iZombie recap: Patriot Brains
Can Liv become a killer?
“Patriot Brains”—a story with American Sniper on the mind among many other weighty things—saw Liv Moore traverse a rite of passage every developing hero must face as they decide what kind of agent of justice they want to be in the world: the question of killing. Is it ever permissible to take a life to save a life? Who should decide such a thing? Does pulling a trigger for the greater good make you a do-gooder… or just another murderer? This week’s iZombie explored these questions a few others attending them—including the matter of the everyman’s culpability in a culture willing to kill to survive and thrive—and charged them with political resonance, from issues of systemic economic and class injustice to gun safety to some of our recent wars. In the biggest test of character yet for our rehumanizing hero, Liv found herself behind the scope of a high-powered rifle with a chance to put down big bad Blaine, destroyer of innocents and purveyor of haute head cuisine. The drama made for one of iZombie’s best outings yet.
This Week’s Dead Meat: Everett Adams, 28, was a former Army Ranger and sniper who served in Afghanistan. He was shot and killed on a battlefield—a paintball battlefield. But shot with real bullets, not paintball pellets. (The fun of virtual bloodshed forced to confront the horror of real bloodshed—from videogames to drone warfare—one of several sub-themes of the episode.)
Everett had been on an outing with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, an organization for which Everett volunteered. The kid he mentored, a boy named Harris, was gutted by Everett’s death. With his scary glower, Harris reminded me of doofus innocent-turned-fritzing killing machine Vincent D’Onofrio in Full Metal Jacket. Repeat after me: I am in a world of s–t. We wondered if he might be a suspect: We met him as he was mindlessly clicking his air rifle. It wasn’t clear if he was suffering from shock of what he had seen or what he had done. It was the former. Harris idolized Everett, although perhaps for the wrong reasons, or at least very deadly reason Everett kept under his bed, a sweet looking sniper rifle that Harris thought was absolutely sick.
But Everett was a complicated role model for Everett or any wannabe hero to emulate. The war damaged him. He left Afghanistan with PTSD. His volatile temper and refusal to get help scared his wife into a divorce, taking his daughter, Anna, with him. When Penny remarried to a successful tech industry pro named Sean (played by Veronica Mars alum Percy Daggs III; Wallace!), and as Sean became a loving parent to Anna, Everett got jealous, and suddenly, suspiciously became interested in being super-dad, a bit of hypocrisy that rankled Penny and Sean. The day that changed everything was the day Everett—in the grip of ballistic anger—assaulted Sean in front of his daughter. It took Penny pulling a knife on him as well as Anna’s terrified screams for him to stand down and retreat in shame.
As the portrait of a morally ambiguous man whose damaged personality posed a threat to those he both loved and loathed became clear, it seemed everyone could be a suspect, with self-defense—or pre-emptive defense (like, say, a country striking against a terrorist nation)—as a likely motive. But the truth was complicated by greedy self-interest (like, say, a country striking against a terrorist nation that also happens to be a chief supplier of the fuel that makes said country run) and a personality wired for vengeance, like, say… oh, do I have to spell it out? (Oh, but I will: Not for nothing, I think, that our killer turned out be employed by “Eufreighteze,” a drone delivery company named after the river that runs through the Middle East, including Iraq. The linking of American foreign wars that claim to protect our way of life to American consumer culture was possibly the most subversive beats in this provocative episode.)
Techno-egghead Sean was a very clever nerd. An ambitious and resentful one, too. When his neighbor dared to call the cops to complain about the noise, Sean hacked into the automated operating systems of the neighbor’s house—the lights, the sprinklers—and made them go haywire. And when Everett beat him up, and more, threatened a custody battle over Anna that in turn threatened his big new job opportunity working for a drone delivery service in Silicon Valley, Sean made a drone work for him—by executing an air strike against Everett, shooting him dead on the (paintball) battlefield while also attending a business meeting. Now that’s multitasking.
You Are Who You Eat. Talk about post-traumatic stress: Liv was still reeling from the flashes of Jerome’s murder—acquired via eating the bits of his brain in her morning-after-boning-Lowell breakfast omelet—when she scarfed down Everett’s quagmire-fogged gray matter to help solve his murder. Soon she found herself standing at attention and saying things like “I got your six, Ravi!”
