Saturday, April 14, 2018

iZombie 4x06 Review: “My Really Fair Lady” (Song and Dance) [Guest Poster: Chloe]

“My Really Fair Lady” 
Original Airdate: April 9, 2018 

“My Really Fair Lady” functions a bit differently than most episodes of iZombie, and that is a good thing. Instead of trying to do too much with its plot, it chooses to expand upon just a few of the most important narrative elements from this season. The episode also functions differently because for once, Liv does not eat the brains of a murder victim. As a result, her over-the-top personality changes exist purely for comedic value rather than serving any legitimate purpose. While none of what we see from Liv (or any of our characters) feels strictly necessary, it still makes for a fun and solid midseason episode. Nothing truly groundbreaking happens, but given how narratively intensive the first half of the season was, it is nice to have a comparatively quieter episode.

“My Really Fair Lady” steps outside of iZombie’s traditional procedural formula by doing an episode that does not actually contain a murder or “case of the week.” Instead, it focuses on some of the aftermath of the events of “Goon Struck.” While the episode does not have a murder victim, Liv still eats the brains of an over-the-top theater actress, played perfectly by the incomparable Rachel Bloom. While the first few minutes of her backstory are not necessary from a narrative perspective, it is a wonderful excuse to see Rachel in a role other than Rebecca Bunch.

(Also, as a life-long Rent fan, I thoroughly appreciated that her character attempts to put on an avant-garde zombie version of the musical. It is funny and sweet, and is only made better once Rose McIver adopts the persona too.)

While seeing Liv on “theater diva” brain is mostly done for comedic purposes, it lends itself well to the tone of the episode. Her main purpose in “My Really Fair Lady” is to pick up where Mama Leoni left off when she was executed, and become the new Renegade. Despite her desire to be good, I don’t think that Liv understands exactly what she is getting herself into — which Levon and the rest of Mama’s crew affirm. However, being on “theater diva” brain does have some advantages. It gives her the confidence and acting ability to pull off a dangerous rescue mission at New Seattle’s shipping yard. It also gives Rose McIver not only the opportunity to use her real hair and makeup, but also her real accent. It is so cute to hear her Kiwi accent, and it allows for a level of immersion even beyond what we normally see.

Since the episode does not have its standard “case of the week,” it has to rely on the shipping yard mission as its main source of conflict. Even though the mission is ultimately successful, it is apparent that this is just one facet of a much more challenging undertaking. They were successful this time, but that certainly doesn’t mean that any other facet of being Renegade will be easy for Liv. I honestly don’t know how Liv is going to be able to balance her double life of solving crime and acting as the new Renegade, but it will be interesting to watch. The most important thing for the show to address now is whether or not Liv will see repercussions of any of her recent decisions. Too often the show lets Liv off the hook for her behavior because she is the protagonist. However, this season the writers have been better about making the audience and other characters aware of her flaws, so maybe the show will find ways to hold Liv accountable.

Liv has often aligned herself as a “white knight,” ready to save Seattle from the evil plaguing society. She is both idealistic and overly-simplistic in her notions about how evil manifests, and she also lacks the self-awareness to recognize when she is contributing to the overall problem. Taking on the responsibilities of Renegade is just one recent example of Liv attempting to align herself on the “right” side of history, even if she doesn’t know what that means anymore. I have mentioned it several times before, but I think that it deserves further clarification: that Liv thinking she is a good person — or better than people like Major and Blaine — is a reflection of her own actions and behavior. It is a limited perspective on what it means to be “good” or “evil” and it is a perspective that will likely lead to further conflict for Liv in the future.

When I talk about Liv being “good,” there is a reason I put it in quotation marks. I talk about her goodness in comparison to other characters because it is a vital part of how she views herself, regardless of whether or not I actually consider Liv to be a good person. I feel like making that distinction is particularly necessary to make as we move toward the second half of the season. We will likely see Liv make a lot of morally questionable decisions in the next few episodes, and we as an audience need to be ready to talk about her actions and behavior — separate from what the characters themselves are willing to comment on.

Elsewhere in the episode, the narrative concerns itself with focusing on three key relationships: Clive and Dale, Peyton and Ravi, and Blaine and Angus.

One of the only downsides of not having an actual murder victim this week is that we don’t get to see as much interaction between Liv, Ravi, and Clive in the ways that we usually do. As a result, their individual storylines feel very isolated — and arguably less profound — because they can’t lean on each other for guidance or to reinforce their own (often poor) decision making. Without Ravi or Liv there to support and listen to Clive’s needs, his storyline this episode feels out of place with everything else. While his relationship issues with Dale have been well established this season (and I do want some sort of resolution to their arc), the development that we do get in this episode comes about in a weird way, and ultimately should have been reserved for a different episode. While Liv and Ravi’s advice is not always valued by Clive, it is still important that he listens to their perspectives — which is hopefully what he will get to do in the next episode.

