Liv feels neither super nor heroic
Credit: Katie Yu/The CW
S2 E9
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It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s…Liv’s identity crisis! And in its midseason finale, iZombie has chosen to tackle it, well, head on — leaping tall buildings with a single brain! — by feeding Liv a superhero cerebellum so her outer persona matches her inner need to save the day. Zombie chow may give Liv the opportunity to express her feelings and thoughts sans filter, but brains both sustain and control her. It’s a lethal combination and, for the audience, a revealing one. iZombie has done an amazing job of creating this expository loophole in which it can both show and tell without being heavy-handed.

I’ve talked at length about the strength of iZombie’s pacing, but it bears mentioning again, especially given the intensity of this episode. By making Liv a superhero, the writers have managed to again balance the gravity of a deeply pensive and soul-searching situation with wacky, improbable superhero humor (a real life superhero is unbelievable, but whenever someone finds out zombies are real, it’s a shrug and a “hey, did you get my last text?”). This week’s episode was loaded with drama, but with the delicate balance between dark monologues and Ravi’s reactions, Major’s pain and Liv’s superhero zingers, the show has become not only an expert in plot pacing, but an expert in emotional pacing as well.

It has also crafted an important narrative for Liv. We root for her to win and for everything to go back to normal. And as long as she’s Babineaux’s partner, helping solve crimes, she too can neglect her dark side. But take that away, and there’s only one question.

Who — or what — is Liv Moore if she can’t turn her zombie-ism into a force for good?

As Liv finally faces this internal struggle, everything that she’s fought so hard for suddenly becomes inconsequential. This season might as well have been subtitled “The Redemption of Liv,” as she finally began to claw her way (quite literally and disturbingly during this episode as she sires her second zombie) back up from the affliction that hijacked her life and happiness. This return to normalcy seemed like the perfect antidote, or a good enough substitute while the actual antidote was out of reach, but it took a desperate attempt to rekindle her former life to make Liv realize that it just wasn’t realistic anymore. It wasn’t enough.

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Nothing, it seems, is enough, as every decision she thinks that she’s making for the greater good leads her down a darker path. Liv saves Mr. Boss’s henchman by making him a zombie because Blaine says he’ll lead them to the tainted Utopium. After visions lead her to Boss’s warehouse full of guns, she attempts to be a superhero herself and Babineaux ends their partnership. Finally she calls it off with Major in an attempt at “if you love something, let it go free.”

It’s clear by the look on her face at the end of the episode that nothing has helped, but this week’s brain, which belonged to vigilante crime fighter The Fog, is the most revealing yet — and also the most devastating. Flipping the script, the story features a hero (The Fog) unknowingly rescuing a criminal (small-time thief Mary Contreras), who tries to kill a hero (Liv), who’s rescued by a villain (Mr. Boss). iZombie is at its best when it toys with the notion of good and bad. But ultimately, who’s the good guy, and who’s the bad one?

NEXT: Lingering questions for the rest of season 2

As Major tiptoes through the house of his latest prey — an Alison Brie doppelganger who turns out to be an unwitting zombie hooker — to the strains of Christmas music, he’s no doubt asking himself the same thing. Especially when he finds her sitting on a sheet of plastic about to blow her brains out. Before their heart to heart culminates in Major icing her with the others (if he wasn’t putting her in a freezer, I’d definitely say sparks were flying), she laments how horrible it is to have to take on the characteristics of people whose brains she eats. And finally, after all the fighting with Liv, he gets it. Or at least he thinks he does.

But Liv truly breaks it down for Major in the heart-tugging final scenes: If he can’t understand how to differentiate between Liv and brain of the week, then imagine how she feels. Lost. Unhinged. Confused. And if she can’t use her powers to help mankind, then what’s the point? (In case you didn’t get the metaphor, if Liv isn’t saving the world, she’s no better than a zombie hooker either.)

I feel like this is setting the stage for a major Liv/Blaine partnership in the second half of the season. Watching her scratch Drake, the henchman, with revulsion in order to save his life so he could score the tainted Utopium Ravi needs to make the antidote, you can see the anguish in her face. However, she did it anyway. And now Liv has to find a new way to do good, one that presumably won’t involve Babineaux.

Finally, just in case you’re worried there weren’t enough loose ends for a whiz-bang second half of the season opener (is it January yet???), Ravi’s rat has turned back into a zombie. Which means — say it with me — Major and Blaine aren’t safe either. Zombie apocalypse, here we come, right back where we started from.

Choice Cuts:

  • “All you have to do to summon Hashtag is to hashtag Hashtag.” —Babineaux
  • Mighty Whitey, Dr. Power, Dead Power, Dr. Dead, Old Scratchy. Ravi’s fanboy enthusiasm (and looks of absolutely glee) while creating superhero names for Liv was damn adorable.
  • Ravi: Climb on in. Scooch him forward.

    Liv: Are you serious?

    Ravi: Were you thinking I’d lay the body bag out and wait for The Fog to roll in?

  • Every time someone has to list all the things that happen when you turn into a zombie, they do it in such an awesomely eye-rolling way. “All the tropes,” says Blaine dismissively while giving Drake the lowdown.
  • “I’m sorry, I work at a cold pressed juicery during the day. I’m not taking on a crime lord.” —one of the crime-fighters by night
  • Liv: How do I know you didn’t call her from a landline?

    Major: Because it’s not 1987.

  • Either Ravi is getting all the best lines or he has the best delivery — or both.

Lingering Questions for the second half of season 2:

  • What the hell happened to Liv’s family? She was devastated when they rejected her, and then they disappeared. (Which is fine because they were the most annoying D-plot.)
  • Will Blaine and Peyton ever ignite those sparks? And when is the show going to make Peyton a regular already?
  • How is it that Major and Gilda/Rita are never in Liv’s apartment at the same time? Magic?
  • What’s Major going to do with his magic freezer?
  • Have we given up on the Meat Cute murders? (And what happened to Dale?)

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