Wednesday, October 14, 2015

REVIEW: 'iZombie' - Liv Enjoys Being on Fun Frat Boy Brains While Blaine Continues to Scheme in 'Zombie Bro'

The CW's iZombie - Episode 2.02 "Zombie Bro"

Liv and Clive investigate the murder of a hard-partying frat boy whose death shocks everyone. Liv attends a frat party in an attempt to search for clues, but ends up ruling the beer pong table instead. Still desperate to find the cure, Ravi takes matters into his own hands and brings Major along for the ride. Blaine meets with Angus (Robert Knepper), a mysterious person from his past.

The cases-of-the-week on iZombie are probably the weakest narrative aspect of the show. And yet, the show still finds a way to make most of them entertaining. The frat boy murder investigation in "Zombie Bro" is so ridiculous but absolutely funny. In fact, it may be one of the best brains Liv has ever been on. Sure, the show liked to linger on the party and prank aspects of that personality a little bit too much despite the tragedy. But the show also made sure that the ridiculousness didn't cross over any line. Yes, the dead frat boy was an idiot who liked to drink and play pranks on people which created many different enemies. But being an idiot frat boy wasn't horrible enough for someone to murder him. That was appreciated. The explanation that was given is so devastating and tragic. The show is capable of hitting that note with this story too. The way the show can balance these moments of broad comedy with emotional devastation has always been impressive. Here, the show nails it extremely well.

It seems to be a trend this season though that the killers in the cases-of-the-week both had accidental motives. That lends itself well to the season's overall theme of guilt at the moment. Last week, the killer kicked the car jack and the car fell on his victim only for him to discover his a dog a moment later. This week, the killer murdered the wrong person because of a name mixup. It's a devastating realization for the killer. He was seeking justice for his father who was killed in a drunk driving accident. This frat boy seemed like he didn't care about that at all and was still the idiot drunk terrorizing people's lives. But the frat guy was innocent. The real killer in that past accident actually made a massive change in his life in order to be a better person. That moment of clarity is so well earned by the show at the end of this episode.

It also plays very well into the ongoing struggle of Major. He too is wrapped with guilt over what he is being forced to do by Vaughn at Max Rager. It has dominated his world. When he turns on the news, he sees the children of the man he killed begging for him to come home. When he visits the lab, he learns that Ravi is no where close to developing any more of the cure. He has been forced into this position by the rest of the world and he has no idea how to cope with all of it. He isn't a zombie but he is trapped in this lifestyle that forces him to kill. It's heartbreaking that he turns to drugs in order to deal with the stress of this life. It's all a part of his new tragic spiral this season. It's heartbreaking to watch but it also creates such dramatically interesting story for him.

All of this comes as Liv feels like the tension between her and Major is starting to fade. Ravi and Major went to a club in order to experience Utopium firsthand in the hopes of better developing the cure. Major took it because he wanted to escape what his life had become. He had too good of a time that Liv got the call to come clean him up. It's a beautiful moment watching the two of them comfort each other in the bathroom. That's a level of intimacy they haven't had in awhile. Major doesn't want anything bad to happen to her. He knows that Max Rager is aware of what she is doing at all times. He destroys her phone and promises to always protect her. But that's not the opening to friendship that Liv thought it was. When she returns the next day, he is just as distant to her. However, this time it's because he wants to solemnly enjoy the drug again from the comfort of his own bed. It's a devastating story for both of the characters. It's what makes this episode so excellent with the complexities of these emotions. Things are only going to get worse as long as these secrets are being held. But right now, that's the only thing that makes sense to Major.

Elsewhere, Blaine is continuing to make his play for the king of crime in Seattle. Even though he is no longer a zombie (but is still keeping up appearances), he is just as villainous as before. He manipulates events in order to get the District Attorney to start an investigation against Mr. Boss, who has controlled the crime world of Seattle for over a decade now. He stages a situation where it looks like new drug dealers were encroaching on his territory. These recruits come from wealthy and influential families but were always seen as mess ups. Blaine kills all of them in order to ignite a fire against his new competition. It's a plan that he is able to execute without a hinge. The DA is on his side because he too is a zombie loyal to the brains Blaine provides.

But that's not the most interesting thing about Blaine's story in "Zombie Bro." The audience gets a peak into his backstory a little bit with the introduction of his father, Angus - played wonderfully by Robert Knepper. This isn't the first time a show has depicted the bad guy having daddy issues. But it's still a device that works incredibly well. Apparently, Angus didn't love Blaine the way that he thought he deserved. That led to Blaine being seen as a screwup who only visits when he needs money for his new "revolutionary" idea. But now, things have changed. Angus was the first zombie that Blaine created for his business operation. Angus has to listen to him now or risk losing everything he has worked for his entire life. Blaine does get his money but the tension is still brewing amongst this family. That conflict is still rising and should have major consequences for all the characters very soon.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Zombie Bro" was written by Diane Ruggiero-Wright and directed by John Kretchmer.
  • The trip to the nightclub is largely about Major's descent into drugs but it's also a very funny sequence for Ravi - especially when he's dancing shirtless to the amazement of Liv. It's great watching him listen to his recordings that were suppose to provide valuable insight into the effects of the drug but are largely just incoherent babbling.
  • Liv's reaction as the girl describes her stuffed animal sexual fetish was priceless. Rose McIver had a lot of fun in this episode. 
  • Things weren't completely grim and dour with Major. He also decided to start calling Ravi's beard "Princess Sparkles."
  • It's kind of hilarious that it takes a Dermot Mulroney-Dylan McDermott joke in order for Liv and Clive to put the pieces together regarding the case.
  • It's a good thing that Clive admits that he is aware of Liv's always changing personality. But that can only explain it for so long.
  • Ravi: "Well I hope you like Jager bombs and homoerotic subtext."
  • Ravi: "You bought a grenade out of the trunk of a car. How can you not figure out how to buy drugs at a nightclub?"