The thing about being a superhero is that it requires sacrifices. Your loved ones are always in danger, simply by being in your life, and keeping your double life a secret makes things even worse. Your romantic life is always in shambles, because your superhero work is constantly getting in the way. And you always, always have to put the greater good—or at least the latest mission—ahead of any personal feelings or interests you may have.
Liv Moore might not be a superhero, but he transition into zombie life has many of the same themes. She’s estranged from her family, unable to tell them why she couldn’t donate blood to her brother. She’s struggling in her relationship, as the brains she eats to stay alive and alert affect her ability to remain herself when around Major. And the one thing she counts on to make those things bearable—her “superhero” moments of helping to solve murders by eating the victims’ brains—might have been taken away from her for good. Just call Liv Old Scratchy, because she’s a zombie superhero in crisis right now. (Or, don’t. That nickname is not Ravi’s best work.)
Liv and Major didn’t seem long for this world once Liv started secretly texting with Rita while pretending to be Major, but what I like about their downfall is that it happens so frankly. We skip right from Liv texting in the previous episode to her fighting about it with Major in this one, and it’s clear that it’s one of those fights they can’t seem to extricate themselves from. You can feel the exhaustion radiating from them both, but for Liv, she can’t stop the fight because the brain won’t let her. This story is the deepest exploration yet of what the brains actually do to Liv beyond allowing her to help solve crimes; they infect every bit of her life, ingraining themselves so deeply into her own brain that she can’t tell sometimes where they stop and she begins. It’s an impossible thing to understand, and it’s especially difficult for Major when it affects his relationship with Liv so significantly. If they can’t have sex, that’s one thing. But if Liv can’t even be Liv when they’re together, what do they have left together as a couple?
What Liv has left outside of Major is her work with Clive, and this week’s murder victim is a local vigilante superhero who calls himself The Fog. When he gets killed trying to break up a so-called mugging, Liv then gets a chance to go full-on superhero instead of full-on zombie, and this brain ends up being worse for her than even the stalker. Things get messy when the case leads Clive and Liv right to Mr. Boss, who denies any involvement with the muggers The Fog was fighting, or the muggers’ victim. Boss’ involvement means that the actual crimes here are bigger than anything Liv has faced, this time involving a big shipment of guns that The Fog was trying to stop Boss from bringing into Seattle, and Liv’s lunch of superhero brain sandwich means that she can’t help but put herself in danger even when Clive tells her to stay out of it.
The superhero theme leads to a lot of fun nods to the genre, from score to direction to dialogue, but its biggest influence is that it puts Liv in a place where she’s actively going against Clive’s wishes in an extreme way. Liv has gone above and beyond the scope of her duties before, but when Liv tracks the guns to a warehouse and gets entangled with Boss’ crew, it’s far worse a transgression than she’s ever committed in the past. Getting in a fight with a bunch of mob guys gives her a good reason to go full zombie and demonstrate some fighting skills, but like The Fog, Liv is no superhero. She’s just a zombie who ate the wrong brain and wants to do the right thing, and that unstoppable drive is what causes her to lose the most important thing in her life.
What hurts the most about Clive telling Liv that he can’t work with her anymore is that it’s so easy to see both sides. Clive has a job that has procedures and rules that are required, so that the law is properly followed. Having a so-called psychic running around and putting her life in danger in his name isn’t something he can allow, either legally, morally, or professionally. But Liv, Liv is right about Boss. She did find a warehouse full of guns that he was planning on distributing. Like The Fog, though, Liv can’t go around doing what she wants simply because she knows she’s right. Liv’s actions allowed Boss to become the hero of the story, allowed him to clean up the guns and hide them forever, and prevented Clive from getting any real evidence. How can Clive continue to work with her? How can Liv continue to live without working with Clive? Like she pleads with Clive, this is her one thing. The one thing that makes her being a zombie tolerable. The one thing that gives her purpose. And now it’s gone. What does she have to live for now?
As for Major, he spends most of the episode in his own little strange, sweet meet-cute, as he tracks a beautiful zombie from his list and ends up saving her life. It’s an interesting twist on Major’s Max Rager work, as he goes to track a zombie thinking he is going to have to wrestle her down and ends up saving her from putting a gun to her head and pulling the trigger instead. What happens next is like a mini-indie rom com, as Major gets to know this sad zombie woman who has been forced by her zombie benefactor into basically indentured sex servitude in exchange for brains. It’s sad and tragic, and exists to both soften what Major is doing (he’s working through the list as slowly as possible) and also give him some perspective on what Liv goes through when she eats brains.
This vignette feels necessary because it finally gives Major someone to talk to about what he is doing, and therefore gives the audience a peek into his thought process regarding the situation. He’s doing it to ensure Max Rager doesn’t kill Liv, and he’s keeping it from her because he’s pretty sure she would be horrified by what he’s doing. He also he knows she would immediately try to take Vaughn down and potentially get herself hurt. These aren’t groundbreaking ideas, but it’s nice to get to hear Major actually say them out loud. His whole encounter—even the part where he promises that he’ll kill his zombie friend if they never find a cure, right before knocking her out and putting her in the freezer—is like Major getting the necessary bit of information he needs to move forward with Liv beyond all of their fighting, but it happens too late. Liv has the brain of the superhero and the heart of a zombie realist, and she’s decided they won’t work. They can’t work, not now that she’s a zombie.
Now Liv doesn’t have her “one” thing, she doesn’t have the love thing. Where does she go from here?
- New zombie Drake is the link to finding out where the tainted Utopium is, and he also appears to be Boss’ chauffeur or bodyguard. I’m sure that won’t be important at all!
- What do we think about Liv turning Drake so easily? It was an interestingly self-serving moment.
- So Hope the rat turned back into a zombie? Does this mean Blaine and Major are next?
- Violent Night and Santa Claus Is Running The Town are great Christmas-themed comic panel titles, but no title has been or will ever be as good as One Tree Kill. They did Robert Buckley proud with that one.
- The Fog. Hashtag. Ghost Cobra. Superfly. Gray Area. Megafist. Blue Swallow. Naming superheroes is hard for the average layperson. (OK, I like Megafist. It’s pleasantly naughty.)
- Who the heck is the person running our pretty zombie friend’s prostitution ring? Is it Blaine? I would say it is his father, but he’s in the deep freeze and Blaine thinks he’s dead so I was under the assumption Blaine took his brain business back. The long term arcs on this show are generally strong but this one has holes.
- iZombie has addressed the issue of spreading the zombie virus by sexual contact even if condoms are used, but I feel like they’re sweeping the potential consequences of this under the rug a bit. So are all these zombies out there not sleeping with their human partners after they’re turned? This seems highly unlikely. There should be a zombie epidemic by now.
- “I am The Fog, and tonight, I’m thick with justice.”
- “I’m sorry. I work at a cold-pressed juicery during the day. I’m not taking on a crime lord.”
- “All you have to do to summon Hashtag is hashtag Hashtag.”
- “I was literally screwed into being a zombie hooker.”