And He Shall Be a Good Man: Review for iZombie 413 by A. Zombie
Before you march into this battle, make sure to watch your six for episode spoilers.
It’s been a rough year for Seattle, and things are not looking up for the newly crowned zombie haven. Despite Peyton’s best efforts, the federal government halts all support to the city. Fillmore-Graves’ kidnapping scheme is for naught. Liv and Levon’s sacrifice for each other won’t matter if the people they’ve saved starve to death. The city needs a plan. Unfortunately for them, their self-appointed leader is so focused on slaughtering anyone who breaks the rules, he can’t find a way to work together to stay alive.
Starving to death, or being devoured by ravenous zombies, isn’t the first or even third priority for Team Zombie in this episode. Everyone thinks they know what they need to do, then the calls start—Liv and Levon are being executed in the morning. One thing this show did well was make sure Liv’s chosen family were worthy of her never-ending sacrifices. They prove it in this episode when those friends drop literally everything to hatch a rescue plan. Even Major makes it back into Seattle in time to deliver a heartfelt pep talk to Renegade’s crew. Gladwell, driven by Ravi and Major’s concern for their friend, risks her livelihood to be the mole in Fillmore-Graves and feeds the rescue squad intel. You’ve got to admit, that team is scarily efficient. In no time at all they have a solid plan in place, including contingencies for any security FG set up in the park. They also waste all that time for nothing. The documentary Levon produced forces Chase to bump up the execution time and change locations after the crew releases it to garner civilian support for Renegade. The plan goes from expertly planned to basically a pitchfork mob with some extra strength.
We should have known we weren’t going to get a huge fight scene. This show hasn’t pulled one off yet. In this episode they attempt two large-scale fights which fall so flat, they can use them as tarps to cover all the dead zombies left at the end. The execution scene starts off pretty good. Wonderful moments from the actors, and of course the shock-not-shock from yet another dead boyfriend story line conclusion. At this rate, all we can do is shake our head and ignore the writers the next time they say the boyfriend might survive to see another season. Where this scene fails is the actual action sequence. It’s edited with cut-to-black frames. The editing is supposed to make the scene tenser, but in this instance the cuts take out any interesting action, giving us a few seconds with Major jumping instead of an altercation between unarmed resistance fighters and the regime in charge. And while the end of the fight is super satisfying for obvious reasons, the editing left much to be desired as far as a conflict goes. The same can be said for Angus’ final charge into battle. There’s so much time dedicated to showing how much force the zombies are up against at the gate, only for us to see a little bit of running, then close-ups of battlefield executions. The production brought in a tank and didn’t let us see Angus’ head getting knocked clean off by it? Why even bother? I got my hopes up for nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. Angus still pays the price for his evil deeds while alive and undead. This time he’s staying dead. Good riddance.
With the acting leadership, save Peyton, pushing up daisies, someone else has to fill the void before there’s a power vacuum in the tumultuous walled city. We knew Major was tapped to lead, but thought it nothing more than a ploy to test his loyalty. Turns out the best way to test someone is to present them with the truth and see what they’ll do. Major takes the reigns before someone with bad intentions beats him to the punch. His first act is to join with the military to stave off the zombies rushing the gates. The second most important thing to take care of? It’s the pressing problem everyone overlooked in order to rescue Liv. With few resources at hand, Major looks to the only people he knows can get brains into Seattle, Blaine and Don E. Guess Blaine will do okay without his father’s help, after all. The trio strike a deal which will drastically change how everyone sees the resident bad guys in the upcoming fifth, and final, season. From the looks of it, our whole crew will go out on top of their world. That’s probably just wishful thinking after four years watching the writing team emotionally torment the star characters.
The happy note for the season is, we’ve got a functioning relationship within the plot that doesn’t end in death before the wedding. Unfortunately, it takes a little bit of logic jumping to get there. Also, we’re going to have to ignore the fact that Michelle even exists, because that’s a ball of unresolved feels I’m pretty sure got dropped somewhere under the writing team’s table. But, hey, Clive smiles for an entire scene, and that’s the happiest we’ve seen this character, well, ever. The wedding scene is one of those great rom-com moments, capped by a literal miracle. Liv gives up her chance to be normal again, gifting Isobel’s curative brain to Dale as their wedding gift. If my tear ducts weren’t so rotted, I may have cried a little.
This season as a whole got a little messy. The plot was huge, with so many remaining loose threads I’m not sure if they were intentional or a product of realizing there’s no way to address that many issues in one go. We can only wait and see if the same writing problems make it to the final season. It’d be a shame for this show to go out with grousing from the fanbase, though.
Rated: TV-MA (Contains violence, gore, and adult language)
Starring: Martin Freeman, Simone Landers, Susie Porter, Caren Pistorius, and Anthony Hayes
When we think about current affairs in genre films, the adage has ventured far from, “Less is more.” With streaming services like Netflix dipping their toes in the game, we’ve seen stronger and stronger independent horror films popping up like mushrooms after rain. Given such support, filmmakers seem to be willing to venture further from the standard ho-hum zombie flick. Cargo is not a movie you’ll watch through your fingertips. But that’s not to say the movie lacks anything. The emotional and cultural depth are what put it on new level. So while this movie has less, well, everything than something like World War Z, it’s not one to overlook because it’s, “Just another indie movie.”
Even Netflix doesn’t believe in it, giving me a sixty-something percentage on the compatibility scale, despite my watch history being almost entirely genre films—including several indies with similar vibes, but inferior cinematography.
Here’s the plot rundown:
Australia’s coastline and major cities teem with people infected by a cannibalistic virus. Aboriginal people still connected to the old ways make their way to their ancestral homes seeking refuge from the “ghosts” haunting the plains. Other lucky souls make it away from the worst by sticking to the waterways.
