Television

iZombie: Season 2, Episodes 1-2 - "Grumpy Old Liv" and "Zombie Bro"

J.M. Suarez

A strong opening that reminds viewers of the darkness so central to the series, while also emphasizing the relationships and humor that make iZombie so engaging and watchable.


iZombie

Airtime: Tuesdays, 9pm
Cast: Rose McIver, Rahul Kohli, Malcolm Goodwin, Robert Buckley, David Anders
Subtitle: Season 2, Episodes 1-2 - "Grumpy Old Liv" and "Zombie Bro"
Network: CW
Amazon

The first season of the CW’s iZombie ended with Liv’s (Rose McIver) secret life as a zombie being revealed to her best friend and roommate, Peyton (Aly Michalka), and her ex-boyfriend, Major (Robert Buckley), all to disastrous consequences. Her unintentional reveal to Peyton, in the midst of a zombie fight, which showed Liv at her scariest, leads Peyton to disappear without waiting for an explanation. The situation with Major is even more complicated: Liv turns him into a zombie to save his life after an attack by Blaine (David Anders), only to use her last dose of the zombie cure on him (the first having been used spitefully on Blaine, whose pure joy in his role as provider of brains for all zombies in the area made for a bloodthirsty and money-hungry rival).

With the events of season one setting things up to be much messier in the second season, the first two episodes do a great job of keeping the original story going (Liv as a brain-eating morgue assistant who helps police detective Clive Babineaux [Malcolm Goodwin] solve cases through her visions, all the while looking for a zombie cure with her boss, Ravi [Rahul Kohli]), as well as cementing the increasingly intertwined threads between Blaine, Major, and Liv. For Liv, her family life continues to get more difficult as the destruction of Blaine’s headquarters inadvertently claim Liv’s brother as a victim. As a blood type match, she should be the natural donor to help him when he’s taken to the hospital, but her refusal, which can’t be explained without revealing she’s a zombie, makes her an instant pariah in her own family.

In many ways the show has squandered the opportunity to delve more deeply into Liv’s family and the far-reaching effects of her isolation from them. The first season barely dealt with the complex feelings of a once-close family distanced for reasons they don’t fully understand. Though the first episode of this season, “Grumpy Old Liv”, does feature some indication that the events of last season have damaged her relationship with her mother, the second episode, “Zombie Bro”, makes no mention of her family at all. Rob Thomas is no stranger to exploring parent/child relationships, as he did to excellent effect in Veronica Mars, and one can only hope that as Liv’s life further opens up, her family life will play a larger role.

That said, these first two episodes do make it clear that Liv’s closest relationships are to Major -- although things are still very chilly between the two -- along with Ravi and Clive. They all provide ways to show different sides of Liv. Major brings out her protective instincts, and although he’s still angry that she kept her secret from him, there are clearly still deep feelings between the two. Ravi is her partner-in-crime and confidant. He understands her in a way that no one else does because he’s never judged her situation or felt threatened by her. Essentially, he’s her main support system, and iZombie has smartly expanded Ravi’s world to collide regularly with Liv’s (as he dated Peyton last season and is Major’s roommate), so he doesn’t exist in a vacuum with Liv solely as science experiment (although he’s fascinated by the science of her zombie state). Clive is still in the dark, and it remains to be seen how long that secret can stay hidden, but his gruff, no-nonsense approach to solving crimes is a nice contrast to crime-solving-Liv’s personality of the day.

“Grumpy Old Liv” included a great deal of setup for the season, namely Blaine’s new role as funeral director with a sideline into the Utopium trade, and Major’s guilt-ridden acquiescence to the Max Ranger mandate to seek out and destroy all zombies in the area. The mystery-of-the-week plot, however, remains both entertaining and a welcome breather to the larger than life events that hang over the entire series. Thomas’ unique blend of drama and comedy is on display as Liv’s changing personalities often lead to very comical interactions, while never overwhelming the bigger picture.

Both episodes feature some very funny moments for Liv. She’s a curmudgeonly old man who rants about ironic t-shirts, bad paint-by-numbers art, and unexpectedly, throws in a 30 Rock reference (“Good God, Lemon!”) in “Grumpy Old Liv”, but it’s “Zombie Bro” that’s a real comic gem. Liv’s incarnation as a “bro”-obsessed frat boy gets funnier and funnier as the episode goes on (“He was, like, a brother-brother, bro. For real”), and Rose McIver really lets loose, in one of her best comedic performances yet.

Things quickly return to the bleaker parts of the series by the end of “Zombie Bro”; again, the balance is handled very well. Major’s descent into Utopium use, coupled with Blaine’s newly revealed dysfunctional relationship with his father -- also a zombie turned by Blaine -- and the increasingly dangerous game involving organized crime boss, Mr. Boss (yes, that’s really his name), quickly establishes the chaotic tone for the season. It’s a strong opening that reminds viewers of the darkness so central to the series, while also emphasizing the relationships and humor that make iZombie so engaging and watchable.

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