Liv and Clive investigate the murder of a D & D master.

‘iZombie’: “Twenty-Sided, Die” Is a Near-Perfect Balance of Plot and Humor

"Twenty-Sided, Die" is an episode that manages to balance its mix of long-term and short-term plots perfectly; the episode flies by in a blur of hilarity and new twists.

Ravi: I’m Mosco Bandywax of the Murkwood Bandywaxes. I’m a halfling monk!

Major: I’m Sirjay Esclaborne, the human paladin.

Peyton: Hi, Brangelina Darksbane. Dark elf assassin.

Clive: Earl. Dwarf fighter.

The latest episode of iZombie, “Twenty-Sided, Die”, is one of the most entertaining of the series, as well as one with some big implications for the rest of the season. The new change of leadership at Fillmore Graves, Chase Graves (Jason Dohring); Peyton’s (Aly Michalka) continued investigation into the dominatrix murder; Harley Johns (Andrew Caldwell) and his fellow zombie truthers; and the return of Blaine’s (David Anders) dark side are all major plot lines with long-term consequences. Yet, it’s the excellent mystery of the week that will remain the most memorable part of the episode.

The murder of Dan (John Stewart), a Dungeons & Dragons dungeon master, prompts Liv’s (Rose McIver) transformation into a fantasy role-playing game expert who eventually ropes Clive (Malcolm Goodwin), Ravi (Rahul Kohli), Major (Robert Buckley), and Peyton into a game to solve the murder. As if their game alter egos weren’t enough to make this a highlight, Liv’s abandon in playing her role, particularly when playing the old woman who tasks them with killing the Lich of Castle Rommscoddle (Major: “Lich, please.”) makes the game-playing scene a contender for one of the greatest in the show’s history. As the group gradually gets more and more invested in the game — Clive losing himself in the game and Ravi’s repeated attempts to save Peyton’s character from death, despite her repeated attempts to get out of playing are especially great moments — the scene offers an alternate reality to the personalities of those involved. Not since Freaks and Geeks brilliant finalé (I mean, Earl the Dwarf has to be a shout-out to Carlos the Dwarf, right?), has D&D looked more fun, so much so that a full iZombie episode of the group playing would’ve been wonderful.

When the game reveals the existence of a secret door in Dan’s apartment with a high security computer setup, Clive and Liv are taken off the case and the FBI is brought in, marking the return of Agent Bozzio (Jessica Harmon). As Dan’s regular D & D group included Jimmy (Ryan Beil), the police sketch artist, and Vampire Steve (Kett Turton), police tech assistant, the murder will surely require further involvement from Clive and Liv, despite Agent Bozzio’s distrust, as the investigation continues. Similarly, Peyton’s refusal to let the dominatrix murder stand, along with Weckler’s suicide, leads to questioning D.A. Baracus (Kurt Evans), who brushes her off, and meeting with Weckler’s prison psychiatrist. There’s more to come from this storyline, certainly, and the return of Mr. Boss (Eddie Jemison) at the end of the episode may be another piece of the puzzle.

Meanwhile, Blaine continues his plan to become the largest brain distributor to zombies, putting Don E (Bryce Hodgson) in charge at The Scratching Post as his backup, and testing his blue juice brain for mass consumption. His experimental blue juice brain was soaked for twice as long as Ravi’s recommendation and its effects end up with unintended consequences that not only cause immediate problems for Don E (and Ravi), but also put Blaine’s business in potential jeopardy. Ravi’s involvement is directly tied to his undercover role with the zombie truthers, whom he’s told he’s close to creating a zombie vaccine. When he convinces them to delay their plan to kidnap a victim until the vaccine is ready, he can’t foresee Don E’s intense reaction to the blue juice brain making him careless and too obvious for Harley Johns to pass up.

In addition to all that’s already happening, D.A. Baracus also hosts a fund-raising event attended by Peyton, Liv and Justin (Tongayi Chirisa), and Chase Graves. Liv and Chase’s first meeting is predictably significant, with Chase getting right to business and grilling Liv on all she knows, while also subtly hitting on her. He’s also at the center of a shoot-out when Baracus is targeted at the event. Dohring, the latest transplant from Thomas’ earlier series Veronica Mars, has had only a few scenes in the show so far, yet he’s made them notable in their intensity.

There are episodes of iZombie in which plot takes center stage, and there are others that focus much more on the murder of the week. “Twenty-Sided, Die” is an episode that manages to balance both perfectly, making the hour fly by in a blur of hilarity and revelations. Apart from the terrific D&D scenes, there are great Blaine one-liners, such as when he sends a brain down the well to feed his father (“That’s from an impotent proctologist, by the way. Enjoy.”), flawlessly scored to Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, and the always-entertaining Clive reactions. Four episodes to go and it almost seems impossible that the many threads of the show can be brought together to a satisfying conclusion, but this is iZombie: it understands how to play a season-long story, with all its moving pieces beautifully resolved.

RATING 9 / 10