Andy, his wife Kay, and their infant daughter Rosie are supremely lucky to have a houseboat and a smaller motor boat at their disposal. But food is scarce. Scavenging for supplies comes at a steep cost. With a 48-hour timer on Kay’s final moments, Andy makes the call to find help at the nearest town. Kay never makes it after they cross paths with a wandering ghost on the road. Andy winds up infected in the chaos. The ghost isn’t alone, trailed by his daughter Thoomi. The pair are on the lam, Thoomi fearing her people will put her father to rest without giving the Clever Man a chance to reunite his soul with his ghost. Which, ultimately, they do while the girl is imprisoned by Vic.
Vic, the man with a plan for “after” the apocalypse, will get his way no matter what—just ask his wife-not-wife, Lorraine. Andy likewise has a run-in with Vic, also ending with his imprisonment. Together, Andy and Thoomi escape with Rosie. They help each other across the unforgiving Australian landscape in search of anywhere safe for Rosie to grow up. Eventually Thoomi’s home is the only logical choice. Getting there will take every last bit of life left in Thoomi and Andy.
Right out the gate, one can’t help but wonder over how well the filmmakers utilize Australia as the setting in general. With so few city or building locations for the characters to return to, it makes sense to use what they have in abundance to fill in the gaps and establish the groundwork for a seriously well-shot movie. As said earlier, you won’t watch this one through your fingers, and that’s because you won’t want to miss a second of the gorgeous Australian landscape.
The cast makes acting in a location-heavy genre flick look easy, and it’s far, far from it. On this shoot in particular, the weather was downright terrifying, but one would never know that from the way everything’s edited together, aided massively by the seemingly effortless acting from the leads. Freeman and Landers are on the exact opposite ends of the experience spectrum, yet you’d never know it unless you looked further into the film. Their skill and ability to use it to forge a bond on-screen is what makes Cargo so compelling in the second half. Despite the audience knowing early on how things will probably end, they’ll still find themselves rooting for the duo to win against this unseen foe.
Said foe isn’t unseen for long. The zombie effects are a far cry from what we’ve seen lately. I know I say that at least once a year, but this time it’s real, dang-it. For one thing, these zombies are a little goopy. Their blood is gelatinous, discolored, and ample. Each victim undergoes a slow change, suffering seizures and leaking goop until their orifices seal over with it, which signals the final death and transformation. The eye and mouth sealing effect is downright nasty. World’s worst eye boogers. As for the rest of the makeup? The zombies are generally pale with oozing wounds, relying heavily on movement and the crusty face to sell the idea. It works for what this is, and that’s not a grand zombie chase across the countryside. It’s two broken families desperately finding a way to make sure the next generation sees the future, and that’s nearly impossible because mankind’s corruption has rotted the world so much, even the dead are wrong.
A breath of fresh air, Cargo far exceeded my expectations. I’m going to give it four smoldering corpses out of five. Grab a few friends and treat them to just under two hours of quality time together watching this movie. It’s a great way to take a break from the corruption rotting the real world.
You’ve Got to Hide Your Liv Away: Review for iZombie 412 by A. Zombie
Oh no, darling! You can’t possibly go on without knowing there’s spoilers in this review.
With just two episodes left in season four, it’s expected that the plot will whip into a whirlwind with hopefully enough momentum to push the ongoing story into the next season. The problem with this season is there’s too many stories. Too many new characters. Even if one watches this episode without commercials, it seems to take an eternity to get through all the important bits. Why? Because every scene, every moment has to count. The number of info dumps in the episode is staggering. Info dump is a term for dialog laying out a substantial portion of a story line with little to no action to accompany it. It’s usually something novel writers are guilty of, but a few shows have taken to this style of storytelling as a shorthand to get to the good stuff. At least this show, unlike GoT, didn’t use the one sex scene to info dump with breasts on screen in order to keep viewers’ attention.
The Brain of the Week case this time around goes to Ravi since Liv’s occupied with Renegade problems. While the victim this time is a woman—yes, what a shocker—she’s insufferably narcissistic. McKenna is, was, the kind of girl to walk up to a bar, ignore the bartender, and place an order via their “squad” of wannabes. The selfie queen, and former zombie, is a New Seattle celebrity. The Scratching Post brings her in as an “influencer” of sorts one evening, but by the time the sun rises, McKenna isn’t part of the undead or living crowds. Finding out who wants her dead isn’t hard. Ravi’s sole vision leads to a Brother Love follower who dishes the dirt about the pseudo priest’s call to rid the world of the woman’s offensive behavior. Angus himself didn’t do the deed, he’s too careful for that. Yet he still shows up to the interrogation wearing his robes, carrying the hammer we’ve seen him use against humans. Don’t get your hopes up. Angus walks free when Tucker, the bigot turned by Gladwell, confesses to the murder. It’s not a lie, either. Tucker doesn’t do any time for the murder, thanks to Lambert’s interference. Because that’s just what we need, a Fillmore-Graves employee drunk on Brother Love’s Flavor Aid. The day this story line ends cannot come soon enough. It’s cluttering the plot and, quite frankly, the religious extremist plot doesn’t hold any appeal since it’s been done a million times before.
Liv still gets a personality shift from a brain, but it’s not because she decides on her own to eat this particular, love-stricken woman. In a rush to save Liv from herself, Major wanders up and casually kidnaps her, like he didn’t leave his Chaos Killer days long behind. His security clearance gets them out of Seattle and into the next state to a safe house. It’d seem like an extreme measure, but everyone who knows Liv is Renegade—including Clive, now—agrees that her first move after Fillmore-Graves publishes a statement threatening Curtis will be to turn herself in to Chase. Matter of fact, that’s what Liv is doing when Major nabs her outside the apartment. Where this story goes wrong is when Major uses old lovers’ brains to lull Liv into a false sense of security. He roofies her. We’re not quibbling over this fact. There’s no legitimate reason for Major and Liv to ingest these brains, save to give Major his happily-ever-after no matter what. The thing that gets me is, the actors are so good together, we’re almost charmed by these scenes. For the entire season, the Liv and Levon connection felt forced, marred by Liv the pickup artist coercing Levon into sexual situations. Their relationship only feels right once in a while. This episode is one of those moments where the relationship works, and then there’s Major screwing it up by drugging his ex for one more chance to play house after his repeated failures as a partner. Not to mention, this story line is a mess. Repeated info dumps. The sub-story with the missing couple is ridiculous. Are we honestly to believe two zombies can be in a house for a day before hearing the others in the basement? Then there’s the return of Roche. Out of the blue. Just shows up, forcing Liv to save Major after he destroys the last of her trust in him. Major’s on the outs with everyone, suddenly. His bro Chase even calls it quits after sending Hobbs to do a little loyalty test. Major’s going to have to do a lot to out-hero Liv now that she’s turned herself in to save Levon . . . who turned himself in to save Curtis. For Chase, it’s a case of, “Double the execution, double the fun.” He’d gladly triple it if he gets word of Major’s part in everything.
