Thursday, March 22, 2018

iZombie 4x04 Review: “Brainless in Seattle, Part 2” (The Second Act) [Guest Poster: Chloe]

“Brainless in Seattle, Part 2” 
Original Airdate: March 19, 2018

Last week I was left feeling frustrated and unfulfilled by “Brainless in Seattle, Part 1” because to me, it existed merely as a placeholder for things to come. Thankfully “Brainless in Seattle, Part 2” does a better job of providing resolution to some of the most significant narrative threads of the season thus far. Even though the episode does not accomplish everything, it does give the audience a clearer idea of what the rest of the season might entail. It also uses its hour to more effectively integrate stories that previously lacked focus.

Since this episode is the conclusion of a two episode arc, my commentary this week is going to be in pretty direct response to the observations I made in my post last week. Essentially, like the episode itself, this post is really just a continuation of my thoughts.

“Brainless in Seattle, Part 2” picks up pretty seamlessly where last week left off and immediately finds ways to integrate the five central plot components of season four. Those central plot threads include: 1) Fillmore Graves being an oppressive and violent force that has set New Seattle up like a prison. 2) Angus and his zombie church/cult growing stronger and more dangerous as they hunt and kill humans “in the name of God.” 3) Investigating Renegade, a coyote who scratches sick people, and helps people escape Seattle, all in the name of “helping.” 4) Blaine running a criminal operation that involves killing people and buying brains on the black market. 5) A serial killer who is murdering wealthy people that are looking to leave or enter Seattle.

And that doesn’t even include all of the more minor narrative components of the season. Does that sound a little narratively ambitious to anyone else but me, considering we got all of this new information in just three episodes? It is ambitious, which is why I have been feeling so frustrated with the season so far. I wasn’t sure how or if any of these components would start to integrate, so I am pleased that this episode starts to do that a little bit.

In this episode, we finally get a better understanding of what Angus and his church have planned for the future. We are reintroduced to this particular plot point when Tucker (the anti-zombie who was scratched and turned into a zombie by a Fillmore Graves soldier in episode two) finds his way into the church. He is depressed with his new condition and none of his friends or family wants anything to do with him, so the extremeness of the church and its rhetoric start to appeal to Tucker. He has nothing left to lose and he sees Fillmore Graves as the enemy — which is why he has no issue with completely giving in to the messages Angus preaches. It is only when Major shows up at the church in search of Tucker that these two narrative threads start to come together.

In a scene that it truly disturbing, Angus both commends Major for his work as a “liberator” when he was The Chaos “Killer” but also threatens him. He makes it explicitly clear that Fillmore Graves is the enemy of the people and that if Major shows up at the church in uniform again, he will “smack [his] head clean off [his] body.” It is a line that is so ominous that it really should serve as a wake-up call for Major. While Angus is just a different kind of evil force, it does not take away from all of the oppression that Major is perpetuating as a Fillmore Graves employee. I still don’t think that he sees his actions as morally wrong, but maybe this will serve as a reminder that there will eventually be consequences for his decisions and actions.

While I was initially skeptical of this particular storyline, I am now very interested to see how this unfolds throughout the rest of the season. It feels just as high stakes as the Max Rager plot from season two, but twice as harrowing because it involves more than one evil force. It has been a relatively slow build to this point because it has been mixed in with so many other narrative components. However, this plot is evident that the show is building to some type of grand conclusion that will undoubtedly alter the structure and course of the series yet again. I don’t currently feel like I am in a good place to speculate on the specifics of that resolution because I am not even sure what I want from this storyline. But the show has always found ways to surprise me with its resolutions before, so I trust the writers to do a good job of surprising me this season too.

The other central component of this episode explores the connection between Renegade and Blaine. In last week’s episode, Chase tasked Blaine with finding Renegade so that she could be eliminated. As a result, we get to see Blaine on “loose lips” brain while he waits for a vision that can help him track her down. This is a particularly great brain for Blaine to be on. Even though he is already very transparent about how evil he is, he becomes so honest to everyone about his motivations (even customers at his restaurant), that it is treated very comically. This is the Blaine content that I am here for! He was so sidelined as a character last season that I am just grateful that the writers decided to return him to his rightful place as one of the central antagonists of the series. 

