iZombie – Season 1 Episode 9
iZombie carries on down the path to the inevitable confrontation between Liv and Brain but gives us plenty to chew on before we get there.
Last week was a doozy in terms of cliffhanger endings. In a short space of time Liv learns that Blaine is responsible for the disappearing kids at the skate park and that her boyfriend Lowell gets his brains for him. While that’s going on Ravi is bitten by a zombie rat which has disastrous potential all on its own.
In terms of how those cliffhangers were resolved it was a bit of a mixed bag. Liv putting up her hood and slipping by Blaine that way is a bit of an anticlimax. The look of confusion on his face was amusing though. I guess it is too soon for them to really confront one another but it felt like cliffhanger bait to me. If it wasn’t going to amount to anything then it wasn’t really needed given all the other compelling stuff going on.
Ravi’s not a zombie and that’s good. I wasn’t really keen for the show to go down that road. He may not have turned but the fear was very real. Ravi takes a very terrified yet scientific approach to the bite. He catalogues his findings and constantly updates his progress -or lack thereof- while asking Liv cryptic questions about her experience of changing. I get why he didn’t want to offload the burden of information onto Liv until it became a genuine issue and I’ll let it slide this time but hopefully the unnecessary secrecy won’t happen again after Liv made a point of telling him that she needs to know that stuff.
The fact that Ravi didn’t turn is a nice bit of world building though. We recently found out that other species can become zombies but now we also know that zombies can’t infect a species that isn’t their own. At least not through biting or scratching. Obviously it was Liv’s blood that allowed this to happen in the first place so there’s still some confusion over the mechanics of it all. It’s fine though as this is all new to the characters so we’re learning as they are. I do applaud how slowly yet organically this show builds the world that it inhabits.
On the subject of world building I thought the scene where Blaine was talking to his rich customer was fascinating. I really like the idea that visions could be considered a sort of addiction for zombies and it would make sense that they want to chase more interesting ones. In this case he wants to experience what it feels like to be an astronaut so pays Blaine whatever it takes to get the brain of one. I hope this idea is expanded on because it has some real potential.
Despite the fact that the relationship between Liv and Lowell is really new the writers have covered a lot of ground already. We’ve seen them flirting before attempting to date, hit their first bump in the road with a zombie twist, grow to be comfortable with one another and now we see their first major fight. In this case the fight is over the ethics of where Lowell gets his meals. Liv is a very moral person that much has been established but Lowell’s morality hasn’t really been explored before this point. We can guess that he’s a nice guy because he acts like one but we don’t really know for sure. Having this be ambiguous before now has nicely opened the door for his ethical stance to be questioned.
Liv jumps to conclusions when she finds out that Blaine is supplying Lowell with the brains of murdered runaways and assumes that he knows exactly where they come from but doesn’t care. The reality is far different and provokes a really fascinating discussion. It turns out that the visions aren’t necessarily a compulsory side effect. Lowell describes Liv as someone who chases them because it is her desire to help others and solve murders. This isn’t the case with Lowell and it sort of awakens an apathy within him that he didn’t know was there. He doesn’t really want to think about where the brains come from so he doesn’t, it’s a simple psychological blocker and it’s an entirely innocent thing for a person to do.
I like the way the discussion is handled. Neither character is put across as been “right” as such and both points of view have strong arguments supporting them. In short, it felt like a real conversation that people would have. The world is a complex place and things aren’t always easy to figure out so it’s fair that the issue is an ambiguous one.
Lowell’s subsequent realisation causes his conscience to kick into high gear and he meets Liv halfway on the issue. He completely understands that she is disgusted by that and he chooses to stop getting his brains from Blaine as well as offering to help her stop him. Liv realises that things aren’t as black and white as she really wants them to be and accepts that Lowell wasn’t feasting on the brains of murdered youths intentionally so together they hatch a plan to stop Blaine.
The personality of the week device really helps with that plan as Liv takes on the skills and mindset of a sniper. Those skills will be instrumental in taking Blaine out and resolving this whole issue once and for all so it’s actually pretty dramatically convenient that this is the week for her to get this particular trait. I wonder if she keeps parts of these brains stored in case she needs the skills again in the future. Could be interesting for future outings if she decides that she needs a more cold and deadly outlook so digs her sniper brain out of the freezer.
