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After two episodes of a murder case that wasn’t a murder case, domestic terrorism, and current affairs thrown into the zombie blender, iZombie’s “Five, Six, Seven, Ate!” gets somewhat back to basics. In a series’ final season, that’s one of those things you actually want to hear, especially if things have strayed so far from simpler times. This episode has a proper case, with a proper crime-solving trio team-up, and even zombie visions. It also has a dance training montage, which is apparently exactly what this season needed.

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The dance training montage (set to Alicia Bridges’ “I Love The Nightlife”) is pure joy, something the first two episodes of the season lacked and something iZombie hasn’t really been able to focus on with Fillmore-Graves, Renegade, and the political climate of Seattle. “Five, Six, Seven, Ate!” is the most zom-com-rom-dram of the season so far, with the case and its dance movie plot solidly pushing the “zom-com” agenda. Liv and Clive physically helping Ravi learn to dance together is delightful, as they work on either side of him (with Clive holding Ravi’s hips). But the actual turn to montage is on a whole other level, in all of its Dirty Dancing meets Footloose glory. It also features a moment when Ravi busts out his—honestly, not great—Flossing, which even comes in handy for later in the episode. (Ravi’s solo “freestyle” dance during the performance is truly something else). The montage goes from the morgue to the guys’ house and back to the morgue again, featuring pretty much all you could ever want in a dance training montage, including a montage-ending lift, Clive’s love of dance, a dead guy’s organs. Dale interrupting the trio’s celebration to ask about her dead John Doe is the icing on top of this already pretty sweet cake, refusing to question what these three (including her husband and) are up to, as weird as it is.

This episode has a nice touch in waiting to officially bring up the “codependent” aspect of Nancy (Carlena Britch) and Gulliver’s (Cody Kearsley) partnership, because once it does, so much falls into place. At first, it’s hard to properly put a finger on why Liv’s Nancy personality is the way it is because unlike fitness nut brain, nothing about Nancy being a dancer would explain things like the eyelash/wish moment. And with Liv having to eat both two brains, it allows the audience to witness both sides of the codependency, with Nancy’s neediness and Gulliver’s enabling. The latter helps Ravi out when he needs it the most though, as the entire episode involves him being completely terrified of dancing at this level.

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With any procedural, it’s easy to wish the case-of-the-week component would just go away so the show can focus more on larger stories and characterization. But here’s the thing about an episode like “Five, Six, Seven, Ate!”: The case and the larger character beats within it are both the best and most fun parts of this episode. The unfortunate part, however, is how anticlimactically the case ends, with Renaldo committing suicide over his guilt for accidentally killing Gulliver. But the whole story is the most interesting part of the episode, as even as this episode finds interesting topics of discussion surrounding its serialized issues, they still highlight the larger problems.

The last thing iZombie need in its final season is baby mama drama. It’s funny how Clive and Dale go so matter of factly through what exactly happened last season, but it works because Michelle is barely a character. Now, she’s back to prove how strong the Clive/Dale pairing is (again), because even as upset as Dale gets, she and Clive are able to put that aside to help Michelle out. Malcolm Goodwin and Jessica Harmon are great here, which is the saving grace. (In fact, this episode allows the whole available cast to shine, only sidelining the ones who literally aren’t in the episode.) Clive’s note-taking during Lamaze is so very Clive, and while the possible second baby plot isn’t great, Clive’s initial reaction to it (his inability to form a sentence) is funny. And while Jessica Harmon isn’t a series regular, she continues to feel like one, with ease. Christie Laing does what she can with Michelle, but the character is a blank slate and has been since she was first introduced.

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You know, while there are moments like the mother who’s just worried because her kid is afraid to go to school and the beat about Baron being a human (and “a marshmallow”), iZombie does stack the deck in zombies’ favor. The audience isn’t supposed to want an all-zombie haven in Seattle. But for every Clive, Dale, Peyton, and Ravi (when he doesn’t have his monthlies), there’s an even larger number of zombie-loathing humans who make every possible space unsafe for anyone on Team Z. Co-existing isn’t actually shown as a viable option the further the series goes down this path, even with a cure. And of course, the human hatred of zombies leads to zombie hatred of humans… though Michael learns a lesson about that at the end.

While iZombie could use fewer children right now, the Michael/school plot mostly works, as it highlights how all of this anti-zombie behavior trickles down to the youth and how the adults who are supposed to protect and educate won’t do that. Michael’s a sympathetic character too, as he just tries to keep his head down while he’s endlessly harassed, with no faculty member to help. It’s refreshing not to see Dolly Durkins but instead to have a school official recite one of her talking points, as proof of how far her message has spread.

