iZombie 5x02 "Dead Lift" Review
While the season premiere of iZombie put into motion some exciting new narrative threads, the second episode of the season returned to some frustrating patterns that hindered the show in the past.
The Dead-Enders are back, and it seems for good this time. The gang of zombie-hating humans raised some hell last season, but was largely ignored for Angus’ turn as the “Prophet of Brother Love.” Their terrorist attacks are putting the entire city on edge between suicide bombers, snipers, and video hoaxes. The ring-leader, Dolly, is proving to be a formidable threat to the zombie population of New Seattle. I don’t have a problem with a little conspiracy and conflict, but where the show goes wrong is its insistence to draw parallels to modern American political discourse.
iZombie began as a whimsical horror comedy procedural. Over the past few seasons, it’s attempted to make a large tone shift to making commentary on class, race, and political rhetoric. I’ve always been a little concerned that the show didn’t have the range to tackle this, and this episode made it more clear than ever that it doesn’t. Characters unironically proclaim that “Zombie Lives Matter” and complain that sketches about zombies use “whiteface.” Not only is it exhausting to hear a villainous character say “everything they said on TV is fake news,” it also feels recycled. In Season 3, iZombie had a plotline where extreme conspiracy theorists tried to prove zombies existed. The conspiracy theorists were pretty clearly coded as white supremacists. It didn’t work so well, was since zombies actually did, in fact, exist and live among them; it only managed to validate characters that we were still somehow to supposed to see as backwards and delusional.
Nothing about it feels constructive, insightful, or fun. I’m not saying that television can’t be politically sharp or shouldn’t make commentary on current events. iZombie, however, doesn’t need to be more than an escapist fantasy. There’s also nothing wrong with a television show just existing for the fun of it. Most of the time, it’s fun to see the show play with the boundaries of its mythology and mess around with puns. I didn’t get that feeling this week.
Everything in New Seattle feels incredibly bleak right now. The coyote smuggling the teenagers into New Seattle is killed at the border, Jordan was taken from us by a sniper (RIP sweet baby girl), and Peyton is developing a comedy sketch web series called “Hi Zombie” to normalize relations between humans and zombies. I don’t see how things can get much worse. Even the cliffhanger from last week was resolved in the first few minutes of the episode, and all the air was sucked out of the case when Liv, Clive, and Ravi realize the whole thing was a hoax.
Meanwhile, Major is really trying his darndest to keep Fillmore Graves afloat. Major is a character that I feel very sympathetic towards. The show has pulled him in several different directions, and has never been quite confident with what to do with him. Despite it all, I can never forget that before all this mess, Major was a mild-mannered social worker with a soft spot for wayward teens. All he wants is to bring his heart to his position at Fillmore Graves, but it’s not earning the respect of his squad, or necessarily leading him to make the best decisions. We did, however, get a long overdue moment alone with Liv. I’m not sure what is in store for the two of them as a couple, but they have always worked well together when the show allows them to be friends. It was a little sad to see him sneak a brain tube rather than eat the fitness nut brain that Liv so lovingly prepared for him, but I understood his desire to keep a clear head. I can’t imagine him dealing with insubordinate officers while also trying to squeeze in Insanity exercises.
In order to get control of all of the tense situations at the moment, the group orchestrates some elaborate hoaxes of their own. They fake a guillotine execution for the Fillmore Grave officers responsible for a shooting at “Dead-enders watering hole”, and leak the video. I think Major and the gang hope this will convince the Dead Enders that Fillmore Graves is willing to take care of their own and lay off them for a while, but I have a feeling this is going to backfire. Another illusion the group pulls off is putting blaming the initial convenience store footage hoax on three people who are already trying to get out of Seattle. This way, everyone wins. Dale can hold a press conference to soothe the public that justice has been served, while a few more people can escape Seattle unnoticed. Liv scratches the troubled teen, who in turn scratches his sisters.
Perhaps it’s too much to hope that iZombie will fully return to its case-of-the-week roots, along with a focused plot on finding the cure, but I hope that we don’t live in this dark place with snipers and deadly fish food trucks for the entire rest of the season.
Despite not loving this episode, having Kareem Abdul-Jabbar play one of the two remaining Seattle city council members is one of my favorite easter eggs of the whole show. In addition to being one of the most famous professional basketball players, Abdul-Jabbar is in the writer’s room for the showrunner Rob Thomas’ other current project, the Veronica Mars revival.
I’m glad that Major spoke out loud something that I’ve been curious about — there’s a half a million humans in seattle, and 10,000 zombies. It makes me wonder why humans feel so dang threatened, when they are the majority here.
“Did you know there’s 2200 calories in a pint of ranch dressing? It’s just… I know you like ranch dressing.” “Yes, but I usually manage not to have a PINT in one SITTING.” The only moment that made me laugh out loud this episode was a classic Clive/Liv brain exchange.
iZombie airs Thursdays at 9/8c on the CW.