iZombie – Season 5 Episode 3
“Five, Six, Seven, Ate!”
iZombie goes back to basics when Liv and Ravi go undercover to investigate a murder in the midst of a dance competition.
I fell in love with this show because it took a formula and executed it to near perfection through making great use of all the elements it had at its disposal. This includes sharp writing, a powerhouse performer in Rose McIver and a storytelling sophistication that hid the formula really well. It was executed so brilliantly that deviations from it feel unnatural where they might otherwise be a welcome change of pace.
This episode shows exactly how a formula can be used to accentuate the strengths a show has. The chief gimmick of iZombie is that Liv’s personality would shift whenever she consumes the brain of a murder victim and she would have periodic visions providing clues that would lead to that case being solved. Perhaps this feels like a breath of fresh air because it has been a fairly long time since we’ve had an episode like this but it also serves as proof that it’s nowhere near wearing out its welcome.
Part of what makes this episode work so well is that it focuses on the strong and genuine Liv/Ravi friendship by putting them in a scenario that allows Ravi to shine. Liv’s enthusiasm for the dancer cover story and his passionate objections counter one another wonderfully. I appreciate the writers not taking the easy way out afforded to them by having the two brains at their disposal by timing this to coincide with Ravi’s monthlies. It would have been really easy to have each of them on a different brain and be fully committed to the dance competition but it works so much better having Ravi act as the contrarian in this situation.
It may be predictable to have Ravi start out lacking the necessary skill and being against the idea before learning enough to get by and being onboard but it works really well because the characters manage to sell it. Adding Clive into the plot and revealing that he has hidden dance talents is a stroke of genius and the extended montage where he helps Liv teach Ravi the routine is brilliantly done. All three characters and their feelings come across brilliantly with no dialogue and capping off the montage with Dale interrupting having no idea how to react just adds to the overall hilarity as does Rahul Kohli’s performance when pushing aside the embarrassment to deliver a professional update.
The case itself is a lot of fun to watch play out. A lot of time is spent with their main rivals, Lars (Brian Dare) and Tina (Sidney Leeder) who are fiercely competitive and make a career out of making Ravi feel uncomfortable through their well rehearsed routine as well as their obvious talent. His unwillingness to dance makes them think that he’s keeping their routine a trade secret which allows more opportunity for Rahul Kohli to look terrified and play Ravi as being hopelessly out of his depth while Liv can’t stop herself from dancing. Another interesting side to this is that the brain Liv consumed is of a very needy person which comes across throughout the episode. At one point Ravi is able to take advantage of it in order to move the case forward.
Liv switching brains allows both sides of the codependent relationship that existed before the couple died to be shown. Nancy was needy and Gulliver was something of an enabler so together there’s a small insight into how their shared dynamic worked. This also relates to Ravi as Liv is really pushy under Nancy’s brain but Gulliver’s personality is better suited to put him more at ease with what is expected of him. The shift from everything being about the dancing to just having to look competent enough to not arouse suspicion is exactly what Ravi needs and it moves things along nicely.
The resolution of the case is somewhat underwhelming as the character of Renaldo (Logan Fenske) is introduced far too late to make any impact and the jilted lover angle has been played far too many times. It ultimately ends with Renaldo killing himself rather than live with the guilt of accidentally killing the man he loved which could have been compelling with more work put in but it comes across as a neat conclusion to an otherwise excellent plot.
Outside of the undercover dancing case there is some attention given to the main plot of the season through the framing of a situation at a school where it is made to look as if Fillmore-Graves stormed in and drew their weapons on school children. Thankfully the writers stop short of doing a school shooting allegory though this is probably about as close as they could get away with. The main purpose of this plot is to illustrate how easy it is for facts to be manipulated to suit a preferred narrative. Peyton and Major are used to illustrate this idea through their perspectives on what happened. Since Peyton only has access to unclear footage she draws conclusions based on the behaviour of the Fillmore-Graves soldiers. She sees them drawing their weapons on kids without provocation and leaps straight to this being a breach of the agreement between her and Major. Major’s point of view is that the guns were only drawn after one of the kids tried to take a soldier’s sidearm. Granted comments about the kids looking tasty don’t help their case but the facts speak for themselves.
It also furthers the idea that Zombies are victims of discrimination with the routine Lice check being a front for identifying Zombies and segregating them in separate classes in the name of keeping the other students safe. This works a lot better than the previous episode suggesting that Zombies are filling in for other persecuted minorities as it’s a much more contained issue driven by a specific kind of fear. Parents and teachers are afraid of Zombie children going around scratching other children which does seem like a reasonable concern given how children behave in schoolyard situations. The other problem is one that is shown when a young Zombie goes into an uncontrollable rage which could end up having dire consequences if not dealt with properly.
