Friday, April 27, 2018

iZombie 4x08 Review: “Chivalry is Dead” (White Knight) [Guest Poster: Chloe]

“Chivalry is Dead” 
Original Airdate: April 23, 2018

Like with many of the recent episodes of season four, “Chivalry is Dead” is a comparatively quieter one. Especially when looking ahead to next week’s episode description and promo, this one definitely feels like a slow build toward something far more intense and jarring. I appreciate that the show has given both the narrative and its audience a chance to breathe before giving us anything else new to engage with. While last week’s episode struggled a bit with its narrative progression, “Chivalry is Dead” manages to progress the most vital plot threads forward in a way that feels organic and substantial.

The case of the week centers on a live-action role player (LARP) who is murdered during a duel with someone else from his team. When Liv eats his brains, she takes on the mannerisms and persona of a “chivalrous knight” in a move that is simultaneously grating and yet also endearing. Seeing Rose McIver in a role like this really speaks to her talents as an actress because she manages to completely embody the character to the point where (at least for this episode) she ceases to be herself. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the brain itself — because medieval culture and lore just aren’t my thing — the case does allow two vital plot lines to better integrate, so I still see value in it.

Whilst on “chivalrous knight” brain, we get to see Liv further cement herself as the new Renegade. It is the ideal brain to be on, because it allows her to act the part of “savior.” Liv has always associated herself as a proponent of justice and “goodness” throughout the series, and so now to be seen both literally and metaphorically as a “white knight” gives her the confidence and conviction to assume her role as Renegade. However, it is evident throughout the episode that Liv still doesn’t have a firm grasp on the responsibilities and consequences of her recent actions. This is made especially apparent at the end of the episode when she loses track of one of the people she is supposed to smuggle into Seattle. When the girl finally does arrive, Liv’s “healing” scratch doesn’t work. I do not know what we are supposed to glean from this interaction (either that Isobel has some type of immunity or that Liv is losing her “spark”) but it will definitely have an impact on how she handles things moving forward.

The inability to help a dying girl is going to psychologically affect Liv more than she is probably willing to admit. Especially since the only reason she is on this crusade in the first place, and the reason she eats brains in order to solve crimes, is to feel like she is helping people. All she ever wanted pre-series was to become a doctor. And when that was no longer a possibility, she found other ways to help. But if she can’t help Isobel or gets imprisoned or killed for her actions, it is going to lead to even more problems both ideologically and emotionally for everyone in Liv’s core group.

I fear that not being able to help Isobel will push Liv to be even more brazen and reckless than usual, and that it will lead to her ultimate downfall. Especially considering everything else that is happening simultaneously throughout Seattle, I worry that Liv is not even aware of the mounting problems that are facing the city and — more importantly — she is not equipped to handle them by herself. Her motivations are seemingly coming from a pure place, but her recent actions have not necessarily been a reflection of that. If she is going to make a meaningful impact for the citizens of Seattle, she is going to need a lot more support and assistance than she currently has at her disposal

The case of the week additionally allows for some more integration of the Clive/Dale relationship storyline. By the end of the episode, we find out that the victim was murdered by a member of his LARP-ing group after he was caught sleeping with the friend's wife. During her interrogation, the wife discusses the difficulties of being in a zombie-human relationship and realizing that the lack of intimacy creates a lot of tension in her marriage. As we are well aware, this is the exact same thing that Clive has been struggling with all season. I appreciate that even in a small way, Clive is able to emotionally connect with another person over their similar relationship woes.

I think Clive will need to continue to reach out to other people for support as he continues to navigate his relationship obstacles with Dale, because navigating it by themselves has not been enough so far. Even though they are trying to communicate better, Clive is clearly crumbling from the pressure of it all. Watching Clive be so despondent this episode was hard to process. I have said it a million times but I will keep saying it until it happens: Clive deserves to be happy! We have seen him struggle in other ways before, but watching him suffer emotionally the way he has this season has been a bit too much for me. He deserves better than the storyline he has been given this season. Some of our other core characters deserve better too, including Peyton.

“Chivalry is Dead” gives Peyton something tangible to do for the first time all season by integrating her into the Renegade plotline. Even though I previously bemoaned the fact that Peyton was not getting adequate development or screen time, I am not sure I like what the writers have decided to do with her storyline. Now that she is more aware of what Major and Liv have been respectively working on, it makes sense for Liv to want to include her in her Renegade plans and take advantage of Peyton’s connections and authority in the Mayor’s office to further her own agenda. That is ultimately my main issue with this storyline: it paints Peyton as reckless even though that has never been a facet of her characterization. Peyton is methodical, hard-working, and sensible. Bribing a prisoner for information and then stealing a duffel bag full of cash is not only a poorly thought-out plan, it is also incredibly dangerous.

