Reviews

iZombie: Season 2, Episodes 18 and 19 - "Dead Beat" and "Salivation Army"

J.M. Suarez

iZombie’s finale cemented how expertly paced this season has been as a whole, revealing huge secrets and enough gallows humor in keeping with the show’s distinctive tone.


iZombie

Airtime: Tuesdays, 9pm
Cast: Rose McIver, Malcolm Goodwin, Rahul Kohli, Robert Buckley, David Anders, Aly Michalka, Steven Weber, Jessica Harmon, Leanne Lapp, Eddie Jemison, Bryce Hodgson, Andre Tricoteux, Colin Lawrence, Ken Marino
Subtitle: Season 2, Episodes 18 and 19 - "Dead Beat" and "Salivation Army"
Network: CW
Air date: 2016-04-12
Amazon

Well, that's how you do a season finale. iZombie's two-part season ender, "Dead Beat" and "Salivation Army", cemented how expertly paced this season has been as a whole, while also revealing huge secrets and engaging in enough gallows humor to make the whole thing feel perfectly in keeping with the show's distinctive tone.

The major threads that have run through the series from the beginning of its run all come to a head in this finale. Clive (Malcolm Goodwin) finally learns Liv’s (Rose McIver) a zombie, along with the larger picture of Major's (Robert Buckley) role as the Chaos Killer (and fellow zombie), and the threat of an uncontrolled zombie outbreak. It’s a scene that iZombie’s been building up to since the beginning of the series.

It's a dramatic and clever reveal -- and not only because Liv stabs herself in the chest to bring out her zombie side and prove her story -- but because the show then doesn't dwell on Clive feeling betrayed and shutting her out for an extended period of time. Instead, the stakes are too high for Clive to indulge in many personal feelings. Plus, it's well established that Clive rarely reacts in big ways, and in this case, it's in Liv's favor that his penchant for unemotional reactions doesn't cause a rift between the two.

Still, it remains to be seen how Clive will deal with all this new information, and the real reason behind Liv’s method of helping on cases, once things settle down (at least for a little while) next season. In addition, choosing to help Liv and Major leads to the end of his relationship with Agent Bozzio (Jessica Harmon), and adds further potential fallout for next season.

In "Dead Beat", Major’s arc as Vaughn Du Clark's (Steven Weber) reluctant Chaos Killer lands him in jail, and subjected to the full investigative attention of Bozzio and Clive. His time in jail weakens him physically, as he's unable to procure brains, but also puts a larger target on him when a fellow inmate rats him out as the Meat Cute killer. It's only after Clive learns the truth -- and it's only revealed to him because of Major’s increasingly deteriorating state -- that Major's released, but not before it's almost too late for him to keep his zombie under control.

Some of the finale's most amusing moments do come courtesy of Major's lawyer though. Ken Marino’s in fine form as Brant Stone, an almost-respectable version of his Veronica Mars character, Vinnie Van Lowe. He’s ridiculously showy and just smarmy enough to make his hitting on Peyton (Aly Michalka) more funny than creepy. Although his approach could sometimes use some work (about Major: "He looks like day-old dog dump. No offense."), he's effective enough that he’s not a complete joke.

Apart from the Chaos Killer, one of the season’s most complex and far-reaching stories has revolved around crime lord Mr. Boss (Eddie Jemison), and by extension, Peyton’s investigation into his criminal organization, as well as Blaine's (David Anders) connection as his one-time employee and current competition. Because this thread has gradually spread to include Liv, Ravi (Rahul Kohli), Major, and Drake (Greg Finley), it’s also been one of the more complicated of the season, and the reason for one of the two big shootouts in "Salivation Army".

Peyton's investigation is called off because of Blaine’s inability to remember his time with Mr. Boss, but this particular storyline isn’t wrapped up just yet. Mr. Boss orders Blaine killed; Don E (Bryce Hodgson) and Chief (Andre Tricoteux) are casualties of that order. Peyton's then kidnapped in an attempt to draw out Blaine, but again, that plan backfires and Blaine and Ravi go after Peyton and her kidnappers.

