“Physician, Heal Thy Selfie” is like watching an intricate domino structure get knocked over—simultaneously satisfying, impressive, and yet the end still leaves you anxious to watch the next intricately-designed structure fall. In iZombie’s case these dominoes are carefully cultivated plot points from throughout season two that all come together here in an extremely satisfying way. This show has so many story threads that at times it can almost be frustrating, but when all those threads get pulled at once it consistently leads to some of the show’s most solid episodes.
The main reason this episode flows so well is the way the case of the week touches every other plot in the episode. It’s something iZombie has done very well in the past, but it rightfully is a device that can only be used sparingly lest it lose its power. Here, the discovery of three headless bodies washed up on a local beach touches all aspects of the story, making for an incredibly streamlined episode that burns through a ton of plot and yet still manages to feel surprisingly light on its feet.
The episode declares itself as a bit of a structural departure from the norm immediately, as it picks up exactly where last week’s left off, with Liv worriedly gazing at a sleeping Drake in her bed. Peyton’s disastrous hookup with Blaine leads Liv to examine her own nascent relationship and what she really knows—if anything—about Drake. Her search for the truth is aided by the brain she eats, which is yet another departure for the show. Because the case of the week bodies are headless, that leaves a random morgue occupant to become Liv’s lunch instead, this time a young woman who was very active on social media. What’s interesting about this choice is the way the episode clearly underplays it—this brain isn’t essential to solve the case, the woman had no traumatic memories to unpack, so Liv simply inherits an affinity for excessive tweeting and inappropriate use of hashtags. It’s a less overtly comedic episode because of this, but the rest of the episode is so jam packed with long-term plotlines that there simply wouldn’t have been room for a more obvious personality heist in this one, so underplaying it seems like a smart choice. (It also leads to questions about trauma more easily causing visions, and Liv’s complicity in having visions versus suppressing them when desired, but those are philosophical questions for another day.)
What Liv’s social media brain does give her, however, is the ability to track Drake’s online presence and realize that he has no social imprint, which in a nice nod to the current social landscape reads as very strange. It leads Liv to track down that Drake has a criminal past, one that she makes negative assumptions about before he has a chance to explain that his prison time was served because he was protecting his mother. This leads Liv to apologize and get to know him better—even meeting his mother—but it’s one of those situations where the audience seems to know a bit more about what is going on than the characters, which on iZombie always leads to some great tension. It isn’t until the end of the episode, when Liv sees Don E and flashes back to seeing what I believe was actually his now-dead brother, that Liv gets the inkling about what Blaine is really up to now—and could have also easily put together that Drake is involved as well.
The progression of the Blaine story in the past two weeks is extremely satisfying, mostly because it seemed to be put on the back burner for so long before this. His big season-long plan to take down Boss and take over the Utopium trade in Seattle is probably the most ethereal plot on the show, as it takes place mostly by suggestion rather than by actually seeing any of the moving parts of the operation. Instead, we learn by piecing moments together, like Blaine and Peyton working to take down Boss on the legal end, or mentions of a new rival form of Utopium mentioned by drug dealers in Clive’s interrogation room. It isn’t really until Boss’ nephew gets killed (more on that in a moment) and he ends up at Blaine’s funeral home that it feels like an actual showdown between two characters with the appropriate stakes. Because of those stakes, two simple scenes of Boss seeing Blaine, then following him down to his basement and demanding repayment for the drugs he disappeared with after the boat massacre, feel dripping with tension and foreshadowing of a bigger showdown to come. Both Eddie Jemison and David Anders have such a great, low-key, squirrelly evil in their performances, so it’s great to watch them finally come face to face. It also finally feels like a setting of stakes for what will likely be a much more contentious relationship in the future.
The reason Boss was even at Blaine’s sets the scene for the rest of the episode, and it’s a good one: The three headless bodies that make up the case of the week just happen to be three of Boss’ henchmen (one, his nephew) who were sent to take out District Attorney Floyd Baracus to get him off Boss’ back. The only problem? Baracus is a zombie, and he easily takes them out and then hides himself at his lake cabin in order to regroup. The fallout from this is twofold—Baracus keeps the heads so he can snack on the brains, leading the police to discover them; and this also tips off Max Rager that he was one of the zombies Major cleared on his list, and now yet really seems like an actual zombie.
Both these problems are solved by Liv and Major working independently of each other, even though Major has far more of an idea of what Liv is up to than she knows about him. Liv figures out Baracus is hiding and keeps the police away from him so she can figure out how to help him stay safe, and in the meantime Major tracks him down and offers him the deep freeze treatment, with him faking a suicide. What’s compelling about this dance between Liv and Major is how Major’s story in this episode reveals just how evil Vaughn Du Clark and Max Rager are turning out to be, which is exactly the reason Major is still keeping all of this from his friends. Major keeping this secret seems like contrived nonsense designed to keep unnecessary, prolonged tension between characters—and certainly, in some ways it most definitely is—but from Major’s point of view, he is doing what he has to do to keep them all safe. Seeing Vaughn reiterate that threat in this episode was essential to keeping his story in the realm of believability.
What’s increasingly satisfying about iZombie as a series is how they can take an episode as fundamentally fun and silly as last week’s Fifty Shades-inspired outing, then immediately turn around and pull off a mostly plot-driven, intricately executed story-and-character advancing episode the next week, with the humor taking a back seat. But for as much plot development as we got here, the episode definitely left me ready for even more advancement on the season’s over-arching plots. With seven episodes left in the season, the advancement is definitely coming—just maybe not right away.
- The best scene of the episode had to be when Peyton invited Liv to have a little confrontation with Blaine. He was not expecting that, and it was delightful.
- Peyton and Ravi were pretty adorable in this entire episode, but it made me really feel for Ravi in the end. Rahul Kohli is so good, and Ravi Gives You Drunk Pep Talks should be an app, or something.
- I have so many questions about what Major is doing. He is technically the Chaos Killer, right? Is he really painting graffiti when he does this to “mark” his victims? Why would he purposely be trying to create a profile for himself? As a distraction? Am I being very, very stupid here? Help me. (At least Major’s zombie hunting music montages are always on point.)
- If Boss’ math is correct, it’s been 100 weeks since the boat massacre. Liv has been a zombie for almost two years!
- D.A. Baracus. I (finally) see what you did there, iZombie.
- I never understood the unboxing video phenomenon until I saw Rose McIver do one and I think I get it now?
- Were you worried about Minor last week? So were a lot of people, apparently. Rob Thomas explains more here.
- The reporter is one of Blaine’s zombies. Blaine really knows how to cover all his bases. He is the boy scout of super-evil, murderous masterminds.