iZombie – Season 4 Episode 13
“And He Shall be a Good Man”
iZombie ends its fourth season with Zombies attempting to escape Seattle, an attempted execution and wrapping up several plot threads.
This has been a very busy season and I’ve talked at length about how it doesn’t quite hang together as well as it should. Despite its flaws, it’s still iZombie which means that it’s one of the most entertaining, emotionally resonant and intelligent things on television, at least based on what I watch.
Scope is something that numbers among both the greatest strengths and weaknesses the show has in this season. On one hand widening the world of the show to include the entirety of New Seattle and exploring the paradigm shift that comes with Zombies being something the public is aware of is a very good thing. On the other hand this is a show with limited resources in terms of budget and less episodes than it probably needed to explore this concept to its fullest potential. Despite those limitations the production team did their best and delivered something interesting if not wholly satisfying.
Good or bad the events of this season have been building to this episode. The unrest caused by Fillmore Graves provided a breeding ground for revolution such as the two iterations of Renegade. Liv’s reason for being Renegade was fairly pure to begin with. She had two main objectives; the first was to help people and the second was to set an example where Humans and Zombies could coexist peacefully.The brain shortage makes that more difficult because the Zombies become a ticking time bomb set to go off when their food supply runs dry. Last week provided a reminder of the Romero Zombies to show how things could decline once there are no more brains. It’s very much a background problem that continues to be important.
As befits an episode of iZombie this episode is very character driven. The larger events act as a backdrop for the interesting internal character dynamics at play here. Liv’s execution is a great example of how the world that belongs to the show can inform great characterisation as she is being executed because of her role within that world but the event itself is far more intimate than the overall scale would suggest.
She is due to be executed along with Levon who is allowed a single goodbye with Liv where they declare their love for one another. I’m not sure I necessarily buy that they are in love but the intensity of the situation makes it believable that their emotions would be heightened by how close they are to death. It’s a touching and well acted moment where both actors sell the desperation of the final time they’ll get to speak to one another. It’s very much a stolen moment as well which makes it more impactful.
Chase allows Liv final seconds with her friends which definitely qualifies as cruel on his part but also makes for excellent character moments. The seconds she gets with Ravi, Peyton and Clive act as a succinct summary of their relationships. Her words to Clive are about putting him to work on releasing the documentary before telling him that she loves him because working together defines their relationship but they are much closer than colleagues. Ravi is gifted Isobel’s brain which makes for a tragically hilarious summary of their off the wall connection. Peyton vows to make Liv’s killers pay which shows how devoted a friend she is as Liv reminisces about becoming something important. It’s such clever writing to summarise the core relationships in such a short time and have them resonate so clearly.
Leaking the documentary online is a natural choice because it offers easy expansion of the storyline without doing much. Talking about how many people have seen it while showing a cross section of the people that are being reached and inspired by what they are seeing. It’s a capable combination of showing and telling that makes the event itself feel like something other than clunky exposition. By itself pointing out how many people have watched a video is meaningless but add in some reactions from various people and it’s possible to extrapolate the effect it’s having. The sense of humour is never lost either when Chase asks is Paul Rudd is narrating.
This changes Chase’ timetable as he can no longer have the execution be public because too many people have been inspired into action by the documentary so it will no longer be possible to maintain order during the event itself. He moves it to a secluded warehouse without announcing the change in time in order to create an ambush point for Liv’s supporters as well as make an example out of her to be paraded at a later date. It almost works until Peyton reveals where it is an encourages all of the supporters to head for that location. This makes for an inspiring showing of solidarity on the part of the people who are moved by what Liv taking risks in order to create a better situation for others.
Leading the charge against Fillmore Graves is Major who has been shaken out of apathy by the prospect of Liv’s death. He forces himself into Full-On Zombie Mode and charges the execution with no thought given to his own well-being. Unfortunately he’s too late to prevent the death of Levon but he does arrive in time to take on Chase Graves and deliver the fight for dominance that I hinted at last week. It’s a really bizarre scene with flashing imaged intercut with fades to black. It’s a distinct stylistic choice but not entirely a good one as it makes the action hard to follow. I get that it’s supposed to be chaotic with a number of moving parts but it undercuts the weight of the battle between Major and Chase.
It’s fitting that Liv deliver the death blow to Chase because the conflict basically boils down to her ideology of freedom and equality against his ideology of control and inequality. By killing Chase Liv is taking a definitive stance against his way of thinking and showing the people that she’s willing to fight and kill for what she believes in. There is no doubt in anyone’s head over whether Liv is someone who should be followed which makes for an inspiring moment in a grizzly sort of way. At this point it makes sense for Chase to die because his arc had progressed to the point where his continued survival would have been out of place. In short his story was complete and in order for the show to progress in some way he had to die or be otherwise removed from his position as the head of Fillmore Graves.
