Review: 'iZombie' doesn't always make sense, but that really doesn't matter
I haven't checked in on iZombie in a while, so let's talk about last night's episode — and season 2 as a whole as we wait for next week's finale — coming up just as soon as I clear cases like Frank Drebin but get treated like Nordberg...
"Reflections of the Way Liv Used to Be" was the first iZombie episode I can recall to not use the full (and excellent) opening credits sequence, which is a move shows make when an hour is particularly busy. Given all the stories the show has been spinning this year about Max Rager, Major's side career turning zombies into popsicles, the war for Seattle drug supremacy, Ravi working on a cure, etc., not to mention how much time the Brain of the Week mystery eats up, it's a wonder the show doesn't have to shave down those credits every week to fit everything in.
If I'm being honest, there are large swaths of the plot I've lost at this point. If you were to ask me to diagram all the players in the Blaine/Mr. Boss rivalry and their loyalties, I wouldn't have a hope of doing it(*). And the cases Clive and Liv work continue to be hit or miss: there to provide necessary structure to each episode, and give Rose McIver different personalities to play, but (in part because Clive remains out of the zombie loop) less fun than most any other corner of the series.
(*) I suspect that if I was taking the kind of detailed notes I do on shows I review weekly, I might be able to keep track of it all. And I won't be surprised at all if some of you say you've got it on lock without writing down a single thing. But it's still a lot to have to mentally diagram on a show that otherwise isn't aiming for the narrative complexity of something like The Wire.
With a lot of shows, ambivalent feelings about the main storytelling device and one of that season's big story arcs might be enough to get me to drop it and move onto one of the three dozen others I've been meaning to catch up on. But it's a credit to everything else that Rob Thomas(**), Diane Ruggiero-Wright and company are doing that I'm not especially bothered by the parts I don't love. The characters and character arcs are so well-drawn, the dialogue is as sharp as Thomas and Ruggiero-Wright's best stuff on Veronica Mars, and the show consistently manages to build to big emotional moments involving the web of lies everyone is spinning about their role in this slow-burn zombie apocalypse. Be fun, be entertaining, and make me care about the people on your show, and consistency and/or comprehensibility of your plot becomes much less essential.
(**) The writer, not the singer, and that's about to become more confusing (and/or amusing) now that the latter is singing the jingle for Super Max.
"Reflections" does a nice job of moving various pieces into place for the finale, with the FBI finally getting wise to Major being the Chaos Killer, right as Vaughn is on the verge of learning that Major is really more like the Chaos Kidnapper, all while Blaine starts to learn who and what he really was before Ravi's latest cure scrambled his memory. The latter piece is an interesting one, because iZombie is at a point with Blaine that Buffy once was with Spike, in terms of having a character the fans really enjoy whom the other characters should want to murder on sight, and the show not only needs a way to keep him in play, but keep forcing the heroes to interact with him. For a while, the show used the threat of Blaine's clients all going hungry and eating Seattle's human population as the reason for detente between the morgue and the funeral home, but if the memory wipe sticks — and Blaine essentially becomes, as Major notes when he expresses reluctance at taking the cure, a new person — it might be a way to justify having him become even more a part of this particular Scooby gang. It's not ideal, but this creative team dealt with similar with Dick Casablancas on Veronica Mars (who, remember, tried to arrange for Veronica to be raped once) without even putting this much due diligence.
Vaughn may be harder to keep in play long-term, but the show is having a ton of fun with Steven Weber while he's around, and then pivoting smoothly into darker territory with Vaughn keeping his own daughter prisoner (after previously allowing her to get bitten by a zombie) while he talks half-heartedly about finding a cure of his own.
Major's arrest, meanwhile, will hopefully finally let Clive in on some of the zombie news, if not all of it. This isn't exactly a superhero show, but it does grapple with the same secret identity issues that a Flash or Supergirl does, and we have ample evidence from those shows (as well as from past episodes of this one) that characters who are in on the secret are virtually always more interesting and easier to write for than ones who don't know. (Knowing exactly how and why Liv gets her visions would also surely give some extra pep to the murder investigations.)
There's a lot for the show to resolve next week, even if some stories are meant to carry over to next season. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to follow every detail of what's happening, but I suspect I'm going to have a big smile on my face for most of it.
What has everybody thought of the season so far? What are you hoping for from the finale, beyond more of The Other Rob Thomas?