Tuesday, June 9, 2015

REVIEW: 'iZombie' - Liv Has Big Decisions to Make as the Conflict with Blaine Comes to a Head in 'Blaine's World'

The CW's iZombie - Episode 1.13 "Blaine's World"

After discovering new evidence in the Max Rager case, Liv and Clive pay a visit to Vaughn Du Clark at Max Rager HQ. Ravi continues his search for a cure. Blaine makes Liv an offer she can't refuse. Major finds himself in an unbelievable situation.

A typical episode of iZombie has a lot of story going on. Throughout this season, the narrative has had to balance cases-of-the-week, Liv's adjustment to life as a zombie, Major's investigation, Blaine's growing zombie enterprise, Ravi searching for a cure and how Max Rager created these monsters in the first place. The show has done a fantastic job at balancing all of those different elements. And yet, all of those stories and twists got turned up an additional notch during the final act of "Blaine's World." It's done right up to the point of story whiplash. Liv literally gives Major the cure for zombiism just a few minutes after making the painful decision to turn him into a zombie. A lot happens in the concluding beats of the episode. But they also serve as a profound final statement for the season. The show doesn't set out to wrap things up nicely in fear of cancellation. Instead it enters those final moments with confidence on the choices the protagonist will have to make. They are painful and emotional. And that's why this episode is so phenomenal. It places so much focus and importance on Liv Moore. Things may not being going in her favor anytime soon but she is without a doubt the lead of iZombie.

This episode opens like any other with Liv meeting her next meal and investigation. It's a continuation of last week's terrific episode as Liv has to figure out how Bex Taylor-Klaus' Teresa came to such a violent and horrific end. At times, it feels like the investigation is leading up to the exposure of Max Rager and its CEO Vaughn Du Clark - a perfectly creepy Steven Weber - and the threat they present to Liv. It's not that at all. A lot of the first half of the episode is about that as Liv and Clive lead the search for missing teen Cameron, who is trying to avoid being killed by the Max Rager people for the information he has. But that story receives a swift conclusion. It's a resolution that isn't designed to be the end. Vaughn has some big ideas about the future of his company. It involves combining beverages and pharmaceuticals. Even though his company is now publicly faced with this major scandal, he is still hellbent on making his vision a reality. That means eliminating all the zombies. They are just unwanted side effects to his products. Just imagine how worse things could become if he tries to make the formula even better! But that's a prospect for the second season.

The actual emotional and devastating beats of the finale come from the collision of Liv, Blaine and Major at the Meat Cute. That's the ending the season has always been building towards. It is very satisfying while still being completely complex and unexpected. Major has been pushed down this very dark path over the course of the season. He has been broken in so many different ways. And now, he has received confirmation that he is not crazy only to be locked up in a freezer because he has intervened with Blaine's business operations. Major doesn't have the full story. But that doesn't keep him from being resourceful. He is completely grossed out about there being zombies in the world and their need to consume brains in order to survive. It's traumatizing stuff. Blaine actually puts one of Major's foster boys on display with his brain carved out of his head. That is some twisted stuff.

It also leads to the very rousing sequence where Major breaks out of his confinements and takes out Blaine's entire legion of zombies set to After The Fire's "Der Kommissar." After all the horrible things that Blaine has done to the teens of Seattle, Major is justified in killing all of these people. He believes that he is doing the right thing in taking out this threat to civilized society. He has seen firsthand the devastation these zombies can create. He feels triumphant pulling out his weapons and killing them one by one. Sure, it leads to questions about how he got so skilled with such weaponry. But that doesn't matter all that much. Again, Major is taking out a threat. He feels satisfaction in getting to use the grenade to take out the Candyman after all his previous failed attempts to kill him. As fun as this sequence it is though, Major eventually has to let his guard down. He is allowed to take down the supporting elements of this enterprise. But the confrontation with Blaine has always been destined for Liv.

That leads to an interesting complication in that Major gets stabbed in the gut by Blaine for a slow, agonizing death. Liv has been able to track Blaine down after they make contact again. Up until that point, Liv didn't even know that Major was missing and being held captive by Blaine. Her trade-off of the astronaut brains for Major was never going to be successful. And yet, it did lead her back to the Meat Cute. She arrives and has more power than she has ever had throughout the season. After becoming a zombie, Liv was flung into an existential identity crisis. She was no longer on the track she had set for her life. She was a zombie who needed to eat brains in order to survive. She has created this new normal for herself with the job with Ravi and Clive. But that only came out of this horrible thing being done to her. She has slowly been losing her own identity. Each brain brings out personality changes within her. After she eats, she has no control over whether she acts like herself or like the person whose brain she just consumed.

