Season 3, Episode 1 - "Heaven Just Got a Little Smoother"
Rose McIver, Malcolm Goodwin, Rahul Kohli
Regular airtime: Tuesdays, 9pm
US: 4 Apr 2017
“My boyfriend is dead. I shot him in the head four hours ago. The only thing holding me together is that I’m rolling on the stoic brain of a soldier of fortune. But then, turns out we’ve all had a hellish night.”
The welcome return of the CW’s iZombie for its third season picks up only “2.8 minutes” after the season two finalé. It’s a smart move to bring the audience right back to the dramatic events that ended the last season, not the least of was the revelation that Max Rager’s new owner, Vivian Stoll (Andrea Savage), is also a zombie committed to creating a zombie utopia in Seattle. Additionally, Clive (Malcolm Goodwin) now knows Liv (Rose McIver) and Major (Robert Buckley) are zombies, Liv was forced to kill her boyfriend Drake (Greg Finley), and Vaughn Du Clark’s (Steven Weber) party devolved into a full-blown disaster that threatened to expose zombies to the general public. Oh yeah, and singer Rob Thomas is dead.
“Heaven Just Got a Little Smoother” serves as not only a reminder of how things ended last season, but it also quickly drops the audience back into the high stakes facing these characters. Smartly, this episode moves past most of the angst that all the recent revelations have created by keeping Liv and Major on super soldier brain for most of the episode. It allows the story to move forward without getting too caught up in the emotional fallout of Drake’s death and Major’s continued stigma as the Chaos Killer—regardless of the fact that he’s been cleared—just yet. Although Major is obviously lost and looking for his place now that he’s no longer playing hero behind Du Clark’s back, there’s too much to delve into right away.
Vivian’s introduction this season is clearly only the beginning of a larger and more consequential arc. Her plan to militarize zombies in the event of their inevitable discovery and her “zombie homeland” proposal is thorough enough to include schooling for zombies (yes, zombie children exist) and clever manipulations of media reports on the Max Rager side effects. Vivian’s company, the brilliantly named Fillmore Graves, is the cover for all this covert organizing; she also alludes to her dead zombie husband, Harrison, who was killed by another zombie (most likely Blaine, introducing yet another potential complication to her plans). Her promise to exact revenge will surely also play a role this season, but apart from her own personal agenda, Vivian’s already an intriguing character whose continued interactions with Liv and company will undoubtedly make things more difficult for the group.
Speaking of complications, Blaine’s (David Anders) increasingly more involved relationship with Peyton (Aly Michalka) came to a bloody culmination in a shootout with Mr. Boss’ camp at the end of last season. At this point, Mr. Boss has fled the country and Blaine is still dealing with his memory loss. While it’s never been completely clear whether or not he’s faking the amnesia, this episode further muddies his motivations when he’s confronted and threatened by Don E (Bryce Hodgson), and a glimmer of the old Blaine makes an appearance. Anders’ performance has always been one of the show’s highlights, but when given the opportunity to showcase Blaine’s villainous side, he’s particularly enjoyable to watch.
Blaine and Peyton’s relationship is also a point of contention for Ravi (Rahul Kohli), who does little to hide his annoyance with Blaine through the episode. Thankfully, Michalka is a series regular this season, so that should make for a more complex story, especially as she’ll be able to interact more fully with more characters. Ravi’s jealousy and mistrust of Blaine don’t stop him for his continued quest to find a cure that doesn’t result in memory loss, and he thinks he’s getting close to a solution. His delight in showing Clive his experiments on an actual brain is a nice reminder of how amusing Ravi can be when he’s excited about the scientific process.
Ravi’s experiments, which always happen at work, may be in jeopardy for some time when his old CDC boss (who fired him), Katty Kupps (Christina Cox), shows up to autopsy the only surviving body from the Max Rager explosion. Her appearance immediately puts Ravi on the defensive and if she sticks around, her presence will surely upend Ravi’s testing.
In addition to all the speculation about what actually happened at the explosion—including a conspiracy theorist radio talk show host who spreads the idea of a possible zombie attack—Clive is forced to choose sides between his job and his loyalty to Liv now that he knows her secret. His investment in keeping her secret increases when a young neighbor boy, Wally (Mataeo Mingo) and his family are killed because they’re zombies. It’s a little thin, only because this is the first time Wally has been seen or mentioned, but Clive’s immediate vow to start his own side investigation will surely test his loyalties again and again.
Next week looks to be a return to the show’s more comedic side, but iZombie has always been excellent at balancing the shifting tone of the series. “Heaven Just Got a Little Smoother” is a clever introduction to the season, setting up a whole lot of story while reminding viewers of the already many moving pieces of the series. It’s also worth noting that iZombie continues to do a stellar job of incorporating music cues throughout the episode. Both Major’s melancholy coffee shop visit (scored to The Human League’s “Human”) and the end sequence (using Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ “Complicated Shadows”) perfectly encapsulated those moments; plus, the use of Rob Thomas and Santana’s “Smooth” as background music for Blaine at work in the morgue capture the bleakness and humor inherent to the show. Here we go.