Cards on the table: I know absolutely nothing about Dungeons & Dragons, so much so that when iZombie revealed they were doing a D&D-themed episode, I was petrified none of the jokes would land. Luckily, you don’t have to know the source material well to recognize funny, and what the show does with its first foray into D&D is very funny.
The smartest decision the writers make here is to tie their Dungeon Master murder victim to characters we already know. Both sketch artist Jimmy and IT guy Vampire Steve are part of the murdered DM’s regular D&D game, and both are distinctive enough presences on the show that it takes away a lot of the exposition burden usually required in the interrogation scenes. Instead of introducing the characters, the show can instead use that time to develop the characters further, which is incredibly smart world building (and incredibly amusing, as these two are both just strange enough to be hilarious).
The other smart decision is the most obvious one: To have Liv and the gang play their own D&D game in an attempt to trigger Liv’s visions. I had no idea what was happening at any time, but watching Liv throw herself into the DM character, then Ravi and Major (mostly) follow along with glee, to finally end with Clive totally getting into the game and wanting to make it a regular thing? Everything about that sequence was delightful, and totally in character for each of the participants. Game of Thrones-loving Clive would totally fall for this in the same way he fell for that show, and if there ever comes a time for a brain to repeat I would not be opposed to seeing Liv as the Dungeon Master and Clive as Earl the Dwarf Fighter again.
The murder does end on a strange and intriguing note, as well. Instead of Liv and Clive solving the case through one of her visions, instead Liv leads them to a secret room where the victim had been looking at Russian power plant schematics. Was he killed by a Russian operative for doing something nefarious? The point of this reveal doesn’t seem to be about bringing a Russian spy plot into the show, but to have an excuse to bring the FBI— and therefore Dale Bozzio—back to town for one last heartbreaking scene with Clive. They never got much proper closure last season, so if this was that closure, it was at least appropriately heartbreaking. It also gives every single main character a love story this season, which while they haven’t always been perfectly handled is an admirable thing to do, especially when the show is telling so many other stories at the same time. And if Bozzio wants to come back and un-break Clive’s heart? I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing her around again. She’s had my affection since she switched her breakfast taco for a tastier taco option on the sly.
Considering how much was going on with the case of the week, it’s incredible there was even more going on in all of the other stories around it and that it all flowed together so well, even if it did feel a bit rushed once or twice. The rest of the subplots were all wrapped up in the season’s big zombie story, coming it at from all angles. Ravi’s trip to the zombie truther meeting is the biggest development, as he essentially has to reveal his true identity in order to stop Harley and his followers from kidnapping zombies in order to starve them and get them to go full-on zombie, so they can then reveal their existence to the rest of the world. What is so compelling about this plot is that these truthers pretty much have everything nailed; that makes this a story not about crazy conspiracies, but about perspective. These people see the danger of a zombie outbreak and want to stop it by any violent means necessary, but we and our protagonists have a much more nuanced view on this because we’re connected to zombies as characters and people. To use a blunt real-life political example: This isn’t Pizzagate, and the fact that it’s complicated and rooted in legitimate fears makes it a much more interesting story to tell.
On the other side of the zombie story coin is Fillmore Graves, DA Baracus, and Baracus’ attempt to become mayor of Seattle. The zombie truthers are onto him, so when Baracus is shot at a fundraising event, does this mean it was one of the people at the truther meeting? Or, in a more cynical view, was it Baracus’ own idea to have him get shot to look more heroic, since he knew he couldn’t die? Liv meeting Chase Graves at this same function was also an important moment, since they will obviously be crossing paths again as the zombie plot progresses. And was Graves flirting with Liv, just a little? That’s certainly a different dynamic than we got from Vivian.
Finally, there’s the entire story with Blaine and the blue solution-soaked brains, which of all of Blaine’s bad ideas might turn out to be the worst. Turns out Blaine’s super blue brains cause two-hour mega visions, and cause Don E to go into a World War II-veteran brain war spiral, eventually making him almost go full-on zombie feral. This allows him to get captured by the truthers, all while Blaine has no idea any of it is happening because he’s too busy visiting the well and torturing his father. Blaine seems to think everything is going his way, but who wants to have two-hour visions of anything? No one’s life is that interesting. So Blaine now has a product that he claims has major value that I don’t understand at all, and is happy as a clam, just as Mr. Boss rolls back into town to mess everything up for him again. I have to say, Blaine, this much plot whiplash just couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
- My favorite random reveal in this episode is that Vampire Steve took on his vampire persona so he could impress a woman who liked Twilight. Oh, Vampire Steve.
- Second favorite random reveal? Jimmy’s sketch of Dominatrix Liv. Sketch bitch, indeed!
- Per my D&D-playing friend, Major being a paladin perfectly fits with his character. I will take their word for it, so well done, show.
- Major’s story is sort of at that crossroads where it seems like the show doesn’t exactly know what to do with him now that he’s not a zombie anymore. Having him read his hate mail (which was funny) and then end up calling one of his non-haters for a date seems like a terrible idea that will blow up right in his face, but hopefully it’s leading somewhere interesting. But Major, why did you invite her to your house? When you were alone? Stranger danger, dude.
- I repeat, again, some more: Major being so openly pleased Liv and Justin are dating is still super weird!
- Peyton’s dominatrix murder case is still simmering in the background in a way that I like a lot, because it’s reminiscent of the way Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright like to keep stories slowing moving along in the background until they explode to the foreground to intertwine with the season’s other stories, in a way that almost always makes everything more interesting. This week Peyton still doesn’t believe her client is guilty, and when Liv tells her Baracus was one of the domme’s clients she becomes even more suspicious. Hmm.
- Who is this photographer Rachel we meet for 30 seconds? No doubt Ravi will be seeing her again.