[This is a review of iZombie season 1, episode 11. There will be SPOILERS.]
After last week's less-than-sensitive portrayal of alcoholism as a punchline, an episode of iZombie based around a murder victim who was a patient in a mental hospital is a slightly worrying prospect. Luckily, 'Astroburger's handling of its subject matter turns out to be, as was the case with the video games episode, considerably better than it could have been.
The victim in question is Scott E, a man suffering from hallucinations and delusions (including ludicrous claims about the existence of zombies), whom Major befriends during his voluntary stint at the hospital. In a clumsy attempt to make the death look like a suicide, Scott E's murderer takes him out with a drug overdose and then cuts his wrists with a sharpened toothbrush. The iZombie version of the Seattle police department might be inept and corrupt, but even they can figure out that living people tend to bleed a lot more.
What follows after Liv eats poor Scott E's brains is like a combination of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and A Beautiful Mind. First a cartoonish version of the devil himself begins speaking to Liv from the packaging of her favorite snack food, and then later in the episode it transpires that some of the people she's been talking to during the investigation were merely figments of her imagination.
It's certainly a jarring combination and the second symptom definitely works a lot better than the first, but it's hard to say whether or not 'Astroburger' would have been better off without the silly CGI devil. On the one hand it is very goofy, but on the other it's a great way to distract viewers from the question of why Liv is conducting her investigation with the help of a TV weatherman.
With two episodes left to go this season, 'Astroburger' continues to develop what seems like an inevitable clash between Blaine, Liv and Major as each of them work out the others' secrets. Blaine and Liv are in a confusing triple-bluff(?) situation wherein Blaine knows that Liv knows that he was responsible for killing Lowell, but Liv doesn't know that Blaine knows that Liv and Lowell were working together. Whatever they know, there are still enough walls of deception up to allow the two of them to maintain a veneer of friendliness.
As a demonstration of that friendliness, Liv chooses not to horribly poison Blaine by adding a little something extra to his dose of Max Rager. Actually, this is less a demonstration of friendliness than it is a demonstration of Liv's desire to wait for a surer solution to the Blaine problem - a bullet to the head, perhaps, or a nice decapitation.
Given how intimately Blaine and the Candyman end up following the trail of Liv's investigation, it's somewhat surprising when the real murderer turns out to be another character entirely and the connection to Blaine is coincidental. Searching for his killer does, however, turn up a disturbing (and incriminating) video of Liv immediately after becoming a zombie, snacking on some tasty brains. Let's hope no one accidentally stumbles upon that bit of evidence.
The revelation that Liv's heartfelt confession about her zombie status to Major - along with his ready acceptance of it - was nothing more than a hallucination is a pretty heart-breaking moment, especially when Major then vows to kill all the zombies he can find (which is kind of racist, Major). It was probably too much to hope that months of secrecy would end with such ease. Given the slow ratcheting of the tension between Liv and Major, it seems likely that the real reveal, when it eventually happens, will be a whole lot messier.
The most interesting development of this episode, however, is Ravi's discovery that he's somehow managed to cure the morgue's pet zombie rat by feeding it doses of tainted Utopium. Could the same treatment work for Liv? Probably, but since the premise of the show is a zombie who solves murders by eating brains, I wouldn't bet on her being brown-haired and bushy-tailed again any time soon.
Liv: Careful, don't open yourself up to the classic Reverse Sicilian Gambit. That's a chess thing, right?
Major: Sounds more like something a call girl would make you pay extra for.
Ravi: You're not going to go all 'Single Very White Female' on me, are you?
iZombie returns next Tuesday with "Dead Rat, Live Rat, Brown Rat, White Rat"@9PM on The CW. Watch a preview below.