Before Blaine is able to find Renegade, we get a really important conversation between her and Liv. We find out that like Liv, she is one of Seattle’s original zombies. She was one of many early zombies who were subsisting off of the brains of murdered teens (which if you don’t remember, was part of Blaine’s M.O. in season one).

When she realized that no one cared to listen to her concerns, Renegade decided to start helping people in any way that she could. In New Seattle, that now involves scratching the sick and helping families over the city wall, like we saw in episode two. She is presented as a truly compassionate and honest person, so it devastating when Blaine finally finds and brings her to Chase Graves. I don’t yet know what plans Chase might have for Renegade beyond killing her, but the look he gives her is chilling. She is either going to be used as part of some evil plan or she has been getting in the way of whatever Chase has planned next. It will undoubtedly involve coming to blows with Angus’s church/cult or with Liv, and I am excited to watch it unfold. Again, I feel like a bad fan for not having some of the foresight to be able to predict what is going to happen next, but I am also okay with not knowing.

The last component of “Brainless in Seattle, Part 2” is arguably also the least important. While the revelation that there was a serial killer in Seattle felt important last week, it doesn’t feel as important now. Additionally, we see Liv continue on “rom-com” brain even though there is no compelling reason for her to still be on it other than wanting to find her “soulmate” Tim. It does provide Rose McIver with the opportunity to play someone over-the-top and whimsical (she can truly play any character convincingly) which is funny to watch, but does little else for the narrative. However, I do appreciate that starting with last week’s episode we are getting the return of the introspective voice overs from Liv. It is a vital part of how we see and understand Liv’s perspective and motivations, so I appreciated having it back. It also gave the episode a lighter tone, despite all of the harrowing aspects of the rest of the plot. That combined with Ravi’s undercover persona and seeing Major on “macho wrestler” brain allowed the episode to feel less sinister.

The serial killer storyline ends up feeling a little lackluster in comparison to everything else the episode does well. They catch the bad guy in the same way they would with any other case, and that is it. There is no further exploration of the killer’s motives, and the episode concludes the arc without commenting on its significance at all. It was a nice idea to explore in theory, and maybe it will still be integrated with another element of the story, but for now it feels like wasted space. In a season that has so many other components to it, the show cannot afford to waste time on elements that won’t serve the rest of the story in a significant way.

“Brainless in Seattle, Part 2” manages to address almost every loose thread of the season thus far and while not all elements have been concluded satisfactorily, (at least to me) it does provide satisfying answers for some plot points. In an episode filled with other great moments, the conversation that Liv and Clive have about his relationship with Dale was the most satisfying for me to watch. In last week’s episode, we saw Dale kiss another man, and it raised questions about whether she was cheating on Clive. Instead of communicating her concerns in a mature way, Liv decides to badmouth Dale and attempts to set Clive up with a new co-worker. We see her do this more aggressively in “Part 2” and thankfully Clive is not having any of it. He finally calls Liv out on all of her problematic behavior by arguing that “what makes this worse is that it’s not just coming from the brain you are on; I think it is coming from you.” It is only after this conversation that Liv decides to tell Clive the truth. As I speculated last week, Dale and Clive have indeed agreed to open up their relationship, so technically what Liv saw wasn’t cheating.

But the news is still devastating for Clive because of course it isn’t really something he wants, but rather something he is trying to do because “when you love someone you will do anything to try to make it work.” It is a heartbreaking moment but also one that brings Liv and Clive closer. It is vital that they are both so hard on each other about their various life choices because it holds them more accountable for their actions. This conversation is ultimately so important because it is a rare moment of vulnerability for Clive. As frustrated as he gets with Liv, he still trusts her with the most important aspects of his life which allows their friendship to flourish.

Ultimately “Brainless in Seattle, Part 2” serves as an adequate conclusion to some of the most important developments from last week’s episode. We are now a third of the way through season four, and this episode definitely feels like the conclusion of “Act 1.” If the first act exists to establish all of the important facets of the season, act two will show a more substantial build in the narrative. What it will entail is for us to speculate, but whatever the next part of the season brings, I know that it will be a lot of fun to watch. Join me next week for my coverage of “Goon Struck.”


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