[This is a review of iZombie season 1, episode 12. There will be SPOILERS.]
If the claim that your high school years are the best of your life is to be believed, iZombie's latest victims can at least take comfort in the fact that they went out on a high (literally, in one case). In an episode heavily laden with I Know What You Did Last Summer references, Liv's newly-created zombie offspring Sebastian crawls out of his watery grave, is almost immediately run over by a group of dumb teens, crawls out of a second grave and snacks on some tasty cheerleader brains.
Unfortunately we don't get to see Sebastian bouncing around full of school spirit and offering to curl people's hair. That honor is reserved for Liv, who should be thankful for her barely-functioning taste buds as she slurps down the cheerleader's brains after they've been gently stewing for two weeks. Newly infused with ineffable peppiness, Liv dives into the investigation and soon discovers just how close to home the murder really is.
Both the cheerleader and the stoner that end up biting the dust in this episode are unabashed stereotypes, but subtlety isn't really one of iZombie's strong points and given that 'Dead Rat, Live Rat, Brown Rat, White Rat' is an homage to a teen slasher movie, it gets a free pass for having dumb teen clichés. Among the more recognizable members of grunge band The Asshats is Arrow's Bex Taylor-Klaus, whose iZombie character is pretty indistinguishable from Arrow's Sin (albeit without the superhero friends).
While Liv is alternating between girly pillow fights and sucking on marijuana lollipops, her ex-fiancé is continuing his attempted transformation into Major Lilywhite: Zombie Hunter. Like all warriors' journeys to greatness, this transformation includes watching Youtube videos and coming up with a terrible undercover identity as a pretext for poking around Blaine's charcuterie. To the surprise of absolutely no one, his investigation ends with him being taken prisoner by the same zombies he's trying to stalk.
Still, iZombie has succeeded in making Major a much more, if not interesting, then at least endearing character compared to the shiny, two-dimensional, spurned Mr. Perfect that he was at the beginning of this season. His dogged determination to get justice for his young friends has added a much-needed secondary focal point to the series, showing the zombie world from an outsider's perspective as well as Liv's insider perspective.
Peyton, who has thus far had an uneven presence in iZombie, also gets drawn unwillingly into the world of the undead after Sebastian breaks into Liv's apartment and... knocks Peyton on the head without killing her. Admittedly a scene in which Liv returns home to find her best friend's brains being cooked would have been a bit gruesome, but it would have made more sense for Sebastian's character and would also have packed quite a dramatic punch.
It's actually a shame to see Sebastian killed off so soon after he was introduced, with his only impact being to out Liv's zombie status to a supporting character whom we haven't even seen that much of. Sebastian's unfortunate Aunt Edna has probably been given as much characterization as Peyton, and she didn't even appear on screen.
It's worth noting that 'Dead Rat, Live Rat, Brown Rat, White Rat' benefits from some really nice music, which lends weight to some of the more dramatic moments and sets a slightly melancholy tone that helps to ground the otherwise light-hearted show.
With the finale in sight, iZombie has done an effective job of setting up the dominoes and getting them ready to topple in a final showdown: both Liv's brother and Major are ensnared in Blaine's undead underworld organization; the astronaut brains are still at large; there's hope for a zombie cure; Peyton has vanished; there's still a murderer on the loose; and Clive... well, Clive is alive.
Ravi: I wanted to run something by you. It's a bit personal, I'm feeling a bit weird about it, but here goes...
Major: I'm a little scared right now.
Major: I don't know, but I'm afraid this ends with me feeling for lumps in a place I don't want to be feeling.
Clive: [To Liv] You did the right thing. Do not feel any remorse. If that was your body we were zipping up, that would be the tragedy.
iZombie returns next Tuesday with the season finale "Blaine's World" @9PM on The CW. Watch a preview below.