Out of sheer curiosity, I tuned into iZombie the night of its series premiere with nothing but a simple thirst for a guilty pleasure. As a fan of The Walking Dead (the TV series, as I haven’t yet read the comics) and an avid glutton for meta-inspired serialized shows in general (I.E. Supernatural, The Flash, etc.,) I was hoping for something that would put an amusing, comical cap on my Tuesday nights. That pilot episode was light in tone, didn’t take itself too seriously, and hinted at multiple season-long story arcs that would help establish the world and the characters involved. Without a doubt, I felt satisfied in investing an hour of my time giving it a shot to make a first impression, as it was everything I was looking for, and more.
Flash-forward an entire season of iZombie, and I can confidently proclaim with pride that it has swiftly assured itself as one of the best television shows out there right now. The cast is fantastic, the script sensationally comedic and sharp, and the writing/direction of it all perfectly encompasses everything its pilot episode brought to the table. In addition, very few other television series have been able to juggle as many revelations and shifts to overarching story arcs with the same amount of grace. This is a truly special watch; one facing more scrutiny for its ratings than its overall quality.
Season 2, for as good as last season’s struggle to weave open a happy ending to Liv Moore’s (Rose McIvory) central troubles wound up becoming, overshadows it almost entirely with perhaps the best season premiere of the year. For all that iZombie needed to cover in the span of 43 minutes, it effortlessly brings us up to speed, charms and gut-wrenches its way to the finish line, and braces us for what’s to come.
There are so many great things about “Grumpy Old Liv” that I could start at any point in the episode and go on for hours about what made it work. The aftermath of last season’s insanely dark finale somehow managed to raise the stakes to a whole new level, beginning with Liv’s selfishness towards Major and reluctance to reveal her zombie-like state to her family tearing down all the remaining happiness she ever had. Right from the start, we’re reminding that, even despite three months being passed since Liv refused to donate blood to her ailing brother following the events at the Meat Cute deli, her silence has driven a perpetual wedge between her and her family. Liv’s mother is unwilling to forgive her without a definitive explanation for the extended cold shoulder – something Liv simply cannot construct at this given moment. Her brother doesn’t even want her around, shunning her from his hospital bed almost instinctually. These were growing concerns from last season that Liv has yet to come to a prominent solution for, and it all still revolves around the fact that she walks among the undead now. So long as she is unable to come out and voice her disposition to her loved ones, those same loved ones will continue to distance themselves from her just as much. It’s almost fitting having an episode as daring and blunt as this one subvert expectations and stick to its guns in this regard, especially after seeing The Flash almost suddenly rally the troops for the sake of its main character.
As amazing as it sounds, Liv’s family weren’t the only ones who’ve turned the other cheek. Major continues to fret over her decision to zomb-ify and de-zomb-ify him without his consent, and Peyton’s still (!) gone and nowhere to be found. These were the only two human characters not named Ravi who Liv brought to light about her zombie-ness, and given Major’s relationship with her and his insistence to rid of zombies, as well as Peyton’s lack of knowledge pertaining to the increasing threat of zombies across the nation (which is heightened by the fact that she was only aware of zombies as a fictional entity on television,) these were natural, realistic responses. But we don’t expect natural, realistic responses in a comic book-inspired television series.
That is what helped make last season’s finale (let alone the season as a whole) so powerful, and the fact that both characters have failed to let it go and move on speaks to the writing of the show. Other series don’t even attempt to stretch out these sort of implications; they either get buried under the rug in a time frame, or miraculously removed through contrived circumstances. That we can experience these heartbreaking scenes with our lead protagonist, understand the reality of the situation if all hope is lost, and still wind up feeling the weight of a bulldozer in our chests when we’ve waited for months on end just to learn that there truly was no resolve for such a grand series of events is an excellent way to bring us back into the fold. It solidifies the weight of Liv’s current situation without throwing her a bone just because. It considers the risk of her decisions initially and paints the long-term picture as it was intended to be colored. Most important: It reinforces the ideal that iZombie does give a shit about smiles and happy endings if it doesn’t agree with the trials and tribulations brought forth upon its lead character.
This emotional struggle alone would’ve made “Grumpy Old Liv” one of the best episodes the series has had yet, but it didn’t stop there. Blaire’s regression back into his human form has done little to keep him out of the picture, and iZombie immediately demonstrates his ever-volatile role to the overarching story at hand. His new kingpin hold at that funeral reintroduces his natural ability to lead herds and flocks, and learning that he’s got a firm grasp on large loads of zombie utopium insists that he’ll play just as huge a part into the central conflict than he did a season ago. Time will tell, however, if Liv’s cure from the finale episode indeed prints a shelf life on Blaire, and I’m curious to see if such will speed up his utopium distribution (I mean, he did reach out to the same guy who supplied him on that fatal boat cruise.) Nonetheless, Blaine was as awesome as he’s ever been, and David Anders was in top form, relaying that exact same perfect balance of charismatic and threatening that soared his character above all others. I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do next.