Despite this the answer isn’t segregation as that does nothing to counter the fear that is spreading. Understanding is the key to combatting this problem and that is what Peyton tries to do in the school. The fact that Dolly’s words are repeated to her by someone else shows how far reaching her influence is and the worst case example of a Zombie becoming enraged within the confines of a school doesn’t exactly help her case. This plot largely works as it shows how anti-Zombie sentiment trickles down to the younger generation and the potential consequences of that.
There is a whole other debate to be had about Zombie kids in general. Liv turns kids into Zombies because she sees it as a better alternative than the kids dying but is being resigned to perpetual childhood without the possibility of growing up any better? The framing was that the kids turned in the previous episode were benefiting from this but it’s an issue that invites debate though I’m not sure there’s the time or the motivation to explore that in it entirety.
As a self contained issue within the confines of this episode it works well enough because it’s about Major and Peyton being at odds with one another. This is a great opportunity for Major to show how strong a leader he can be by accepting that his early assumption was incorrect and apologising for it. This shows that he isn’t driven to stand by the facts presented to him and is open to seeing issues in a broader context. It’s also good that the argument he has with Peyton isn’t left to fester over multiple episodes.
There is a complication in Clive and Dale’s journey towards parenthood when Michelle shows up to one of their Lamaz classes without a partner which leads Clive to worry that Michelle’s child also belongs to him. He’s completely upfront with Dale about what happened which is both refreshing and completely in character for him. He also wastes no time in asking Michelle the question which is met with an honest answer about poor decisions made by her following breaking up with Clive so it’s clear there’s a strong possibility that he’s the father. Is this a plot this show needs right now? Probably not but at least it gives Clive and Dale a narrative to follow independent of everything else and the handling of it makes great use of Clive as a character as he immediately seeks to do the honourable thing and quickly moves away from trying to prove that the child isn’t his because it doesn’t feel right to argue over semantics when Michelle is all alone.
Dale initially resists this but eventually realises that the current situation doesn’t exactly lend itself to holding grudges against anyone. Eventually she sees Michelle as a lonely woman in need of help and offers it to her. The character work on this plot is strong and the complications are very personal to those involved though it’s possible that this will be buried under everything else the season is trying to accomplish. For a final season this may end up being one too many stories.
A strong episode that leans into the always delightful Liv/Ravi friendship to deliver a hilarious back to basics case solving plot. The dance competition complete with two brains for Liv to make use of feels like a breath of fresh air after the intensity of the first two episodes. Ravi’s reluctance to dance allows for plenty of laughs and leads to an excellent montage where he goes from being unskilled to mastering the routine. Adding Clive into this plot and revealing that he has hidden dance talents is a great touch that adds to the brilliance of this character driven narrative. The two brains add variety to the plot as well with the first inspiring a dangerously needy personality for Liv and the second being more of an enabler. This helps Ravi’s arc as Liv’s focus changes from winning the dance competition to simply appearing competent which ends up being the encouragement Ravi needs to give it his best shot. The actual resolution of the case is somewhat weak but everything leading up to this point was a lot of fun and proves that the formula iZombie usually does such a good job with is far from stale.
The ongoing plot is given some attention with Fillmore-Graves pulling their weapons on kids at a school. It’s another viral video situation but this one is far from clear as the footage leads Peyton to a specific conclusion that isn’t quite correct due to the way it’s filmed. She ends up being at odds with Major about this and the actual truth of the situation becomes known. It’s a clear commentary on how easily facts can be manipulated to champion a particular narrative but fortunately Peyton is open minded enough to reconsider her position once she has more information. The idea of discrimination against Zombies is furthered through a Zombie Witch-hunt being disguised as a routine Lice check. This works better than the notion of Zombies as a persecuted minority as it is a much more contained issue driven by a specific kind of fear. Parents and teachers being afraid of children Zombies scratching other kids is reasonable to some degree given how kids are prone to behave in a school setting. An example of this is given in this episode but doesn’t have the debate as yet. For now it acts as a strong example of how anti-Zombie sentiment can trickle down into the younger generation. The opportunity to explore whether it’s right to turn kids into Zombies to save their lives isn’t taken which is unfortunate as there’s a whole debate to be had there but the plot works as a reason for Major and Peyton to be at odds with one another. Thankfully it doesn’t fester any longer than it needs to and makes good use of the existing relationship. Clive and Dale finding out Michelle is pregnant is perhaps one story too many at this point but it does make good use of Clive’s decency which is echoed by Dale choosing to support Michelle and not let the difficult situation be a problem for her. The character work is definitely strong but it may be too much for a final season and will likely be buried under the weight of the other ongoing plots.
- Liv and Ravi teaming up for a dancing plot
- the montage where Ravi learns the routine
- revealing Clive’s hidden dance talent
- Peyton and Major representing two sides of the issue of how a story is framed
- Clive sticking to his sense of decency in dealing with Michelle
- the overly neat conclusion to the case
- not enough attention given to the Zombie children debate
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