iZombie has been tripping along nicely, relying on the charm of its assorted cast as well as the sheer magnetism of Rose McIver as lead to introduce us to the rich world these characters inhabit. As it develops our expectations for the season, it smartly doesn’t identify with any one preconceived zombie coda, and doesn’t lay out it’s own mythology yet either. Instead, iZombie explores Liv’s status as a zombie as she explores it first-hand, and it’s impact of her perception on life. The focus of these episodes has not been so much on the case of the week as what that case, and brain, brings out in Liv. And though, it still falls into the case of the week format it doesn’t feel formulaic as of yet while the murder cases takes second fiddle to the development of Liv. This week however, Liv takes a backseat providing some welcome emphasis on the men who play a role in this new life of hers (Still waiting on another prominent female character…still waiting).
Hands up if you actually thought Clive was actually a dirty cop.
Okay now that we’ve gotten it out of the way that literally no one thought Clive actually had a hand in Sammy’s death we can talk about why the episode still worked regardless of the lack of suspense. With complexity of the mystery taking a backseat, iZombie made up for it by packing in character and story development. For the first time it felt like an ensemble cast, Clive especially receving some much need character fleshing out. Malcom Goodwin absorbs the new information we learn about Clive, and his undercover past, into a performance that is just this side of too suspicious. This, juxtaposed against the expectation of Clive’s innocence, is a clever move that allows us to feel the paranoia of Sammy Wong’s brain, while being objective enough to watch how it affects Liv.
What’s great about the characterization we’ve seen so far is that it never feels as if we’re being introduced to characters and the plot doesn’t serve to make them more complex in our eyes. Instead, we are offered fully formed, well-rounded payers in Liv’s story whose facets become apparent as they are needed but are natural progressions of what we know about that character. In Clive, his history undercover and the shadow of that time sheds light on why a rookie detective is so desperate to prove himself he readily accepts the help of a psychic. Blaine’s charming edge, which has been apparent from his first appearance, makes it readily believable that he’s the mastermind of a brain supplying criminal enterprise that operate out of the punnily named butcher’s shop “Meat Cute”.
It’s the simplicity of Blaine’s plan that I love. Supply and demand. Take youths off the street that no one will miss, and use them to supply rich customers with a ready source of food. Of course this hinges on there being a wealthy customer base, and the obvious progression of this is a lot more zombies in Seattle than Liv is prepared for. With the kids taken off the street connected with Major’s volunteer work, there is also an opportunity to tie him into the main thread of the series, rather than have him cling on as nothing more the last tie to Liv’s human life. It gives purpose and agency to Major’s character, and I am excited to see who he is beyond the nigh impossibly perfect specimen of an ex-boyfriend with magical towel securing skills.
Another tie with our main trio that Major has now, is his new living arrangement with Ravi. Liv’s paranoid brain making her believe Major is moving on two fast with his new fling, she bullies Ravi into taking the empty room in Major’s house. In arguably the best scene of the episode, Ravi and Major talk at cross-purposes and generate enough chemistry to nuke any burgeoning fan sympathy for Liv and Major’s ship (Kohli’s delivery of the line “Noooo?” on par with Fat Amy’s high pitched “Ehhhh” in Pitch Perfect).
In fact, Ravi has emerged as the standout of the series so far, though it is actor Rahul Kohli’s first television role. Though it Liv’s world we’re living in, he is the heart of the show, playing straight man to whatever zombie antics she gets into. Kohli’s comedic timing is brilliant, and his utilization of a native London accent only enhances the perfect delivery that makes such lines as “Common Krait?” hilarious. Yet unlike many shows, iZombie doesn’t rest on having him remain the comedic sidekick and gives him more and more material to chew on with each episode to the benefit of the show. His bleeding heart and blind fascination with zombies is going to get him into trouble sooner or later, and I’m looking forward to how the gentle doctor deals with higher stakes and a burgeoning villain.
Unfortunately, with all these rich character beats, the bare bones of mystery we got this week is acceptable only if it sets up later conflict. AJ and his Cobra Gang work as little more than the exotic Asian stereotype, complete with innate martial arts prowess, within the episode. But the potential to flesh out the Seattle underworld with these as recurring characters is there. Tim Chiou’s performance as Cobra leader AJ is delight, a dangerous murderer balanced with a thug like innocence; just really into this super white chick and probably got his heart broken along with his face. I would love to see more of this character, as well as Liv capitalizing on his obvious crush to utilize Cobra resources. If she’s going to take down Blaine’s empire, it only makes sense to have a criminal network of her own.
Episode Rating: 7.5/10