Major’s story arc has taken the most twists and turns out of anyone else’s by a large margin, and sadly his well-being proceeded to take a nosedive this week. Gone are the days where he played Big Brother and had impoverished intercity kids looking up to him as a role model. In are the restless nights of being a seemingly reluctant personal trainer, and a hired gun for Max Rager. The differences for some may simply look like it’s purely circumstance, but Major’s definitely chosen this path because of his recent ordeals. iZombie rightfully refused to throw his prejudice for zombies out the window, and instead is allowing it to be fueled by Max Rager’s goal of ridding them for good as well.
Knowing what we know about Vaughn Du Clark, his countless lawsuits and the drink itself, we’re not talking about a glorified mash-up of heroes, here – innocent blood will have to be shed, and precious psychological costs will have to be spent. Major already appears to be loathing himself on his first night on the job, and learning that Gilda’s not only feeding Clark with sensitive information provided by Liv (which she’s obtained by moving into Liv’s house as her new roommate) but is also dangling it over his conscience justifies the threat they pose on both him and those closest to him. In other words, Major has absolutely no other choice if he or his loved ones are to stay alive in this world, and it’s painful to acknowledge. To see such a nice guy be undone by forces beyond his control is one thing, but the initial results of his new conflicts so far this season suggest his dark road has yet to be paved – another bold, calculated move by iZombie.
One wonders how far Liv will to go in order for her luck to turn around, but before we get there let’s give Rose McIvory another huge round of applause for an Emmy-level performance this week. Whether she was battling her emotions or playing the part of a senile old man after eating some more brains, she was once again a deeply profound force throughout the episode. Considering the fact that she barely got a single win in this episode, we got to experience Liv at her absolute worst, both through that empty, afraid glare at her brother in the IV room, and her desperate phone call to Major regarding the Meat Cafe shootout. This was balanced out beautifully by some of the funniest lines of dialogue the series has ever had. Liv’s featured brains this week drove her into mimicking the behavior (and language) of a decrepit cynic, and my God did McIvory bring it home (The scene in the interrogation room, in particular, was ridiculously funny.)
For all the right reasons, it was the perfect call for Liv to be in this state because it seamlessly bled onto the rest of the episode. She had to contend with the negative energy swarming around her new brain, which initially drove her away from making amends with her family. In addition, she had to wrestle with the instilled notion that she could possibly move on from her troubles by resorting to cynicism. Her emotional plight beginning and finishing this episode all relates to her time spent making (inadvertently) racist remarks and insulting other’s clothing styles. As hilarious as grandpa Liv was, there’s no doubting the silver lining of sadness underlined from the very beginning, and it was a glorious watch seeing how she managed to handle it.
Even the case-of-the-week benefited from Liv’s new personality, as it played off more as a comedic vacation from the real meat of the episode instead of taking over (which I don’t mind at all, considering the cases-of-the-week are usually dry anyway.) There’s also Clive’s interest over the Meat Cute shootout and his suspicions, which now puts an added layer of concerns on both Liv and Major’s plates. I’m really hoping that he gets wise to what really happened sooner or later, because it’s getting a little overwhelming how we’re still supposed to believe that he’s oblivious to Liv’s “mood swings” or ignorant of all that Major warned him about regarding Blaine and his old thugs. (Also, why can’t Liv and Ravi just wheel him into their littl disposition already?) It’s going to sting when he eventually finds out about everything zombie-related, but given the impending threat those zombie-related facts and events are starting to spew, it may be best for our heroes to let him in on what’s really going on.
“Grumpy Old Liv” was more than just a season premiere, and throughout the course of the episode we were constantly reminded that iZombie is more daring than most other television series in a lot of areas. It puts everything into perspective by using a raw storytelling approach that’s admirable because it never reaches, and engaging because it never falls out of context. What’s done in Season 1 is done, and this season ensures that there are ample consequences across the board. Liv’s experiencing that first-hand, and regardless of how hard she fights to make things right, life for Ms. Moore will never be the same. If you’ve yet to check out iZombie and are curious, believe me when i tell you that you are missing out on some truly great television.
+Rose McIvory’s grade-A performance
+Major’s downturn continues
+Blaire, Max Rager making pivotal moves
+Excellent balance of levity and obscurity