Using the chaos from his father’s speeches, Blaine has one hell of a plan on-deck. But first, he has to get God to send a sign so Angus will put the plan into action. That requires a secondary plan and, uhh, brain snow. Gotta hand it to them, brain snow is a brand-spanking-new concept. One I’d like to inspect. Closely. Hey, you can’t eat the yellow snow; no one said not to eat the pink-ish gray snow. Man, if Blaine gets his way, the plot for the next season is going to be super complicated.
Or maybe not. There’s a slim, and I mean slim, chance that Ravi’s long-shot testing with Isobel actually yielded an answer to the zombie problem. Once Ravi cleans his brain of McKenna’s influence, he dives into his grand experiment. The techno babble goes way, way over my head. However, the results are unmistakable. Thanks to whatever glowing chemical Isobel’s brain produces, Ravi cures a rat in virtually no time at all. Is it a definitive cure? Of course not. It’s one test subject in one testing sequence. Science requires far more work before Ravi declares he’s found anything beyond a hard-to-identify chemical in Isobel’s brain, let alone the cure to zombiesm. That being said, he needs to test faster before Blaine and Angus turn half the USA into the undead. Or he runs out of brain to test.
In happier news, Clive and Dale realize they’re grown adults. This entire season, they’ve simply failed to talk to each other in any meaningful way, as grownups who want a life together should. Clive’s fear made him blab to Liv about the kid thing, instead of taking it to his romantic partner. Dale’s fear of Clive’s desires make her lie about a non-existent lover. It takes a reality check from someone on the outside to convince them to talk. And wouldn’t you know it? They actually want the same thing—each other. The ‘ship still sails!
A. Zombie Reviews: Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018) By A. Zombie
Rated: R (Contains: bloody violence, gore, adult language, nudity, and sexual violence)
Cast: Johnathon Schaech, Sophie Skelton, Jeff Gum, Marcus Vanco, and Shari Watson
Let’s address the elephant in the underground bunker right off the bat. Yes, this movie has the same name and basic premise as the Romero movie. That’s pretty much all they have in common, though. When it comes to all these tired reimaginings of cult classics, this may very well be my least favorite. The writers took the bare minimum from the original, enough to call this mess an homage or whatever, and ran with their own bizarre plot dripping in misogyny.
The plot, at a glance:
The zombie apocalypse takes the world by surprise. Caught up in the chaos is Zoe, a young med school student with a focus on epidemiology. To make matters worse, when the dead rise, Zoe is in the middle of fighting off attempted rape from Max, a man with unique blood and a sick obsession. Fast-forward five years, Zoe survives and Max is long gone, but not forgotten. The bunker Zoe calls home serves as a military outpost and scientific research station. In other words, humanity’s last chance to find a cure. If a more mundane epidemic doesn’t take them out, first. A sick girl may be Patient Zero of a new infection. Luckily there’s still medication locked away at Zoe’s nearby medical school. Miguel, the jerk in charge, agrees to the trip. The scouting team recover the medication, and unfortunately, Max, as well. The rapist’s blood kept him in a half-zombie state after the attack. He tracks Zoe through the compound. Despite their history, she saves him to maybe create a cure. Through the testing phase, Max harasses Zoe. Stress and lack of time after Miguel finds out leads her to agree to an ill-considered plan to get fresh rotter blood to test against Max’s. Undead swarm the bunker. Max breaks free. Zoe has to choose between keeping Max alive for her tests or ending his murder spree. For the sake of humanity, she makes the right decision.
The rape sub plot is the most infuriating piece of screenwriting this year. How? How does one look at the Bub character and think, “You know what his backstory is missing, bro?” “Family and friends?” “Psht. Nah, man. A sweet young woman to rape.” Frankly, it’s an insult to the work put into creating that character. They’re only saved from Romero fans grabbing pitchforks because they changed the character’s name. The guy is still styled after Bub post-turning, so they’re not hiding it very well, either. In typical fashion, once the rape idea is introduced, Zoe then relives the moment countless times. Max speaks to her as a zombie, claiming her as his. At one point she has to draw his blood and calls herself his property in order to make him comply. In what universe does someone take a beloved, if flawed, movie and turn it into a story about how not even death can stop a rapist from getting what he wants? This one. This crappy universe wins the prize for being simply the worst.
Sometimes the acting saves a bad script, though nothing’s saving this one from what I mentioned above. In this case, the performances are not where they’ll find praise for the movie. Few of the actors deliver a steady performance the entire film. In a few scenes, they sound like they barely remember the script. As for the content of what the characters say? It’s some of the most Captain Obvious filler dialog taken straight from someone’s first-time horror script. “This is a thing you are seeing with you own eyes, let me repeat exactly what’s happening with no new information.” That’s what I hear, instead of what I’m sure someone thought was witty dialog.
