[This is a review of iZombie Season 2, episode 2. There may be spoilers.]
This week iZombie digs into the brains of the future’s best and brightest young minds, which is to say that Liv snacks on the head candy of a drunken frat boy who was, rather appropriately, stabbed to death many times while dressed as Caesar. An assailant disguised in a big blue furry suit and a crowded party environment where no one really saw anything add up to a murder scene where Clive really needs Liv’s “psychic” aid.
This, in turn, leads to one of the worst iZombie episodes so far, and one that really demonstrates some of the show’s biggest flaws up to this point. After eating the frat brains Liv theoretically takes on all of the attributes of her latest meal, but in practice the writers seemed to struggle for ideas as to how they should execute this. The result is that Liv gets almost no dialogue during the investigation scenes, her only contributions being to snigger along whenever one of the frat brothers talks about a prank or the size and shape of a girl’s breasts, and to occasionally punctuate the silence with some variation on, “Yeah, bro.”
“Bro,” and its many variations (i.e. “the bro-zone layer,” “brocabulary“) is supposed to be the comedy hook of “Zombie Bro,” but it wears thin very fast and the depiction of frat boy culture is very one-note, as though told by a person who has only ever been told about the concept in vague terms by a friend. The frat boys like drinking and pranks and girls and saying “bro” a lot and… that’s it.
This extends to the effects of Liv’s latest brain as well. Despite the fact that young Chad Wolcoff can only have been in the frat for a few short years of his life, it seems that all of his personality traits consist of stereotypical frat boy things (drinking, pranking and… more drinking). More than anything, it drives home how little the show is exploring the potential of its central gimmick. If iZombie has been trying to find decide between being shallow, light-hearted entertainment and finding its deeper dramatic and comedic roots, then “Zombie Bro” is the episode that proves the former really isn’t working out.
In an effort to counteract the pretty insubstantial nature of the case of the week, iZombie delves into drama a little more when it comes to its main character arcs. Major is feeling bad about murdering an innocent man and leaving his crying family to beg the public for information on TV (though, strangely, he still tries to take the moral high ground when Liv tells him about her latest meal), and his way of dealing with his new occupation is to get instantaneously addicted to Utopium. Ravi also takes some of the drug, but finds that the only effects are to make him record embarrassing memos on his phone.
The episode also adds a little more depth – or, at the very least, a little more backstory – for Blaine, as he pays a visit to his rich and equally ruthless father, played by Robert Knepper. With his new and unsolicited lease on life, Blaine has decided to become Seattle’s new big drug boss, as well as continuing to have the monopoly on brains, which means that while Liv is tottering around in a dress made of crime scene tape and playing beer pong, Blaine is putting pressure on the district attorney to arrest the city’s current crime boss.
This is a wry bit of social commentary in this scene as Blaine has deliberately hired young, attractive, white guys from wealthy families to distribute his Utopium and strategically get tortured to death, because Blaine learned in the first season that no one cares when poor kids from troubled backgrounds disappear.
Between Major’s new assassin/drug addict schtick and Blaine’s exploits in the criminal underworld, iZombie‘s character arcs are just about managing to stay interesting, but right now the zombie crime-solving aspect of the show is leaving much to be desired – which is a shame, since that’s ostensibly the main attraction. Now that the series has settled into its groove it seems as though we may be stuck with Liv only ever acquiring one caricaturish personality trait from her brain-of-the-week, rather than acquiring more interesting and layered attributes.
If that’s really the case, then the bigger plot arcs are going to be called upon to pick up the slack. So far Liv doesn’t really seem to have one for this season, other than her vague continued quest to become human again and to perhaps get back together with Major. Her detective business may be booming, but let’s give the poor girl something else to do.
iZombie returns next Tuesday with “Real Dead Housewife of Seattle” @9/8c on The CW. Watch the promo below.