No matter how many different story arcs it wishes to tackle, iZombie seems prepared to sew them all together with effortless mastery even before we get a chance to see them materialize. This season in particular has juggled far too many subplots on its own, yet it never seems that way because of the razor-sharp writing and carefully balanced use of the characters.
“The Whopper”, like practically every other installment in the series’s sophomore outing, is enveloped in this beautiful balance. Whether we’re given more insight into Blaine’s motivations via his parents, or watching Liv and Ravi desperately yearn for a reliable zombie cure – the show finds itself well aware of both the comedic and tragic elements it self-created. And because it’s spent its time layering out all of the different conflicts on hand, the various ways those conflicts clash wind up the result of nothing less than the product of brilliant payoff and skillful calculation.
Take Blaine’s reunion with his father, for example. Independent of the week’s latest case, he gets an episode’s worth of material that builds up to a rather poetic encounter with Angus, with the show rightfully utilizing David Anders’s exclusive charm and restrained malice. Some of his best work yet comes from said encounter; a character moment so rich in tangible history and ever-present pathos that it becomes impossible not to at least moderately sympathize with this opium-selling son-of-a-gun. Here, it’s confirmed that Blaine was definitely abused as a young boy, and it appears that the pain his nanny had dished out perpetually scarred him – suggesting that Blaine has supposedly lived his whole life mindful of a childhood that was lost to compulsory obedience. Even worse is the will Angus left in the wake of his eventual passing, yielding a vast majority of his inheritance to that same nanny under strict circumstances.
Therefore, Blaine’s payback – filled with makeup art and a hilarious bullshitting of a fifty-year jump in time and a fake apocalypse – is the episode’s high point, but it wouldn’t have gotten there without the help of a familiar face. This week marks the first time Major crosses paths with Blaine since the indelible Meat Cute showdown from the season one finale – with Blaine the arbitrator on behalf of Don E and Chief catching him lurking around the funeral home. Their character arcs could not have converged at a more convenient time, with Blaine fighting for an inheritance he thinks he deserves and Major trying his best to protect his friends and his self. They satisfy each other’s needs, and the mutual agreement they come to terms with seeks to benefit both ends in the long run.
Unfortunately for Major, that means he’s now adding Blaine to the list of scheming, greedy employers. If you thought he had some corners left to cut before – think again. There’s no way out of his predicament, and the threat level both Blaine and Vaughn Du Clark represent to his friends and family leave him no choice. iZombie has done a terrific job illustrating Major’s struggle to avoid killing while maintaining his reputation with Max Rager, so I’m all aboard for whatever his latest venture with Blaine will lead to down the line.
As for the case-of-the-week on the other side of the spectrum: I’ll be quick to note that I liked it a whole lot more than I should’ve. Despite the irritating incoherence behind the case itself (the short of it being that the body Ravi and Major found in that large crop field wound up having a integral connection to a Boss-sanctioned murder, a hitman hiding in the woods, and the same Drake character who’s dating Liv while doing dirty work for both Boss and Blaine), I loved how it seamlessly flowed into the overarching story arc of the season. The whole aspect of lying to others and the emotional effects it could have was a brilliant way of linking Liv’s new brain to both her relationship with Drake, and the cloud of secrets held by her and Major. Predictably, the brain itself lent to the pathological lying the victim was notorious for – and also very predictably, Rose McIver ran away with the script with hilarious, occasionally stirring results.
In addition, Drake’s role in all of this was heavily questioned, as we found out just how integral a chess player he’s become on both sides of the board. Like Liv, it’s almost impossible for us not to have doubts over his integrity – yet more intriguing is the uncertainty over which side of this conflict he’s really on. Even while iZombie continues to answer more and more questions, it somehow finds this magical way of holding back enough for us to inquire upon where the show is headed next.
Here are a few more notes I’d like to cover in regards to this week’s episode:
- The two scenes that bookend this episode are absolutely fantastic. The intro scene where Major’s listening to that damp Country(?) radio station, while Ravi’s tuned into a Star Wars podcast hilariously pandering Kylo Ren, perfectly demonstrated the harshly different tones the show blends every week. Watching those two work with Liv to dig up that grave to Les Miserables’ “One More Day” at the episode’s final minutes felt profoundly rewarding, given the heightened circumstances surrounding Blaine and Major’s need for a cure – and the fact that these guys deserved a win of some sort.
- Rob Thomas supposedly wrote this week’s episode, and it shows particularly in Clive’s inquisitiveness. After a season and a half solving cases in tandem with our zombie protagonist, he’s finally started to concern himself with Liv’s constantly shifting behavior. Bozzio’s captured photo of Blaine with Major only makes matters even juicier, and considering how close they were to locking up Blaine a few weeks ago – you can bet your ass they’re going to pursue this latest development until they get some concrete answers.
- Another sign of Rob Thomas’s work: The brief interview between Clive and Major upon the dead body discovery. There’s definitely some underlining sadness to Major’s insistence on covering up the details of the Meat Cute incident, which would not have been present had he not reminded Clive about the time he wrongfully spent at the mental institution from a season ago. The look on Clive’s face when Major dismisses himself from further questioning tells us that he knows he fucked up, and there’s nothing he can do to erase his prior mistakes.
- I loved how much fun Don E, Chief and Genie Gal had helping Blaine come up with that elaborate scheme to fool Angus. They’re all very funny, interesting characters to have around, and the dynamic they share with Blaine illustrates the depth of scripting and performances that helps place iZombie above a lot of other series on television right now.
“The Whopper” sings as graciously as the Les Miserables number that concludes it – from the integration of the week’s latest case with the season’s main story arc, to the reunion(s) of familiar character clashes. Like the best this season has had to offer, this episode does nothing but stress the series’ strengths, while cleverly maneuvering around a laundry list of varied subplots. I may have already said this before, but there truly aren’t very many other shows that currently deserve the “Appointment television” staple as badly as iZombie.
+ Blaine and Major
+ Blaine’s scheme to fight for Angus’s inheritance
+ Excellent central theme and tie-in with both the case-of-the-week and the season as a whole
+ The uncertainty surrounding Drake
+ The Rob Thomas touch
– Case-of-the-week got very confusing at times