TV Discussion

Looking back at… iZombie Season 2

Quick question: does anyone else find those montages where Liv prepares her brainy meals as tasty looking as I do? No? I think I might have a problem.

It’s a superb new element that iZombie adds to its second season, which sees the series deliver the goods yet again, coming off the back of a superb season one finale that saw the show deliver cliffhanger after cliffhanger and twist after twist to the extent that it made one wonder where its second season could possibly go. This being a Rob Thomas/Diane Ruggiero-Wright series means we’re about to go in many different, brilliant directions.

Thomas’ previous series, the late, great Veronica Mars, considerably upped the number of plotlines to the point where watching the second season wasn’t just an incredibly entertaining run of television, there was a part of you that couldn’t help but feel that there was a chance it was going to go off the rails as there was so much going on.

iZombie doesn’t quite throw as much as its story as Mars did at its equivalent point (it’ll make up for it in Season 3, however), but like the town of Neptune, there is a lovely sense of the series starting to pay of the many elements its has set up during the course of the first season; Max Rager plays a bigger role, while Liv’s decision to turn Major  into a zombie and then use  the last of Ravi’s cure on him, also comes into play, while Major himself finds himself inadvertently becoming one of Seattle’s most notorious “serial killers” in pursuit of his agenda for the notorious energy drinks manufacturer.

While season one ran for a shorter run of thirteen episodes, The CW saw fit to give the second a larger, more expansive order with nineteen. Although not a ratings smash by any stretch, it was a definite sign of confidence, especially given how great many of the reviews were, while in the schedule the network would pair it up with The Flash, one of their  biggest hits.

Sadly the pairing up with their flagship DC Comics series would not give iZombie the ratings boost it so desperately needed, and when season three arrived, it would do so by going back to thirteen episodes, and airing mid-season.

In many respects iZombie has never really fit into the groove of mainstream hit. Sure, it has zombies and a crime procedural element, but there is a lovely feeling that the series stands out from the crowd, especially on a television network that is seemingly filled to the brim with good-looking superheroes growing out of its ears.

Not that iZombie is an “ugly” show; like most CW output, the series has a very photogenic cast, but there is a lovely sense that the series moves to its own rhythms. Like the Berlanti-superhero stable, and Riverdale, it’s filmed in Vancouver, but visually it sometimes feels as if it has more in common with the 90’s output of Chris Carter, what with its grey skies and interest in mystery and crime, a cherry to put on top of an increasingly aggressive mythology that sees so many elements competing for attention. Amazingly, Thomas and Wright never lose sight of what they’re doing and the season gets increasingly better as it goes on.

More remarkably, the season cements the series’ ability to be both an ongoing serial about the “zombification” of Seattle, as well as a fantastic crime procedural. For all the brilliantly and increasingly intense goings on involving Max Rager, Blaine, his funeral business and intense relationship with his father (Robert Knepper), Liv and Clive’s investigations, coupled with Liv’s change in personalities due to the brains she has consumed, means the series never gets bogged down by its arcs, but nor does it feel as if it’s compulsively enjoyable serial elements gets tossed aside for some throwaway case of the week. The balancing act going on here is clearly something that  Thomas and  Wright have refined and perfected even more from their Veronica Mars days, while McIver’s ability to throw in different layers and personalities means that no two performances are ever truly the same.

With different personalities each week, each case feels like its own mini-genre, or at least has its own sense of interest; one week we’re in the realm of costumed vigilantes, the next the realm of erotic fiction writers. The latter, as seen in the episode “Fifty Shades of Grey Matter” finally gives the series a chance to throw in a Kristen Bell cameo, albeit vocally, a continuation of the series’ “crossovers” with Veronica Mars.

The season fires on all cylinders, and builds to a magnificent finale that legitimately changes its own game by getting rid of Max Rager once and for all, while throwing in a potential new wrinkle via a private military contractor who have very intimate knowledge of the zombie crisis, and an epic confrontation in the Max Rager basement that sees the series throw in a brilliant ethical crisis for Liv that is classic Rob Thomas, and one that will carry right into season three. Also, it lays to waste the whole rockstar Rob Thomas/screenwriter Rob Thomas thing that is one of the funniest in-jokes ever done for television.

The final moments leaves one itching for more and, overall the second season is another brilliant run of episodes. With so much in the air, the wait for Season 3, which would be almost a year after the Season 2 finale aired, would be almost unbearable.

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