After “Five, Six, Seven, Ate,” “Dot Zom” is a real come down of an iZombie episode. Where the humor in the previous episode flowed effortlessly and actually struck a solid balance with the more serious aspects, “Dot Zom” continues to try to force humor into an otherwise bleak existence. Ultimately, “Dot Zom” continues iZombie’s struggle with creating a proper one-to-one ratio between its zombies and real-life persecution and bigotry, with a case-of-the-week that is nowhere as fun as the previous episode’s, a comedic plot that lands just about as well as the show within-a-show’s comedy, and more new characters (in a universe that’s really not big enough for it).
On the plus side, after two DeBeer-less episodes, Blaine is finally back. Sort of. Yes, it’s Blaine, but it’s specifically Blaine as he wants to present himself. In fact, John Enbom makes the interesting choice to barely have a moment where Blaine actually is his true self; we only see the real Blaine when he first shows up at the Scratching Post, but he’s already ready for his profile. Like his McConaughey-channeling car commercial, Blaine is completely full of it here, speaking to journalist Al (Gage Golightly, who was great on Teen Wolf) in nothing but cliches about being a “maverick” and a “rogue.” It’s all very empty, to a point where it’s amazing that it even works for him. Because nothing about Blaine’s approach to this interview comes across as genuine, and while Al even points that out, she’s still wooed by “the Blaine DeBeers brand.” Until she sees the smoking mask (from when Blaine killed Mayor Baracus) and snaps out of Blaine’s Gadsby-esque spell.
Actually, it’s all empty: There is plenty of substance in the Capoeira Blaine scene. Performative, yes, but not empty. While this scene is just as over-the-top as the dancing stuff from last week (especially with Blaine having the Brazilian band across the street score his fight with a Samba), the difference is that it’s a moment of absurdity in an otherwise low-key episode. Even Blaine’s droning on about himself, as transparent as it is, isn’t as big as this scene. Unfortunately, it’s the one moment of bigness (not in terms of a brain personality) in this episode, whereas, in addition to the montage, last week’s episode had multiple moments of bigness.
And after last week’s star-making performance, while Ravi has some good zingers here at genius brain Liv’s expense, he is mostly on sidekick duty this week. It’s odd too, because with Ravi’s early “comedy person to comedy person” line and the fact he pushed for Jimmy to get the Hi, Zombie opportunity in the first place, this plot should be his time to shine—whether it’s as a control freak director or the one who actually calls out how bad it is. Instead, Ravi steps aside as Peyton takes control, which makes sense because it’s her neck on the line, professionally, but also highlights that she probably shouldn’t have greenlit this in the first place. By the end of this episode, we’re led to believe everything will be fine with Hi, Zombie (at least, creatively) with Yasmine (Stephi Chin-Salvo) in charge instead of Jimmy. But in all of this plot about how bad and unfunny Jimmy’s vision is, we’re supposed to pretend—to accept the conflict and ultimate resolution—there was ever a chance of it being good in the first place.
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As a television show within a television show, no one actually expects Hi, Zombie to be good, but the implication is that it should at least make sense why these characters would see it as good. And considering how much iZombie has painted every other human as a bigot, it really doesn’t seem like the show should work even if it is good.
While this episode points out that the brain Liv’s on is highly rational and logical, there’s never a moment where she has to reassess being Renegade or running a zombie orphanage. In fact, being this logical is seen as a negative and the reason Cornell was murdered. But as humankind and zombiekind criticize her actions as Renegade, she learns about the zombie doxxing site, and she has to figure out the kids’ schooling situation, she only tackles the one that has the least impact (the kids’ school) and involves a zombie teacher landing in her lap. With the site, she focuses more on how it helps her solve the case than the fact Curtis considers it a major issue. As for Renegade, Liv is faced with a zombie-hating bigot in “The Fixture King” Sheldon Drake (Bill Dow), whose extremism is nothing new, despite how Liv reacts to it. (A nice touch in this episode, however, is Clive not being aware of the zombie doxxing site. Because he’s a good person not driven by hate.) Liv is also faced with reality fact that she can’t be the zombie hero she wants to be within the confines of the law—which is also something she knew getting into the Renegade business. But the rational and logical brain never kicks in here, and it feels like iZombie is spinning its wheels when it comes to everyone’s future roles (as it keeps introducing new foes and potential allies).
At the end of season four, it was confusing whether Enzo was actually a good guy working undercover or just going with the flow as he realized he was on the losing side. This episode confirms it must have been the latter. With this New “Not Mr.” Boss (Bill Wise, credited on IMDB as “New Boss”) character, I assume this is the path Angus would’ve taken if not for Robert Knepper being written out, but this character is clearly more a man of science than of faith. He also has a nasty Utopium habit and a toupee (to hide his chrome dome), which is different. Either way, both characters know how to give a long-winded speech. Only, New Boss seems straight out a bad early ‘90s movie (I’m thinking Double Dragon meets Mr. Nanny), which could really go either way.
As iZombie keeps introducing new characters in its final season, it’s hard to really care about any of them, despite how much time episodes dedicate to these characters to force a connection. This episode introduces Mr. Moss (Dejan Loyola) as the zombie kids’ favorite teacher, only to fire him for being a zombie (not for being gay), have Liv hire him as a tutor and Major tell him to keep it secret and safe, so he can immediately not keep it secret or safe (talking to his partner about it in line at the Scratching Post), and get kidnapped and turned into a double agent by another new character (who kidnaps his partner). This character we have no attachment to betrays Liv and Major because of another character we no attachment to harming another character we have no attachment to. All I can think is: Liv and Major should’ve done more than just ask Moss if he promises he won’t spill the beans. Like take him down to Fillmore-Graves first or even pinky swear.
