“Fifty Shades of Grey Matter” is one of those iZombie episodes where the rest of the stories are so interesting that every time they cut back to the case of the week, it feels like a bit of a letdown. Not that the case was terrible—its biggest flaw is not that it’s boring, but that it’s simply much too thin—but it struggles to keep up the momentum of the more crucial, long-term developments happening around it.
That the case falls more on the side of “just fine” in the grand scheme of the show’s murder-of-the-week plots is kind of surprising, considering how cool some of the details are—particularly that the murder weapon is poisoning by way of water hemlock. If killing someone in fiction can be considered fun, water hemlock is the definite way to do it. Not only is hemlock fun to say, but it also leads to the inevitable Socrates joke, and how often can you organically work a Socrates joke into a modern drama on The CW? The trouble with the case is that the victim—a librarian by day, erotic fiction writer by night—doesn’t have enough going on in her orbit to establish very many red herrings, and once the victim’s husband is introduced (and immediately ruled out as a suspect because he’s a firefighter hero who ended up in a wheelchair by getting injured during a rescue) it’s pretty obvious he’s the most likely candidate as the killer. Having him use the same hemlock murder that was featured in her library nemesis’ book manuscript is clever enough, but the mechanics of the case never really rise above passable.
Just because the case was kind of a drag at times, however, doesn’t mean the brain involved in the case wasn’t a total delight. The decision to have Liv eat the brain of a sexually frustrated erotica novelist is a mad stroke of genius, and both the script and Rose McIver make full use of the opportunity to go horny. Watching Liv get hot and bothered over absolutely everything was fun enough, but what really made the brain’s personality takeover work was how Liv was so obviously inappropriate at times—and how she recognized that inappropriateness. Liv ogling Ravi’s ass is fine (sort of); Liv smacking his ass in the workplace—while hilarious—is not so fine, and she calls herself out for it immediately.
More importantly, when Liv “brain roofies” Drake by giving him some horny librarian brain so they can have hot sex, she admits it to him and stops anything from happening between them until the brains are out of their systems. It’s an interesting choice for the show to make, as it both signals that a definite part of Liv is out of control when she is under the influence of a brain and that she still has enough control to stop herself from doing something she knows is wrong. iZombie tends to skirt around the edges of what it actually means for Liv to be affected by the brains she eats, and this was one of the better ways to explore that in a very narratively expedient way. But exploring how brains affect Liv wasn’t the sole goal of this scene, as we find out later that Liv and Drake do end up sleeping together after the brains wear off—and Liv isn’t quite sure how to feel about it yet. Given that Drake is still tied up with Blaine, Liv certainly has reason to be skeptical.
The biggest developments of the episode are all about Blaine, as Agent Bozzio does the legwork and helps Clive put together the big mystery of their John Deaux, aka Blaine DeBeers, aka Blaine McDonough (note: I do not know if this is how McDonough is spelled, but they said it like Neal McDonough so I’m rolling with it until proven otherwise). They connect Blaine not only to the recent kidnappings—which they are calling murders, but I didn’t think there were any bodies—but also to the Meat Cute massacre, thanks to Lieutenant writing “Blaine” on the wall there.
This plot progression is exciting enough, with great energy in the scene where Clive and Bozzio put all the pieces together, but it iZombie never misses a moment to twist the knife. As soon as Peyton started using Blaine as her informant, it was obvious this was going to lead down a bad path. They had far too much easy chemistry, and she was far too removed from the layers of deception he was using on her. That chemistry comes to a head here when they start drinking together after a long night of working on the case, and end up having sex—just in time for Bozzio and Clive to get their ducks in a row enough to arrest Blaine. When Peyton comes barging into Clive’s interrogation room, demanding he release Blaine, it’s devastating because the audience knows Peyton doesn’t have all the facts.
What really hurts, though, is when she goes to see Liv and shows Liv a picture of Blaine—and Liv spills everything to Peyton about all the horrible things Blaine has done. Sleeping with a guy as bad as Blaine and not realizing how bad he is until everyone around you fills in the blanks has to be a brutal blow to Peyton’s self-confidence. The big question is: Where does she go from here? She got Blaine released, but now knows who he really is. Does she move forward with using him in her investigation, or cut bait and probably lose her case against Boss, jeopardizing her career? Peyton is unfortunately still mostly a minor character on the show, but everything that happens in this episode hints to major implications for her in the future, and I hope we get to see how it all plays out.
- For an episode that was all about sex it was surprisingly retro in its sexual mores. Everyone who had sex regretted it!
- The highlight of Liv’s horny brain had to be her curiosity over whether Ravi and Major ever wrestle, and their subsequent reactions to her questioning. You have a writer brain in you, Liv. This is what writing fanfic is for! They can wrestle all night!
- The show used Kristen Bell’s cameo as the audiobook narrator as a big promotional opportunity, but it was a bit disappointing to have her part be so very small. Liv’s in-joke about feeling a connection to her was clever enough, though.
- So Major drank Max Rager (I assume the new, improved, crazy potent version) and it turned him into a speedy parkour freak almost immediately, followed by a quick burst of anger. Not great, Major. You saw the zombie basement!
- Also not great: Major having to ditch Minor on the bus once he finds out Clive and Bozzio are onto him. The last shot of Minor in the bus window was so sad.
- “I believe it was Socrates who said about hemlock: ‘I drank what?’”
- “If you do wrestle, film it.”