I wasn’t sure if “Astroburger” was a spacey delight or a weak patty ep of iZombie until the final minutes. I appreciated from the get-go another story here in the final act of the season that integrated every aspect of the show—Liv’s case-of-the-week, Major’s dark knight detective moonlighting, Blaine’s Meat Cute biz. I was greatly amused by the profane little devil that hounded Liv throughout the hour—a hallucination of the Hellfire Cheesy Puffs mascot, a delusion brought on from eating the brain of this week’s murder victim, a mentally ill, high I.Q., pot-smoking drug dealer. Choice lines: “What’s with the complexion, girly girl? Mime class just get out?” and “EAT ME! EAT ME!”
But for the longest time, it was the only expression of this week’s “You Are What You Eat” gag. It didn’t feel like enough. It felt like iZombie was wasting an opportunity for inspired storytelling. Liv partnering with local weatherman Johnny Frost (returning Veronica Mars alum Daran Norris) to solve the crime? It felt like a stretch, and the more the show tried to entertain us with Frost’s phoniness and smarm, the less entertaining it became. And what was up with Major? Halfway through the episode, the broody hunk went from increasingly batty SJW to clear-headed, banter-happy rom-com superman. It paid off with a moving scene in which Liv finally told him she was a zombie, and he responded with such grace and compassion that she never dared dream possible…
Except it was a dream. Or rather, dreams within dreams. In the final moments, we realized that Johnny Frost was a delusion, a byproduct of cracked brain influence. To be honest, I began to suspect as much the more ridiculous Johnny became. (Sniffing the pot smoke-steeped couch was my tipping point.) But wait! There’s more! In a twist upon a twist, we realized that most of Liv’s interactions with Major during the episode were also hallucinations. (I say: The unreality started when Major abruptly came back after bailing on the aborted Vertigo-watching hang with Ravi and Peyton.) You suddenly realized the episode was much more complex than it appeared to be, that show wasn’t wasting an opportunity for cleverness but pushing it to the max. In the matter of spacey delight vs. weak patty, I rule for the former.
Scott E., this week’s dead meat, was a Utopium slinger who suffered a psychotic break on the night of the Lake Washington massacre. He was on the boat, slinging drugs. Saw the zombie attack. Snapped and got committed. During his seven months in the bughouse, Scott made an imaginary friend in the form of a crusty, cheeseball version of Satan, got super-chummy with the head shrink, the sexy-haughty Dr. Larsen, and during his final days, he became chess playing pals with Major. It was Major who found Scott dead in his bathtub, an apparent suicide. But things weren’t as Billy Bibbit as they seemed in the cuckoo’s nest. Scott had been murdered. The culprit was his own Nurse Ratched: Dr. Larsen had been secretly having sex with Scott in hopes of getting the baby that her impotent husband couldn’t give her. When Scott threatened to expose her, she killed him.
The devil that tormented Scott kept teasing Liv with the secret to the mystery once she ate Scott’s brain, but refused to divulge it. A legion of Hellfire bags inside a vending machine taunted her: “We know who the killer is! We know who the killer is!” (Hilarious.) Liv learned the truth while tracking down a key piece of evidence, Scott’s cell phone, which interested her for other reasons besides its value to the cause of justice: It held a video of the Lake Washington (zombie) Massacre. She had been told that Scott had sent to a local television reporter. Soon after, Johnny Frost showed up to identify the body. The weatherman claimed that Scott used to be his pot dealer, and that over the course of their illicit business relationship, he became something of an uncle-esque mentor to him. In retrospect, I wonder how much of this was true, and how much of it was Liv’s fleetingly cracked brain imagining things. In the latter scenario, Liv—influenced by the tip that Scott was in contact with a local TV reporter—conjured up the local TV reporter she knew best (Frost, a key player in iZombie’s pilot), and this avatar became encoded with Scott’s secrets, which Imaginary Johnny doled out cryptically. (Specifically: His insistent, erroneous weather forecast —63 degrees, 17 Celsius turned out to be the code that unlocked Scott’s phone.) Regardless, Imaginary Johnny played psychpomp, guiding Liv through the hell of Scott’s life and mind toward enlightenment. She found the phone in the home of an orderly who worked at Blooming Grove and who was ripping off the patients, and said orderly squealed on Dr. Larsen. Case closed.
NEXT: A Major role in the episode
Liv wasn’t the only one hunting for Scott’s phone. Major—continuing to play lone nut hero; desperate to prove his sanity by proving (or disproving) Scott’s zombie blatherings—wanted it, too. So did Blaine and The Candyman. Blaine—who knew Scott, even visited him in the asylum to play chess (allegedly)—didn’t want the video of the Lake Washington Massacre to fall into the wrong hands, lest it expose him and kill his business selling gourmet gray matter to the undead. Major and Blaine nearly crossed paths at Scott’s apartment, but Major got away, and more, took advantage of an opportunity to find Blaine’s HQ by… secreting himself inside the trunk of his car. It was a ridiculously risky—and just plain ridiculous—thing to do. Regardless, Major now knows that Blaine hides out at the Meat Cute—and he’s figured out for himself that Blaine and The Candyman are zombies, selling the brains of murdered street kids (and one astronaut) to rich revenants. “I’m not crazy. It’s the world that’s gone crazy,” he told Liv, showing her a bag of pricy astronaut brains swiped from a Meat Cute deliveryman. “I’m going to kill them all. I’m going to kill them all!” And with that, our dark knight appears poised to become Dirty Harry. I love how iZombie has become the two complimentary/competing stories about heroism. But where zombie Liv regains her humanity through her adventures, Major is losing his mind, morals, and soul. It’ll be interesting to see where their arcs land by season’s end.
Other Choice Cuts: