Wednesday, March 7, 2018

iZombie 4x02 Review: “Blue Bloody” (Moving Forward) [Guest Poster: Chloe]

“Blue Bloody” 
Original Airdate: March 5, 2018

While last week’s iZombie premiere primarily served to re-immerse the audience into the world of the show and establish the rules of New Seattle, “Blue Bloody” wastes no time diving into that “new world order.”

The case itself is pretty standard: a stuffy rich woman gets murdered by one of her staff members, 1) because she is horrible and 2) because the murderer finds out that there is one million dollars left to them when their employer dies, thus having a pretty compelling motive. The case is significant for two reasons. First, we get to see Liv at her most insufferable to date. At this point, it seems like Liv is intentionally leaning into the bad characteristics that she acquires while on any given brain. She no longer takes on just the traits of the people whose brains she eats. Now, she becomes those people entirely. From an acting standpoint, it is fun to watch Rose McIver completely disappear into a new role each week. But from a narrative standpoint, it’s disturbing.

While she eats the brains of a particularly vile person this week, that should not excuse her behavior during the episode. I do appreciate that Ravi and Clive call Liv out on her bad behavior; now I just wish she would take some personal responsibility for how her actions have been impacting everyone else. Maybe she no longer knows what it means to “be herself” when she is not on any brain but her own, but I hope that she figures it out soon. I still love Liv (and I don’t expect her to be perfect) but seeing her act selfish and oblivious is starting to get tiresome.

The case of the week is additionally significant because of the killer’s motivations. She kills her employer in order to get the money she needs to help her son who is critically ill. In order to save his life, he needs to be smuggled out of Seattle and sent for a surgical procedure in California. While killing her employer is wrong, she does it for generally selfless reasons. By the end of the episode, Liv and Ravi agree to help get her son out of Seattle, despite how difficult and dangerous it is. This plot point ultimately serves as an important commentary on the oppressive nature of New Seattle. While the Fillmore Graves soldiers can claim that the wall exists to keep the citizens of Seattle safe from the rest of the world, it also keeps them isolated from that world. They no longer have the ability to move around freely, so it’s no wonder that people have to go to such extreme lengths to try to leave. I have no doubt that this specific commentary will continue as the season progresses.

Another way that the episode addresses the oppressive nature of the “new world order” in Seattle is through Major’s storyline. Since season two, Major has struggled to define himself and his motivations, which has often resulted in him making very poor decisions. However, despite all of his mistakes, it is evident that Major still thinks of himself as a good person. That is how he is ultimately able to reconcile the things he has done since becoming a Fillmore Graves soldier. If he can convince himself that his job is truly about integrating Seattle and being a “peacekeeper,” then he can push away the less desirable things that he has done — and will continue to do. However, despite presenting himself as a “good” guy, I think there is a part of Major that knows that many of his actions are ultimately wrong. Take the anti-zombie/Fillmore Graves fight scene in this episode as an example.

While we know that Seattle’s anti-zombie coalition is comprised of narrow-minded and aggressive people, that doesn’t mean that they deserve to be killed or turned into zombies as punishment for their actions. There has to be a better way to address their aggressive and violent tendencies, and hopefully the show will find a way to do that soon. The scene where the new teen zombie recruit attacks and scratches one of the anti-zombies is hard to watch because despite the disturbing actions and rhetoric espoused by the anti-zombies, attacking them with brute force is just as damaging to Fillmore Grave’s image as doing nothing. It also paints them as no better than the anti-zombies.

There is a point when Major is trying to break-up the fight that we see a witness recording the whole thing. It is at this point that Major looks concerned for the first time. From an outsider’s perspective, the Fillmore Graves soldiers look like instigators of violence — or if nothing else they serve as violent oppressors. That isn’t how Major sees himself, but maybe seeing his actions from a different perspective will help shine a light on his flawed behavior. Liv tries to offer some of that perspective at the end of the episode.

And while I am not convinced that Liv is in the best position to offer advice on Major’s behavior, (since she has enough of her own issues to deal with) I still appreciate her effort. Major’s overly defensive response to Liv’s critique of his character comes from a place of pain. Part of the reason they have never really worked as a couple is because Major is always put in an inferior position both ideologically and morally. He is never deemed as “smart” or “good” as Liv. That is what makes the scene at the end of this episode so significant. While they have had conflict numerous times throughout their on-again off-again relationship, this is one of the few times that they are being honest about their real problems with each other. Major resents Liv’s “holier than thou” attitude that she brings to most situations, while Liv is continually frustrated with Major’s poor decision making. They are now firmly in opposition with the other and I am interested to see how this impacts the plot moving forward. Will they find a way to reconcile their differences, or will this argument be the catalyst for further conflict throughout the rest of the season?

