If last week’s iZombie premiere was focused setting the stage of what life is like in New Seattle, this second episode is all about reinforcing how this new reality will work within the framework of the show’s structure. Despite all that has changed around it, it looks like the show’s main framework is staying very much the same.
The most promising thing about the show sticking so heavily to its murder-of-the-week format is that—at least in the first two episodes—the cases have made a point to be very specifically tied to how life is different in New Seattle. Liv morphing into a classist, racist, generally intolerable old rich woman would be far less compelling if it didn’t actually turn into a way for the show to introduce the idea of human smuggling across Seattle’s border wall. The familiar murder case structure gives a very comfortable launching pad for any number of quarantine-related stories the show wants to tell, and the writers are taking great advantage of that freedom so far.
It’s good that this works in the episode because wow, would this brain be fairly impossible to take otherwise. It’s a nasty brain, and it makes Liv nasty, especially to poor Clive who has to bear the brunt of most of her racist and rude statements. The one bright side is that “Clive reacting to things” is one of iZombie’s secret weapons of humor, and he certainly has plenty to react to here. (Even if one of my notes is literally “how did Clive not punch Liv in her dumb face?”) The murder victim’s nastiness is entirely the point, as it gives three viable suspects for her murder in her three domestic employees. The second we meet the chef’s sick young child, though, it’s fairly obvious that the chef is likely the murderer—but it’s why she did it that makes the case interesting. The most obvious reaction to having a quarantined city that no one is allowed to leave is the existence of some sort of human smuggling across that border. Finding out that a sick child who needs medical care he can only get on the outside isn’t allowed to leave (and therefore the government is basically sanctioning a human to a death sentence) is dark, dark stuff, and interesting for the writers to dive into.
The smuggling story is also well done in the way it interacts with the characters and their relationships to each other. The one big “surprise” of this episode is that Liv and Major have been in some sort of friends with benefits situation since he was turned back into a zombie, which is something that was kept from the audience right until the writers needed to deploy it for maximum emotional devastation. Major and Liv having philosophical differences about how to live within the confines of a quarantined city is certainly nothing new for them, but putting them at odds while both being zombies who want to do good is a way to flesh out the emotional and logistical complexities of this new reality. That they’re immediately going deeper than surface level on all aspects of this story is great stuff, even if it is a bit of a drag that we didn’t get at least a few episodes of them as fun, happy sex buddies before all the angst.
Also full of angst are Clive and Dale’s attempts to keep their relationship going despite the fact that she’s a zombie and he remains human. The big road block here is their inability to have sex, which is one of the main things that always stood in the way of Major and Liv in the past. Clive and Dale are at least giving it a shot, but Clive is struggling with their limitations enough that he goes on libido-suppressing SSRIs as a possible fix to the problem. With all of the big swings the show is taking, it’s nice to see a small scale, emotional problem given a bit of weight. From Dale’s insistence that they can figure something out, it’s also nice that their relationship story will be something that will stretch through multiple episodes and not just wrapped up all too quickly with a breakup.
One thing that’s much clearer in this episode than the premiere is how Blaine’s father is going to become the zombie prophet of New Seattle. The big scene when he attacked and killed the preacher in the premiere didn’t land for me, but everything he does this week works to show how newly turned zombies would flock to him for meaning. More important than meaning, though, is him offering them food when most of them are on the verge of starving. His preaching that his goal is a world ruled “by the righteous undead” is certainly a warning sign that his destructive interests are going to clash with both Fillmore Graves’ interest in keeping the peace and the anti-zombie human interests of wiping out the whole zombie population, in an explosive way.
- More world building: There is a part of New Seattle so dangerous for zombies (due to anti-zombie behavior, presumably) that it is guarded and prohibited to zombies completely. That is an interesting little bit of weirdness in that I don’t quite get how Seattle PD and Fillmore Graves are coordinating to make any of this work. Those two entities need to intersect soon.
- Major’s newbie Peacekeepers were bound to do something awful, but scratching someone? Why are they not wearing gloves? Wouldn’t this seem like a mandatory part of the uniform?
- Clive going to Ravi for sex advice is up there with the greatest scenes in the show’s history. The pure look of joy on Ravi’s face when Clive said it was a sex issue was a sight to behold.
- Hello, Vampire Steve! It’s always good to see a character from the show’s extended universe, and he is particularly amusing.
- Mama Leoni is certainly an interesting character and one I hope pops up more in the future. This can’t be the only time the characters will interact with a human smuggling ring in this world.