Hey remember when iZombie was a fun procedural, full of quippy rejoinders and feel good life lessons? Yeah, not anymore. In back to back game changers, 1×09 and 1×10 deliver the most emotionally complex episodes this season as we move into the home stretch.
Why are these episodes being reviewed together? Firstly, because the episodes transition seamlessly, and secondly, I wanted to follow the central emotional thread through its payoff. And oh holy crap how the stakes are raised; Liv’s determination to end Blaine’s reign of terror is welcome and we never expect Lowell to be collateral damage. Liv’s relationship with Lowell might be fairly new but the investment we have in their happy ending in 1×09 is deftly handles by writer Rob Forman. Previously we were unsure and untrusting of Lowell’s motives after finding he was a regular customer of Blaine. This episode he is genuinely horrified, just as Liv is at his complacency. It is willful ignorance, she says, because the memories and flashbacks are all there, Lowell just refuses to see them.
I love that we get a glimpse of Liv’s privileged fury as she condemns Lowell for his naivety. She is so righteous, but does she have a right to be? She has never had to struggle for brains, and struggle with the consequences of not getting them. Lowell didn’t take responsibility until confronted by Liv, true, but his honest horror provokes empathy for his dilemma.
Ravi brings this up, providing Liv once again with a moral touchstone she can clutch as her world spins wildly out of control. When you can’t even trust your own reactions as your own, who do you rely on? The relationship between Ravi and Liv has consistently evolved each episode from camaraderie to a solid commitment to each other. There is a sense of them being in this together, Ravi as the most tangible tie she has to her human self. It would have been something lost had Ravi been zombiefied but thanks goodness iZombie doesn’t choose to explore that direction…yet.
Bradley James is amazing and noble in his portrayal of Lowell, and brings a dignity to the role reminiscent of his more somber moments on Merlin. Forman knows just how to use him as well, and his silent goodbye to Liv is one of the most poignant emotional beats I have seen this television season. When Liv can’t bring herself to break her Hippocratic oath (another well handled beat that shows commitment to character), Lowell tries to kill Blaine himself. Due to Liv’s inaction, Blaine shoots him in the head, execution style. It is a horrifying moment, and one that will carry ramifications for all our main characters. In what has become a great first season, it stands out as possibly my favorite scene thus far. If this is truly the last we’ve seen of Lowell and Bradley James, he left the show better for having him. But I can’t help but hope he’s on ice somewhere waiting for the season finale.
The procedural half of 1×09 is passable, mostly filler. But 1×10 melds the brain of the week murder mystery with the season arc. Remember Max Rager, the sketchy as hell energy drink company that murdered Liv’s friend back in episode five? They’re back and sketchier than ever. Rebecca Hinton, the reporter who had been helping Major with the story about the missing kids turns up dead, with notes on incidences of Max Rager fueled homicidal rage outs. It’s looking more and more likely Max Rager is not only behind the zombie outbreak, but is covering it up for profit. No one likes when their energy drink energized them to the point of murder! Max Rager has their own zombies on the payroll and in the ring with Rebecca’s “second source” turns out to be the devastatingly handsome a psychopathic zombie, Sebastian Meyer.
In the midst of these revelations is Liv, battling with the consequences of Lowell’s murder. Earlier in the season I wondered how iZombie would be able to balance both the procedural aspect once the season long arc ramped up. Here we have a seamless mash up, with the comedic aspects of Liv’s new brain turned sour as she pours herself into any distraction from Lowell. How tempting it is, to become someone else, to turn away from your self, when tragedy strikes. Worse still is that the police suspect Liv as the murderer, only Suzuki’s timely intervention prevents them from thoroughly investigating Liv’s whereabouts, and confirms him on Team Blaine.
Major has come a long way from his Golden Boy love interest days. Robert Buckley is as good as he’s ever been in this episode, balancing Major’s determination to discover what’s going on with his gradual fear of his mental competence. It’s tragic, to know what this is doing to him, and what a good ally he could be if given a chance. I have never been as furious as Ravi as I was in the moment he didn’t come clean to Major. I suppose it isn’t his secret to tell, and Rahul Kohli plays the conflict admirably, turning, in the next moment to admonish Liv for now unnecessary secrecy. Once again, he is the moral compass to Liv’s unreliable narrator and the emotional rock she needs. Liv, however, doesn’t see it his way and, fresh off of losing one love interest, she is reluctant to put Major in the middle of what’s shaping up to be a zombie throw down. Something tell me that Major’s involvement is inevitable, and he is finally brought in on the secret by fellow mental institution inhabitant Scott E.
It’s a three-way (unless Blaine works for Max Rager) zombie fight moving into the last three episodes. iZombie has brought the tears and pain with these two episodes and the stakes will only raise as the season ends. Liv is finally ready to kill Blaine, Major may be finally clued in, and Ravi is closer than ever to finding the cure. Bring it.
10/10 for Lowell’s final scene