Since Clive doesn’t have anyone to really confide in this week, he is left to his own devices when it comes to dealing with his relationship woes. While Clive seemed initially hesitant about the idea of an open relationship with Dale, he seems less reluctant in this episode because we see him flirt with his new co-worker. However when she finds out that he is already in a relationship with Dale, she is understandably upset by the idea that he would cheat on Dale with her. Despite the whole situation being mishandled, it does lead to an important and honest conversation with the co-worker... that Dale just so happens to overhear. Her expression after hearing Clive’s speech is a little hard to read.  It isn’t clear if her disappointed look is the result of jealousy or because Clive is having an honest conversation about their relationship with a virtual stranger, but is unwilling to communicate those same things to her.

Alternatively, maybe she realizes that what she is asking of Clive is unfair. They love each other, but what they currently have isn’t working for a lot of reasons. Without seeing their interactions with each other, it is hard to say what direction their relationship is ultimately heading. I don’t know if they will be able to make it work as a couple, but as long as Clive feels like he has his friends to confide in (and we actually see it on screen) I will be satisfied regardless of the results. I may not like Dale as a character but I care about Clive and just want him to be happy. If that means that the show spends more screen time trying to further develop their relationship, then I am okay with it. The same can unfortunately not be said for some of the other romantic relationships on the show.

I knew as soon as Peyton wanted Liv to eat the brain of a heroin addict in order to secure a “win” in the bus accident case that Ravi would take advantage of his zombie “time of the month” and eat the brain instead. On the one hand, I appreciate the opportunity for Rahul Kohli to showcase his acting range (and he truly was brilliant on “heroin addict” brain) but from a narrative perspective, it was a little infuriating to watch. I sometimes like the idea of Peyton and Ravi as a couple, but I dislike the fact that it took a truly reckless and dangerous gesture on Ravi’s part for Peyton to consider him again. Their relationship has always felt very one-sided and while I do believe that she cares for him, I don’t appreciate that it took this much on Ravi’s part to get them to that reunion kiss at the end of the episode. I think both of them have made poor choices in response to their relationship; but more than anything, I think it’s Peyton’s general lack of character development that makes it hard to root for Ravi and Peyton as a couple. If she was given more screen time and more opportunities for us to understand her motivations, then I could maybe feel better about shipping these two. As it stands, I will wait to see what the show decides to do with this relationship before I make any more observations on them as a couple.

One of the most significant plot points of “My Really Fair Lady” happens at the very end. I was wondering when the church/cult storyline would finally intersect with Blaine’s, and this episode gives us that answer. When Blaine finally learns that his father has not actually been at the bottom of a well as he had previously thought, he absolutely loses it. Angus shows up to Blaine’s restaurant with his cult in the hopes of securing a standing reservation for them to eat at Romero’s every week. It is a significant plot point for a few reasons. Angus uses it as an opportunity to show Blaine that he is just as dangerous and manipulative as before, but now he also has his own army of followers that he can control and use in a fight against Blaine. This particular storyline was already alarming enough to watch, but is even more so now that Blaine is aware of the problem.

However, the part that is most alarming is seeing how much control Angus still has over Blaine, psychologically. While we see Blaine’s anger during his confrontation with his dad, we also see something even rarer — we see his fear. Blaine has always been characterized as a textbook villain. He is murderous, manipulative, arrogant, angry, and ruthless. Despite all of these characteristics, the show makes it very apparent that these are learned traits and defense mechanisms. They are all characteristics that Blaine has chosen to adopt, but they are still the product of seeing similar behavior expressed when he was growing up. Blaine was abused by his father as a child (something he repeats while screaming at his father in this episode), and it is clearly a trauma that informs his behavior as an adult.

Blaine’s predominant emotions at the end of this episode are anger, fear, and disbelief. As much as he would like to pretend otherwise, the notion that his father has manipulated and coerced an entire group of people into believing that he is some type of zombie savior deeply terrifies Blaine. The whole reason that Blaine kept his father in “zombie jail” and put him down a well in the first place is because killing him would have been too easy. He wanted Angus to suffer the way that Blaine felt he had suffered as a child. So for Blaine to find out that not only is his father out of the well but is more of a threat than ever gives Blaine considerable cause for concern.

It is evident that Blaine and Angus will have to come to some final blow soon. For his sake, I am hoping that Blaine is the one who triumphs over his father. I appreciate that Blaine is a complex villain. I wouldn’t like him as much if he weren’t. It is because of his complexities that I can root for his hopeful triumph over his father — in whatever form that takes. While Blaine’s terrible childhood should not be used as an excuse for his behavior, it is a good explanation for his actions. Having something deeper and more dynamic to cling to makes Blaine a more interesting and important antagonist to — dare I say — root for.

Ultimately, “My Really Fair Lady” showcases that the show still does pretty well when it goes narratively smaller. While not every aspect of the episode felt like it had a legitimate place in the overall plot, it still allowed for some of the most vital narrative threads of the season to further develop. It leaves the rest of the season open for a lot of different possibilities, and I look forward to finding out how the show handles that. Come back next week for my coverage of “Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Brain.”


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