iZombie S03E01 “Heaven Just Got A Little Bit Smoother” REVIEW
Essential plot points:
- Minutes after the end of the last season, Vivian walks Liv, Major and Clive through what’s going to happen. Clive, not unreasonably, points out the hundred or so bodies at the Max Rager party are going to be difficult to cover up.
- Vivian agrees. And tells them to get to cover. Because she has the party blown up.
- On the other side of town, Ravi, Peyton and Blaine are being held by Cavanaugh over the shootout. Peyton forcibly shuts the investigation down due to Blaine’s testimony against Mr Boss. Ravi is clearly furious that the pair of them are involved, and disgusted that he didn’t help in the fight.
- Everyone regroups later that night and levels with one another. There’s no time for secrets anymore. Ravi is clearly very angry with Peyton and Clive is trying to work out just how little he knows about the world but they do their best.
- Later, Blaine finds Don E at the undertakers. He’s convinced Blaine is faking and demands to know where the money is. Blaine, definitely with some of his old edge back, fires Don E and suggests he look on Chief’s body. Don E does so and finds Blaine’s dad in the same freezer…
- The following day Major and Ravi head home. It’s a wreck with CHAOS KILLER! spraypainted across the front.
- Across town, Clive shows up at Filmore-Graves to find Major and Liv already waiting for him, Liv is just about holding it together due to the soldier brain she’s on and all three are ready for answers.
- Vivian Stoll gives them everything they want. She tells them that Discovery Day or D-Day is coming and when it does the panic will be global. She’s turned every single one of her employees and views them as family. When the time comes, she’ll take each one of them to a newly purchased island off the coast, declare it their capital and establish a Zombie nation state. They even have zombie children. One of whom is a former neighbour of Clive’s. Wally is much happier than Clive’s ever seen him and it maybe starts winning him over.
- Liv is interested but cautious. Clive is worried. Major is, of course, all in.
- Later at the Morgue, Ravi and Liv talk. Liv, being on soldier brain is not the most sympathetic of listeners.
- At the undertakers, Peyton arrives to talk to Blaine. Mr Boss went through customs in Montenegro and she thinks they’re close to him. Blaine asks if they were a couple and she doesn’t know what to say.
- Grabbing coffee that morning, Major is recognised as the Chaos Killer. Even though he’s innocent(ish) he realises that he has no hope of getting a job in the usual way.
- At the lab Ravi explains to Clive that Major is living on borrowed time due to the first cure causing eventual death. He also unveils his new plan; a formula to reverse the memory reversal. He is SO into it. It’s adorable.
- Liv rolls up and tells them that Chuck Burd (from season one episode eight “Dead Air”, yay continuity!) has a new radio show and has gone full conspiracy theorist. He claims to have the truth on the Max Rager party. They speed over there and try and shut him down but it’s too late. He’s interviewing the security guard from the gate that night live on air. And the man recognises Clive…
- On the way out, Liv breaks down and admits she’s barely holding it together having had to execute Drake. Clive, who is just awesome this entire episode, shows her how cops deal with this sort of moment…
- Peyton gets a call about her Twitter account. She opens it and sees something she really, really doesn’t like…
- At the lab Clive drops a magnificently drunk Liv off to sleep it off. Peyton calls Ravi but he doesn’t answer. On the voicemail she explains that someone has been leaving threats on her twitter account. Then she calls Blaine…
- At the lab Major arrives and tells Ravi he’s found a job!
- At Don E’s place, Blaine’s father is thawing out. Don E pitches the idea of setting up their own brain supply network to him but Dad wants more…
- A new body arrives at the lab. Accompanied by Ravi’s old boss. Doctor Katty Kups is friendly, convivial, a little scary and about two steps away from figuring what’s really going on. Both Liv and Ravi are visibly relieved when they get the call to go to a crime scene.
- That relief lasts as long as it takes them to get to the crime scene. Wally’s entire family have been killed. And they’ve been killed by someone who knew they were all zombies. Clive is devastated and FURIOUS and the three vow to solve the case on their own time. Because if they don’t, again, D-Day begins.
- In montage we see Vivian Stoll, devastated by the news, break it to Wally’s class. One rushes up and hugs her as Liv watches. On her way out of the Filmore-Graves campus she sees a squad of soldiers run past.
- One of them is Major…
This may be the most impressive episode of TV we’ve seen so far this year. Not only does it absolutely build on everything that’s gone before it but this is a surprisingly great place to join Team Z if you’ve never seen the show before.
