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

iZombie: “Virtual Reality Bites”

This is my serious face.
Malcolm Goodwin/The CW

Halfway through its first season, iZombie is really starting to feel like a show that’s got itself figured out. The past two episodes have established a nice balance between the case of the week and the more serialized aspects of the show, and tonight added a good, solid story for Liv’s personal life to the mix. The most promising thing is the indication that the different aspects of the show are starting to converge as the season develops, giving everything an enticing momentum as the ongoing plots unfold.

First things first: Despite the writers’ attempts to scare the Major-loving members of its audience, Major is very much alive after his brush with Blaine’s henchman at the skate park. Getting beat up by who he assumes is the Candyman only strengthens his resolve to find out what happened to Jerome and Eddie, though, and his search leads him to a bunch of YouTube videos of kids skating at the park. In the background of one of those videos, Major finds the Candyman and send the picture to Ravi, who sees none other than Blaine at his side. This development is exciting because it solidifies Blaine as Liv and Ravi’s enemy, giving them a reason (along with Major) to get directly involved in his story at the Meat Cute.

Also converging on Blaine’s story is Detective Babineaux, as he investigates a new dead body who happens to be a delivery driver for Meat Cute. In a great sign that iZombie knows how to use its recurring players smartly, Jackie turns up again in the cold open, desperately hungry for her regular brain shipment. When the Meat Cute delivery boy forgets the brain part of her order (don’t you just hate it when that happens?) she kills him in a fit of full-on zombie hunger. Babineaux doesn’t have the tools yet to put Meat Cute and Blaine together with what is going on with the missing kids at the skate park, but the scene where he talks to Blaine—and Blaine almost makes Babineaux the next thing on his menu—is fun and deliciously tense. That this causes Blaine to go and take care of his Jackie problem by drilling a hole in her skull, well, that’s just a fun bonus. (He wears safety goggles! Always take precautions when using power tools!)

The murder of the week story is strong again this week as well, refreshingly for completely different reasons than why last week’s was so fun. Last week relied heavily on guest stars to make the story pop, but this one is all about Liv and the way she embraces the characteristics the brains give her. The victim this time is an agoraphobic gamer and notorious internet troll known as The Sim Reaper. When he dies of anaphylactic shock (delivered via peanut powder-coated confetti in a birthday card), Liv has to eat his rotten, liquefied brains in order to figure out who killed him. I know absolutely nothing about gaming so there is a very strong possibility none of the gamer lingo used in the show’s fictional MMORPG game Warlock Forest makes any sense, but it was certainly fun to see Liv completely dive into her “hacker” persona in order to solve the case. The case also takes an almost realistic turn when the killer turns out to be the brother of a girl who was doxxed by the victim so thoroughly she committed suicide. Having the killer be a somewhat sympathetic character with no remorse for what he’s done is a nice, new shading on the show’s murder of the week aspect.

The biggest thing about the episode, though, might be that it added a personal story for Liv that works and seems like it could actually go somewhere. Liv rightly spent most of the early episodes pining for Major and mourning the loss of that relationship, but while it was important for establishing the character it unfortunately was not all that fun to watch at times. Giving Liv a believable relationship with someone she can actually talk to about being a zombie and someone who understands is great for adding a sense of “normal” to the proceedings, even if that normal comes with conversations about how you died. As much as the show has going on between the murder story, the search for the Candyman story, and Blaine’s actual story, Liv having a life outside of these things grounds everything in a necessary reality, making everything else around it work even better. It helps that Lowell is a surprisingly well-defined character after only two episodes; even if he doesn’t end up sticking around for long, it’s still nice to have him.

Once again, what really drives home that this show knows what it is doing in regards to overall plotting is the final little kicker, with Liv’s mother going to Meat Cute and having an innocent-yet-menacing conversation with Blaine. (Does Blaine have any other kind of conversations?) When Liv’s mother showed up earlier in the episode it just felt like a bit of color—a way to keep Liv’s world feeling lived-in—but it was obviously setting up something with far graver stakes. When Liv’s mother mentions her son Evan needs a job and Blaine encourages her to have him apply, it sets Liv’s family directly in the path of Blaine, right after she finds out exactly what he is up to with his brain operation. Things really are converging now, in the best way.


Stray observations:

  • Major is a former all-conference football player for the University of Washington, now a social worker who works with at-risk teens, and he has that face? He must have a body or two buried in his basement. No one is that good.
  • Evil David Anders is so fantastic. He’s having a blast with this role.
  • “I’m a social worker. My insurance covers, like, one Band-Aid a year.”
  • “Great. I ate Homer Simpson’s brain.”
  • “You’re a trollock.” “I”m a Polish troll?”