This episode ends triumphantly with the agency being placed back on Liv. The cure has always been a small running story throughout the season. As soon as Ravi declared that two doses of it could be used, it established that two would be injected by hour's end. And both are used under very intriguing circumstances. Blaine has caused so much pain and turmoil for the citizens of Seattle. He has expanded the zombie population just in order for him to lord over it. He was able to supply the brains that his customers needed to survive. Without him, there probably would be much more chaos on the streets of the city. That's a wonderful explanation for why Blaine survives the finale despite all the horrible things he has done. Liv has wanted to kill him for a long time. She was finding normalcy again with Lowell when Blaine took him from her. Blaine being back amongst the living is the kind of punishment fitting for the reality he has created. That change will bring about much more suffering than any kind of death possibly could. In that moment, Liv has all the control. She makes the decision in a split second but it's positioned as one of justice.

It seems only fitting that all of that power is soon swept away from Liv. She is being forced to make so many decisions in the final moments of the finale. Her internal crisis is balancing the needs for herself with the needs of the larger community around her. She wants nothing more than to be human again. She wants to have that life with Major. A life where her best friend doesn't go running away upon seeing the monstrosity that Liv has become. There's a deep sadness and a loss of identity to being a zombie. It pains her to make Major a zombie as well. But it's also a decision she makes instantly and with no remorse. She has felt guilt before over creating other zombies. The pain of the transformation was deeply felt in her climatic battle with Sebastian last week. But there are so many more emotional factors at play when it comes to Major.

It really is a selfish decision on Liv's part to make Major a zombie. She wants this perfect life with him. There's no certainty that such a reality could still practically occur after everything that has happened to him this season. But it's still a dream that Liv desperately clings onto. Both of them being zombies isn't the solution to their problems. But she is willing to justify it if it means she can be with Major again. Major doesn't see it that way. He finally knows that she is a zombie just like Blaine and the other monsters terrorizing the streets of Seattle. She may not have been a part of Blaine's operation but she still shared the primal instinct to devour brains. That's a prospect that Major just can't accept. It's a dark reality that he didn't ask for. Neither did Liv but she at least has the opportunity to make things better for him. Giving him the cure immediately guarantees that the basic premise of the show will continue next season. But it also plays as Liv trying to do what's best for the people she loves - and not for the community at large.

For all Liv knows, Ravi may not be able to create more of the cure for zombiism. He was still running tests when Liv decided to take the sample and give it to both Blaine and Major. It works but that means there will probably be a few side effects they'll experience. It also sets up the incredible sadness that is the episode's final twist. Liv's brother Evan has never been a character of great importance to the show. He pops up from time to time. He doesn't have a purpose. But he does represent a part of Liv's family and the life she wants to be living. Lieutenant Suzuki causing an explosion at the Meat Cute to no longer have to keep living as a zombie is a big moment because Evan happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Liv is presented as the only person capable of saving her brother's life - because they both have O- blood. When faced with the prospect of turning her brother into a zombie as well, she no longer has the power that she once did. Her refusing to donate the blood will be seen as an incredibly selfish move by her mother should Evan die from his wounds. And yet, Liv is doing so in order to protect her brother from the life she is being forced to live right now. It's a profound statement to end the first season on. Being a zombie has taken so much away from Liv. That pain and devastation is only getting stronger. It's now putting the people she loves in harm's way. She doesn't want to subject them to the pain of her existence. But that means she can't do anything - which will probably put her in an even more depressed state in the second season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Blaine's World" was written by Rob Thomas and directed by Michael Fields.
  • All of the detectives look at the explosive at the Meat Cute and see Suzuki as a hero. However, Clive wants to look deeper than that. Suzuki made sure to point Blaine out as a person of interest. This case probably won't be going away anytime soon which could provide even more dynamic interactions for Clive with Major and Blaine.
  • Also, how was Evan the first person to walk or drive by the Meat Cute and see that something horrible has just taken place?
  • It was a strong misdirect in having the audience believe that the milkshake would be the thing to kill Cameron when instead it was the bomb the Max Rager lady was having placed on his car.
  • Also, Liv was on Teresa's snarky and sarcastic brain for a few minutes and then that thread was just dropped entirely.
  • This was a very strong first season of television. I can't wait to see what the creative team plans on doing in the second season this fall. It's definitely going to be more ambitious with the rising threat by Vaughn, Clive's investigation into the explosion, the cure and its side effects and Liv dealing with the possible death of her brother. It's a daunting but exciting prospect that I can't wait to see and enjoy.