You wouldn’t think the undead would live in constant fear of the unknown—Liv has already bit the big one, what else is there to be afraid of, really?—but our girl has proven she’s a more cerebral type. And not just because her diet is brain-based. (Lucky her, she doesn’t have to worry about gluten. Wait, do brains have gluten?) Pre-zombiedom, Liv thought she knew herself pretty well. But now, in addition to death’s existential questions, she has to wonder things like: What would happen if I boinked my human ex-fiance? And, Zombie Rage: Friend or foe?
How do you answer questions without a Handbook of the Recently Undeceased? With creative exposition, of course. Just like Joss Whedon used everything from silence to musical theater as an expository tool (and please let Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright be planning a musical episode), so too have the creators of iZombie found a way to teach us our ABZs. Google alerts, zombie pals that look like “a melted candle,” and accidental shootings, oh my! And this week there’s no shortage of lessons.
“The Exterminator” uses the mental makeup of a sociopath (or two) to shed some light on basic zombie tenets. And to prove that they—besides Blaine, apparently, but we’ll get to that later—have souls. Hitmen and cocksure angel investors who kill for money do not. To solve this meandering crime of the week, Liv must give up her ability to feel, one that so colorfully explored in last week’s episode. But she also gets to give up the guilt she feels for dropping Major and the pain of his recent rejection, the dread of hopelessness, and the revulsion at her meal requirements.
So is the trade off worth it? Of course not. (Although there is one personality perk: The litany of random facts she Rain Mans throughout the episode is a pretty rad “Bizarro Jeopardy.” I’d pay good money to have her on my trivia night team at my local bar.) The most important lesson is the one Liv comes to learn about herself, one that seems to be reinforced in every episode: Just because you’re not human doesn’t mean you can’t choose to have humanity.
This Week’s Dead Meat. We’ve got a twofer. First up? Marvin Webster, “family man, two kids, suburbs, owner of C-Tack Bug Whack,” who was hit by a spectacularly orange 1978 Landau in a parking lot. Ravi: “Should be a pretty safe brain to eat.” Liv: “Said no one. Ever.” After polishing off Marvin’s parietal lobe, Liv heads home and has a vision. Turns out mild-mannered Marv doesn’t have any manners at all—he’s a hitman who killed Wally Walker, a tech company CEO found dead in a park, single gunshot wound to the head. Wouldn’t you know it? Detective Goodwin is assigned to Wally’s case, which was signed, sealed, and delivered thanks to Freddie Brown who found Gus Williams, a homeless man with Wally’s possessions—which makes him the killer, obviously—and collected a reward from Don Watts, Walker’s angel investor. (“Is that the one where all the of the suspects in the murder case are named after Seattle Supersonics of the ’70s?” asked Doc Jensen when I emailed him about this recap. Yes, yes it is. Did I pick up on this? No, I did not.) So, Marvin killed Wally, but who killed Marvin? And at this point, do we care anymore? We do when Wally’s bookie owns the cop bar where the trivia contest is run by a lovely lady in an I Dream of Jeannie costume. After this spectacularly amusing red herring (“Do you mind if I call our trivia team ‘Piggy and the Brain?’” Liv asks Clive), the dynamic duo track down the car’s owner, and wouldn’t you know it? It’s his partner, the super cocky Don Watts, a money-grubbing low life in a fancy suit who didn’t want his partner to sell the company. But he’s duped into confessing his crime by a bait and switch sanitation worker. (Like the trash that he is, get it?) I didn’t care much about this week’s case, but I don’t think we’re supposed to. So many other good things were set up in this episode that the case could have been about a beauty queen murdering a purple unicorn and then marrying a fire hydrant and I probably wouldn’t have noticed.
NEXT: Zombie Google Alert Pings[pagebreak]
Bonus Dead Meat. Then? Marci, who worked with Liv at the hospital and convinced her to go on the one-way ooze cruise to Zombieland. Now? A Night of the Living Walking Dead, decaying, horrid zombie found by some kids Spielberging it up after dark. Ravi tries to fix her until she goes after him for his brains—literally. Liv overcomes a mild case of not giving a F to bash Marci’s head in mid Zombie Rage.
You Are What You Eat. After slurping up the hitman’s noggin nuggets, Liv goes uncomfortably numb. I love the look on her face every time she realizes her new qualities: kleptomania, extreme sensuality, anti-social behavior. It’s less “Oops I Did It Again” and more “Hit Me Baby One More Time”. This time, the once peppy girl with the perma-guilt grimace suddenly has no emotional filter at all and it’s terrifying—or it would be if she could feel it. I guess that’s what happens when you snack on a sociopath.