Another important facet of “Blue Bloody” is the prophet storyline. While I was primarily annoyed and confused by Angus’s behavior in last week’s episode, now I am terrified by it. In between episodes, Angus has managed to establish a pro-zombie church that has a cult-like following. He preaches some pretty dangerous rhetoric and justifies all behavior — even murder — as acceptable because it is done “in the name of the Lord.” It is disturbing to watch because while Angus and his followers do not seem like a credible threat to the safety of the rest of Seattle yet, they will be soon. I am not exactly sure how this particular narrative thread will unfold this season, but I do know that it will have some type of negative impact of our other characters. Maybe this will lead to the uprising that I theorized about last week?

Either way, the zombies of Seattle need to be very cautious about buying into the notions of someone who has all the “right” answers. Whether the zombie residents choose to listen to the preaching of Angus and his church or adhere to the strict rules that are enforced by Fillmore Graves soldiers, both options are negative extremes. It will be interesting to see how these two extremes start to intersect, and what impact it ultimately has on the people (both zombie and non-zombie alike) of Seattle.

While I understand the greater significance of their conflict, I disliked Clive’s and Dale’s storyline this week. (It felt largely out of place with the rest of the episode). We knew as soon as Dale turned into a zombie that it would cause additional strain on her relationship with Clive, and I guess issues of a “sexual nature” are included in that. They are two fiercely independent people with strong personalities and trust issues. Adding sexual incompatibility to the mix only makes things harder for both of them because their physical connection is a large part of why they work well as a couple. Without that connection, can the relationship last long-term? The question at this point is whether Clive’s relationship with Dale is worth it. I don’t like the idea of him eventually becoming a zombie just for the sake of the relationship, but we will have to see how it goes. He does not deserve a life of solitude, but he also does not deserve to be turned into a member of the undead forever — if that is not something he truly wants. This conflict adds dimension to a relationship that is otherwise a little boring because it makes me care about the outcome.

When Liv and Major were previously experiencing very similar issues, I found myself not caring as much because their entire relationship seemed juvenile. At least with Dale and Clive, they are trying to take a more mature approach to solving their problems (anti-anxiety pills to reduce libido not withstanding). Even though it won’t be my favorite storyline to explore, I am still interested to find out what Clive plans on doing to solve his “intimate” problems. Additionally, if it involves more hilarious scenes of him trying to open up to Ravi, I won’t take issue with it.

Like much of last season, “Blue Bloody” is yet another episode where Peyton and Blaine are absent. I have previously conveyed my frustrations about Peyton’s lack of real characterization and when she is absent for long stretches, it only makes it more jarring when she does reappear. I understand that from a financial standpoint it might not be suitable to pay for every actor to be in every episode, but it also feels like an excuse for lazy storytelling. If Peyton no longer fits into the current narrative trajectory, then the creators need to be honest about that. If she is not going to get the adequate development she deserves, it would be better for her to end up like Liv’s family — never to be heard from again. Sure, it would leave a glaring plot hole with the audience asking where she went, but it would also free up narrative space for other developing stories.

The same can be said for Blaine. I really value Blaine as a character because he exists in opposition to much of what Liv, Ravi, and Clive stand for. However, now that the show has taken such a deep pivot, Blaine no longer serves the same purpose that he once did. He is no longer the primary villain of the story and, as a result, doesn’t have much to do. Even when he was in the premiere last week, he did not seem to know what his role in “New Seattle” was. It would be a shame to see such a formidable and dynamic character go, but if he is no longer pushing the narrative forward, it’s time for his story to end.

Despite some of its unevenness in tone (primarily the scenes about Clive’s “problems”), “Blue Bloody” is a solid episode. It does a really effective job of moving the narrative forward, by focusing on the elements of the plot that have the most to say socio-politically. It also establishes the central conflict that will likely unfold throughout the season, all while giving us the requisite iZombie brand of humor that we all love. Tune in next week for my coverage of episode three: “Brainless in Seattle, Part 1.”


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