a bit jarring when it ends and the show’s normal visual palette resumes. It’s still impressive nonetheless.

More importantly than Blaine’s grooming rituals, we finally get to see that his scheme to turn Jackie and then extort money from her in exchange for brains is only the tip of his evil iceberg. His operation is extremely organized—down to a restaurant front with a hilariously wry fellow zombie as the proprietor/chef—and ruthlessly efficient, with a huge client list of rich folks he presumably also turned and is now servicing. Blaine remains ridiculously charming but any debate about whether he’s truly evil is pretty much over, as he has no problem taking out his zombie cronies when they get out of line and replacing them with another from his freezer full of big, muscular zombie heavies. He’s basically creating his own zombie army to protect his business, which he created by turning a bunch of rich people into zombies, and which he provides the brains he needs by luring disadvantaged kids to their impending deaths. Blaine, you charming, charming bastard—what are we going to do with you now?

Spending all of this time away from Liv and the murder mystery creates the most briskly paced episode to date, simply because there is that much less room to let anything breathe. This takes its toll on the murder case, which is the most personal case to date for both Liv and Clive and probably could have used a full episode to completely land all of its beats. After eating the brain of an Asian gang member who was brutally stomped to death in a “boot party,” Liv suspects Clive is a dirty cop who is working with the gang in an attempt to find a snitch in their ranks. Liv’s suspicion is heightened by the fact the brain she eats is clearly from someone who had some paranoia issues, and this paranoia infects the rest of her interactions in the episode with Clive, Ravi, and Major. It takes a bit of a leap to believe Liv is so ready to label Clive as a dirty cop even with her visions and the knowledge of a paranoid brain, but the episode at least establishes in the flashbacks that there is some reason for concern (even if it is fairly obvious to us non-paranoid viewers there’s something more going on here). It’s eventually revealed that Clive was undercover in those visions, which was the only logical explanation all along—but Liv’s unfortunate paranoia didn’t have much room for logic.

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This case is by far the most complex one to date, in terms of logistics, personal stakes, and even physical stakes once Liv puts herself and her brother in danger following her leads. Its best quality is that it strengthens the relationship between Liv and Clive in a way that will surely pay dividends in the future, as well as giving Clive some needed character development in the process by revealing his undercover past. It also lends itself to some great comedic moments like Ravi and Liv trying to con the video store guy—and some not so great ones when Liv suddenly acquires martial arts skills and spouts the obvious “I know kung fu” line. It’s a weird combination of doing too much and then getting a bit lazy at the same time, mostly felt in the generic characterizations of the Asian gang members and the weird implication that every Asian gang member automatically has impressive martial arts skills. With so much else going on in the episode, the case probably could have had one less layer it had to peel back.

One development that’s quite promising is Ravi moving in with Major. Liv’s continued pining for her ex-fiancé is still consistently the weakest part of the show, even if it is important to her character and executed about the best as it can be. By giving Major a significant character attachment to someone other than Liv, it at least makes his position on the show make more sense in the long run, and gives Liv a chance to be in his orbit without it always being about her trying to win him back (but not really, because she’s still convinced she can never be with him, creating a circular vortex of inept story drivers). It helps that Rahul Kohli and Robert Buckley are genuinely great together and believable as potential friends. As the show continues to develop, making this group of people feel more like a group of friends and less like a collection of people Liv interacts with is key, and deepening Major’s ties to Ravi in this episode is a great first step to that goal.

This episode might have stumbled at times trying to fit everything in, but it stumbled due to ambition, and that’s nothing but a good thing. I’ll take ten shows that want to do too much and overstep over one content to coast by doing just enough.

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Stray observations:

  • Jerome! NOOOOOO!
  • How did Major’s towel even stay up? Magic? Elastic? The sheer force of Robert Buckley’s will to not be fully naked on television?
  • Meat Cute. Is there a dining establishment in Seattle that doesn’t have a pun for a title?
  • Evan’s crush on Peyton: Creepy, or really creepy? Don’t go through her stuff, young man.
  • Zombie Logistics Questions Of The Week: Does shooting them in the head kill them for good? So apparently putting zombies on ice freezes them and you can unfreeze them later and they are perfectly fine?
  • The Seattle/Neptune Connection: Liv turning on her “ditzy” voice in order to get information from the video store clerk was classic Veronica Mars. I buy that Veronica would know how to do that. I buy it much less from Liv (although it was amusing and Ravi was the perfect foil).
  • Blaine: “Oh Jackie. I made you a zombie, but I would never make you a whore.”
  • Ravi: “Should I be concerned that whatever you are about to do requires gum?”
  • “What are you, lady?” “Just a girl. You got your ass kicked by a girl; get over it.”

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