The humor in the episode works precisely because it feels like the show is taking a breath in the middle of a season that’s been unapologetically serious and bleak, despite its moments of humor and silliness.
iZombieAirtime: Tuesdays, 9pm
Cast: Rose McIver, Rahul Kohli, Malcolm Goodwin, Robert Buckley, David Anders, Aly Michalka, Jessica Harmon
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 7 - "Abra Cadaver"
Air date: 2015-11-17
Seven episodes into the second season of iZombie and "Abra Cadaver" stands as yet another strong outing for the series. Centered on the death of a magician, the episode is one of the season’s funniest, and a particularly great showcase for Rahul Kohli’s Ravi. Although it doesn’t move the larger story in as dramatic and shocking ways as some of the more recent episodes, “Abra Cadaver” still manages to drop enough new information to keep it going forward and delivers on the funny.
When a hotel maid discovers the dead body of magician Syd Wicked (Justin Stone), killed by a playing card to a throat, the episode sets up a magic theme that plays out in amusing and clever ways. Syd was a goth magician, so when Liv (Rose McIver) eats his brains she becomes prone to morose thoughts and an interest in the supernatural. She reads tarot cards, uses a Ouija board, and becomes fixated on death. She’s also a master magician, to Ravi’s complete delight (“This is the best brain ever. I almost want to start killing magicians so it never ends”) as a self-confessed "wandhead". His expertise in all things magic adds a lighter touch that’s particularly welcome after the run of darker episodes this season; even better, Kohli’s performance is especially charming when he’s so excited.
In addition to setting up a fun mystery of the week, Liv’s new personality also serves as another obstacle in Liv and Major’s (Robert Buckley) newly rekindled relationship. In direct contrast to Clive’s (Malcoln Goodwin) unconcerned reactions to Liv’s personality changes, Major’s much more affected by the sudden shifts. Coupled with the challenges in their physical relationship (sex = instant zombie infection for Major), this additional hurdle may be too much to get past in the long run.
Further complicating matters is Blaine’s plan to team up with Liv to track down the person who’s been killing zombies (namely Major), although they’re both unaware he’s responsible. The fact that Major isn’t really killing zombies, but rather freezing them in an attempt to keep it a secret is almost inconsequential at this point, particularly as Blaine probably wouldn’t wait for any explanation before killing him. In their effort to uncover the zombie killer, Blaine and Liv break into Agent Bozzio’s (Jessica Harmon) house to look over the evidence she’s already acquired on the missing persons she’s investigating; while there, FBI lab results are delivered on the brain found inside Suzuki’s refrigerator. The results show the brain is human, so Liv takes the results and changes them to indicate a bovine brain in order to move Bozzio and the FBI off their trail.
With Agent Bozzio and Clive and Liv and Blaine conducting simultaneous investigations into the zombie murders, Major’s secret clearly cannot stay hidden for long. Mr. Boss’ (Eddie Jemison) visit from last week also looms over the episode, when Peyton (Aly Michalka) goes out of her way to warn Blaine that Boss may be onto him. In setting up a potential romance between the two, although it’s clear at this point that Blaine is using Peyton, Ravi is thwarted in his attempt to rekindle their past relationship and Peyton is placed further in danger, unbeknownst to Liv, continuing to raise the personal stakes for her.
The humor behind Syd’s murder is made even more amusing by the fact that it took place during PrestoFest, a magic convention that spotlights several of Syd’s fellow magicians as suspects, including his ex-fiance, Houdina (Fiona Gubelmann), his ex-mentor, Magnificent Magnus (Kevin McNulty), and the Penn and Teller-esque Smoak (Jason Antoon) and Mears (Mercy Malick). They’re all funny and credible suspects, but they also highlight the episode’s lighter touch. Syd may be obsessed with death and darkness, but it’s played more for laughs than as genuine gloominess. When it’s revealed that Mears was also the hotel maid, Irina, it’s even more entertaining because Smoak and Mears are the subjects of a reality series filming at the time of the reveal and the arrest. The humor in the episode works precisely because it feels like the show is taking a breath in the middle of a season that’s been unapologetically serious and bleak, despite its moments of humor and silliness.
For an episode that didn’t contain the bombshells we’ve come to expect based on the last few episodes, "Abra Cadaver" still delivered by planting more obstacles in the way of Liv and Major’s relationship, as well as continuing to intertwine the various threads of the story. The faked test results, Peyton’s increasing interest in Blaine, Liv’s changing personalities, and Clive’s continued suspicion all add up to a picture that’s becoming more and more complicated. Thankfully, iZombie has proven that it knows how to weave all the story elements in a way that continues to engage, while also developing characters that are easy to invest in and eminently watchable.