Here’s how it looks to someone who’s never seen the show before:
- In the space of five minutes we learn that zombies are real
- That Liv and Major are both zombies
- That Blaine has amnesia and used to be a very bad guy
- That Peyton and Blaine are involved
- That Ravi has serious problems with this and his own somewhat passive nature
- That Ravi actually saw this coming, lost his job at the CDC as a result and now is in the odd position of being proved right and perhaps asked back
- That there are far more zombies and they’re far better organized than we thought and that once that gets out, panic is inevitable
That’s an astounding thing for a show to pull off in its third season and the fact the episode is fast-paced, incident heavy and fun just makes it all the more impressive. This is a show that hasn’t just broken stride it’s gearing up for a full sprint and this should be a hell of a season.
Not to mention an even-handed one. The incredibly smart move of making Vivian Stoll a deeply sympathetic figure has given the show a fascinating new moral playing field. Vivian is absolutely right; D-Day is coming and when it hits panic will be everywhere. But Clive’s absolutely right too; people have a right to know what’s going on. There’s no right answer here, just answers that are different levels of wrong. The conflict that’s undoubtedly coming will be even more interesting, and, odds are, vicious as a result.
It even redeems some of the elements that were getting a little old. Clive now being on the same page as everyone else is almost too refreshing to properly articulate and Major’s ongoing terrible, TERRIBLE life choices make perfect sense now. The final shot, of him running in lockstep with other Fillmore-Graves recruits is heartbreaking rather than annoying and it puts a very different light on him. Major is, superficially, the standard leading man. In reality he’s an emotionally weak, good-natured guy who is so morally adrift that he’ll grab at anything that works instead of what will save him. Like Clive’s dogged belief in the system, it makes sense. Like Clive’s dogged belief in the system it’s going to cause trouble.
This is the most confident, and most ambitious, iZombie has been to date. Every plot locks together and it’s all heading towards what seems likely to be a pretty major world event. The fact that the zombies are so close to discovery already gives the season a real sense of urgency and impending doom and that’s a welcome balance to its comedic tendencies. The stakes feel real this year, more real than ever before in fact. And with writing this good and a cast that’s uniformly excellent the show has never been in a better place than it is now.
Previously, iZombie has been regarded as something of an overlooked treasure. It’s time to change that. If you’ve never seen it before start here. If you’ve seen it before, strap in. This is the best season premiere yet.
- Vivian Stoll. Andrea Savage is amazing as Vivian. She’s terrifying and balanced and calm and makes a wide variety of very good points. We think she’s going to end up being the closest thing the show has to a big bad this year but we doubt she’s going full villain. She’s far too interesting for that.
- No More Secrets. Liv, Ravi, Major, Clive and Peyton levelling with one another is one of those sequences which every writer’s room should be made to watch. They’re smart people being honest with each other and trying to solve problems even as that honesty causes more problems.
- The atmosphere. There’s a tangible sense of impending doom this season. Something is going to go publicly wrong very, very fast and we suspect Team Z aren’t all going to be on one side when it does.
- Ravi sliding that waste bin towards super drunk Liv is one of our new favourite things.
- This is a subtle one but take a look at where Major’s eye line is in the grab above. Firstly he’s looking at the lovely public information posters they have on the walls (‘TAN AND DYE!’). Secondly, Robert Buckley’s helping the scene massively even though he’s not the focus. Major’s sold on Filmore-Graves right here and when we see him signed up at the end of the episode it makes even more sense.
- “You’re not an ideal shoulder to cry on when rolling on soldier brain.” Ravi’s a bit down this week but he has some standout moments. This is the best one by far.
- “Maybe we’ll run into a normal person you can murder.” Likewise Clive’s having a bad week but this is great.
- “Why didn’t you drive straight there?”
“I don’t have a badge or a siren?” This sort of thing is what this episode is so good at. Highlighting and strengthening the premise of the show even as it heads in a new direction.
- “Where do you get your brains?”
“See what I’m talking about? Touchy subject.” Vivian really is our new favourite.
- There’s no bad here. Or at least no unintentional bad. Ravi’s problems with Peyton and Blaine’s relationship make him unsympathetic sure, but it’s earnt and it gives the character a welcome extra edge. He’s still adorable, and, bluntly, our pick for the new Doctor Who, but it’s a welcome gear shift.
And the Random:
- The closing sequence is scored by “Complicated Shadows” by Elvis Costello And The Attractions, confirming the show’s ridiculously good taste in music.
- Rob Thomas, who shares a name with show runner Rob Thomas, left this touching message for the show that (fictionally) murdered him.
— Rob Thomas (@ThisIsRobThomas) April 6, 2017
- Similarly, Rahul Kohli sung the praises of Mataeo Mingo, the kid playing Wally this episode as only he can.
— Rahul Kohli (@RahulKohli13) April 6, 2017
- Christina Cox makes her debut on the show this episode as Doctor Katty Kups of the CDC. She has genre credits longer than your arm including Blood Ties, Defying Gravity and most recently Shadowhunters.
Review by Alasdair Stuart