While most of "Dead Beat" was focused on dealing with the fallout from "Reflections of the Way Liv Used to Be" -- wrapping up much of the Chaos Killer angle -- and revealing the omnipresent zombie secret to Clive, "Salivation Army" is centered on Vaughn’s further descent into crazed villain status. Both Mr. Boss and Vaughn have been ruthless and genuinely scary in protecting themselves and their interests, but their individual reach varies. Vaughn's experimental Super Max catches the attention of a private military contractor, headed by Vivian (Andrea Savage), willing to buy his entire operation; the ramifications of his formula end up being his ultimate downfall.

Vaughn’s connection to Major leads him to order Janko (Colin Lawrence), one of his faithful goons, to kill Major and Liv once Major's released from prison. The plan fails epically when Janko’s attempt on Liv's life ends with his being tranquilized to death by Ravi. The upshot of this development is that his brain holds many of Vaughn's secrets, which are now readily available to Liv.

The ways in which iZombie weaves together so much plot without ever becoming muddled or confusing is a testament to the excellent writing on display episode after episode. This one moment is a perfect example of just the right circumstances and characters coming together to move the story forward in a way that's both in keeping with the show's universe and also cleverly elegant.

The fact that Vaughn’s party to celebrate the sale of Max Rager, complete with a prison theme (Clive: "A prison theme. White people.") and special performance by Rob Thomas (lead singer of Matchbox 20) turns into a deathtrap can be directly tied back to Vaughn's choices throughout the season. Whether it was his decision to bring all of Major’s "kills" out of cold storage and place them in his underground lab for further experiments, his choice to save himself over his daughter Rita (Leanne Lapp), or ultimately his decision to sell Max Rager at all, Vaughn meets his end this season.

The other major shootout of the episode takes place at Vaughn's party, and in between references to The Shining ("Here’s Major!"), submarine movies, and Rob Thomas being killed by zombies, Liv, Clive, and Major free the Chaos Killer's victims and Vaughn and Rita are both killed. Weber and Lapp have both been wonderful this season, as they’ve taken particular glee in terrible moments and never failed to amuse with their banter, and they’ll be missed.

The final reveal of the episode takes place when Vivian’s exposed as a zombie, as she nonchalantly feasts on Rob Thomas' brain (all while one of her colleagues and fellow zombies sings a cover of Thomas’ "Unwell"). Vivian's intent on recruiting Liv for a plan involving turning Seattle into some kind of zombie Shangri-La; season three will clearly have plenty of material to work with.

Sadly, less of a focus in this finale is Blaine. Anders has always been one of iZombie's most reliably entertaining strengths. Blaine's zombie cure-induced memory loss has softened his edges to the point where he's become an ally of sorts. It's a role he's played before on the show, although with much more bite. It seems unlikely that Blaine’s memory loss will remain permanent next season, but even if it does, it would be a shame for Blaine to lose his sharp wit, particularly as Anders always delivers beautifully.

Another small nitpick would be the continued omission of Liv’s family. Her mother and brother were an important part of the show’s first season, but apart from an early appearance this season from Liv’s brother Evan (Nick Purcha) recovering from his injuries at Meat Cute, they've been completely absent, even in mention. Although the show is already packed full of characters, it still seems a somewhat wasted opportunity to delve into Liv's past and the emotional ramifications of her distance.

Regardless of these minor issues, iZombie has delivered week after week, and managed to stay exciting, inventive, and just off-center enough to be able to include stellar running gags about Rob Thomas, employ tons of amusement at the expense of Liv's many personalities, and also make brain recipes regularly look appetizing. "Dead Beat" and "Salivation Army" wrap up the season in true iZombie fashion: tying up plenty of loose ends and revealing big secrets, with enough questions left unanswered and new complications to make another season not only necessary, but one to look forward to.

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