The beauty of Liv’s decision is that it’s not something she gets over easily. She took a life and that’s not to be taken lightly whether Chase arguably deserved to die or not. Her actions contribute to her becoming broken by the end of the episode. She talks to Ravi about forgetting what the mission was only to be reminded that it was all about peaceful coexistence. Liv no longer believes that she stands for that because her faith in herself has been shaken by everything that has went on. Levon’s death is another big part of that as she blames herself for all the people that have come to harm around her. She mentions Lowell as well who was the first boyfriend of hers to die. Her level of responsibility for all of the deaths is debatable but the point here is that Liv believes she is a danger to be around and all she wants to do is go away somewhere she can be alone and not endanger others by her very presence. It’s an understandable position for her to take and seems to be something she can’t get over because so much has happened that she can’t take any more.
Ravi offers her the option to become Human again thanks to Isobel’s brain. It turns out that I was mistaken about this latest version of the cure because it only exists as long as Isobel’s brain does so exactly one Zombie can be cured by it. Of course Ravi has cured the virus before only to have it stolen by Blaine but that appears to be all gone at this point so this is Liv’s only option since Ravi lacks the materials to make more. Interestingly Ravi champions Liv remaining a Zombie because of all the good she can do as Renegade. She may have no interest in resuming that role due to her deep sense of self loathing but Ravi believes that it’s worth the anguish because of the hope it brings other people. At this point Liv is ready to hand over that mantle and become Human again which is a choice that Ravi respects even if he doesn’t agree with it. Once again the strong bond of friendship comes through here with Ravi telling Liv all of her options, offering his opinion then leaving the decision up to her even though he doesn’t agree with it.
The surprise wedding of Clive and Dale represents a turning point for Liv as she sees how much they love one another and what Clive is willing to sacrifice in order to be with Dale. He has decided that becoming a Zombie in order to be with her is a sacrifice he’s willing to make as is giving up on having children. To him being with Dale is most important to him. Waiting to become a Zombie until after they are married is an obvious yet touching sign of that commitment on Clive’s part and the shotgun wedding is an acceptable compromise to the waiting that would otherwise ensue. The romance of the moment shakes Liv out of her funk to some degree and she makes another sacrifice for the benefit of other people by offering Dale the cure so she gets to be Human again and Clive gets to start the family that he wants. It’s such a meaningful gesture and the reaction from both Dale and Clive is played to perfection. Ravi and Peyton looking on commenting that it’s exactly what Liv would do is also a nice touch that combines the two most positive romantic pairings the episode has to offer.
Liv makes a positive impression on Humans and Zombies alike where Blaine does the opposite with has manipulation of Angus into encouraging his flock to leave the city limits and start turning people outside with walls into Zombies in order to have the outbreak go national. The aforementioned limited resources of the show mean that this could never be realised along with making for a really bleak plot though the compensation for this is more than adequate. iZombie has a production team that are very skilled at hiding a low budget most of the time as shown by the attempted outbreak. Using smoke grenades to shrink the arena and taking it from the perspective of a reporter and his cameraman delivering an account of what is going on is a great way to add some flair to something that might otherwise come across as cheap. It also adds some flair to the situation with a more grounded perspective on it that makes it feel more real because there’s no real gloss to the filming technique. Seeing Angus emerge from the smoke on a horse leading an army of devout Zombies is such a great image made more effective thanks to the handheld style.
Angus is another casualty which makes sense as there wasn’t much more that could have been done with his character. He comes across as something of a victim though not in the simplistic sense of the word. There’s no doubt that he’s mentally unstable and willing to see signs from God despite how obvious it may be to any outside observer what is actually going on. Blaine takes advantage of his father’s insanity in order to further his own agenda which makes him the victim in the context of their relationship. Neither of them are blameless in all of this as Blaine is was abused by him repeatedly through his childhood and adult life so there’s plenty of blame to go around in this particular relationship.
Blaine’s behaviour is very much a question of whether the ends justify the means and there’s a twisted sense of reconciliation between them where Blaine manages to forge his own version of a positive relationship with his father where his accomplishments are celebrated and encouraged. It’s a wonderfully complex dynamic that leads to a believable point where Blaine actually feels guilty for taking advantage of him and feels upset when it leads to his death. The ship sailed on Blaine being redeemable a long time ago but the brief examples of humanity on his part allow him to remain a nuanced and fascinating presence on the show who can be deployed in pretty much whatever manner the writers need while still being believable.
The ending of the episode bears analysis on its own. I suspect this episode was written with cancellation in mind as there’s a distinct finality to it that would prove mostly satisfying should the show not be renewed for another season. Liv is characterised as being broken but her spirits start to lift when she is taken outside to be met with a large cheering crowd who are proud to openly support as an inspiration to Humans and Zombies alike. If iZombie were to end there then it would be a powerful visual to end on that hints at Liv’s continued operation as Renegade to the benefit of those around her.
It is also suggested that things will start to improve. The episode opens with brain shipments being cut off from New Seattle and ends with hope in the form of Major petitioning Blaine to smuggle as many brains into the city as he possibly can. It’s very much a “deal with the Devil” type situation that commonly appears in desperate times. New Seattle is at breaking point after being cut off from the outside world who are prepared to let the place descend into complete anarchy until the Zombies die out from having no food. It’s a harsh approach but given the events of recent episodes an entirely understandable fear based reaction.
