We’re at the exact midpoint of what’s been a strong first season for iZombie, and with six episodes behind us and six episodes to go, the show has already settled into such a workable groove that even the just-okay episodes aren’t too disappointing. A typical iZombie (and it’s a measure of how assured the series has been that we can already talk about an episode as “typical”) includes: a mystery; a personality-adoption for Liv; fun banter; some advancement in Liv’s personal relationships; and some movement in the story of the minor zombie eruption that started this whole shebang. As long as some or most of the elements of that formula are reasonably flavorful, then the show is working.

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“Maternity Liv” hits on about three out of five of those points. Or maybe two-and-a-half. The drag on the episode is the mystery, and the brain Liv has to consume because of it. When a long-missing woman turns up in the woods, dying, with a full-term baby in her belly, the incident reopens a famous Seattle missing-persons case: the disappearance of Emily Sparrow, whom everyone assumed had been kidnapped and killed eight months ago by her douchebag fame-grabbing boyfriend Dylan. So Liv eats Emily’s brain, and finds that it fires up her maternal instinct, which has her brushing her co-workers’ hair and telling them to eat their vegetables.

That’s about all that mom-brain does to Liv, though: make her fussy. It’s a cute bit of shtick, but unlike past brain-transfers, this one doesn’t do much for her investigative skills or lead to any revelations about what it means to be alive. There also aren’t a whole lot of twists to the main mystery (although it ends in an interesting place… more on that in a moment). And Liv’s love affair with Lowell gets stalled yet again because he’s just eaten the brain of a gay man, and he’s not feeling especially amorous towards her this week.

But at least Lowell and Dr. Ravi have a nice moment in the morgue, comparing their British accents and their football fandom; and Lowell and Liv’s non-date is a nice, light scene, beginning with him admitting his new ambivalence toward the movie Zombieland and ending with them dancing around the apartment unselfconsciously, like pals. iZombie has already earned some comparisons to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and like Buffy, iZombie so far can be counted on for flashes of wit and heart even at its weakest—and possibly even at its grimmest. iZombie is a reliably sharp show: the kind where when Liv comes across a creepy wooden cradle in the cellar of Emily Sparrow’s parents house, she’ll quip, “This is what Rumpelstiltskin carves for you after you promise him your firstborn.”

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It’s also the kind of show that keeps building out its world, even when it could coast along just fine as a case-of-the-week dramedy. The ongoing “Candyman” subplot was largely divorced from the main plot this week, but it did bring Major into contact with crusading Seattle Observer reporter Rebecca Hinton, who questions whether the local law enforcement is as committed to investigating what’s happening to a bunch of homeless teens as they are to finding out who killed a rich kid. (This class-conscious direction for iZombie is reminiscent of Rob Thomas’ Veronica Mars, which excelled at putting crime in a broader social context, without forfeiting a sense of humor.)

“Maternity Liv” also unexpectedly continues one of the other big subplots, about the larger zombie conspiracy and the involvement of Clive’s boss. After being revealed as a zombie last week—to the home viewer, anyway—this week the Lieutenant shoots dead the actual perpetrator in the Emily Sparrow kidnapping/killing: a municipal animal control employee, who had apparently been conducting human sacrifices out in the forest with a co-worker. Liv finds and rescues two other women who were being held by this cult. (It’s a miracle! These females are strong as hell.)

But why did the Lieutenant gun the perp down? What did these cultists know? “Maternity Liv” is a fairly middling episode until its last 10 minutes, when what seemed like a routine abduction case starts to skew supernatural. About halfway through “Maternity Liv,” we moved into the second half of iZombie season one, and if the remaining episodes continue to add more monsters and occultism—suggesting that Liv’s condition is part of something bigger—it should be a wild ride.

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Stray observations:

  • Hope you didn’t think I was going to forget the zombie rat who goes on a kill-spree at the end of this episode, because, “Yaaah!”
  • I like how in Liv’s POV “visions,” there’s always blinking.
  • It’s also a neat visual when Liv’s watching the interrogation of Dylan from the other side of her glass, and her reflection hovers in the middle of the frame like an apparition.
  • Another good character moment: Clive on a stakeout with Liv, telling the story of how on his first stakeout he pounded down candy bars and donuts, which meant that he stormed into a cocaine bust on a sugar high, with white powder all over his clothes.
  • The episode ends with Major on the verge of getting the crap kicked out of him again, which has become his dominant character trait. Not that I’m complaining. He started out the series as a generic handsome guy, and every time he gets beaten or betrayed, he becomes more likable.
  • “I didn’t realize that the ‘bump it, blow it up’ thing was over and that we’re back to just tapping rats.”
  • As you may have noticed, your regular iZombie reviewer Carrie Raisler is off tonight. I appreciate her allowing me the chance to write about a show I enjoy greatly.

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