Season 2, Episode 6 - "Max Wager"

by J.M. Suarez

12 November 2015

“Max Wager” continues to build on a season that’s clearly shaping up to be better than the last.
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"Max Wager"
Cast: Rose McIver, Rahul Kohli, Malcolm Goodwin, Robert Buckley, David Anders, Aly Michalka, Robert Knepper, Eddie Jemison
Regular airtime: Tuesdays, 9pm

US: 10 Nov 2015

“Max Wager”, this week’s episode of iZombie, directly follows through on Liv (Rose McIver) and Major’s (Robert Buckley) reunion from last week. It’s fodder for an amusing opening sequence at Major and Ravi’s (Rahul Kohli) place—where Peyton (Aly Michalka) also happens to be staying temporarily—as Major’s new change in attitude is cause for confusion and amusement that Buckley plays perfectly. The opening, though, is in many ways the calm before the storm, as the episode sets up key plot points that will undoubtedly play out over the rest of the season.

As Clive (Malcolm Goodwin) and Harry Cole (Ray Galletti) exit the courthouse following Cole’s trial, a motorcycle pulls up and fires shots, killing Harry. Clive immediately calls in Roger Thrunk (Jerry Trimble), a low-life lawyer and enforcer responsible for killing Coach Mike (Kwesi Ameyaw) in last week’s episode, as a suspect, but his cryptic non-answers don’t help them much right away. It isn’t until Liv gets a vision from Harry’s brain that they get a real lead, revealing that Harry owed $75,000 in gambling debts to the Barber (Steven Williams), a literal barber who runs a well-known gambling operation out of his barbershop.

Because Liv’s personality has been affected by Harry’s brain, she now obsessively bets on everything; from challenging Clive on what donut another officer will choose to placing bets on a horse race in Barber’s shop, she’s unable to stop herself. It’s on Liv’s second visit to the barbershop (to place another bet) that she unknowingly meets the elusive crime boss, (the aptly-named) Stacey Boss (Eddie Jemison), one of the Barber’s customers, in a chilling scene where he lays out the perfect murder with cold detachment. Later, Boss meets Peyton late at night in the district attorney’s office, where he threatens and intimates her in an effort to drop the case against him. He also makes the connection that their information isn’t current, meaning their informant has to be someone who used to work for him, perhaps putting him onto Blaine’s (David Anders) trail.

Blaine’s storyline is especially front and center this week. His difficulty in straddling the line between human and zombie is taking a toll, particularly as his father, Angus (Robert Knepper), now knows he’s a human again and uses the knowledge to gain control of Blaine’s business. It leads to a wonderful scene between Liv and a drunk Blaine at the funeral home, where they debate the pros and cons of being a zombie. David Anders and Rose McIver are always a pleasure to watch interact, and Anders is also especially compelling opposite Knepper.

Upstairs, Clive is investigating the courthouse shooting by questioning Harry’s wife at the funeral. Clive spots Calvin Owens (Rick Fox), a famous retired basketball player and Harry’s old college friend, and becomes instantly star struck. It’s entertaining to see this side of Clive when he’s always so unflappable, and it’s up to Liv to keep the questioning on track. The role reversal does lead to a vision of Calvin angrily refusing to give Harry any more money, giving the investigation an important lead.

Calvin’s history of throwing important games for the gambling payoff helped both him and Harry make money when they were in college, but he stopped once he made it to the pros. Harry continued to blackmail Calvin until Calvin hired a couple of former Serbian teammates to kill him. Apart from serving as the mystery of the week, the ongoing basketball theme leads Clive to comment on Liv’s disappearing knowledge of all things basketball from last week to this week. Hopefully, this means that Clive is one step closer to realizing that Liv’s psychic abilities are more complicated than she’s made them out to be.

Blaine and Major’s stories intersect this week, unbeknownst to the two of them, yet serving as some of the episode’s biggest shockers. When Blaine is ordered to retrieve the brain of one of Angus’ business rivals, Blaine does the unthinkable in a bid for revenge. He kills and removes the brain of his beloved grandfather to present to his father, but it’s all for naught, as Major has already disposed of Angus as a part of his zombie list. Blaine’s relationship with his grandfather has been previously discussed, but this is the first time we see him. He’s in a nursing home and unable to speak, but his bond with Blaine is obvious and it serves as both a direct contrast to Blaine’s relationship with his father and the lengths to which he’ll go to deny him the upper hand.

Major’s ongoing mission to confirm and kill all the potential zombies on Vaughn Du Clark’s (Steven Weber) list takes a turn when it’s revealed at the end of the episode that he’s been faking the murders and freezing his kidnapped victims, Angus included. This new information sets up a great deal of potential avenues for the show to go in, especially as certain characters find out what Major’s supposed to be doing versus what he’s really been doing.

Liv and Major’s reunion happiness is dampened when they’re unable to consummate their relationship for fear of infecting Major. Ravi urges them to wait until he can conduct more research (buying every brand of condom to test its permeability); he eventually determines that zombieism is definitely sexually transmittable. Liv and Major vow to stay together and “be creative” (they’ve already tried Skype sex in a sweet and funny scene), but there will certainly be consequences.

In “Max Wager”, iZombie manages to steadily moving things forward and set up a lot of future plot. The show is smart to continue to keep certain points undisclosed, but it also offers up new information each episode in a way that maintains momentum and keeps viewer interest from flagging. This is another dark episode in a season of dark episodes, yet iZombie adds enough lightness as to keep it from getting bogged down in hopelessness. “Max Rager” continues to build on a season that’s clearly shaping up to be even better than the last.



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//Mixed media