[This is a review of iZombie season 1, episode 4. There will be SPOILERS.]
Undercover zombies Liv and Blaine both seem to have settled into a routine in ‘Liv and Let Clive’, with Liv regularly dabbling in police work (by chewing on the brains of the recently deceased) and Blaine living the comfortable life of a zombie gold-digger – as he sets up a business of murdering street kids and selling their brains to his growing list of zombie clients.
Liv’s routine is shaken in this episode, however, after she chows down on the grey matter of a former gang member and sees a horrible vision of Clive with some ill-advised facial hair. To make matters worse he appears to be working alongside the gang members, and seems suspiciously eager to prevent Liv and Ravi from investigating the case.
It’s obvious both from the fact that Clive Babineaux is an essential part of the show’s basic formula, and the fact that Liv is unwilling to just straight-up ask him if he’s corrupt, that there’s actually a perfectly innocent explanation for the visions. iZombie just isn’t the kind of show to reveal that a main character is a bad guy four episodes in – and despite his faults and the fact that he’s so thinly-drawn, the possibility that Clive might be a dirty cop is never sold as a convincing option.
The other key storyline in this episode is Liv’s ongoing drama with Major, which escalates after she finds his new girlfriend hanging out in his house. Her subsequent outrage and attempts to sabotage Major’s new romance are frustatingly predictable – and, while it’s nice to have a flawed protagonist, the particular flaw of stringing along ex-boyfriends without actually dating them is a special kind of awful.
It would help if there was anything especially endearing about Major that would make Liv’s passion for him understandable, but so far he seems to have the personality of a patch of wet cement (and no amount of gratuitous oh-I-just-popped-out-of-the-shower-and-my-towel-is-slipping moments can really make up for it). Nice abs aren’t a very compelling character trait, no matter how nice they might be.
Part of that comes down to the fact that the show is still very Liv-centric, to the detriment of all the other characters. Even in an episode that is ostensibly all about Clive and his past, Clive seems to get even less screen time than usual and once again everything comes back to Liv. The upside to this is that Liv drags Ravi along to be her partner in the illicit investigation, and watching Ravi take on field work is pretty fun.
There’s a definite sense that iZombie could benefit from having more faith in its ensemble cast, and by relieving the laser focus on Liv for an episode or two. It’s for this reason that Blaine’s side story – and the exploits of two avid gym bunnies who work for him and try to sneakily start up their own competing brain business – is one of the most interesting elements of the episode, especially in terms of how it advances the supernatural world-building.
The actual crime of this episode – the murder of paranoid former gang member Sammy Wong – feels a little thin and the Blue Cobras are essentially just a stock version of an organized crime gang, with very little to distinguish them. The nature of a procedural crime drama means that the disposable bad guys of each episode have even thinner characterization than the supporting cast, and it makes it difficult to get invested in the story.
So far iZombie isn’t really living up to the promise of the pilot. It’s more lightly entertaining fluff than a breakthrough, must-watch series, but the writing is still enjoyably sharp at times and there’s still room for it to grow.
Liv: I was cleaning out my bag, and I found this. [Holds up business card] And I had this drunken flashback and I remembered Ray gave it to me so I thought maybe he worked here.
Ravi: Her life is like the whorey version of that movie Memento.
Ravi: [Looking at porn DVD] That’s one way to take a shower.
Liv: Your desire for privacy in your living arrangements is starting to come into sharper focus.
Ravi: [Looking at another porn DVD] Oh look, they actually have the whorey version of Memento!
iZombie returns next Tuesday with “Flight of the Living Dead” @9pm on The CW. Watch a preview below: