“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[pagebreak]
You Are What You Eat. Sammy Wong gave Liv a suspicious mind. It was more Kinks than Elvis. You know: Paranoia, they destroy ya! “Liv and Let Clive” hit hard the idea that anxiety creates distance and dissonance in relationships and chokes and drowns your real self. (The counterpoint was illustrated by the awkward mating dance between Major and Ravi as they felt each other out about being roommates. Anxious questioning gave way to risky disclosure that led to genuine bonding. They could be Diablo III/Demon Hunter-playing BFFs!) “Love in the time of zombiedom” is challenging and dispiriting enough as it is, given that neck-nibbling macking and back-scratching sex are out of the question, and the guy you love is sleeping with another woman, Caryn, who added Major insult to Liv’s injured heart by appropriating her favorite coffee cup. The link between Sammy’s psychotropic impact and the life lesson Liv learned skewed murky to me. Being owned for a full digestive cycle by paranoia helped catalyze Liv to “start looking forward instead of watching my back.” I get it, but it felt like a stretch. Still, I liked the suggestion of a twist: That Liv—her head rotten with Sammy conspiracy thinking—may have brokered the Major-Ravi union as a way to subvert Major and Caryn and keep tabs on Major via Ravi.
This week in Blaineland… Our burgeoning Big Bad continued to build his criminal empire, this time focusing on high-end meals-on-wheels business, supplying Seattle’s growing zombie population with brain-based fine dining delivered straight to your door for a mere $25,000 a month. His partner: The zombie proprietor of a local bistro called Meat Cute. iZombie does love its puns, and I love iZombie for it.
Blaine’s challenge this week was killing the competition—namely, the two beefcake clockers slinging and collecting for him. They got the idea of bolting from Blaine and starting their own delivery service, selling cheaper brain food. Jackie, Blaine’s lover and top customer seemed receptive to the pitch, and you might have believed her to be sincere after griping to Blaine about his prices. She was sleeping with him; doesn’t that entitle her to a rebate? “I made you a zombie, baby. I’d never make you a whore,” he replied. (A whole lotta “whore” in this episode, huh?) Apparently, Jackie ate that one up, because she ratted out Blaine’s flunkies. Blaine put a bullet into each of their meaty heads, then put on ice. (“It’s not surprising, really. Most small businesses fail.”) Did you get the sense that Blaine needed to put them in deep freeze in order to keep them contained? That he could revive them if he needed them? And while we’re asking questions about Blaine: Does he absorb memories and personality traits when he eats brains, too? I really do think we need a clarification of iZombie’s zombie rules.
Savoring The Chicken Fat. Celebrating marvelous marginalia or casually tossed-off brilliance.
- Blaine and Jackie’s “Mourning Ritual” was so sly, so sad. We watched them prep and groom for the day, putting on their false “looking alive” selves. Hair coloring. Pedicure. Spray tanning while exposing themselves to the light of day. Morticians don’t treat their corpses as well as these zombies treat themselves. Jackie’s penthouse: Mod and spartan, the walls adorned with artwork featuring barren trees—a cold, dead space, just like the zombies who “live” there. A Kubrickian love nest. For breakfast: Brain smoothies. It all played like a satire of vain, hollow, futile health-nut obsessives. No matter how hard they gussied up, they still looked dressed for their own funeral by the end of the sequence.
- I love how iZombie honors its comic origins with the credit sequence, the captions that title each act, and the occasional wipe edit, evoking a transition between comic book panels.
- “Jesse really insists on a lot of bass.”
- iZombie’s fixation with the color blue continues, from Ravi’s blue surgical gloves (maybe it was something I ate, but I flash on Firefly’s menacing “Hands of Blue” whenever I see them) and the Blue Cobras. Spot any others?
- The Blue Cobras torturing that guy by sticking wasabi in his eyes. My eyes water just thinking about that.
- The sight gag of Blaine’s meathead flunkies drinking from tiny cappuccino cups.
- “That’s because we’re jacked. People assume were dumb. But we’re living proof that it doesn’t take body fat to have phat ideas.”
What did you guys think of “Liv and Let Clive?”