Eight episodes in and iZombie shows no signs of slipping.
iZombieAirtime: Tuesdays, 9pm
Cast: Rose McIver, Rahul Kohli, Malcolm Goodwin, Robert Buckley, Steven Weber, Leanne Lapp
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 8 - "The Hurt Stalker"
Air date: 2015-12-01
At this point, it’s getting redundant to say that iZombie has put out another great episode in a season of great episodes. But it doesn’t make it untrue. Even after taking a week off (despite my wish to see Liv’s [Rose McIver]] Thanksgiving brain recipes, and subsequent cooking scenes), "The Hurt Stalker" is further proof of the show’s continued growth, so much so that it was recently granted an expanded episode order.
The episode centers on the murder of wedding planner, Regina Sumner (Natasha Burnett), who also happens to be an ex-girlfriend of Clive’s. A season and a half into the series, and this episode’s the first to give us a real glimpse into the world of the seemingly grumpy, humorless Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin); it’s used to great comedic effect. Every time a new detail about Clive is revealed (he’s a Game of Thrones super fan, love Cajun cooking, and plays the piano), it’s met with equal parts amusement and disbelief. Ravi (Rahul Kohli) is especially delighted to learn each new tidbit, and takes great pleasure in confirming these newly discovered facts (“Clive, what’s George R.R. Martin up to right now?” “Not writing.”).
Clive has always been the straight man for both all of Liv’s personality changes and all of Ravi’s quips, but in “The Hurt Stalker”, we learn not only about his personal life, but also that he genuinely cares about and pays attention to Liv and Ravi. His homemade Cajun po’boys prepared with care to make sure Liv’s is extra spicy (a;though he initially tries to pawn them off as takeout) is proof that, even though he’s previously treated them as strictly colleagues, he feels genuine affection for them. In turn, we find ourselves more invested in Clive and his relationships. Unsurprisingly, because of Clive’s history with the victim, he is taken off the investigation and instead Detective Cavanaugh (Robert Salvador) is put in charge.
As the previous episode, "Abra Cadaver", alluded to, Liv’s personality changes are starting to have an effect on her recently rekindled relationship with Major (Robert Buckley), and this week’s personality is further evidence of the strain the shifts put on their interactions. Regina was an obsessed stalker whose brains turn Liv into a jealous and suspicious girlfriend. She questions Major about the women he saw when they were broken up, reads his text messages, and tries to break into the safe he keeps hidden in his closet. What complicates matters, and makes them much more compelling, is the fact that Major does have a great deal to hide.
Major’s fling with Gilda (or Rita [Leanne Lapp], as she’s also known) hangs over his relationship with Liv, not only because she’s Vaughn Du Clark’s (Steven Weber) daughter, but because she’s also Liv’s roommate. Though Liv and Major are unaware of Gilda/Rita’s overlapping roles in their lives, she’s clearly interested in stirring things up between the two, as she attempts to revive her relationship with Major with suggestive texts intercepted by Liv.
"The Hurt Stalker" also marks the return of Vaughn Du Clark, who’s not been seen since episode three. Weber plays Vaughn as a greedy egomaniac, with little regard for anyone who doesn’t help further his agenda. His attempts to introduce an exceedingly potent version of Max Rager -- SuperMax -- leads to extensive testing on zombies, and by the end of the episode, he’s become its first human test subject. Vaughn on SuperMax makes for an extremely strong and short-tempered version of himself, and Weber comes off as genuinely scary. Between Stacy Boss (Eddie Jemison) and Vaughn Du Clark, iZombie has no shortage of unambiguous villains, and they serve to maintain the menacing tone that has been such an integral part of this season.
As iZombie’s season-long storyline continues to engrossingly develop and unfold, the self-contained mysteries-of-the-week offer an opportunity to change gears, at least for a short while. They’re always engaging in various ways, and this week’s no exception. Regina’s killer is revealed to be the brother of one of her ex-clients, who’d discovered that her fiancé had been having an affair with Regina. It’s a satisfying resolution, but it also provides a direct contrast to the show’s twistier and more complex larger story.
"The Hurt Stalker" is a standout episode for many reasons -- Vaughn Du Clark being crazier than usual, stalker Liv -- but mainly because of Clive. He’s finally getting fleshed out as a character and it’s great to see how others, Liv and Ravi for now, react to learning more about him. It’s also a wonderful showcase for Goodwin to show some other sides of Clive and to loosen up a little. Eight episodes in and iZombie shows no signs of slipping.