Maybe the makeup stands apart from everything else this year and they can use that for bragging rights! Yeah. Not really. Max’s makeup is disturbing, but the mouth effect loses impact after about the millionth time he roars. We can’t ignore the jet-speed blood spatter effects. They’re beyond ridiculous. In the opening scene we’re expected to believe all these people are full of pressurized blood capable of shooting halfway across a football field. The one zombie which stuck in my mind is the first, and the makeup is subtly perfect. The rest blur together in a wash of blood. At least the fake blood itself was high quality and super believable.
Just face it, this was a bad idea. It’s one thing to want to make your own zombie film, tons of people have and I’ve enjoyed each for its own merit in the end. But to force this kind of garbage onto a known, respected franchise is absurd. Play in your own sand box, don’t crap in someone else’s, let alone that of a dead man. I’m giving this film one and a half desiccated eyeballs out of five. Pass on it and go take a walk in a park, instead.
Insane in the Germ Brain: Review for iZombie 411 by A. Zombie
Clean off your hands and don’t touch any of the episode spoilers below.
This episode is . . . problematic. Countering a slew of character issues are a few golden moments. We witness this sweet farewell to someone too young to die, but they greet Death bravely. Chase has empirical proof of how far Major will go to prove he’s firmly with Fillmore-Graves. Not to mention, the romantic drama in Clive and Dale’s corner is just a gut-kick. These sub-stories tell me the production team can indeed make us care for the characters in ways which will make softer souls tear up. So why on earth are all the Brain of the Week cases in the last half of this season so cringe-worthy?
This week’s victim, Vince, winds up having his head bashed in after cross dressing to perform in a skit critical of the HR representative at his office. Right off the bat, the premise is pretty transphobic—oh no, it’s a man in a dress, let’s laugh about his penis! Ravi calls back to the penis gag several times in a couple minutes. Why? Why address the victim’s genitals at all if the trauma is to his head? Vince’s privacy is further obliterated when his office rival discloses his mental illness without any pressure from the police whatsoever. Then we’re slapped with a red herring in the form of Liv’s vision starring Softball Bigot and his pals. Because Of Course the first real suspect for the murder is a man who freaked out because his masculinity was bruised after drunkenly hitting on a Man in a Dress. This is probably the lowest, most loathsome way to treat this character—a character who isn’t even transgender, by the way. But boy oh boy, do they code Vince’s final night like a trans panic murder. It doesn’t take an overly enlightened person to see what the writers intended, here. And you know what? It’s gross. They should have shelved this idea and brought in a new brain for the episode. All the needed, really, was a victim for Crybaby Carl that’d bring him into the PD’s spotlight. It could have been literally anyone inside the city walls, not (yet another) white man, with a mental illness, who happens to be dressed as a woman. This whole rant of a paragraph doesn’t even cover the insensitivity of how they handle Vince’s mental illness after Liv eats his brain. As far as characters go, Vince is literally a Mad Libs page which finds itself on a camping trip, only to wind up toilet paper because someone didn’t pack right.
On the big-picture side of the plot, Don E. helps Angus reach a global audience. The disturbance from his visceral hatred for humans ripples far, far from the theater-turned-church. In the end, the violence wraps back around to affect the people Angus swears he cares for, yet he escapes, as always happens with this man. In Seattle, hungry zombies feel at liberty to envision devouring humans passing by on the street, and possibly act on it if it were darker and more secluded, perhaps? Local politicians, including Peyton, are on their way to their D.C. flight—where they hope to prove humans and zombies can coexist—when the edited broadcast goes live. Fillmore-Graves sees a gigantic PR disaster. Major’s guilt over dismissing Angus as a serious threat makes one want to smack him upside the head. Of course this monster would continue to be a monster, genius. Why not keep him under stricter observation? Particularly by zombies who aren’t so inclined to fall under his influence. Angus is a wildcard none of the leaders in town can afford to entertain anymore. I suspect instead of Renegade as the next public execution, Chase will swap to Brother Love. It’d certainly go a long way toward convincing the United States government that they shouldn’t nuke the city.
Before Peyton leaves, she and Ravi visit her parents for dinner. To say the scene is awkward is an understatement. Once again, Ravi manages to undermine Peyton’s authority. Admittedly, it’s to
tell her bigoted father to shut his trap, so there’s mixed emotions involved. The odd group do reach a consensus on one matter when it comes to Peyton’s safety—they’d all rather her stay in D.C. instead of coming back to Seattle. She, of course, is having none of this silent retreat plan. Any problem in Seattle is hers to meet head-on. Seriously. She’s the closest thing they have to a mayor currently, unless they’re going to give up all pretenses and just call Chase Commander of the city.
Peyton’s position is vital to the Underground Railroad. Unfortunately, the need for her help comes after she’s gone. Doing her best to battle the brain’s influence, Liv busts into the border wall office dressed as Peyton. Why on earth would she be so bold? Well, Suki and a newcomer were stopped and held in the overly crowded waiting room. Liv lost one coyote to the authorities already, she’s not about to lose another. It’s a close thing, though, after she subtly freaks out due to the desperate people clamoring for help from the “mayor.” It seems reckless for them to bring in someone at this time, but the visitor is someone who desperately needs to reconnect with her daughter . . . Isobel.
Going into this story line, it was obvious Isobel wouldn’t stick with the show long. Then the actress made us all want to protect this darling, morbid as heck young lady. Even Isobel’s tired efforts to startle everyone by pretending to be dead provokes a little smile thanks to Izabela Vidovic’s acting skill. Where this story really works, and works well, is when Ravi comes to say his final goodbye. That goodbye comes after a heart-rending bout of denial. Rahul Kohli delivers his strongest performance yet in this scene. Seeing what could have been as far as a connection between all these characters makes one wish Isobel came in sooner. At least then maybe we would have seen the no doubt hilarious driver’s ED scene.
