[This is a review of iZombie Season 2, episode 3. There may be SPOILERS.]
When a wealthy socialite takes a fatal plunge from a balcony with a beautiful view, along with a murderer who seemingly had no motive to kill her, it's time once again for Clive to turn to Liv for 'psychic' help. For Liv, this latest plate of brains means a makeover for both her appearance and her personality, as she develops the ability to walk impeccably in high heels and gains a new predilection for cute dresses and the latest gossip.
The key contrast to last week's episode of iZombie is that both the writers and Rose McIver are able to have a lot more fun with this latest transformation. Admittedly it's another case of a murder victim with apparently only one personality trait, but it's a one-note personality with plenty of opportunity for humor - from Liv trying to start cat fights with everyone around her, to preening in a pretty wonderful collection of shoes and dresses. It's a side to the forthright, quick-witted morgue attendant that we rarely get to see.
"Real Dead Housewife of Seattle" also manages to bring Liv and Major's respective storylines together as the murder investigation finds its way into the offices of Max Rager. Steven Weber continues to make the most of his potentially limiting role as wealthy, villainous slimeball Vaughn Du Clark, and Weber and McIver's characters play off one another well enough that it's a shame they don't get more scenes together.
Major - in his capacity as Vaughn's personal trainer, personal assassin and general lapdog - has taken to alternately pumping iron and snorting Utopium in the company's gym. At this point, it's hard to know how to feel about Major. On the one hand, he's committing pretty horrific acts (killing an innocent zombie in front of their pet dog, for example), but he's too much of a sad sack to be a villain. It's honestly difficult to decide whether to pity or loathe him.
One of iZombie's more ill-developed supporting characters, Liv's former roommate Peyton, has now recovered from the shock of watching her best friend turn into a zombie and murder someone. She's back in town and finally seems to have the beginnings of her own subplot: as the assistant district attorney, she's charged with the mission of bringing down Seattle's Utopium distribution (at least, in its current form). Hopefully this is the first step towards Peyton being given more to do this season, and Liv getting another ally to help her cope with the trials of being a zombie.
The case of the week returns to the straightforward whodunnit formula, without even a twist like last week's name confusion to keep things interesting. When it comes to crime procedural plotlines, a mistress organizing the murder of her lover's wife is about as cookie-cutter as it gets, but if this week's case is boring then it's at least pretty inoffensive. What the show really needs to do is start nailing fun new brain effects and interesting mysteries within the same episode.
Once the distraction of shoes, purses and dresses wears off, Liv has to face up to the rather depressing prospect of celebrating her birthday alone. It's plausible that Ravi wouldn't know it was her birthday without being told, Liv is apparently still on cool terms with her family and Major is a little distracted by his new career, so instead our favorite zombie detective is forced to celebrate alone. At least she gets a bottle of birthday whiskey and a birthday cake/olive branch from Peyton.
Altogether iZombie's second season has definitely got off to a much weaker start than its first, but it's still entertaining and there's still the potential for a really great TV show in there, if only the writers can figure out how to crack it open.
iZombie returns with "Even Cowgirls Get the Black and Blues" next Tuesday at 9/8c on The CW. Watch the promo below.