We find Liv Moore lying on a body bag like a sunbather on a blanket, soaking in the day. She’s cheerfully ruminating about how easy it was to tan and freckle in the days before she became a pale-faced born again zombie. She’s beaming. Her eyes twinkle. Undead Liv looks downright lively, but there is something superficial, even buggy in the witness of positivity. After four episodes of growing into her carrion skin, Liv has become too glib about death, too friendly with her morbidity personality. You hear it when she asks Doc Ravi whom among them he’d eat first if he were a zombie, or when they start joking about this week’s Murder, She Ate homicide vic, a drugged skydiver impaled on a tree branch. An exercise in competitive gallows humor unfolds: Who can come up with the most deliciously inappropriate food metaphor for the shafted chutist? “Shish kabob.” “Chicken satay.” “Cocktail wieners.” “Corn dogs.” “Lollipops.” “Cake pops!” Rose McIver and Rahul Kohli do something impressively tricky here: They make us laugh while making suspicious of Liv’s flipness, that it’s evidence of something missing. Maybe something that can be regained via this week’s One To Grow On learning-by-eating-brains life lesson? Yes, indeed! And it begins with a buzz-killing newsflash: That Cake Pop in the tree is actually someone Liv knows. And with that, the laughter dies.
So began “Flight of the Living Dead,” in which the latest node on Liv’s ascending curve toward rehumanization involved learning to appreciate the value of a human life, fighting for it, even, and more, enjoying what life you have to the fullest. The theme played out in various ways across a few different characters. We got Major screwing on his superhero, searching for Jerome, who went missing searching for his missing friend Eddie (we know both were claimed by Big Bad Blaine for his Meals on Wheels biz). Major’s activism in turn activated Detective Babinaux to expand his concept of justice, to care about doing right by the living as well as the dead. And we got a new zombie – and a major rival to Major for our heroine’s unbeating heart—Lowell (Merlin’s Bradley James), a burgeoning rock star yearning to live more fully, and now, yearning for Liv Moore, too. He’s also sponsored by an energy drink called Max Rager, a company with a cult-like culture, and the episode seemed to suggest that it may have something to do with the zombie outbreak spreading throughout Seattle (Clive’s homicide boss is a hot sauce-swilling, nail trimming revenant, too!) and presumably beyond. (My pilot recap observation that Liv’s zombie scratch resembling the logo for Monster energy drink ain’t so crazy anymore, is it? It wasn’t a coincidence! IT WAS A CLUE, I tell ya, A CLUE!)
“Flight of the Living Dead” wanted Liv to transition her ironic joie de vivre to a more authentic verve. I appreciated the point, but it also seemed slightly redundant with the point of the pilot, in which we watched her recover her heroic agency. The storytelling struggled to find interesting ways to express this spiritual modulation in the flow of the procedural plot. Those breakaways to Liv joy riding in the rain through the streets of Seattle with a goofy smile on her face? Kinda corny. What seems to be working best for the show is when Liv’s acquires a psychological property—kleptomania; sensuality; paranoia—that can play out in visceral ways that either help her or hinder her (or both) in her crime-solving and her relationships.
A story about an attitude adjustment was also an opportunity to tinker with the franchise in general. “Flight of the Living Dead” fed the mystery of the zombie mythology and gave Liv a new relationship that should allow her character to dramatically express a broader range of emotions. With Lowell, Liv now has a significant other with whom she can wholly relate to, with whom she can be all of herself. Lowell does give Liv maybe a man too many. In the Buffy parlance, she now has an Angel to add to her Spike (that would be Blaine) and her Riley Finn (that would be Major). My guess is that one of these guys will be out of the picture by season’s end. But which one?
NEXT: More questions. Plus: Was that Reverse Flash’s house?[pagebreak]
This Week’s Dead Meat: Holly, a thrill-seeking daredevil who liked to live life on the edge, be it hanging from a sheer cliff or outrunning a rolling ocean wave. A real “dying is just a consequence of living” kind of soul. She was part of a pack of parachutists sponsored by Max Rager. On the day of her death, the members of this extreme sports posses included: Lowell; Max Rager marketing director Eliza Marquette; Motorcross pro Brent Smith; and snowboarder Carson McComb, a two-time Olympic champ who had made a fortune off sponsorships. “My face is my passion,” declared this vain, hard partying dick, played with an implicit wink by the always spunky Ryan Hansen, a.k.a. Dick Casablancas from Veronica Mars and Kyle Bradway from Party Down. (If you’re not familiar with either of these previous Rob Thomas efforts, please, stop reading immediately and go rectify that situation.)
The investigation really wasn’t much of one. A few interrogation room sequences and some sleuthing at Carson’s I’m-so-fancy home* during Holly’s memorial service did the trick. The resolution initially seemed to be linked to Holly’s accidental discovery of Carson’s big secret: He and Brent were in a sexual relationship and both wanted to keep it hush-hush. Too much money to be made marketing themselves straight, I guess. Did Carson use the prescription pad gifted to him by his doctor father to acquire GHB and drug Holly before the parachute jump, impairing her judgment on the descent and effectively causing her death?
