Review: ‘iZombie’ gets its superhero on with ‘Cape Town’

Thoughts on tonight's “iZombie” coming up just as soon as I'm thick with justice…

On the one hand, the idea behind the Brain of the Week story in “Cape Town” requires a hell of a lot of buy-in, and/or a complete reconceptualizing of the show. Sci-fi, horror, and, yes, superhero stories work best when there's some kind of grounding to the material beyond the key fantastical elements. You have to go into a Spider-Man comic accepting that he can cling to walls and has a danger sense, but on some level, Peter Parker has to work as a character, and his New York has to have some resemblance to the real one, even if it's constantly being menaced by supervillains. With “iZombie,” we accept that zombies are real, and that Blaine has helped to create a whole ecosystem for them to continue to walk among us without detection. To layer on top of that the idea that the show's version of Seattle is also populated by costumed vigilantes that the police department knows about and mostly shrugs off seems perhaps one move too far over another genre line(*), unless the plan is for the cape-and-cowl types to become a fixture on the show. (In the comic book – created by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred, whose names were combined for The Fog's alter ego – there's a whole monster cosmology rather than just zombies, so I suppose the show could incorporate superheroes if it wanted to.) “iZombie” executive producer Diane Ruggiero-Wright, who wrote “Cape Town,” is a longtime comic book fan, and I can see the appeal of essentially turning Liv into Batman for an episode, especially since Rose McIver was able to do it without just trying a bad Christian Bale impression, but at a minimum, it really stretched out the amount of willing suspension of disbelief the show normally requires.

(*) After finishing this review, I mentioned this concern to a friend who had also seen the episode, and he pointed out that the real Seattle does, in fact, have its own costumed vigilantes, like Phoenix Jones. Knowing that didn't entirely change my feelings, because sometimes what's real doesn't always make the most sense dramatically. Weirdly, I think a Seattle-based cop show without any supernatural elements could more easily incorporate someone like The Fog than “iZombie” did. (Okay, maybe “The Killing” would struggle with it, too.)

And yet… once I was able to get past the utility belt and domino mask of it all, “Cape Town” was one of the show's best episodes this season, and at times put the vigilante plot to excellent use in exploring the larger issues both Liv and Major are going through in their current weird circumstances.

Liv has already basically been acting as a vigilante – and, unlike, The Fog and his pals, she's bullet proof and super strong – but her antics here finally pushed her behavior into something Clive couldn't overlook anymore, forcing him to end (for now, at least) their unofficial partnership, and thus taking away the one thing that made zombie life bearable for Liv. There are times when the show has just played Liv's personality switches for laughs, like the real housewives episode, but these last few have run head-on into the inherent messiness of having other people's minds overwhelming your own, with the stalker's brain hugely damaging things with major, and The Fog's messing up her fake psychic gig. Rose McIver has fun with the various goofy identities she gets to try on, but the scene where she broke up with Major, in part because he still couldn't fully understand what she goes through each time she eats a new brain, was outstanding dramatic work.

The episode's best scene, though, involved Major in his own role as a superhero posing as a supervillain. I was relieved to find out a few episodes ago that Major was merely drugging and freezing his victims, rather than killing them; I don't love it when TV shows play that much of a shell game with their viewers (see also The Dumpster Incident from “Walking Dead,” or Carrie vs. Saul a few seasons ago on “Homeland”), but in this case, I'd rather the show trick me than try to convince down the line me that Liv or anyone else would ever forgive Major for becoming a serial killer of zombies trying to go about their everyday lives. His conversation with the zombified call girl was sadly, horrifyingly blunt (particularly for a CW show!) as she recounted what her life has become since she was transformed against her will, and yet another reminder that, in the grand scheme of things, Liv has it much better than most of Seattle's growing undead population. 

On a less crazy show – say, “Veronica Mars,” with Veronica and Logan – the back-and-forth of Liv and Major's relationship would feel like conflict for its own sake, but the issues wedged between the two of them are enormous and, within the rules of this world, very real. And something tells me that whenever the cure fails for Major like it did for Ravi's rat, things aren't going to suddenly become sunshine and rainbows for those two because they'll be on the same diet and can have sex again.

There's too much overall plot at the moment – my eyes glaze over anytime we start discussing the whereabouts of the tainted Utopium, or Stacey Boss's org chart (though I'm enjoying Eddie Jemison's performance, and the opportunity for other characters to keep calling him “Mr. Boss”) – and the procedural stories are still uneven, but the cast is terrific, and the emotional stories at the heart of the mess Liv has found herself in remain very, very strong. 

What did everybody else think? Would you rather Liv have spent the hour making Ravi a spice rack, or were costumed heroes in keeping with the overall tone? Did you enjoy Blaine making like Bones McCoy for a moment? And how do you feel about the season so far?