Major in charge of Fillmore Graves makes sense as a plot development as it has been previously established that the soldiers are behind him in a really definitive way so having them defer to his leadership following the death of Chase Graves makes complete sense. Major uses his new position to take the heat of Liv meaning that the only opposition to her smuggling operation is the U.S. Army which definitely won’t make it easy but at least she isn’t trying to sneak around on two fronts. It doesn’t alter how problematic his character arc has been this season and his quick turnaround because Liv happens to be in mortal danger doesn’t entirely make sense due to the various missteps taken with his character in this season in particular.
I did really like the exchange between Major and Liv where Liv says to Peyton that she knows who he is whether he forgets it or not because it is an effective use of the long standing relationship between these characters. Even though Major has lost his way Liv still knows that he’s a good person and will eventually find his way back. All isn’t forgiven by Liv in this episode either as shown by her commenting that Major’s decisions are indirectly responsible for Levon’s death which is countered by him pointing out that they are indirectly responsible for Liv still being alive. Once again there is complexity to the relationships and interactions that make this word and the characters so rich.
A mostly satisfying conclusion to an uneven season that focuses on the characters and how the plots affect them. This makes the episode feel small scale while still addressing the larger issues in really interesting ways. Liv and Levon’s execution is a direct result of the events of the season that brings many of the conflicts to a head. It allows for a moving goodbye between Liv and Levon and precious final seconds with her friends that manage to summarise those relationships in a very short period of time. It’s clever writing and speaks to the strength of the characters. Encouraging New Seattle to rise up against the oppressive regime with Levon’s documentary is a nice touch as it presents the illusion of scope while keeping things confines. It offers ample justification for the attack on the execution, the fight between Major and Chase that results in Liv being the one to kill him and Major taking over Fillmore Graves to remake it into a more positive organisation. Major’s arc doesn’t suddenly make sense but he is better deployed here than he has been before even if some aspects of him are still problematic. Angus and Blaine’s relationship remains as complex as ever with Angus taking on the appearance of a victim in this episode, at least as much as he can given his past exploits. There’s plenty of blame to go around here and Blaine is clearly taking advantage of his insane father until it results in Angus’ death. It takes full advantage of the complicated history of this relationship and is a testament to the strength of both characters that Blaine being upset by his father’s death is believable.
The episode manages to hide its budgetary limits really well such as the reporter and cameraman delivering an account of the action and shrinking the arena using smoke grenades to present the illusion of scale. It’s an effective stylistic choice that works better than the chaotic flashing images intercut with fades to black during the Major and Chase confrontation. Liv being broken after killing Chase because she took a life and feels responsible for the deaths that have happened near her. She opts to become Human and remove herself from people she feels she will end up hurting. The shotgun wedding of Dale and Clive changes her mind as she gives the cure to Dale so that they can be together and have the family that Clive wants. It’s a touching moment that is nicely in keeping with Liv’s established characterisation. Her final exchange with Major where she doesn’t forgive him for his indirect involvement in Levon’s death and he doesn’t apologise for his indirect involvement in her still being alive is really strong as it speaks to the character history. Liv being applauded by Humans and Zombies alike in the final scene would have made for an effective cap to the series as a whole if it weren’t being renewed but also encapsulates how influential she has been this season.
iZombie has been renewed for a fifth and final season which means the writers have the opportunity to craft something that closes the series off in a really definitive way. For me the best endings are those that suggest the characters will continue in some way so I’d like to see the series close with clear paths that can be followed to present them with different challenges that can play out in the imaginations of the fans.
The finale suggests a few ways the final season could go. First and foremost is Liv accepting her role as Renegade and getting over her reluctance to resume that role. Those she has lost should never be forgotten but hopefully she can contextualise that loss and use that to fuel her into helping as many people as possible. It appears that her main problem will be the U.S. Army though I expect another antagonistic force to be introduced to add extra complications to the season. I’m hopeful that the formula of adopting different personalities depending on the brain consumed doesn’t go away because it’s one of the pillars of the show and is a lot of fun even if it can be a little overused. Perhaps reducing this next season whole still having it be a fixture would be the best approach.
Major will likely run into problems in his new role as the head of Fillmore Graves. He already has the respect of most of the troops though there will likely be remaining elements still loyal to Chase that will cause him problems. I could also see him dealing with opposition from the U.S. Army as well as the government. It’s also doubtful that he will be able to resume a romantic relationship with Liv considering all that has happened but it’s not impossible.
Ravi and Peyton are a bit more difficult to predict though Peyton will likely stick around as Mayor with specific issues around running New Seattle coming from that position. Ravi tends to be dragged along by other characters so he will likely support Liv and Peyton’s arcs. I foresee Clive becoming a parent either before the next season begins or sometime during it and deal with the challenges of raising a child in a Zombie infested walled off city. Blaine’s mission of smuggling brains into New Seattle will at least be the start of his narrative but he will almost certainly get in over his head as he always does. There is certainly a lot of potential for the show to play with next season and I have full confidence that a satisfying conclusion will be delivered.
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