Liv auditions for Watch What Happens Undead — and welcome back, Peyton!
Credit: Jack Rowand /The CW
S2 E3
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While iZombie’s tone can best be emoji-fied as the comedy and tragedy masks, its greatest theme is the big red question mark — a crimson blur between good and evil. Zombies equal bad, so says The Walking Dead, World War Z, Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later… Well, you get the point. But in the realm of iZombie, bad can be good, good can bad, and Liv is…conflicted. The closer she tries to get to people, the more alienated she feels: Major won’t return her calls, Ravi’s busy with his new paramour, her family has abandoned her, and Clive — who knows what he does when he isn’t asking questions to move the story along? (While we’re at it, can we toss him a B-plot? Or even a C-plot. Poor guy is less compelling than the corpses in the morgue.)

And just when you think it can’t get more depressing for Liv, it does. Nobody remembers her birthday. Well, no one except for Peyton, who leaves a very pastel, flowery un-Peyton-like cake in her fridge. Yes! Peyton’s back. And just in the knick of time. The heart-tugging moment Liv looked forlornly at a dress and said, “That belongs to someone. A long time ago, we used to be friends,” dredged up such Veronica Mars memories I had to hit pause and rewind. Twice. To be honest, I didn’t realize how much I’d missed Liv’s BFF until she shared her acknowledgement of Liv’s affliction with Ravi and sealed it by giving him a big hug. That and the look on Liv’s face were enough of a Welcome Back, Peyton banner for me.

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We do get some zombie rage this episode, which is a nice juxtaposition to Peyton’s return and a reminder of why she left in the first place. Still, it’s nice to see a case that has Liv forming a connection with someone, even if that someone is a mistress/stylist that took out a hit on her boyfriend Terrence’s L.A. society wife Taylor. Prissy Liv is rad, but besides the fun of bodycon dresses, gel nails, and super sass, this week’s brain was mostly pointless. Terrence, the Max Rager board member, however, did bring us one step closer to the sadistic mysteries of that evil corporation, the biggest bad of all. Yes, Team Rager is an even bigger bad than Blaine — who incidentally didn’t appear at all in this week’s episode…though I imagine him sitting at home with his feet up, sipping bourbon while watching Mr. Zombie DA announce on TV that Peyton will be heading up the new Utopium task force.

So, where does Major fall in all of this? The cocktail of self-loathing and a newly-acquired Utopium addiction are turning out to be a suicidal Sex on the Beach for Liv’s ex-fiancé. He spends hours improving his body, because he has no control over anything else. He hooks up with Gilda just to feel something because he’s numb. (No complaints from me if that’s what it takes to get a peek of those abs.) Much like Utopium — Is it an upper? A downer? A psychedelic? — Major can’t seem to make up his mind about the side effects of his human-zombie-human flip. And he’s only spiraling deeper as Max Rager blackmails him into plowing through his Murder Must List.

NEXT: Just when you thought Max Rager couldn’t get creepier…

The interwoven plots are getting increasingly intricate, displaying a confidence in storytelling that was more absent in the myth-setting first season. As we find out more of the twists and turns — Gilda is Vaughn Du Clark’s daughter? That makes their sexual tension 100 percent more creepy — and peel back layers of how vile Gilda and Vaughn can be, we also start to see more of a struggle in season 2 that could lead to Liv and Blaine teaming up to fight the bigger bad for the greater good. Guessing the zombified doctor that Vaughn keeps in his secret dungeon might have something to do with it.

A lot has to happen in 13 episodes, and there’s no time for lazy storytelling, extraneous characters, or meandering scenarios. There’s also very little room for silly, myth-building, How-I-Met-Your-Mother-lay-the-groundwork-for-the-long-con-joke fun. I was listening to a podcast with the Buffy writers recently where they were bemoaning the good old, 22-episode days when you could do one-offs (like “Doppelgangland” or “The Zeppo”). Instead, 10–13 episode seasons have made television like concentrated cold-brew coffee. It’s economical and potent, but you can’t drink it in one shot without adding some milk to cut the harshness. It’s a good thing we get a new character with Liv every week, or with the new 13-episode season model, the writers would barely be able to throw in any fun at all. (Note: The CW has ordered 5 more scripts, so an 18-episode season could give the clever iZombie writers the freedom to create a one-off or 2 that doesn’t strictly move the plot forward. Instead it sets up some potential long term gags to play with and gives a little love to superfans. Fingers crossed!)

For now, we can find joy in the plot twist guessing game, though. Could Peyton actually be a zombie? Could Gilda? (Probably not, because Major didn’t have his “zombie reaction” when either of them were in the room. Then again, he was so stoned, who can tell?) Will Ravi and Peyton get back together? What exactly is this Max Rager secret formula that drives Vaughn to be so disgustingly devious? And most importantly: Why isn’t Blaine in every episode?

Killer Lines:

“ A thief posting as a realtor. That seems like a lateral move.” —Ravi

Gilda: Shouldn’t you be working on something more than your pectoralis major, Major?

Major: You just missed my lower-body circuit. Do you know I think of you every time I squat?

“Turns out she’s got this Martha Stewart side to her, which combined with her raw honesty and lack of intellectual pretense is giving me a sense of emotional intimacy I haven’t felt in a long time.” —Ravi

Liv: I’ve never had a lady who lunches for lunch.

Ravi: She looks as tasty as she was tasteful.

Vaughn: There’s a reason I’m not getting hitched, detective.

Liv: Because you can’t marry your own reflection?

“These kind of women don’t need a phone to call a man, they just stand upwind and drop their panties.” —Liv

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