On the overlord side of the plot, Chase Graves screws up his own victory party. Big time. To even earn said party, first Major risks himself by knowingly walking into a bad situation in order to meet Roche’s boss. His team manage to not completely screw up the job and the bust is a resounding success. Then they fail to secure a weapon during prisoner transport, losing Roche in a city where he’s got all sorts of ties to people capable of making him vanish. After hearing the news, Chase snaps, blaming Gladwell for more or less everything that’s gone wrong in the last few months, if we’re honest. Anyone else uncomfortable with Chase being a neo-Nazi stand-in who routinely murders black women? Gladwell survives, so far, thanks only to being a zombie. Her partner doesn’t fare so well. Major would’ve died without those two in a stunt he only pulled in order to appease Chase. Now his white knight has blood on his hands. Will Major continue to march in Fillmore-Graves’ little army? He knows there’s a better cause to back just waiting for a savior dumb enough to join in.
As I said before, there’s just too much going on for this season. I’m loving certain sub stories, like Isobel’s visit, but dread Liv’s everyday work with the PD. Somewhere along the line, the focus went from telling quirky police stories with a zombie detective to complicated season-arcing plots which only vaguely fit together if one squints at the facts really hard and tilts their head. It’s a symptom of writers thinking they’re clever, yet the edited product is far from it because there’s only 40-ish minutes to tell all these stories. Sometimes less is more.
Yipee Ki Brain, Motherscratcher!: Review for iZombie 410 by A. Zombie
Where you going, punk? Don’t you know there’s episode spoilers in this neighborhood?
Major is the new hero is town. Well, at least in the Fillmore-Graves building. How long will his cohorts hold him in high esteem once they learn his ex-girlfriend is Renegade? What about his roommate, the underground zombie doctor? Sure Chase Graves trusts Major with literally his life right now, but he’s also a man about to watch everything he built crumble because he failed Dictatorship 101—which clearly states a leader should make sure he’s got a steady food supply for his people, or they’ll kill him. History is rift with leaders given a violent boot from the timeline when they couldn’t provide. Chase leans hard on Major to fix all his problems, and may even force the former Team Zombie member onto the guillotine before his own well-groomed head hits the steel. It’s clear after the final confrontation with Liv, Levon, and Major that he’s very much on the wrong side of history, here. His former friends will not be merciful if they all survive the chaos about to erupt from the religious corner of the city. His only hope is to get Roche to give up his boss. It won’t be easy. These guys are working a serious game, with the police and Fillmore-Graves completely unaware they’ve even sat down at the chess board.
Liv herself is pretty uninspiring this episode. The Brain of the Week belongs to Detective Benedetto, the epitome of scumball LEO. This charming chap was capped giving confession at church. Clive’s got three main suspects, all of whom were involved in a crime with a huge loot hidden somewhere in the city, according to AJ, one of said suspects. AJ claims Benedetto must’ve been killed because he wants the loot for himself. The theory sticks, seeing as Liv’s pretty much useless on this guy’s brain. She can’t even really work the case after whacking one suspect with a fish. Thanks to this, we never see any more action from the case unless it’s through Clive’s enthusiastic retellings. He gets the guy, by the way. And it is funny as hell to watch Clive fling himself around to replay his big off-screen fights.
Since Liv’s off the case, she spends way more time taking care of Renegade’s duties in this episode than in previous. It doesn’t seem like much, since most of the work is done in a montage, but she’s pretty serious about the trafficking thing, even on the brain. Everything’s running smoothly. Even one of her coyotes feels secure enough to announce he’s getting married. Then Fillmore-Graves happens. Curtis, the newly engaged guy, is nabbed and threatened by Chase himself. Curtis spills a cover story about Brother Love, which buys Levon enough time to get Liv for a rescue mission. Only, Renegade’s blessing comes with their scratch, and that’s the only thing Liv can give Curtis in the end thanks to FG’s security measures at the safe house.
The one person Liv still can’t save is Isobel, who’s now officially staying in Seattle to run tests with her mother’s blessing. Over a month-long montage, we see Ravi performing virtually every non-evasive test possible. Unfortunately, they all yield answers he could’ve predicted. Nothing special jumps out from her tests screaming it’s the key to a cure. Ravi’s upset about it, but what can he do? Well, he can start by not becoming a helicopter parent to a teenage girl overnight. Thanks to some serious binge-watching, Isobel has a huge crush on one of the actors from Liv and Ravi’s favorite show, Zombie High. With Liv on a brain with the impulse control of a gnat, she sets up a date for Isobel, sending Ravi into a full-blown meltdown. Why? Because Isobel’s finally feeling her mortality and being reminded that she’ll likely never fall in love every time she sees her new adult guardians flirting can’t be doing good things for her mental health. The post-date scene with Ravi policing Isobel’s right to her own body is pretty much what I expected from this writing team. At least they’re clear on the messages they send to women.
Parenting takes a vastly different form when we hop over to see how Blaine is dealing with Angus and his flock. By all rights, Blaine should just catapult his father over the wall and be done with the manipulative bastard. Somehow, some way, Angus manages to get back in his boy’s head. Blaine takes up the offer to join his father at church. He even plays a song for the congregation! A few flattering words likening Blaine to Jesus and the guy is putty for his father to shape into a new weapon. Wonder if Lambert will report Blaine’s activities to Graves, or if he likewise will fall under Angus’ influence. That’d be a huge shift in power for the city, and the city cannot handle a power struggle so soon after the mass zombie creations.
Mac-Liv-Moore: Review for iZombie 409 by A. Zombie
Watch your step. This review contains mad episode spoilers.
Another week, another bland white man for Liv to eat. This time around, it’s a rapper, which she eats in the world’s whitest definition of a wrap I’ve ever seen. Where’s the greens? Some mustard? This guy’s so boring, they tell us ahead of time by having mayonnaise as the only flavoring in his “final meal.” Liv’s turn as a rapper is probably the least inspired story gimmick yet. Here’s another case with a story where they could’ve picked literally any other victim, but chose white man #492 to inform how we see Liv’s world. When do we get to see her world through someone more like Liv? Or, you know, Liv herself? Surely she has to be tired of constantly yanking around her loved ones’ emotions in the name of the job. Why can’t Liv have a brain tube vacation and police the old fashioned way? This is a Seattle teaming with known zombies. She can’t be the only one willing to allocate the extra time for the cause. By the way, does she get bonus pay for these duties now since it does impact literally her every waking second while on a case? I’m just saying, pay the woman for the actual effort expended, not just her in-morgue hours.