Actually, no! Carson did not do that! Turned out Carson had received an email inadvertently sent to him by Eliza that contained a different secret, one that Max Rager wanted kept hush-hush: It was a report showing that 1 in 1,000 Max Rager consumers tend to go psycho while under the influence of the drink. Carson was fuzzy on the details: “One guy even died or tried to kill someone.” (Which one was it? This could be a crucial difference.) Holly was with him when he got the email, and she wanted Carson to forward the report to a journalist. Instead, Carson told Eliza, Holly’s true killer: She used Carson’s p-pads to acquire the GHB and spiked Holly’s pre-parachute liqueur shot. Clive handled the arrest off-camera, and many messy details were left unaddressed, at least for now. Is the incriminating report now public as a result of the investigation? And we should definitely be assuming that Max Rager has something to do with the plague of zombie rage afflicting the city, yes? If so, is the company trying to make zombies… or cure them? Is Max Rager linked to the Utopium drug in some way?
(And might I have answers to all of these questions if I just go read the iZombie comics? I haven’t done so yet. But I do think I’ll be investigating them soon, for I get the sense some of you would appreciate some compare/contrast analysis from these recaps. I think that would be interesting, too. More from me on that score in the coming weeks.)
*I’m checking on this, but I’m pretty sure the house used for Carson’s home is the same house that The Flash uses for Dr. Harrison Wells’ home. Both shows shoot in Vancouver B.C.
NEXT: Holly was Liv’s Reverse Flash in a way, wasn’t she?[pagebreak]
You Are Who You Eat: Holly was more than a victim to Liv, she was also a sister to her. Sorta. Liv and Holly were in the same sorority at the UW, but they couldn’t have been more different. Liv was all business, focused on studying hard. Holly was all fun, focused on hard-partying. Holly’s approach to “sucking the marrow out of life” might have been reckless, hollow, and superficial, and it certainly bugged the hell out of her back in the day, but Holly’s devil-may-care nerve certainly had something to offer Liv in the here and now. “Holly was the opposite of me, adventurous, free. I was disciplined and safe. She was the rule breaker. I did not understand her, but part of me wishes I could be here.” Now, she could, iZombie Persona Ingestion Magic. Liv ate her brain, but for the first time in the series, we didn’t see it. Instead, we watched her hold Holly’s lifeless hand as Ravi cracked her skull—a show of respect that nourished the theme of the episode.
Soon, Liv was gleefully biking through Seattle (groan) and bonding with the elusive, mercurial Lowell. The broody rocker revealed his zombie status to Liv while making her a blended drink heavy on his kick of choice, Beelzebub’s Burn, a red pepper-based hot sauce. They bonded over the charming 2013 zombie romance flick Warm Bodies and their mutual need to be known, to be warmed by somebody like themselves. Bradley James owned this scene—soulful, hot, confident—and used it to make the case for his continued presence on the show. He dazzled me so much that it wasn’t until the end of the episode that I realized he left a rather important piece of his story unsaid: How exactly did he become a zombie? It was a mistake in the storytelling for Liv not to ask—I think she should be curious about these things—and it is suspicious in retrospect that he didn’t voluntarily tell. Does he even know? Or is he hiding something? I likened him to Angel a few graphs earlier… but might he be a Beelzebub that’ll burn Liv instead?
Questions for another day. We left Liv cruising on that bike, hands in the air like she just don’t care. Gone was the glib girl who girded herself with cynical, ironic humor to deaden the existential angst of her dead life and feel fake, corrupt joy. “I’m ready to feel again. Anything. Good or bad,” she declared. “I want to be alive again, now more than ever.”
Where’s Blaine? He was MIA this week, though the subplot space reserved for him was given over to taking stock of the mess he’s been making over the past four weeks. Clive discovered that 60 street kids have gone missing in recent months. (If the number seems outrageously high, consider the possibility that iZombie might be drawing inspiration from Seattle’s Green River Killer case, in which dozens and dozens of women, all prostitutes, went missing, and no seemed to notice or care until the bodies started turning up.) Major went to the downtown skate park—ground zero for the disappearances—and got beat up by a zombie wearing Jerome’s sneakers. We last saw him bloody and unconscious, the skater punks zipping past him, none of them interested in helping—a parallel to Liv’s expression of callousness in the woods at the start of the story. That opening scene had Liv lying on an open body bag, and the last scene of the episode, with Liv and Lowell sealing the deal on their new connection, had a distracting bit of background business involving the delivery of a sealed body bag. I thought for sure the storytelling was walking us up to a cold, rude climactic shock. Liv unzips the bag and gaps as she sees… Major’s dead eyes staring up at her. But no: The scene cut just as Liv turned away from Lowell and toward her work. Were any of you thinking the same thing?