Sometimes an episode of television hits exactly that sweet spot of everything you love about a show. It doesn’t even need to be a rigidly formal “best” episode or even one that best exemplifies the ethos of the show; it just needs to hit you right where you live and entertain the hell out of you in the process. “Brainless In Seattle, Part 1” is definitely that kind of iZombie episode for me.
The thing this episode does so well is use the whole spectrum of moods iZombie is capable of without ever showing any kind of strain in the process. One of the best things about this show is how consistently funny it is, but the more quietly interesting thing is how dark it can be as well. There’s sometimes a bit of awkward story maneuvering that happens to fit these two extremes together, but this first part of what will be a two-part episode easily blends the absurdity of Liv’s romance-addled brain with the heaviness of the macabre trappings of the human smuggling trade in New Seattle.
First, the funny: Liv being controlled by the brain of a lovestruck romantic obsessive is disturbingly hilarious. Rose McIver is good at playing so many different personalities that I often forget to praise her on a regular basis, but her performance as a woman who can’t help but fall in love at first sight is so funny that it can’t be ignored. On the one hand, she’s completely obnoxious the entire time (just check out Peyton’s reaction to nearly everything she does), but on the other she’s so sweetly earnest about the whole thing that it turns right back around into being charming. Mostly. (Dale might disagree.) This brain feels especially refreshing after a week of nasty, classist old lady brain, and the very funny romantic music cues and rom-com-inspired voiceovers add to the overall lightness in tone. Plus, there’s a silly montage where Liv and Peyton give Ravi makeover set to “Supermodel (You Better Work).” For me, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Although the episode is extremely funny, it still also manages to be probably the darkest episode of the season to date as well. The sense of impending doom that’s been hanging over this season is one of my favorite things about the show’s transition to having Seattle be a walled city full of zombies, and that doom gets a lot closer to becoming a horrifying reality from what we learn in this episode. The hour starts with an eerie opening scene where this week’s murder victim is smuggled into Seattle—complete with a horrifying look at what appears to be a zombie execution at the gates to the city—and ends with Clive and Liv declaring their murderer to actually be a serial killer, with a lot of dark details in between. It’s a testament to the very tight script that these two divergents tones blend together so well.
The reason for this impending doom hanging over Seattle becomes very clear in this episode: They have a huge human smuggling problem on their hands, and that problem is coming from all angles. The first kind of human smuggling is like what happens to our poor romance-obsessed victim, as she pays a coyote to get into the city to meet the love of her life and then that coyote immediately murders her and then her brains end up on the thriving black market. A black market that is supported by the more well-to-do zombies who can afford real (trafficked) brains instead of brain tubes, and the less scrupulous businesses that provide them like Blaine’s club and restaurant.
Even more troubling—at least for Chase and his colleagues at Fillmore Graves—are the more benevolent coyotes like Renegade, who are creating more zombies by scratching anyone who is sick and can be cured by turning. Pair that with a zombie population of over 10,000 that Fillmore Graves is running out of ways to feed and it’s basically turning the entire city into a powder keg ready to blow—and then fill up with starving zombies turning into the less humanoid versions of themselves. Chase’s solution is to use Blaine to find Renegade so he can take care of her, which is absolutely the darkest way to deal with the problem (even if it does lead to that great, snarky scene between Chase and Blaine).
The choice to have Chase go after the good coyote while Liv and Clive go after the bad one is interesting way to put those characters in direct moral relief, but it’s also much more complicated than that in a way that will surely pay dividends in the second half of this two-parter. Chase is going after Renegade in an awful way, but doing it for reasons he can certainly justify to himself as valid. It is his responsibility to feed the zombie population of Seattle, and Renegade making more zombies is certainly getting in the way of that. But because the audience has only been presented with Renegade as a good, moral force in this brutal, messy city, we’re obviously meant to root for him to fail. Seeing exactly how Chase’s goals and Clive and Liv’s goals will intersect is what I’m most looking forward to seeing next.
- Clive and Dale are definitely in some sort of open relationship and Liv is going to make a fool of herself by confessing what she saw at The Scratching Post, right?
- So Blaine took the cure last season. I guess that answers that dangling plot thread. There have been so many permutations of the cure I’m not actually sure what this one does. Is it one of the “temporary” ones?
- If we are to take Peyton’s word for it, Liv’s favorite song to dance to in the club is the Space Jam theme. Well played, Liv.
- The two competing upscale restaurants that serve fancy brains are called Romero’s and Le Dome. Because of course they are.
- There are two Veronica Mars alums in this episode: Sam Huntington (who played Luke Haldeman) and Ryan Devlin (who played Mercer in season three). Devlin’s brain trafficker character looks like he has a chance to become recurring in the way so many background players do here.
- Speaking of recurring characters, a warm welcome back to my favorite recurring character the sketch artist. Liv driving him up the wall is one of my favorite running gags.
- “I understand. Most of my boyfriends have died in terrible ways, too.” It’s funny because it’s true!
- “Do you think there’s anywhere to honeymoon in Seattle that doesn’t feel like ‘help, I’m trapped here forever?’”