One half of a feuding rap duo and his girlfriend are shot, then dumped on Ravi and Liv to investigate by Fillmore-Graves. Discovering who killed the lovebirds isn’t the problem. The problem is that he’s a known zombie serial killer, and I don’t mean a phony like the Chaos Killer; this Zombie Killer started with his family. Somehow he is probably the only one who survives the bus massacre. Once free, he doesn’t go into hiding to save his own skin. Oh no. He goes back on the hunt. Fillmore-Graves decides to get to him first, putting the entire city on lockdown until they catch their prey.
The lockdown puts everyone in a tough situation. Liv and Peyton are forced to hide Isobel in plain sight at the morgue after movie night is cancelled. Not ideal for them, but Isobel loves it. She’s gleefully morbid, having come to grips with her fleeting mortality long ago thanks to her condition. That playful morbid streak is why Ravi winds up finding her in one of the body drawers and subsequently discovers her condition. Which is how, in the end, Ravi also learns that Liv is the new Renegade. It’s great that they’re telling the truth and all, but she’s a city employee with ties to the police, moonlighting as a human trafficker; at some point Clive will find out and have to make a decision about his loyalty. And now there’s a teenaged girl caught in the middle of all that who’s volunteering to maybe, possibly, become the answer to everyone’s prayers about finding a zombie cure. Because this plot doesn’t have enough going on, already, right?
In another part of the police building, the gentlemen of the group take advantage of the enforced downtime to spend some quality time together . . . playing DnD. It’s great that they all have hobbies and all, but the scene goes from funny to sexist as whoa when Michelle asks to sit in—and provide a much-needed character type—only for the men to act like she walked in on them discussing the size/shape of what’s in their pants. Their blustering dies down eventually, but Michelle’s place in their social circle probably won’t be defined by her playing skills after one of the guys catches her and Clive making out in the neighboring room. Goodness, why can’t these writers let us have something pure and good once in a while?
Fillmore-Graves isn’t playing around when it comes to finding the Zombie Killer. Every team is on-task. The only person not on the streets is Graves himself. Major’s squad is the least effective during the search mission. Probably because instead of focusing on these secondary characters like professionals, they drag the lone WoC into a domestic spat during work to yet again undermine her authority as a FG agent. If Gladwell ever gets a fair shake from this writing team, I’ll eat my shoe. They’ve done their best to make her irrelevant since day one. Why drag her in when any number of nameless FG employees could popular Major’s team? I don’t care about these characters or their failed relationship. I certainly don’t care that Major is so ineffective a leader, he can’t get them to stop fighting. The only interesting thing from that entire team is when Major just happens to be in the right place at the right time at the end to help Chase before he’s taken out by the Zombie Killer. Major being a savior isn’t new. It doesn’t require rehashing failed minor character arcs. Certain parts of this season shouldn’t have made it to the final script. It’s just too many new people, too many plot threads flapping in the wind this close to the season’s end.
The person who uses the lockdown to their best advantage has to be Blaine. He’s been sitting on a plan for a while, now’s the time to hatch it and rake in the cash. It’ll require specialized help, though, so Blaine brings in the best computer-oriented brain for Don E. to enjoy. Once his pal is on-board, they waste no time setting up a Dark Web auction for one of the cures stolen from Ravi last season. You know, the kinda-cure which leaves the patient with monthly brain cravings that hasn’t been fully tested? There’s a slight hitch in the plan; they have no definitive proof that the cure works. To no one’s real surprise, Blaine stages a snuff film in order to get video evidence for the auction site. The shocker comes when Mayor Baracus finds himself surprisingly human, and then dead for good. For those keeping score, that means Peyton is the acting mayor. Things just got super awkward in the Charles/Moore household.
The Mettle of Man: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 310 by A. Zombie
You hear that? It’s the whisper of episode spoilers coming from the review below. Careful, friends.
It seems like yesterday we got the news that Campbell would done the chainsaw once again for a TV show. Once they found their groove, it honestly felt like the kind of show which could go on for quite a few years before they ran out of things to say and do. Three years isn’t enough time to really tell this story, but that’s what they got, and they didn’t skimp on the opportunity to send Ash off into the sunset in style. The flipside of that is, unfortunately, the format doesn’t lend to wrapping the story lines for everyone. While Ash’s story feels complete in its perfect incompleteness, fans are left wondering how far the other Ghost Beaters made it after they drive off. I won’t be rude and say it’s proof of a spin-off, but let’s think of it more like a Make Your Own Adventure finish. It’s not as satisfying, but we’re thankful the production got a chance to wrap up the current story and give the hero an appropriate send-off.
But, seriously, how the heck does Ash manage to luck out against a demon the size of a sky scraper? No one makes chainsaws that big!
Like any good hero, Ash is totally, completely prepared to march to his certain doom just because a creepy old book told him he’s the only one who can do it. Ha! That’s a lie. Ash has this grand—and perfectly acted—breakdown after the gang finally makes it off the streets. Streets where Elk Grove citizens offer Ash up to the demon like that’ll solve all their problems. The meltdown starts when he’s confronted by a deputy who wants Ash to magically fix everything. It hits full stride when our hero plops himself in his recliner, grabs a beer, and has a nice profanity-laden rant venting decades of frustration over his destiny. Brandy knocks some sense into him, thankfully. That doesn’t mean Ash won’t need encouragement of the stinky, green kind, first.
Ash Williams telling anyone not to smoke weed is pretty much the best punchline they could have written to encapsulate how much he’s changed since becoming a father—this flavor of sentiment is echoed in the future-flash when one of the first questions he asks is about Brandy.