I really liked the scene where Liv had Blaine in her sights and the internal conflict that was going on as she prepared to pull the trigger. The sniper personality meshed with her own in really interesting ways as initially she was able to justify killing Blaine through thinking it was broadly a good thing and likening it to wiping out a virus as a Doctor would do. Blaine’s life is toxic to the world around him so destroying him would ultimately end the problem. At the last second her morality wins and she decides that she is unprepared to become a killer. To her mind that would make her no different than Blaine and that’s something she cannot live with.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that and I really love that she makes that choice despite the compelling arguments in favour of killing Blaine. That’s not who she’s prepared to be and that’s fine. Whether she will be pushed to that by the season end I can’t say but I like that the decision is a difficult one.
The knock on to that was Lowell’s hero moment that got him killed. It had been foreshadowed earlier in the episode when he said that he’s not the type of guy to rush headlong into things so seeing him step up at the end was a big transitional moment for him. Whether he was at fault or not he feels guilty about being ignorant to where his food was coming from so opts to try making up for that by taking Blaine out himself. Blaine responds by killing him without hesitation.
It’s an important moment for the show and for Liv to have Lowell killed like this. On a basic level it gives Liv something to be guilty about since she had the chance to kill Blaine and didn’t take it which cost her boyfriend his life but beyond that it helps confirm just how amoral Blaine really is. One thing this episode drives home is that Blaine only cares about money and doesn’t feel the least bit remorse over what he’s been doing. People are just a means to an end as far as he’s concerned and he doesn’t care who he has to step on to achieve his goal. It would be easy to make him a mustache twirling villain in that regard but the writers and David Anders give him so much personality that he feels fully formed even though his character is actually very simple. He’s the yang to Liv’s ying as far as story purposes are concerned but there’s plenty of fun to be had developing him in addition to that.
Lowell’s death also marks the first death of a character the audience is invested in. He’s not been around for long but it’s a testament to how well this show is written that he it feels like he’s part of the furniture. It’s a shame to lose him and I will certainly miss the character over the coming episodes.
Major’s side story continues to be fascinating as well. I love that his conclusions haven’t yet went to zombie and that he looks for any other explanation. Going to the gym and asking the personal trainer for human brains is a pretty ballsy moves and was actually really hilarious. The trainer’s reaction really sold the moment for me. It’s amazing how this show can juggle drama and humour so effortlessly.
Julien’s attack on Major at home where Major is forced to shoot him is another important part of the journey Major is on. He is painfully close to the truth now but just needs more information to put it together. He knows that he shot Julien in the chest 3 times and that he appeared dead on the floor but the fact that he’s gone and there is very little evidence that he was even there must raise a huge red flag. Major must surely start looking into things that he thought weren’t possible after this point.
The case of the week worked a lot better than it usually does by having a much closer tie to the overall season story in terms of the personality being central to furthering that. The conceit of using a drone mounted gun to kill someone was a nice twist and it’s always good to see Percy Daggs III getting some work thrown his way. I wonder what over Veronica Mars alum will guest on this show in the future.
It was still the weakest part though with it feeling like it was taking time out of the more interesting character stuff happening around it. I think it’s because the character stories are so clever and the investigation feels a little by the numbers the contrast is more widely noticeable. At least the characters are involved in the investigation so it remains compelling in that respect.
An anticlimatic resolution to one of the cliffhangers from last week and a comparatively weak “murder” of the week did little to derail such an excellent episode.
The revelations from last week did a lot of really good work at pushing the story forward. Liv’s ensuing confrontation with Lowell over where he gets his brains was excellent stuff. Both characters were written really well here and the discussion was fascinating. Neither point of view was put across as being “right” and the issue is treated with the complexity it deserves.
It also prompts Liv and Lowell to meet each other halfway as Liv realises that things aren’t always so black and white as she would like them to be. Similarly Lowell is shocked into actually caring where his food comes from and is disgusted when he knows the truth. It allows them to work together to try and find a solution to the whole thing.
Having Liv’s temporary personality tie into this by having her morality be uncertain over what killing Blaine really means was a really great touch. Her hesitation as she prepared to pull the trigger as she puzzled out what that would mean for her if she actually did it was a wonderfully tense scene. Her decision to pull the trigger was an important one as it shows that she would rather be true to herself than become just like Blaine as far as she’s concerned.
Blaine’s quick killing of Lowell says a lot about his character as well. The whole episode worked to establish that Blaine is completely morally bankrupt. All he cares about is money and doesn’t concern himself with who he might have to step on in order to get more of it. His coldness is hidden by his charismatic personality but when it comes down to it he doesn’t care about anyone except himself. It’s a great contrast to Liv who cares about everyone.
Major’s continued investigation is at the point where considering zombies is going to be a viable option after this point. He has almost enough information to make that connection so him finding out really must be soon.
As I said above the case of the week was the weakest part as usual but it was entertaining enough with an inventive twist to it and seeing a Veronica Mars alum is always good.