Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

It’s all strippers and secrets on iZombie

Illustration for article titled It’s all strippers and secrets on iZombie

This is a sneaky episode of iZombie. Sneaky because it’s by far the most case-of-the-week forward episode of the back half of the second season, and yet it still manages to use that case to keep the overall plot momentum moving toward its inevitable conclusion. Sneaky because although the many pieces of the case don’t quite add up to a fully exciting whole, there’s enough happening around the edges to make the whole thing snap together into something pleasant and satisfying—right up until the moment it turns up the emotional tension to an almost unbearable level, ending on a thrilling cliffhanger.

The overt hook of the episode was Liv getting a chance to eat some outspoken stripper brains and then spend the rest of the hour as an impatient, wisecracking stripper who enjoys giving her roommate awkward lap dances. The real draw, though, was how the structure of the episode allowed the case to bring in aspects of the Mr. Boss arc without getting too bogged down in the more intricate aspects of its construction. Let’s face it, the “previously” sequence that lays out the important plot points needed to follow this storyline every week are becoming more and more necessary, but by having the case itself be fairly straightforward and only coincidentally set in that world, it allowed a good amount of breathing room to actually understand everything that was happening. The result is a case that’s not mind-shatteringly shocking, but consistently pleasant and engaging enough to keep the edges sharp so the season-long arc beats could land.

Biggest of these beats is Peyton using Liv’s stripper brain visions to get real information on one of Mr. Boss’ drug stash houses, enough to land a huge, news-headlining bust. Making the murder victim a stripper who is a jilted ex of one of Mr. Boss’ cronies ticks a ton of boxes that work for this world—interesting location, colorful characters, and enough available stereotypes for Rose McIver to play shades of—and it also lets the show finally pick up the narrative threads of Peyton’s investigation and Blaine’s involvement in that investigation. iZombie has this tendency to dangle a ton of story and then just sort of sit on it, waiting for the exact right time to pick it up again for maximum impact. The result on some level can be frustrating, as seeing Peyton only once every five or six episodes and never hearing anything about her plot feels like a lost thread. The thing about iZombie’s lost threads, though, is that they’re not really lost. They’re just in hiding, waiting, trusting the audience to remember.

It’s easier to remember, though, when the show does a good job of setting up little crumbs to lead you to the right memories. Peyton’s story is hooked to Blaine’s for a reason, and they intersect again here in an unexpected way. Blaine taking the cure at the end of the previous episode was always likely going to cure him instead of kill him, but the surprising thing is that it also cured him of any memories that he ever was a zombie, or that zombies even exist. It’s a plot point that has repercussions beyond just Blaine, as Peyton now no longer has a witness who ever remembers working with her (or possibly anything about Mr. Boss’ current operations). It also cleverly follows up on the knowledge that Don E and Chief were recently left in charge of disposing of a large quantity of Utopium, which they now have free reign on because Blaine doesn’t remember it even ever existing.

The biggest repercussion is how Blaine’s story will potentially be Major’s story, if Major takes the cure as well. It was only a matter of time before Major reverted to being a zombie, and this episode made it very clear it would happen here as soon as Major thought the brand new milk tasted like it had gone sour. From there, it was a race to see just when Major would turn back, and the way it played out is one of the reasons iZombie is one of the most structurally tight shows currently on the air. Having Major simply turn back with no ties to his overall story would be a waste. Having Ravi suddenly get all of the pieces he needs to sort out that Major might be the Chaos Killer and confront him, then having Major revert due to the emotional stress of that moment before he can explain what he was actually doing, that’s far more interesting. It’s an amazingly tense scene, and Rahul Kohli and Robert Buckley both do a great job of selling the emotional desperation of their characters. But what this show excels at most is going to the most destructive option at the most inopportune time in the name of ratcheting tension, and that’s exactly how this episode ends: With Ravi sedating Major as soon as he turns and goes full-on zombie, and neither of them clearing the air about what’s actually going on.

That’s the key of this season, and maybe the entire show: The secrets these characters keep from everyone, even the ones they keep out of love and concern, will always come back to haunt them in the end. Major was just doing what he thought he needed to do to protect Liv, and now his best friend thinks he’s a murderer. Liv has already lost her entire family. Drake lied to every person in his life for one reason or another and is now in a freezer. All these lies have a breaking point, and they’re all leading to one big implosion. In three episodes, they’ll likely all get there. For better or for worse.


Stray observations

  • Liv knows Drake is an undercover cop! What will she do with this information? Maybe nothing! Maybe something! It could go either way with this show.
  • Giving Blaine zombie amnesia is potentially a very interesting way to keep that character developing in unexpected directions. However, human Blaine was kind of a dick so newly human Blaine will hopefully remain as evil as ever.
  • Daran Norris as Johnny Frost is the greatest and I hope the writers continue to come up with reasons for him to come back again and again.
  • Gilda/Rita (I still am not sure what exactly to call her) was captured by one of Vaughn’s guys, right? That’s who that was? The scene in the kitchen was staged and shot in a wonderfully creepy way.
  • Peyton and Liv are roommates again! This either means we’ll be seeing more of Peyton or Peyton is about to die a tragic, horrible, heartbreaking death.
  • “Does he remember that he’s a dick?”