It’s appropriate this episode of iZombie is country music-themed, because it sure is full of heartache. The last few episodes were heavy on the humor with heartache around the edges, but “Even Cowgirls Get The Black And Blues” flips this script completely, bringing the long-simmering tension between Liv and Major to the forefront. The result is a satisfying episode full of emotion, even if it’s ultimately a bit unbalanced.

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Let’s get right into the Major business, because it is certainly major. Liv and Major have been slowly circling each other all season, with Liv tentatively trying to restore their friendship and Major doing everything he can to shut her down. Liv finally reaches her breaking point—influenced by the country-music singer’s brains she eats—and goes to Major to finally put their relationship to rest. Their fight is the first time Liv tells Major just how hard it was for her to cut him out of her life, and the first time she really vocalizes all of the fears she keeps inside. When Major rejects her again after hearing this, it’s slap in the face, but mostly it’s just as confusing for her as it was for Major when she shut him out of her life.

It’s at this point where everything in this story becomes crystal clear. In essence, Major’s and Liv’s stories are exact parallels. When something horrible and unthinkable happened to Liv, she did everything in her power to shield herself and her friends from the awful truth. Now that something horrible is happening to Major, he is isolating himself in the same way, and in the process alienating everyone around him. Liv’s confession to Major about her own self-isolation might have finally broken something in him, and when he shows up at Liv’s doorstep asking for help it feels like it could be a turning point. What I like most about the moment is that turning point is immediately undercut by a kiss, which makes the scene much more complicated. Either this is Major truly asking for help and accepting Liv, or kissing a zombie is just another stop on his self-destruction highway.

The episode’s emotion wasn’t only the devastating kind, though. Peyton’s return to the show was desperately needed, as evidenced by her incredibly happy, touching reunion with Liv and their subsequent bonding scenes together. Giving Liv back an old friend—someone who knew her both before and after her transition—gives a welcome emotional roundness and warmth to what had the potential to become a very dark season. What’s great about iZombie is that it isn’t content to bring Peyton back solely to be the “friend” figure. Peyton’s return is closely tied into the Blaine story, as he attempts to take down local crime kingpin Stacey Boss and then take over his business. Peyton heading up the task force assigned to do the taking down puts her directly in the path of Blaine—and in turn puts me directly in the path of being worried about Peyton when she refers to him as “interesting” to Liv. Damn those charming bad guys and their twinkly eyes.

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While the emotional storylines in the episode have a strong throughline, the rest of the hour is a bit more scattered. In this case it doesn’t turn out to necessarily be a negative thing, as it’s mostly the result of fitting a lot of information and color in around the edges, in little ways that pay off in this episode as well as bigger ways that will likely pay off in later episodes. The biggest of these is the introduction of FBI Agent Dale Bazzio as a new presence in the police department, as both an agent investigating the disappearance of the zombies Major is killing and a maybe-potential love interest for Clive. Her addition is such a smart way to both put the pressure on the Major story and give Clive something to do outside of strictly working cases every week, and I am looking forward to see how her story progresses.

It’s a bit strange to say the case of the week existed around the edges here (considering it still took up a decent amount of the running time), but Liv’s brain-induced personality changes were much more muted this week than they have been, which leads to a far lesser presence for the case as a whole. What works best about the case—besides giving the show a fun excuse to have Rose McIver sing a country song—is that it isn’t solved by anything Liv actually does. Like has happened a few times in the past, Clive solves this case by pure police work, even if that police work is assisted by a good chunk of happenstance. Tying Clive and Liv’s murder case into a larger case the precinct is working makes the force—and the city of Seattle—a much more alive presence than it usually gets to be, which is a welcome change. It’s not a flashy case, nor a particularly humorous one, but it’s different enough to demonstrate that the show does have more than just one flavor of procedural in its arsenal, which is sometimes just enough.

Stray observations

  • Everything about Blaine hunting down the guy who cut the zombie Utopium and then turning him when he wouldn’t give up his secret recipe was perfect. Especially the zombie henchman who texts emoticons and argues about whether Jesus was a zombie.
  • The Southern-fried brains with sriracha dipping sauce actually looked appetizing. Is Liv consulting the Meat Cute chef handbook?
  • Ravi in a cowboy outfit filming Liv’s performance is simply the best. He is the best friend of all time.
  • Speaking of Ravi, his date Stephanie seemed pretty cool. Too bad for her that Peyton is back.
  • Naming the dog Minor is a minor stroke of genius. Rob Thomas is pretty darn good at naming dogs.
  • “That’s the smell of sex and self-loathing.” At least Major still has a few moments of snarky clarity.

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