“Liv and Let Clive” begins with one zombie waking another with a call to action. “Time to look alive, baby,” Blaine murmured to his thrall and aesthetician hook-up, Jackie. The line was a clever quip that articulated iZombie’s theme of rehumanization and an ironic way to start an outing about the high cost of living ironically—which is to say, pretending to be something that you’re not. To borrow jargon from Major’s late roomie Jesse, this one was about the folly of “frontin’.” See: The revelation that Detective Babinaux spent a year undercover trying to bring down a gang called the Blue Cobras and came out the other side a different, damaged person. See: The spectacle of Liv Moore going undercover as gum-smacking party girl Melanie or Melody or Malady—even she couldn’t keep her alias straight—as she recklessly investigated this week’s case, bringing danger into her home and triggering the ”full-on zombie mode” that risks more dehumanization. The deep wisdom of iZombie: A false or divided self is a deadly, deadening existence. A smarter capper would apply the concept of The Philosophical Zombie to the episode’s ideas about appearances, irony, and inauthenticity. I have the wits of scarecrow these days. If only I could snack on Ravi’s noggin.
So let’s talk about The Matrix, instead. “Liv and Let Clive” embellished its aforementioned themes with an intriguing set of pop references that had alluded to stories about trippy heroes suffering from self-deception, fragmented and painful memories, and/or stuck in corrupting virtual reality. The Matrix got you all that (“I know kung fu,” Liv cracked, quoting from The Whoa of Neo), Memento got you some of that, and the sight of Major and Ravi playing videogames in a darkened living room and resisting Liv’s attempt to let in the light—to enlighten, you see—was clearly a nod to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, in which… No? Okay, no.
Of the four episodes of iZombie so far, “Liv and Let Clive” is my least favorite, though I still found it enjoyable. Rob Thomas and company experimented with some new dynamics—many new shows do so early in their runs—and the results were mixed. Major and Ravi as new roommates? Contrived, but it works, and because it works, it helps to solve the problem of keeping Major an organic part of the show without rekindling his romantic relationship with Liv, which wouldn’t make any sense right now: Liv shouldn’t be romantically relating with anyone quite yet. The writers also kicked the tires on Liv’s rapport with her brother, Evan. I’d say that tire doesn’t have much air in it: I’m not seeing how his character does much for the drama or the entertainment. Sorry, Evan: You’re dead weight.
“Liv and Let Clive” hinged on Liv thinking that Clive was a dirty cop. I didn’t believe she’d jump to that conclusion. Yes, she’d gobbled the brain of a paranoid thug named Sammy Wong and was under the influence of his noxious, anxious noodle. I still didn’t buy that Liv’s first interpretation of the memory flashes was that Clive was crooked, and I didn’t buy that she’d never consider any other interpretation, including the most obvious interpretation, which ended up being the correct interpretation. So it was a lot of waiting around for Liv to stop being stupid and catch up with us.
You’d think Liv would have enough experience by now to know that she’s always at risk for acquiring negative traits from her snacks and self-monitor and self-police accordingly. It all begs questions that maybe the show doesn’t want to answer. Where does Liv end and the dead begin? Why are certain characteristics of the eaten activated and others not? Does Liv’s state of mind select the traits that possess her or is the effect totally random? What are the rules here? Should there be rules? Debate.
This Week’s Dead Meat: Poor Sammy. The former Blue Cobra tried to change his stripes by turning state’s witness for the feds. But then his mom got sick, and he ran away from witness protection to visit her. The Blue Cobras put him down like one would a snake, stomping him to death with a “boot party.” Cut off the tips of his fingers, too. Touchy-touchy, these gangsters!
Unlike previous episodes, the mystery of Sammy’s murder wasn’t a whodunit. And unlike previous episodes, Clive didn’t want Liv’s help solving the mystery. Liv found that suspicious. After all, Clive kept popping up in the visions that Bad Sammy kept burping into her mind. So Liv played private eye, a solo mission with an occasional assist from Doc Ravi, like when they checked out the Blue Cobra’s HQ, a video store with a well-stocked porn section. (“Oh, look! They actually have the whorey version of Memento!”) That was a fun sequence—I love it when iZombie lets Rose McIver smirk and twinkle, flirt and play; it brings such animation and color to her pale visage—but by and large I’m not sure how I feel about Liv going secret agent rogue. It feels more correct for her to play partner to a real cop.
Liv finally gets clarity on Clive by—fancy this!—engaging in direct communication. “You’re a dirty cop!” “Nope. I was an undercover cop!” “Oh. Never mind.” All very Rosanne Rosannadanna. Chastened, Liv decided to let the detective and his old buddies in Vice do the job of taking down the Blue Cobras, nabbing them as the gang was receiving a shipment of (zombie making?) Utopium. In this small way, the slow burning mystery of this designer drug burned an inch forward. (Fun Fact! The James Bond film that inspired the title of this episode, Live and Let Die, pitted 007 against a drug dealing street gang, led by a bad guy frontin’ behind a false self.)
But Liv couldn’t extricate herself from her quagmire that easily. A.J., the leader of the Blue Cobras, escaped the police dragnet and tried to kill her. Liv’s newfound kung fu failed her, but her newfound “rage mode” did not, and she brutally beat A.J. into submission, a boot party to the face, except with her fists. So a fisting party, except with… oh, right. Family publication. Anyhoo, lessons were learned, and Liv and Clive reached a new level of trust, though still far short of the place where one confesses to another: “I eat brains. Can we still be friends?”
NEXT: Our burgeoning Big Bad gets badder