She also found herself more activated than ever to take out the evildoer-in-chief turning street kid brains into eat-the-poor meals for filthy rich zombies. But getting to Blaine meant going through the only person she knew that had direct access to him. Liv wasn’t too keen on engaging Lowell, not after learning he had been lying to get about the pipeline that was feeding him—it was Blaine, not a local funeral home—and therefore should’ve known that Blaine was frakking kid skulls to acquire his rich crude. Lowell pled ignorance, which Liv neither believed nor accepted. In perhaps one the show’s best scenes yet, Lowell won her back by confessing his culpability and renouncing ignorance as an excuse. No, he had nothing to do with Blaine’s murder harvesting, but he knew where his food was coming from and chose to live in willful denial; the blood of the butchered innocent and desperate was on his privileged hands and nourishing his rich if slow-moving blue blood. “I was a coward,” he said. “Blaine killed those kids and I ate those brains and I am sorry.” Zombie Lowell, penitent consumer, taking responsibility for his bad citizenship. We need more reflection like that from our Patriot Brains.
Liv was certainly moved. And she was further convinced of his sincerity by his palpable abhorrence for exploitative, profoundly unjust zombie economy in general. “We eat people,” he said. “We eat people.” Then they consummated their renewed bond by sharing the brain of a dead English teacher and humping. I love this show.
NEXT: Liv is ready to kill … or not
United in their desire to stop Blaine, by any means necessary, Liv came to a logical conclusion: “Blaine has to die. I am going to kill him.” It was a chilling declaration, but whose logic was talking here: Everett’s or her own? For now, it didn’t matter. Lowell offered to help. He couldn’t pull the trigger (“I probably shouldn’t say this to the woman I love, but I’m a weenie”), but he came up with a plan that could set up Blaine for assassination.
Back when Blaine zombified Lowell by scratching him, they had bonded over a shared passion for music. (We learned in this episode that Blaine was a big Nirvana fan; his own innocence lost/childhood’s end moment was the day Kurt Cobain shot himself.) Blaine had been keen to jam with burgeoning rock star Lowell. Now, Lowell would make the dream come true, just to kill him with it.
But the plan backfired. With Blaine and Lowell grilling some brain steaks and geeking out, Liv couldn’t bring herself to put a bullet in Blaine’s head from her sniper’s perch one building over. Perhaps it was Everett’s influence waning. Perhaps it was her conscience. Recalling her Hippocratic Oath, Liv decided she wouldn’t be a hypocrite. “If you kill a virus you are a doctor,” she mused. “If you kill a person, you know who you will be. A killer.”
Lowell respected Liv’s choice. But he decided to make another one. Overcoming his weenie-ness, Lowell tried to stab Blaine. He made contact, but not enough. Blaine pulled his gun and fired point blank into Lowell’s face. “You’re a lousy host.” BANG!
We never saw Lowell’s body. Can our heroic weenie survive the big meanie’s assassination? A reason for hope came from Major’s story line. iZombie continues to use Major’s story line to question the wisdom and celebration of vigilante justice in an age of superhero narratives. Major continued hunting Julien The Candyman by working the brain angle. He became convinced that the bodybuilding rogue was eating noggins to benefit from enzymes that could also, theoretically, help build up muscle mass. Brains: the ultimate steroid. His theory was met with derision by the trailers at a local gym, but their mockery reached Julien’s ears. The goon realized Major needed to be neutralized ASAP. Blaine agreed and ordered the hit. But the altercation between Major and The Candyman didn’t go well for either of them. Major—who bought a gun for self protection—managed to shoot and seemingly kill home invading-Julien. But Julien disappeared before Detective Babinaux could investigate. Clive questioned Major’s increasingly fraught state of mind; we were left to question whether zombie rules that let The Candyman survive gunshots might also apply to our friend Lowell.
Other key developments:
- At present, Ravi—bitten last week by his zombie mouse—still isn’t a zombie. We might wonder the significance should Ravi never become a zombie. It could mean that the zombie-causing agent he developed in his lab is different than the zombie-causing agent that made infectious patient zero, Blaine. Or it could mean that Ravi’s simple theory that zombie can’t pass between species is correct. Or it could mean that Ravi is TOTALLY A WEREWOLF. My other crazy theory: Ravi has secretly been a zombie all along and the mouse bite cured him.
- Blaine met with his wealthiest, most powerful customer, a space-crazed man named Kaiser (or not; I didn’t catch his name) who claimed to want to present Blaine with a business proposition. This was only true in a manner of speaking: He was sick of eating Blaine’s sad kid noodles and was willing to pay anything to dine on a better class of noodle. Specifically: the brain of his favorite astronaut. “Bring me the brain of Alan York.”
- Blaine’s mobile menu for his customers: “Motor Cortex Asada,” “Basil Parietal Terrine,” “Cerebellum Sashimi,” and “Limbic Gulai Otak.” Gotta admit, the sound of Blaine’s brain food does make me hungry. While I go “jam with my neighbor,” I invite you to opine and theorize in the message boards below.