If the past few episodes of iZombie have been puzzles wrapped in enigmas, laced into straight jackets, locked up in chains, and sealed into an underwater box, “Abra Cadaver” is a simple card trick: entertaining but just a slight of hand to distract you from the big show to come. Perhaps I’ve gotten a bit used to the supersized serialization this season, and a just-the-facts-ma’am episode is a little too dead for my undead, adventure-seeking soul. Even setting it in the world of magic and illusion didn’t give me the drama I’ve come to crave. But my zombie sense tells me that this set-up structure will ultimately lead to one hell of a ta-da.
As for the case of the week: Magician — and Criss Angel lookalike — Sid Wicked is found murdered in his hotel room, a metal playing card having sliced his jugular. Security tapes show that no one except the maid that found him entered the room at the time of his death. Wicked, staying at the hotel for the Prestofest, a convention of illusionists and their ilk, was universally hated among the prestidigitation set. And we get many magic moments before the red herrings — one quite literally — lead us to Smoak and Meers, a Penn & Teller rip-off who killed Wicked because he threatened to reveal the secret behind their greatest trick. For the first time in a while, the case of the week is strictly procedural, and there’s no carry-over toward the greater storytelling arc of the season.
Liv does deliver some pretty dope card tricks, though. (Apparently Rose McIver learned real tricks for the show.) “This is the best brain ever. I almost want to start killing magicians so it never ends,” says Ravi. And the cerebellum snackage gives her a stockpile of soliloquies that are a forlornly corny cross between an emo teen and a death-obsessed carnival barker. But it feels like the episode lacks the pacing that’s become an iZombie hallmark.
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I know I’ve been begging for a good, old-fashioned one-off, but a week without bad guys is like a meal without brains. Whither Max Rager? Whither Gilda/Rita? Whither the race for tainted Utopium? Whither Stacey Boss? Where have all the villains gone? It’s not as much fun to root for the good guys when there are no bad guys in sight. I’m aware that a set-up episode leads to an amazing next one, but man, I miss the creepy parts.
Perhaps, though, the pacing is, in fact, unsettling enough. Everyone seems just a little too comfortable with the status quo. Major, the understanding boyfriend, is totally fine with heavy petting and his GF mood-swinging on the brain of the week. Ravi and Blaine seem to have halted their search of the magic Utopium cure. Peyton talks about Liv’s zombie rage like it’s bad PMS. And it’s a little weird that Ravi is so eager to talk to Peyton about his relationship, especially after drooling over her booty-shaking, smoothie-making morning routine. (Equal time for Major’s abs, I suppose.)
On top of it all, Liv acquiesces to partnering with Blaine just a little too easily. (Although “Help me Zombie-Wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope” would win me over, too.) Don’t get me wrong, I was stoked to see Blaine and Liv team up to fight for the greater good. I’m all for Law and Order: iZombie, in which we get our own Benson and Stabler — even if they do have drastically different agendas: Liv wanting to, well, live, and Blaine wanting to make a buck. But why is everybody so disturbingly mellow all of the sudden? Bring on the spice!
NEXT: Blaine mentally charms the pants off Peyton