When Liv and Ravi find Marci in a literal pit of despair, Ravi wants to help. Liv throws rocks at her. People who live in zombie bodies really shouldn’t throw stones, but Liv’s displaced empathy belies something deeper, more primal. If she didn’t have access to brains, this is what she could turn into. “We’re both thinking it, right?” she says to Ravi. “Or, maybe we can fix her,” he retorts. (Sadly, they can’t and they don’t.)
But being fixable isn’t part of Liv’s personal narrative, or not something we’ve seen yet. Her indifference to Ravi’s quest to solve Zombie-ism is reflected in this temporary tattoo of a personality. Maybe life would be better if she couldn’t feel anything at all. “I may not be able to help Marci, but I can help solve this case,” she voice-overs. “And if Marvin’s brains blot out the memory of the girl who wanted to be my friend and the ex-fiancee who still hasn’t responded to my apology text, I say bring on the sociopath.”
Poor Liv, she’s going all Bring It On like she just dropped her spirit stick. And the bad luck keeps coming. When she gets home, Peyton shows her a Facebook video of Major making out with his new paramour during a heated Jenga game. Liv’s response? “Did you know December 11th is the most common day of the year for breakups on Facebook?” (Note: I did not know this, but also, are people really still putting their breakups on Facebook?)
“The Exterminator” temporarily suspends Liv’s feelings, giving her (and us, the viewers) a peek into life when you don’t have a heart. As someone whose existence revolves around brains, Liv spends a lot of time trying to ignore this other organ. (Which is probably a lot easier when it’s not beating in order to run blood through your veins.) Last week, a loiny Liv tried to jump Major’s bones and was brutally rebuffed. This week, pre-brains, she waits for a response to the apology she texted. Post-brains, she watches the video of Major and doesn’t react at all. Post-post-brains, we find her sitting in bed, watching the video, in tears. Liv may not subscribe to Major’s Facebook feed, but the alerts she feels are real, and that gives her hope.
NEXT: The return of Blaine[pagebreak]
You’re So Blaine. I Bet You Think This Song Is About You. “That’s hot. I think I saw that exact pose in the centerfold of Zombie Playboy,” says James Spader as he walks into the morgue as Molly Ringwald is licking brains off a knife after spreading them on a cracker. Just kidding! Of course this is one of Blaine’s bon mots. Dude is really turning out to be a creep. Liv isn’t having it though, considering the fact that she saw him just about to slay two guys in a car just a few days earlier. “So it’s every Zombie for himself?” he asks. “Guess so,” she says. And just like that, we know he’s the Big Bad.
One of the kids from the shelter where Major is a counselor (and you wonder why Liv feels so much guilt?) disappears, and his roommate says there’s a creepy guy that’s been hanging around skate parks dealing Utopium. (Not to be confused with Euphoria, Emily Valentine’s drug of choice.) And what was Blaine trying to get Liv to take pre-Zombification? Utopium. So it’s no surprise when we see Blaine deviously leading the roommate out of the skate park at the end of the episode.
Savoring The Chicken Fat. Celebrating marvelous marginalia or casually tossed-off brilliance.
Ravi and Liv getting all iZombie 3.0
“Okay this is interesting: I set up a Google alert for the search term ‘Seattle zombie.’”
“Me too! No, I signed up for Z-date.”
“You joke, but this could be as close as we get to an early warning system. We got a couple of hits. Dawn of the Dead is showing at midnight on Friday, Undertakers Bar in Capital Hill added the Noxious Zombie to the cocktail menu, and a teenager posted a picture on his Facebook. Claims it’s a Zombie.”
“Is it me?”
The sly feminism of Clive busting everyone’s balls in the bar as they drooled over “Jeannie”: “I Dream of Jeannie. Can you believe she was the ideal for these guys? When she got uppity, just shove her back in the bottle.”
“This is important. When you had the vision, were you holding an apple bong or did you just smoke an old school spliff? I’m just wondering if this vision also contained winged horses and dancing pizza.”
All the bad guys were named after freakin’ ‘70s Seattle Supersonics players.
“I only saw it because she tagged him and he liked it. Which I didn’t realize would sound so sexual. Sorry.”
Any Pinky and the Brain reference is aces, especially as a trivia team name pun “Piggy and the Brain.”
Buffy callback on Ravi’s “Better safe than the apocalypse!” If only we still had beepers. If this is the end of the world, as we know it, then I feel fine. What did you think of “The Exterminator”?