Especially with the revelation that Stacy Boss (someone Peyton has always been at odds with) is back in Seattle and the fact that it is technically his money that was stolen does not bode well for Peyton’s future. I do understand that now that circumstances have changed in New Seattle, maybe Peyton is more inclined to break the rules in order to help her friends and “the greater good” but it is evident that this decision will have negative consequences in upcoming episodes. It is not yet clear what will become of Peyton now that she has positioned herself as part of a resistance effort, but that it won’t be anything good.

The plot this week is far less focused on the Fillmore Graves/Major storyline, but there is still some crucial plot development regarding Major. I have discussed this a lot in my previous posts, but much of Major’s development this season has been focused on his moral quandaries. He has made very clear and definitive choices about where his loyalties lie, which is unwaveringly with Chase Graves. It has resulted in choices that characterize Major as a villain, but we have seen glimmers of recognition lately — that he is aware that his behavior is ultimately wrong. We see this presented a lot more clearly in “Chivalry is Dead” when Major buddies up to a corrupt Fillmore Graves soldier in order to then feed information about him to Chase.

It is apparent that once Major sees how far the other soldier is willing to bend the rules to suit his needs (even if this involves terrorizing or even killing people) that Major finally wakes up to the reality of what he has been a part of. He may not technically be as harmful as this other soldier, but he perpetuates many of the same notions and promotes the same culture of fear for the citizens of New Seattle. It is unfortunate that it took seeing this behavior reflected in someone else for Major to have a moment of moral clarity, since Peyton, Ravi, and Liv have long made it apparent how they feel about his Fillmore Graves associations, and what it has meant for his integrity. But it is also unfortunate, because it is increasingly apparent that Major is now too closely embedded as an “enemy” and that finding a way to reconcile his actions is going to be nearly impossible.

Elsewhere, the episode works to fuse the church/cult storyline with Blaine’s narrative arc. This ends up being important for a couple of reasons. It is vital from a narrative standpoint, because it has been clear since the beginning of the season that Angus and his cult will serve as catalysts for a full-blown uprising against Fillmore Graves, and other corrupt forces in New Seattle. Even though Angus and his followers are their own source of destruction, they view themselves as being morally justified in their pursuits. His group is comprised of dangerous but easily corruptible people. When Blaine sees an opportunity to exploit the dumb and hungry zombies in his father’s group, he does. It is apparent that Blaine is playing the long game when it comes to taking down his father. So he decides to play nice for a while.

Blaine honors the standing reservation for the church to eat for free at Romero’s once a week. He holds his tongue to avoid saying regrettable things in front of his father, all in an attempt to lull Angus into a false sense of trust and security. So when Stacy Boss returns to Seattle to collect on a debt owed to him, Blaine — being the manipulative and calculated person that he is — uses it as an opportunity to solve two problems at once. Watching Stacy and Blaine work together should make us all very fearful for our core characters’ futures. Stacy is only acting courteous toward Blaine because he wants his help. He has no other reason to trust Blaine and vice versa. It is a calculated move, but thankfully one the Blaine now knows how to take advantage of. Watching this particular relationship unfold in the next few weeks will be very interesting. And considering that Stacy’s storyline was never fully wrapped up before, I am glad the show is taking the opportunity to do it now.

As is made apparent in the promo for next week’s episode, during the brain “buffet” on the prison transport bus, one of the more dangerous prisoners escapes. It will lead to very negative consequences for the citizens of Seattle if he is not caught, but will also have ramifications for the people ultimately responsible. This plays into exactly what Blaine wants. He wants chaos to erupt in New Seattle — and if the blame gets partly directed at his father, even better. It will be interesting to see how all of the oppressive forces (Fillmore Graves, Blaine, Angus, and now Stacy Boss) will run counter to each other in the coming episodes. It will undoubtedly lead to destruction and carnage, but will also hopefully make for a compelling arc to end the season on. This is really what this season has been building to anyway, and I am now prepared to watch it unfold.

Ultimately, “Chivalry is Dead” serves as a necessary catalyst for very important things to come. On its own, the episode is quieter and more simple in structure but it is used intentionally to give the audience a break before the sensory overload that is promising to unfold starting next week. The episode still manages to develop integral storylines, while also delivering the type of fun (and funny) case of the week that we can expect from this show. Tune in next week for my coverage of “Mac-Liv-Moore,” which — based on the direction I think the show is taking us — will be an intense and exhilarating viewing experience.


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