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

iZombie: “Mr. Berserk”

Rose McIver, Rahul Kohli, Malcolm Goodwin/The CW

There were two main ways iZombie could deal with the shocking death of Lowell: embrace increased serialization and have Liv wallow in it, or immediately return to the established murder of the week status quo and push her feelings to the side. Smartly, the show opts for a combination of the two, facilitating this with the best—and most relevant to the season-long arc—murder mystery to date. That, paired with the continued deepening of Major’s arc as he creeps closer to the truth, makes for an extremely strong episode in a series that just keeps getting better every week.

This episode is filled to capacity with great moments, but the thing that makes it all work is the case of the week holding it together. Liv starts the episode distraught over witnessing Lowell’s murder, and she’s first questioned by the police and then later having horrible dreams due to the lingering effects of the PTSD brain she ate last week. When she rolls into work looking for a new brain to help ease her heartache, the prospect of eating the brain of an alcoholic journalist is too good to pass up. The clever thing is it isn’t just any journalist’s brain; it’s Rebecca, journalist Major was working with earlier in the season who broke the story of the police ignoring the missing street kids. Her current investigation put her in the path of the Max Rager corporation, as she attempted to get a solid link between their product and a rash of violent outbursts among its customers.

In addition to giving Liv a great case that ties directly into the series’ mythology (and giving her the instincts of a journalist fit right into her normal investigative role) the alcoholic side of Rebecca’s personality was important for dealing with Liv’s emotional state. Liv embracing alcohol’s ability to temporarily ease some of her heartache makes for a sad and emotionally resonant episode, while also giving Rose McIver a chance to show great range, from sadness to loopy, drunk physical comedy. The show consistently attempts to get this kind of thematic synergy between the murder victim’s brain and the overall episodic story, but this is the first time every bit of it completely clicked, and the result is sad and funny and heartbreaking all at the same time.

The emotional resonance went far beyond Liv and her benders, as Lowell’s death gives a chance for each character to interact with Liv and show support in their own unique way. The most devastating is obviously Liv and Ravi, who have quickly become one of the better friendships on all of television. Ravi gets put in the awkward position of having to be there for Liv as a friend and also having to be there as the medical examiner to cover up what really happened to Lowell. When Lieutenant Suzuki makes the unilateral decision to classify Lowell’s death as a suicide, Ravi must then both sign off on the death certificate and then cremate the body to make sure Lowell can’t infect anyone else. He sweetly asks Liv’s permission to do this—then patiently waits for her to deal with all of her feelings about the situation before moving forward. The moment when Liv stands over Lowell’s body in the morgue sobbing and Ravi hugs her is great, as is the moment when she agrees to allow Ravi to do what he needs to do with Lowell’s remains in order to protect everyone from Blaine.

Liv’s other main comfort here is Major, who comes to help her when she’s too drunk to make it home on her own after another brain-induced alcohol bender. Liv and Major’s relationship has always been more tell than show, but their moment here when he puts her to bed and then is impossibly sweet shows their connection in a far more palpable way than we’ve seen before. It’s this moment that makes the rest of Major’s story a bit more frustrating, as he increasingly is convinced he is going crazy after shooting Julien last week and Liv refuses to allow Ravi to tell Major what’s actually happening. Even when Ravi pleads with her, and explains that Major is far gone enough to want to check himself into a treatment facility for a mental breakdown, Liv stubbornly insists this will just keep him safe. Liv’s reasons for wanting to keep her zombie status a secret get less and less realistic the closer Major comes to getting himself killed every week, and Ravi is right to point that out to Liv. That Liv is willing to let Major think he’s going insane rather than tell him, however, is where it starts to rankle for me. That is an impossibly mean thing to do, especially when it could easily be avoided. Good thing Major meets a sympathetic fellow patient at the treatment center, one who has seen exactly what Major has seen and even has a name for it: zombies.

Three episodes left in the season and things are progressing extremely well as the show marches toward the finale. Ravi and Liv know Suzuki is covering up Blaine’s bad deeds, Liv and Clive know Max Rager is covering up their product’s involvement in violent assaults, Major thinks he is crazy but might now have a reason to think he’s not so crazy, and Liv declares herself ready to kill Blaine for good this time. Something tells me this is going to be harder than she thinks.


Stray observations:

  • Sebastian the Max Rager thug deserves to be a zombie now. Who licks someone’s blood, you big weirdo? I wonder if the cuts on his face from when Liv ran him over with the boat will fully heal?
  • Clive is a much richer character than he should be, considering how little actual development he gets. Something about the combination of the more tender moments the writing allows him and Malcolm Goodwin’s great, sympathetic-yet-tough performance really strengthens his presence on the show.
  • Steven Weber is absolutely perfect casting for the sleazy Max Rager CEO. Rob Thomas is really good at casting these kind of roles. The iZombie writers got a pretty great joke about it on Twitter, too.
  • The open was so well put together, with the quick cuts from Liv in the interrogation room to Ravi discovering Lowell in the morgue body bag. Devastating stuff.
  • “Blonde pretty boy who looks like he’s straight out of a Nicholas Sparks movie?” Yep, sounds about right.
  • “I’m the frickin’ murder victim whisperer.”