In theory, more characters should help make the story seem bigger. Instead, more characters at a time when things need to be wrapped up makes everything feel more claustrophobic. And the last thing iZombie’s Seattle needs is that.
- Apologies for the delay on this review. Let’s just say, while Melissa became a zombie because of the “flu” vaccine, I had no such luck. (Translation: I fought through delirium and nausea to get this done. I have not slept.)
- #4 on Cornell’s list? Episode director Michael Wale.
- I’m sure you noticed the lovesick puppy look Major gives an unaware Liv after he tells Moss “lives depend on” him keeping Renegade’s HQ safe. I gave up on getting invested in Liv’s love life after Drake died, so I can go either way on Liv/Major ending up together. I do think that when the two of them are on the same page, they make a good couple—and Rose McIver and Robert Buckley have chemistry, though not enough to demand that Liv/Major get back together when they’re apart—but they’re never on the same page for long, which is the problem.
- Fillmore-Graves traitor “Spud” (I believe his name is actually Tater) returns with his partner whose name is not potato-based (and is now dead), all because Major just had to put a false flag on a false flag. Should’ve used the guillotine.
- iZombie doesn’t double dip in the well of Vancouver actors as much as Supernatural does or Smallville and Psych did, but it has with Stephi Chin-Salvo, who plays Yasmine and played “Sexy Zombie” in season two’s “Zombie Bro.”
- Petulant Jimmy who thinks he’s good at comedy is excruciating, but the small moment when Liv makes him late for rehearsal because she needs a sketch is great.
- This is a strangely biblical episode and not just because of Cornell’s ark: When Al names the people she’s profiled, she includes “Tigris, beloved CEO of Euphrates.” But then you have New Boss talking about evolution. There’s a real mixing of ideologies.
- It’s disappointing that David Anders and Bryce Hodgson return only to be separated from the main cast, but at this point, it makes sense: Our heroes (other than Major) have absolutely no reason to interact with Blaine, and because he’s famous, Blaine wants nothing to do with the little people anyway.
- I had the same reaction as Clive to Liv’s kombucha brains, but my disgust was more about the use of brains as SCOBY than the kombucha.
- Mr. Moss: “So you’re firing me because I’m gay?”
Principal Mosely: “Oh god no. My daughter’s gay.” Watching iZombie lean into this—highlighting the irony and hypocrisy of the false equivalence it’s making—is like watching something age poorly in real time.
- Clive: “Oh man, so it’s gonna be like this?” Liv on genius brain isn’t all that bad—and her switch to Steve Jobs chic is rather subtle—but I kept waiting for the reveal that Cornell was more of a blowhard (who convinced people he was brilliant by always writing on a whiteboard and never shutting up) than a genius.
- Well, Dalton (Veronica Mars alum Ryan Devlin, from “Brainless in Seattle, Part 1”) is no longer dealing brains, but he is pushing smart drugs. He’s gone legit-ish.
- Liv: “Logic dictates if you withhold data, you have reason to hide it.”
Ravi: “Data? You mean her statement.”
Liv: “It’s all data, Ravi. I mean, you could design a system. You’d have a mechanism to gather crime data, physical evidence, testimony, relationships, motive. A smart algorithm analyzes. And voila!”
Ravi: “Congratulations. You’ve just invented the police.” Ravi may not do much in this episode, but he has the line of the episode.
- Nora: “He decided, with my IQ, Yale degree, fertility index, and attraction profile, I deserved to be on that list.” What I got from Cornell replacing Nora with Peyton is that he wanted to sleep with Peyton. Nora noted how Cornell made every decision in “dispassionate and logical terms,” but this guy slept with his business partner and then his subordinate. The brain may not suggest he just wanted to get laid, but his actions did.
- Sheldon: “Your time’s almost up, zombie.”
Clive (after Sheldon leaves): “That guy really doesn’t like zombies.” This is the second best line of the episode. Clive just takes all the anti-zombie spech Sheldon spews, and that is his reaction.
- Something I noticed in “Dot Zom” is how it deliberately kept covering up how Liv knew things she would only know from Cornell’s brain—until the Sheldon moment. During the initial scene with Melissa, I even found it odd Melissa—a fellow zombie—wouldn’t pick up on the fact that Liv was clearly on her ex’s brain. iZombie has continued to keep the Liv eating victim brains aspect quiet in a post-zombie reveal world. Until now, that is. As Clive tries to hide it during the initial questioning of Sheldon, it doesn’t quite track that this would be the brain to openly spill the beans, especially with Liv realizing how much of a bigot Sheldon is immediately.
- When they arrest Sheldon, Clive says they found the mushrooms “growing” in his backyard. Melissa later confesses to planting them there when she realized he was a suspect, How could they not realize the mushrooms were planted? Because Melissa’s confession comes right after Clive tells Liv they have to do the job right, and this is anything but.
- “Melissa Schultz (guest star Stephanie Lemelin), Cornell’s ex-girlfriend, is now running the company, makes an interesting reveal to Liv and Clive.” I’ve been trying to figure out this part of the episode synopsis, and I’m blanking. Because her final scene is confirming to Liv and Clive what they were already able to figure out themselves, right? (Also, I’m sure it will play well come bingeing, but the open-ended conclusion is another anti-climactic ending to a case.)