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There’s an interesting debate—when given in good faith—somewhere in all of this. Because kids are already driven by their hormones and emotions (as well as by saying and doing stupid things to each other), and being a kid who can snap like Michael (into Full-On Zombie Mode) does here is genuinely scary and dangerous for human kids. Also dangerous for any kid is the bully going for one of the Fillmore-Graves soldiers’ side arms, but that’s based on stupidity, not a biological response any child wouldn’t be mature enough to handle without help. (Also, now there’s another video to drum up anti-zombie conversation. Even after confirming what happened, that video doesn’t show it and the faculty didn’t tell the full story.) Imagine a zombie kid scratching humans throughout school, even if the human kids ask for it. Because while that is seen as a good thing when Oliver did it to his sisters, putting it in a non-Renegade situation makes even clearer what a bad idea that is. This is the problem with the larger comparison iZombie is trying to make with zombies as others: As much as it wants to be on the side of poor zombie kids, these poor zombie kids are dangerous. Because they’re zombie kids.

Which brings up the topic of how dense Liv is to turn children into zombies. This is most likely not the conversation that the episode expected, but in an episode featuring a case surrounding a codependent duo, Peyton and Major continue to enable Liv’s terrible Renegade plan. Even if you believe that Renegade is a good idea and story, while it’s understandable Liv wants kids not to die young, it’s not a better option to let them become zombies young.

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While Peyton’s role as “de facto Mayor” is obviously a reluctant one, it works much better than the Fillmore-Graves and Renegade storylines do for Major and Liv’s characters as leaders. Because despite the quick rise up the ranks, Peyton’s in a position of power that at least tracks based on who she’s always been as a character. That’s not the case for G.I. Major—and he even says so himself—or Zombie Messiah Liv. So Peyton standing up to everyone from Major to the principal to whoever is on the phone in this episode is actually entertaining to watch in a way Major and Liv’s moments of leadership aren’t. Actually, in butting heads with Peyton, Major is actually lifted up a step in terms of having the spine his men don’t seem to think he has, as every other Commander Major scene is about how he hates this job (or that he deserves this job… that he hates). While they apologize to each other—and props to iZombie’s final season for not dragging that out for more than one episode—this is the rare episode where Major has some fire in his eyes for Fillmore-Graves, the place that is his life, for better or worse.

I’ve praised this week’s case quite a bit, but it’s also worth noting that the decision to make Ravi the ingenue (instead of Liv) is a smart way to play with Rahul Kohli and Rose McIver’s respective levels of dance experience, as well as a good return to the Ravi/Liv buddy dynamic that’s become less of a focus as their world gets bigger (and technically also smaller). Plus, while Nancy is a needy brain, it’s refreshing that neither brain is so over-the-top that take away from the story and the case. The only moment it looks like that might happen is when Liv wants to dance instead of looking through a suspect’s phone, but that is the moment where Ravi is finally able to use the codependent brain to his advantage. “Five, Six, Seven, Ate!” ultimately works because it has that fun that was missing overall in the first two episodes of this season. Despite the back and forth between ridiculous dance movie shenanigans and the political and baby issues (and the larger issues of them) in this episode, the tone is never off and the story is never slow.

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Stray observations

  • This is certainly an episode with actors who are decent enough at dancing but are definitely not dancers. Like Moose from Riverdale, who plays Gulliver. Rose McIver gets to show off her moves (and the splits) though.
  • These dancers are competing to be on Dance Of A Lifetime. In the premiere, Major says, “They’re petitioning me to let two humans out of the city for a dance contest? … No. I’m not letting humans out to dance.” Which made it seem like the show was outside of Seattle and that he would just be “loaning” the humans out. But it’s not? The problem is that the Dance Of A Lifetime winning pair is promised guaranteed tickets out of Seattle. But that could not be enforced because of how Major runs things. Unless he finally went with the smart idea of capitalizing on the minute of free ad time.
  • Diane Ruggiero-Wright surely must’ve been writing from a real-life experience with the Lamaze instructor, because very public passive aggressiveness and rudeness toward Michelle is very specific.
  • Ravi: “This might be weird, but: I think Clive just got me pregnant.”
    Clive: “Let’s not joke about that right now.”
  • Liv: “Ravi, this is your moment. it’s gonna be just like in the movies, except better. because you’re not dancing to win child support money [The Full Monty] or because your friend is throwing an outlaw prom [Footloose]. And you’re not dancing to say, ‘Hey dad! I’m a woman now. I’m sick of this repressive 1960s paternalism!’ [Dirty Dancing] You are dancing for justice.” This episode also has Ravi’s Billy Elliot origin story, Liv quoting C&C Music Factory, and more Dirty Dancing: “Hey, look at me: Nobody puts Ravi in a corner.”
  • Dale: “Dad or mom? Your call.”
    Michelle: “You should be dad. You’re being a very good source of ‘light and love’ right now.” You heard it here first: Dale is daddy.
  • “CHARLES IN CHARGE” is an all-time great comic act opener.
  • I appreciate that during Clive’s “freak of nature” hunt, he is concerned with the very hairy guy in the picture.
  • The weird thing about the conclusion to the case is not that Renaldo decides to kill himself out of guilt but when Clive calls in 911 and has to spell out the street address (“W-I-L-C-H-E-R”). I mean, dude’s already dead, but like the Lamaze instructor, it’s just a very specific beat.

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