Before they take on Kandar, Ash wants to recover Kelly from the dead place. No easy feat, that. Deadites roam the streets, drawn to Ash and Brandy. Only Pablo is safe out there, but there’s no way they should split up to send Pablo alone. And that’s how Ash and Brandy wind up surrounded by deadites in a tunnel under Elk Grove after having a seriously touching heart-to heart in which Brandy, unlike so many others, acknowledges her father’s pain over being ridiculed about this stuff for years. The bonding continues after they arrive at the hardware store. While Pablo uses his powers to walk in the other realm, the remaining duo take care of the few deadites who find them with Kelly’s body. The number of times we get to see a real relationship between the family members is staggering for a half an hour episode which also includes copious footage with army jets attacking a giant demon. That’s testament to this team’s love for the characters. They wanted to show that Ash could be loved and understood by someone who wasn’t just going to die or leave. He’s earned it.
If we do get a spin-off, it better delve deep into whatever emotion pushed Pablo’s outburst after he returns from the rift, but Kelly seemingly doesn’t make it. Three seasons of slow-burn feelings boil over when Kelly wakes and the pair kiss—with witnesses! These two have come far, with their friendship/relationship, and as people others can depend on. It makes sense that when Ash says his goodbyes and lays a portion of his burdens on the future, it’s by handing the torch to both Kelly and Pablo—her as a leader, he as the mythical savior.
Outside the hardware store, things are worse than they thought. The military forces only feed Kandar’s power with every attack. Leadership is calling for a quick end, which means one thing in the good ol’ USA—a nuke. Which is exactly the wrong thing to do, and Pablo tells them as much. No one’s listening to reason with monsters on the loose globally, though. That’s when Ash makes his choice. He passes his responsibilities on to the future generation, then steals the Kandarian dagger and locks the Ghost Beaters in an Army transport.
The final showdown is pretty much a list of things to check off titled: What Outrageous Things Hasn’t Ash Done Yet? Top of the list is, “Drive a tank.” Doesn’t matter that he drives it with the skill of a teen learning how to drive stick shift for the first time, he’s still having a blast on his way to his certain demise. The tank won’t do anything against Kandar, but the dagger with its namesake? That will almost certainly do some damage. Ash rigs the dagger to blast from the tank . . . and promptly screws up because he doesn’t know how to operate a tank. He eventually figures it out, but only after long enough for us to get a seriously good look at the spindly-legged demon. It’s not a good kill on this show unless some of what he’s killed ends up on Ash. Which is why Ash is a hundred-percent sure he’s going to suffocate to death in a tank at the end
In interest of not being giant jerks, the production team flashes forward. Ash is saved from the tank by the Knights of Sumeria and put in stasis of some kind. He’s awakened again when The Dark Ones make their next move and most of the world is an arid desert. We’re blessed with some great digital work with the futuristic medical appliances, like Ash’s new hand, but little actual story. Like I said, this isn’t a solid goodbye, but more of a way to send the characters on to new adventures off-screen. I want to be upset about that, but I’m not. The way everything comes back full circle in several aspects is pleasing, doubly so because this show was a shot in the dark idea to begin with. No horror fan a decade ago dared assume we’d get more Evil Dead adventures, let alone three years of them. Yes, it ended before we wanted. However, there’s always a chance for that spin-off, or we can simply celebrate having a little more time to laugh and cringe with our favorite evil slayer.
Chivalry is Dead: Review for iZombie 408 by A. Zombie
Dost thou not proceed with caution? Verily, there be spoilers lurking below.
Well, this brain is pretty much the DnD brain, but without the witty break where Team Zombie sits down to play out a game. Liv drops so much ol-timey language, only renaissance faire actors can decipher everything she says after chowing down on the brain from avid LARPer, Garrett. I’d like to go on to say there’s a world of variety in this case-of-the-week, but it boils down to yet another domestic dispute which relies heavily on lack on communication in a relationship to push a rather weak plot. Okay, sure, it’s sometimes fun to have a case reflect the lives of those involved, but it’s four seasons in and the domestic dispute cases, primarily ones where the woman is the partner who steps out, are the vast majority of what we see on-screen. The case outcomes are becoming increasingly predictable in order to push all the other story lines. How does one go from a dead guy in armor, to a zombie Thunderdome, to undead LARPers, yet decide in the end to make a woman’s sex life the sole reason for murder? Find another scapegoat, writers. Women are allowed to do what they want, when they want, with their bodies. This constant commentary on how women behave without any solutions in this mythical reality is akin to duct taping a cracked window in the middle of a category 5 hurricane. Fiction gives us a way to work through these problems, yet again and again this writing team barely scratches the surface on social commentary. For a show aimed at millennials, they don’t seem to understand how they think and process messages presented via entertainment.
This is where I have to come back to Angus’ story line. The concerning thing is, even after being called out for harboring a known harasser, this team still uses takes/dialog for Angus which lean toward highly inappropriate. In this episode, Angus orders his flock to savor their high-class meal. The tone and language he uses? It could very easily be used to explain a certain sex act, right down to his command that they swallow. Blaine even makes a subtle joke to back up the entendre. What are we supposed to do with this in-your-face disregard to a known problem? Not only are we forced to endure constant poor-taste dialog from Angus, but he’s also a vital part of Blaine’s sub plot. Every time I think they can finally write him out, he’s back, being useful in ways other characters could also be, so why Angus? Why not write in someone else with the manpower to do what needs to be done and leave Angus in the well?
Blaine’s problems don’t end with his father. Boss is back in town, ready to cash in on a pay day he’s waited for since one of his guys turned state’s evidence to rat him out. Casper is the only one who knows where Boss’ remaining cash is . . . or is he, now? Peyton, also after a quick buck in order to actually help the Underground Railroad, gets to Casper first. Which our bad guys don’t realize until far, far too late. In order to get his hands on the cash, Boss needs to snag Casper during his transfer to a minimum security prison—as promised in his deal with Peyton. Blaine doesn’t keep that kind of manpower handy anymore. Boss’ associates are all dead, in jail, or just done with him. This is where Angus’ flock comes in handy. They tip the bus, eat the prisoners, and hand over Casper for Blaine to enjoy. While I am not keen on Angus’ part in the plot, the moment where Boss, Blaine, Don E., and new goon Crybaby Carl watch/commentate on the mayhem is some of the purest comedy this show’s had in a while. There’s no gore on-screen. Just the guys’ reactions. And it’s hilarious.
