At this point, the larger story that looms over the entire series is so intricate and the characterizations so spot-on that watching the show never disappoints.
iZombieAirtime: Tuesdays, 9pm
Cast: Rose McIver, Rahul Kohli, Malcolm Goodwin, Robert Buckley, David Anders, Jessica Harmon, Greg Finley
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 11 - "Fifty Shades of Grey Matter"
Air date: 2016-02-02
In what may be the sharpest episode of the season so far, "Fifty Shades of Grey Matter" deftly moves between the humor the series does so well, and the increasingly more complex story arc that hangs over the series. This is the eleventh episode of the season, and it feels like the show is headed for a huge blowup, whether it’s related to outing the zombie population to the authorities, or Major’s (Robert Buckley) desperate attempts to keep secret his mandate from Vaughn Du Clark (Steven Weber), or Peyton’s further involvement with Blaine (David Anders) and her investigation into Mr. Boss (Eddie Jemison). The ways in which the series, and this episode in particular, navigates all these separate, but converging parts, is brilliantly paced.
Centered on the death of librarian Grace LeGare through hemlock poisoning, Clive (Malcolm Goodwin) and Liv (Rose McIver) soon discover she was a soon-to-be published author of erotica. Although her jealous and disapproving co-worker is a suspect, Grace was actually poisoned by her possessive husband, Andy. The mystery-of-the-week takes somewhat of a backseat to all the larger threads in the story, but it’s still a great showcase for McIver as she hits on every man she sees, including an uncomfortable Clive and an amused Ravi (Rahul Kohli) and Major.
In a shout-out to Veronica Mars fans, Clive and Liv are given an advance audiobook copy to listen to ("The Upright Position as read by Kristen Bell. I’ve always felt a kind of connection to her", Liv says), and the over-the-top, erotic language is a hilarious introduction to Liv’s personality of the week, as well as a sly callback to Bell’s excellent voiceovers in Veronica Mars.
Liv’s new personality is indiscriminately flirtatious and suggestive to both very funny effect, especially when trying to get Ravi and Major to wrestle naked, and also to potentially disastrous effect, when she agrees to date Drake (Greg Finley), Blaine’s latest victim/enforcer. It’s the latter effect that has the most fallout this week, when it’s revealed at the end of the episode that Liv slept with Drake. Liv’s regret is obvious after Peyton (Aly Michalka) reveals that she’s slept with Blaine ("You know, you sleep with someone, you think you know them. But they could be anybody".). Both Peyton and Liv are in over their heads, although in different ways, but they converge at the end of the episode, playing up the ominous tone that iZombie employs so well.
Adding to the tension is the investigation into the Chaos Killer. Clive and Bozzio (Jessica Harmon) continue to close in on Major without knowing it, all the while chasing Blaine who’s responsible for enough murders on his own to warrant an investigation. When Clive and Liv separately reveal to Peyton the list of crimes that can directly be tied back to Blaine, the series also reminds the audience that charming though he may be, Blaine is above all a survivor willing to do anything to stay ahead and serve his own agenda.
When Clive and Bozzio finally realize that John Deaux is Blaine DeBeers is Blaine McDonough, they have enough to arrest him on an old drug warrant and question him as the Chaos Killer. Anders is wonderful in the interrogation scene -- unconcerned and menacing all at once -- and the scene also highlights just how out of her depth Peyton is when she gets him released on immunity. She realizes that she’s been manipulated and the consequences are potentially extreme.
Further complicating things is Major’s role as killer-by-blackmail. Though he’s not really killing the people he’s tasked to eliminate, no one really knows what he's doing. His reluctance to confide in even Ravi or Liv is clearly taking its toll and sadly, this episode marks the departure of Minor. It’s a sweet, heartbreaking scene and Buckley delivers.
Although "Fifty Shades of Grey Matter" unabashedly delves into the darkness at the heart of the series, iZombie remains consistently clever and funny, unexpected though it may seem. Ravi turning down Liv’s advances ("Go forth, direct your lust elsewhere"), Bozzio's increasingly amusing asides (accusing Clive of "mansplaining"), and McIver’s commitment to Liv’s newly inappropriate behavior are all examples of ways in which the series smartly inserts moments of humor to diffuse the drama, as well as to further flesh out personalities.
More than any other episode this season, "Fifty Shades of Grey Matter" serves as a perfect encapsulation of the series. The balance that iZombie manages to achieve week after week is no small feat, yet the show only continues to get more engrossing and compelling. At this point, the larger story that looms over the entire series is so intricate and the characterizations so spot-on that watching the show never disappoints.