iZombie 5x01 "Thug Death" Review
We are back in New Seattle, and relations between humans and zombies are as tense as ever. The first episode of iZombie’s final season is mostly about setting the table, putting into motion some strong narrative threads that will take us to the finale.
The episode starts with a six-month time jump, establishing that there is now an accepted workflow in the city. Blaine’s brain business is booming, paying off border agents to help him smuggle brains into Seattle in order to keep the zombie population fed. Major is settled into his role as commander of Fillmore Graves, and assesses case of people who want to go beyond the city wall (medical emergencies and special cases only), while Liv, still acting as Renegade, assesses cases of people who want to be brought in, hoping that a zombie scratch can save their lives. Dale and Clive are stronger than ever, taking advantage of the cure, and are expecting a baby. But when a woman is murdered by zombies and it’s caught on camera, it threatens to blow open some carefully curated processes.
Liv and Clive get on the case, without the brain of the murdered woman. They have to do some old-fashioned police work, cold calling and using security cam footage to get leads. They run across Bix Cahill, the boyfriend of a potential victim. In a rare turn for iZombie, this case isn’t solved by the end of the episode, giving us a cliffhanger that might carry into next week, or maybe even longer. Rather than just a open and shut homicide, this one is going to have ripple effects on all our major players.
Peyton is still the acting mayor, and she’s attempting to hold everything down. She agrees to go on local TV and unfortunately finds herself caught in a debate with a concerned human woman, Dolly Durkins (Jennifer Irwin). The conversation escalates to Dolly advocating for bringing the guillotines back. Later, we find out that she’s more than just talk — she’s running some kind of violent human rebel ring out of a fish food truck. A customer places a seemingly innocent order that results in an explosion at a Fillmore Graves checkpoint, devastating Major and his squad.
After watching the brutal assault video, Blaine’s border patrol agents back out on their deal, threatening the state of brain food in Seattle. He brings them in and roughs them up a bit, but one doesn’t back down, telling Blaine that he doesn’t work for zombies anymore. Will the other agents follow his lead, or will Blaine make good on his promise to turn them into zombies for disobeying him?
Liv’s Renegade operation has become a little more sophisticated over the last few months, fake wardrobe walls and all. While reviewing applications to be smuggled into New Seattle, she is particularly moved by a teenaged boy with a brain tumor and abusive foster home. When her coyote shows up, the boy has brought two of his young foster sisters with him, and they convince the coyote to take all three of them. At the risk of sounding cold-blooded, this is a terrible idea. The coyote only brought one ID, and a slip up like this could ruin the whole Renegade operation. Sure enough, they don’t make it past a checkpoint, and a border agent finds the young girls hiding on the bus. I hope that Liv has a trick up her sleeve to save this one.
Meanwhile, I’m delighted by the show’s addition of Dr. Collier (Quinta Brunson). Viewers might know Quinta from her internet content, particularly from Buzzfeed. Personally, I’m a huge fan of her, so I hope that iZombie can take advantage of her comedic chops. Here, she plays Ravi’s new brilliant liaison at the CDC, who she fights to get face time with — this proves to be a struggle while he’s on a ridiculous Jason Statham-ish brain. She gets him to focus enough to tell him her theory about a cure using the post-mortem brains of the victims of “Freylich Syndrome.” Freylich Syndrome was the rare disease that Isobel (RIP, sweet baby girl) was plagued with, and her brain did in fact produce a cure. Ravi tells her she’s correct, but cautions that it would put a target on teenage kids who are already diagnosed with a terminal disease. Ravi seems to believe that a lead on a zombie cure is too valuable to be ethically pursued at this time. Dr. Collier listens, and tanks her own idea during a conference call with her supervisors. There’s something that feels uncomfortable about this — I didn’t love watching a black woman discredit herself in order for the plot to work, but I’m hoping that we see more Dr. Collier in the future, and hope she’ll play a big role in finding the cure by the end of the series. I’m looking forward to her teaming up with Ravi.
The past few seasons of iZombie have had some fantastic case-of-the-week brains, while having some overly ambitious, fuzzy overall season arcs. With showrunner Rob Thomas insisting that the show will be wrapping everything up with no ambiguous endings, perhaps this season will have a more focused and determined arc. I hope the show doesn’t bite off more than it can chew, narratively speaking.
A huge motif last season was the impact of viral images and what is (and what isn’t) caught on camera, something that continued here with the season opener. The showrunner has been open about how New Seattle often mirrors modern day America, with varying degrees of subtleness.
Seems like iZombie and co might be saving their budget for other things, the explosion at the checkpoint happens so off screen that it’s almost confusing.
One of my favorite small moments of the episode was when Dale sends Clive out for chocolate, but he has to rifle through a picked-over convenience store to no avail. I love that the showed how resources are low through the lens of Dale’s pregnancy cravings, as if women with child don’t have it hard enough.
Peyton’s new haircut looks SO good that I didn’t even notice that it was a new cut until Ravi said something! On the other hand, it’s been five seasons and Liv’s wig is as terrible as ever.
Blaine eats a brain that has a PhD in Information Science, and starts rattling off very specific, memorized facts about all his hostages. As a person who is a few weeks away from earning their Master in Library and Information Science I have to say…this is...not exactly how that works.
They couldn’t have given Quinta a scene partner with a reasonable height for her introduction scene? She’s practically craning her neck to look up at him, and the composition of the shot is so strange. I get that the point of the scene is that her character is underestimated, and perhaps the height differences were meant to show that, but it was distracting.
iZombie airs Thursdays at 9/8c on the CW.