Infiltrating the brain-smuggling group is pretty easy for Major since he’s great at manipulating people, then failing to follow his own moral code when it matters. For the most part, all he has to do is show up, get drunk, and make sure Russ doesn’t catch wind of his true purpose. Considering Russ is always inebriated or brain-wasted, it’s stupidly easy. Great for Major since he foolishly talks to Liv in public at the Thunderdome. After he passes whatever “test” Russ has, Major gets to tag along on a rough-up job for the brain thieves. The one thing showing promise for Major despite his deep ties to Fillmore-Graves? He lies to keep the scared zombies alive, though Russ really wants to kill them.
On the Renegade side of life, Liv’s having a hard time maintaining the separation between work, home, and illegal activities. First, Peyton catches her and wants to join the good fight. Then Isobel, one of the women being smuggled, calls in a panic while Liv’s at work. Liv’s old-timey brain antics actually scare Isobel a little, not a good thing considering these people are trusting her with their lives. Yet Liv never clarifies why she’s acting so weird, leaving Isobel to worry right up until the moment they meet at the end of the episode . . . and Liv’s scratch doesn’t cure her. So while, yes, they finally have the money to proceed at full-steam ahead, either Liv can’t make new zombies, or they’ve just found the terminally-ill key to reversing the zombie condition bottled up in a frightened young lady. Honestly? This is the kind of plot development they should spend more time on. The sub-plots are usually good, but this season some of it feels like stretching just to keep up the male-oriented story lines active. Let it go, writers. Let it go. You’ve got something good with the Renegade plot. Just focus on that, please.
Judgement Day: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 309 by A. Zombie
Let’s not just jump in head-first without checking for spoilers, now.
Yeah. There’s spoilers in this review. See? Aren’t you glad you waited?
This penultimate episode dredges up more questions than they can ever hope to answer in the scant time we have remaining with our heroes, but has technicalities like that ever stopped this creative team from throwing everything they’ve got into expanding the universe Ash is supposed to save? No. It hasn’t. So while fans still grapple with the reality that this is the end, Ash and his friends continue to fight the good fight, no matter what Evil throws their way.
Everyone’s pretty much on the same page when it comes to choosing the best idea to win the day. Unfortunately, success requires them to divide up and tackle problems solo. Ash leaves Brandy at home, armed with the boom stick, to keep her safe. He sends Pablo—who now magically sees through the Necronomicon in order to spy on Ruby—to protect the portal from their foe. El Jefe himself is off to secure Kelly’s body so he can fulfill a promise to his departed friend. Splitting up is, as always, probably the worst idea any of them could cook up.
Brandy winds up wrestling a demonic cell phone which impersonates her mother, Candy. The phone creature reminds me of something from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, cute, but in reality disturbing as heck. This fight is also where we see how hard Arielle Carver-O’Neill worked to make sure Brandy didn’t actually fall as far from the Williams tree as she likes to think. There’s a few teases about Brandy treading deep in her father’s evil-fighting path, but they’re just visions to mess with her mind. The bit where she snaps and finishes off the phone with the motorized plow is pure Ash. It’s great to see all this character growth right up to the end.
Pablo’s mission is pretty much over before it even begins, really. By the time he makes it to the hardware store, things are obviously not okay. Downstairs, the rift does its thing, and refuses to listen to Pablo when he recites the incantation to steal it. Which is when Pablo should have bolted. But he doesn’t. He hangs around long enough for The Dark Ones to rough him up, take the removed Necronomicon pages, and start their reign of terror. Miraculously, Pablo survives a hand into his chest. He’s also gains a natural invisibility cloak when it comes to Evil’s deadite minions. Is that a gift from The Dark Ones or Pablo’s own power coming through like a champ? Could be either at this point. Let’s not examine it too closely and be grateful another of the Ghost Beaters hasn’t crossed over.
Recovering a corpse is one thing. Recovering a corpse possessed by a sorceress with a demonic best friend is a slightly more difficult task. One Ash is barely able to complete, and only then because he gets a lot of help from the world’s most unlikely source. No, it’s not Zoe. The poor Knight is the center of a spell to conceal the Necronomicon from The Dark Ones, and after Ruby mines her for resources, Kaya ensures the Knight can’t get away. I’ll give it to Ash, he fights hard to beat Ruby. It’s just not good enough when she can, oh, crush a chainsaw with her bare hands.
No matter how strong Ruby is, she is no match for The Dark Ones. Once they arrive, they run the show. They rip Kaya from Kelly’s body—which Ash recovers to keep safe—then returns her to her own flesh, only to incinerate her a moment later. Well, that’s one bad guy taken care of. Ruby stands her ground against the ones she betrayed. They grant no mercy and absorb her energy. Both death effects are well-done and provide fitting endings for this season’s incoming foe, as well as the woman dogging Ash’s trail this whole time. Would I have like to see a little more fighting between Ruby and TDO? Totally. The show’s half-hour format, plus this being the second-to-last episode, means they don’t have time to luxuriate in a good death. Not when they’ve got so little time to introduce a slew of new evil beings for the big finale.
What’s next? Everything has gone wrong. Ruby is gone, but things far more powerful than she walk Elk Grove’s streets like they own ’em, and they have the complete Necronomicon. Kelly’s body may be safe, but everyone’s a tad too occupied at the moment to open the rift, even though they could probably use another fighter. Probably? What am I saying? Of course they need Kelly. There’s a giant demon-thing crawling out of the street!