TV

'iZombie': "Zombie Knows Best" Is a Signature Mix of Humor and Pathos

J.M. Suarez
Major rocks out to Katy Perry under the influence of teen girl brain.

"Zombie Knows Best" balances Buckley's hilarious performance with the tonally different Clive flashbacks without missing a beat.


iZombie

Airtime: Tuesdays, 9pm
Cast: Rose McIver, Malcolm Goodwin, Robert Buckley
Subtitle: Season 3, Episode 2 - "Zombie Knows Best"
Network: CW
Air date: 2017-04-11
Amazon
Clive: You should eat the daughter. Words I never thought I'd hear myself say.

Ravi: The new normal.

Clive: God, I hope not.

Liv: Where you off to, kiddo?

Major: I have mercenary training, God!

Liv: Don't text and drive.

Major: Stop trying to control me!

The second episode of iZombie's third season, "Zombie Knows Best", takes a somewhat lighter approach than last week's plot-heavy catch-up season opener without missing a beat, in one of the series' strongest episodes. Because this is a Rob Thomas show, however, an episode with some of the funniest moments in the show's history still maintains a somber tone that creeps up from time to time. "Zombie Knows Best" closely follows Clive (Malcolm Goodwin), giving us a glimpse into bits of his past, yet also has Major (Robert Buckley) on teenage girl brain and Liv (Rose McIver) on teenage girl's dad brain, offering the perfect mix of all the things that make iZombie so consistently easy to invest in and just plain watchable.

Bookended by scenes between Clive and Cavanaugh (Robert Salvador), in which Cavanaugh assesses Clive's investigative role in last week's murder of Wally (Mataeo Mingo), his mom Anna (Caitlin Stryker), and his uncle Caleb (Michasha Armstrong), gives the audience the opportunity to delve into Clive's recent past through some very illuminating flashbacks. Last episode the convenient, if thin, excuse that Clive had a history with Wally was meant to set up his investment in helping zombies evade detection, and put him on the case to finding those that want to do zombies harm.

The problem is that we'd never heard of or seen Wally (or his mother) before, but this episode goes a long way in fleshing out those relationships and making Clive's connection to the two much more believable. Seeing Clive slowly bond with Wally (who introduces him to Game of Thrones, a known Clive obsession) and Anna over babysitting and dinners, offers another side to Clive, all while giving good reasons for his vow to find their killer.

Although this episode led Clive and Liv in one direction, the mystery of who killed Wally and Anna remains unsolved, and will surely serve as a season-long arc. Thomas understands how to pace and slowly reveal the answers to a season-long mystery, and this one is already off to a great start with conspiracy theorist fans of talk radio host Chuck Burd (Aaron Douglas) posting Wally and Anna's address on a message board called Truth Sayers, used by hundreds of zombie-hunters. Vivian (Andrea Savage) and Fillmore Graves weren't featured as prominently this episode, but she does provide a helpful time frame for the show by revealing it had been 21 months and 21 days since the Fourth of July party that infected everyone, providing yet another link to the timing around the end of Wally and Anna's relationship with Clive.

While the mystery of who killed the two will play out long term (along with Major's continued search for Natalie), this episode's mystery revolves around a suspicious car accident that kills Stan (Raugi Yu) and daughter, Cindy (Celina Martin) Chen. We get a small taste of their dynamic in the car before they're killed -- including lame dad jokes and teenage girl embarrassment -- a perfect setup for what's to come. Liv quickly cooks up their brains at the morgue -- giving Clive his first look at her amazing brain cooking skills, to his disgust -- eats Stan's brain, leaving Major to eat Cindy's.

The rest of the episode can only be described as a glorious showcase for Buckley. He runs with the role: selfie-obsessed, insecure about his body, and perpetually embarrassed by every adult around him; Buckley's comic timing couldn't be better throughout. He's always been slyly funny, but this episode really highlights Buckley's comedic skills, and he's clearly having a great time.

It's not all for comic relief, however, as the humor is also a way to deliver more information. While Major continues his mercenary training at Fillmore Graves, he struggles with being on Cindy's brain until he learns that the soldiers receive a brain mash that comes in tubes so that they don't get overtaken by one personality. This tidbit is revealed as almost a throwaway, but it's obviously a much more important piece of the Fillmore Graves puzzle.

It should also be noted that while Buckley is stealing every scene, McIver is also doing a fine job as the always supportive and handy dad foil to Major. The two have some wonderful moments together as Major huffs and eyerolls his way through several interactions with Liv, all while she remains chipper and predictably cheesy.

It's eventually revealed that Cindy's best friend, Winslow (Natalie Alyn Lind) was sleeping with her stepfather, Ken (Stephen Huszar), and told Cindy about it before her death. Cindy shared the information with her father, who threatened to go to the police, but they were killed before the scandal could come to light. Winslow's mother, Tori (Sally Pressman), drove the truck that killed Stan and Cindy in order to avoid gossip and disinheritance. Still, the actual mystery seems almost beside the point when Buckley and McIver get to play off of one another to such hilarious effect.

Unfortunately, Ravi (Rahul Kohli) doesn't have much to do this episode except obsess over Peyton (Aly Michalka); thankfully, he still gets some great lines ("Look at us. All working together to solve mysteries. We should get a van and a dog") and serves as the researching link between the brain mash that comes in tubes to the Chuck Hurd caller who references the same thing. Blaine is completely absent this episode and though David Anders is one of the show's best assets, his absence isn't felt as strongly as it has been other times.

"Zombie Knows Best" doesn't only do a great job of setting things up for the rest of the season, complex and layered as it's sure to be, but also finds the time to continue to develop its characters and inject humor in unexpected ways. This is hands down one of the funniest iZombie episodes to date -- for which Buckley deserves a great deal of credit -- but it also works because the show has laid the groundwork for a series that knows how to truly balance story and tone without ever losing its way. Off to a strong start, season three looks to be another excellent season of the best zombie show on TV.

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