Haters gonna hate, trollers gonna troll, zombies gonna eat your brain. Or maybe remodel your face with an electric jail. Depends on the day. The victims of those antagonized or triggered by the evil that the world’s miserable monsters do have some choices about how to respond. They can shake it off, or they can murder their villains with toxic birthday cards. I’m thinking iZombie favors the former over the latter judging from “Virtual Reality Bites,” which tracked the cost of letting lonesome, loathsome losers and damaged, despairing cynics get inside your head and mess with your worldview. Liv was nearly denied the joy that comes from connecting with a significant Other who truly gets her. Major was tempted to abandon the project of seeking justice for the missing street kids claimed by The Candyman and his boss, big bad Blaine, Seattle burgeoning Sweeney Todd, demon butcher of King Street or thereabouts. But how far is too far to go in the chase for fulfillment and the heroic quest to broom foul souls from our communities, be they real or digital? “Virtual Reality Bites” flicked at that question, too. Also in the thematic stew: The difference between hostility and hospitality; what it means to “love thy neighbor” in a world of digital citizenship; finding healthy ways to express anger; and the importance of a good Internet avatar. Like the guise Doc Ravi wears while playing “Warlock Forest,” the most popular MMORPG in the iZombie world. “I’m a were-terrier with healing abilities called Arf Vader,” he told Liv. “This is going to be epic!” (Ravi’s defense of videogames—so spectacularly dense and delivered so fast I couldn’t transcribe it—was simply the best thing ever.)
It was a solid episode of iZombie that nurtured all of its story lines, even if it did once again rehash some familiar thematic ground. Liv Moore—moving from the virtual half life of zombiedom toward rehumanization—once again learned a lesson in “sucking the marrow out of life,” a phrase that the show loves using so much that I’m beginning to suspect that it’s doing so to advance some storytelling agenda. (I’ll get to my “Lowell is really a vampire” theory in a few hundred words or so.) Is the show paring down its supporting cast? We said goodbye to Jackie, Blaine’s trendspotter bedmate and aesthetician hook-up. Liv’s roommate continues to be MIA. But Mom reappeared to help nudge her daughter forward… and bumble into the Meat Cute. Who knew Seattle was such a small town?
This Week’s Dead Meat: Simon Cutler, a.k.a. “SIM Reaper,” a world-class web creeper prone to Fascist ramblings and a hacker so skilled Ravi considered him “a troll with super-powers.” He certainly talked the part. “I am invisible! Intangible! Untouchable!” (So he’s… The Vision?) Pity the Fortune 500 company, hipster donut shop and poor customer service rep that doesn’t please him. If you do: No Yelp rave for you! “I will delete you like so much digital noise!” (The customer is always right, right?) My guess Cutler is also responsible for the Sony leak and poured gas on the GamerGate flame. Debate!
iZombie used some tired clichés in painting this vile gasbag. Basement dwelling. Donut-popping. Overweight. Socially inept. An alleged chicken choker. But he was also profoundly agoraphobic. He never ventured outside. He received meals and other necessities via delivery through a doggy door. The story didn’t offer much sympathy for this devil, but the shading of mental illness did invite some grace for his type: Behind every virtual troll there hides a real person who might be harboring some real pain that helps to explain his or her hostility. Simon used his virtual reality life to bite at the world, but his virtual life as an alienated shut-in was a biting reality, too. As Liv and Ravi loaded Cutler’s purpled corpulent corpse into the meat wagon, neighbors and lookee-loos crowded the sidewalks and pelted them with mean cracks about the dead. “Did he suffer?” asked one cold-blooded dude. “What the hell is wrong with these people?” Liv remarked. Ironic, given last week’s episode was all about her recovery from such glibness.
Ravi determined that Cutler died from a severe allergic reaction to nuts. Detective Babinaux speculated that a birthday card found at the scene exposed him to the allergen. It was one of those cards that flings confetti with a peanut-powder delivery system. Liv’s visions confirmed the hypothesis. Since it was nowhere near Cutler’s birthday, Clive suspected murder. He was right. The killer: Mister “Did He Suffer” was our killer. His life had been bitten by Cutler’s rude dog rabidity: His sister had been a customer service rep who failed to serve Cutler to his satisfaction. He responded by verbally ripping her to shreds with his scary SIM Reaper voice. She responded by posting a recording of the call online. He responded with a year of vicious harassment and hacking. Meddled with her tax records, gave her a criminal record, created photoshopped sex pics. The troll won. She despaired and jumped off The Aurora Bridge.* Her brother went batty with vengeance. He went online and found a nasty review Cutler had written about a donut shop in which he disclosed his nut allergy. He applied for jobs at three different donut delivery companies in Cutler’s area. He got one and brought him a pastry… and a confetti-flinging birthday card. In a chilly beat, Vigilante Bro had no regrets about the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars. “It was worth it,” he said.
*In an episode about trolls and trolling, a bridge reference was inevitable, and this choice of bridge was surely intentional: The Aurora Bridge has a famous troll underneath it, The Fremont Troll, a Seattle landmark. Rob Thomas and his writers definitely know their setting well.
NEXT: Liv’s in for a sick brain smoothie