iZombie Season 2 is a Triumph of Genre Storytelling
Overview: Following the aftermath of the Meat Cute massacre, Liv tries to rebuild her life as Max Rager begins hunting Seattle zombies and Blaine takes on the city’s organized crime boss. 2015-2016; CW/Warner Bros; 19 episodes.
Already Dead: The freshman season of iZombie was a constant joy that never dwelt too much on unnecessary melodrama or repetition, but this latest season moves the show into the upper echelon of must watch television. The brains led to more interesting personalities, the jokes hit harder, the mysteries were more compelling, and the finale was somehow more explosive than the first season.
There are a lot of moving pieces in this season of iZombie. But, perhaps the most lovable element of the season is the constant evolution of characters and relationships. Liv Moore (Rose McIver) is in a dark place when the season opens up, completely abandoned by her family and recently infecting and curing ex-boyfriend Major of the zombie virus. Meanwhile, Ravi (Rahul Kohli) continues working on a cure after discovering his initial cure has severe consequences for those who have taken it (i.e, Major and Blaine, played by Robert Buckley and David Anders, respectively). Major becomes enwrapped in the Max Rager conspiracy and blackmailed into hunting the zombie populace. Blaine begins establishing himself as a legitimate businessman (how fitting is it for him to own a morgue?) And finally, Peyton returns to Seattle and works with the District Attorney office to take down a sinister crime syndicate led by meek, but haunting Mr. Boss (Eddie Jemison). This crew of writers and actors are able to breathe life into these people and then preserve them as characters worth investing believing in.
Showrunner Rob Thomas pulls off a remarkable balancing act in dealing with various plot threads, not all of which come together but imply larger tidings ahead in the following season.
The budding adversarial relationship with Blaine is in full force in the first part of the season with a heartbreaking reminder that if Seattle zombies don’t get their brains from him, it’s game over for the human race. Blaine returns with a swagger as the undead host-with-the most, weaseling his way through every major storyline before literally hijacking Major’s thread for a secret team-up. This is only a taste of the bizarre character mashups this season brought to the table.The brainy iZombie creative team continue to find new ways of exploring psychological connections between the characters.
Liv’s BFF Peyton returned with open arms and a more open minded approach to typical zombie nonsense, but my absolute favorite part of the season has to be Liv, Ravi, Major, and Peyton all living under one roof, planning against Max Rager and the inner workings of his zombie experimentation programs. It’s like a fanfiction trope come to life, with favorite characters being written to live together. And even in this crowded fantasy set-up (Hell, at one point, even an undercover Max Rager employee ends up living with Liv), it’s the emotional bounds between characters that drive the show to stay consistently compelling.
In the finale, Clive (Malcolm Goodwin), Liv, and Major charge into a straight up 28 Days Later-inspired zombie outbreak and the excitement isn’t simply from the espionage episode structure. Not only is it gratifying to watch the characters stop an all-out zombie apocalypse together, its also fun as hell, and it earns our worry for each of of their livelihoods.
The supporting characters were more colorful this year with the dynamic duo of Don E. (Bryce Hodgson) and Chief (Andre Tricoteaux) being a huge highlight. The two assisted Blaine with the brain business and felt as if they were plucked straight out of a Shane Black script. Both funny and frightening, the two make for a fun duo and I was sad to see Chief meet an abrupt end in the finale. And speaking of abrupt endings in the finale, this final episode had one had a hell of a body count.
Liv and Let Die and Let Live Some More: Liv lost another zombie boyfriend, Clive has officially joined Liv on Team Z, and Vaughn (Steven Weber) was eaten by his zombie daughter – I still can’t believe they got away with showing Vaughn’s zombified daughter Gilda (Leanne Lapp) scoop out his brains on a CW show.
Max Rager was bought out by a private military contractor (“think Blackwater but less cuddly”) so the company threat will persist. The ominous final scene shows the leader of the Max Rager buyout implying some sort of attempt at constructing a new world order? It makes sense to shift the series main antagonist to another zombie. We’ve had Blaine, Vaughn, and now this mystery woman and her shadow company. Mr. Boss technically counts but he and Liv only crossed paths in a standalone episode meant to introduce him to the series.
But, I have to take the show to task for not tying the Mr. Boss and Max Rager plots together more tidily. Where we leave Ravi, Peyton, and Blaine in that particular fight feels like it would be the penultimate episode of a season. It’s not that a serious matter and the show still utilized that story in a compelling manner, but how great would it have been to see Mr. Boss get involved in Blaine’s zombie brain business?
Salivation Army: iZombie’s third season seems to be headed for uncharted territory. The world was on the cusp of a zombie apocalypse. With all the main players in the series fully engaged in the fight against Max Rager, I’m betting the secret doesn’t stay secret to the world for much longer.
Overall: iZombie Season 2 expands on its noir roots and evolves beyond the confines of episodic storytelling in an upgraded sophomore season. It’s a triumph of genre and ensemble storytelling.
Featured Image: CW/Warner Bros.