Rated: Not Rated (contains intense gore, adult language, and violence)
Starring: Benjamin Engell, Troels Lyby, Mille Dinesen, Ella Solgaard, and Marie Hammer Boda
Dino and Pernille Johansson live with their small family in an idyllic town, Sorgenfri, where it’s so peaceful, the teens are bored to death by the end of summer vacation. That doesn’t last long. Shortly after the new girl, Sonja, moves in across the street, things start to get weird in Denmark. The news features public service announcements on proper hygiene in hopes of staving off a virus sweeping the countryside. It doesn’t work. Sorgenfri is quarantined. The Johansson family are trapped inside, stealing glimpses through the black tarps covering their home as the military takes over once-quiet streets. One by one, the townsfolk are removed from their homes and carted off in semi-trucks. Others are forcibly stopped by the military. Gustav, the Johansson’s son, gets curious and breaks out of the house to snoop on the armed men, and perhaps check in with Sonja as well. Of course, he makes matters worse.
Let’s be frank, this film isn’t anything we haven’t seen on-screen before. I’ve seen versions of similar trapped-house horror plots for decades. What We Become takes the zombie genre back to its simplistic roots in an era where we’ve been given blockbuster after blockbuster, and even the TV shows are approached like they’re feature films cut into chunks to air each week. What you see is what you get with this film. There’s one main location. A tiny cast. Most of the action is through stolen glimpses outside, the news, or during one of the few seriously ill-thought outings to confront what’s really going on in Sorgenfri. It’s NotLD in Danish. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s simply a predictable thing, which will be what keeps genre fans from calling this film one of their top-whatever. Simple films can be well done, though. This is a perfect example.
Because most of the tension is based on how the family interacts and reacts to an unknown threat, the zombies are saved for the final act in the film. We’re given a quick look at the undead chaos at one point, but the full-frontal shambling dead came in the last fifteen minutes or so. From that point on, it’s all snarls and gnashing teeth. The makeup takes a soft approach to the newly turned zombies. Some hero zombies are pretty gruesome; one of the first we see clearly is pretty torn up. To go from the restrained first acts in the film where the zombie action was off-screen to the undead taking over the town in minutes is jarring, tampered by the makeup on the newly turned, especially those who turn inside the house. They almost look like vampires up until the feeding begins.
The final zombie action is undercut perfectly with one last bout of family drama. What happens when one of their own is ready to turn? It’s a wonderful final moment for the actors. This cast is pretty solid and did what they could with the script. Unfortunately, that script leads most characters down a path which ends with several attempts to fix their circumstances by attempting to leave the quarantine area or interact with the military on their turf. It goes about as well as you’re thinking.
What We Become is a pretty solid toe-dip into zombie storytelling. Yes, it has predictable parts. However, the cast saves the film from being tiresome. Come for the high-tension acting, stay for the comfortable feeling of watching just another zombie movie. Sometimes we all need to unwind and watch cannibalistic monsters terrorize a family, along with a few select neighbors. I’m giving this film three and a half severed arms out of five.
Rated: TV-MA (extreme violence, strong language) Language: Korean
Starring: Gong Yoo, Yu-mi Jung, Dong-seok Ma, Soo-an Kim, Woo-shik Choi, So-hee Ahn, and Eui-sung Kim
Occasionally Netflix doesn’t fail the genre completely. Recently they added Train to Busan to their streaming service, which is probably the best thing they’ve done in the last year. It’s hard to believe this film didn’t catch my attention before now, seeing as it was a huge hit across the Pacific. Let’s be honest, the American film media is horrible about giving props to genre flicks not set on their home turf. Pair that with the fact that it’s best watched in the original Korean and film media push it aside for yet another poorly produced American movie which is just a clone of fifty similar films and television shows. This film is a breath of fresh air. It’ll also keep you so far on the edge of your seat, you may fall off by the time the final scene plays out.
Seok-woo is a work-obsessed absentee father dealing with the fallout from a tense divorce. On the eve of his daughter Soo-an’s birthday, he screws up royally. To make it up to her, he relents to her demands to see her mother in Busan. Leaving town isn’t ideal. There’s something going on with one of the funds he manages and his coworker Kim is increasingly concerned about the reports he’s receiving. But a promise is a promise, so off they go. Seconds before the train departs for Busan, an injured woman jumps aboard. She’s infected with something none of them have seen before. When a train worker comes to her aid, the infected woman attacks and chaos erupts. By the time the initial attack is done, there’s only one train car worth of people left. The rest turn zombie and are locked in the middle train cars. News coming in via overhead televisions isn’t any better. Entire cities are overrun with the undead. Several are quarantined. When the train stops at last, it’s only to discover that the military couldn’t hold the quarantine and the dead have taken over. They opt to move on, pushed by an unhinged COO, Yon-suk. Throughout the last half of the movie it’s hard to tell who the real enemy is, the zombies or the paranoid humans trapped on the train.
This isn’t just another action movie with zombies. There’s a message or forty in the way the living interact with each other. We have an intense father/daughter plot which will drive anyone with a heart to tears by the third act. The film’s writer leaned heavily on the notion of ingrained human selfishness and the heinous damage it does to the masses during a crisis. Many of those who perish in the final act only die due to selfishness and their willingness to turn a blind eye to hatred if it means they’ll live to see another day. Panic becomes a new cast member at the end, unseen yet pushing one survivor group against the other with no sound reason. We’ve seen tension like that before, TWD uses it near-weekly, but here it’s so in-your-face wrong that I couldn’t help but yell at the television. That’s the kind of writing I miss, the scripts which make one forget they’re not one of the characters for a couple hours. It’s hard to watch the human cruelty, but even harder to look away.
Those zombies, guys. I haven’t seen character movement like that in ages unless it was in one of countless demonic possession films. These zombies are twitchy, bendy, snappish, and flat out cool. They’re scary solo, and pants-pissing terrifying in a mob. Kudos to the extras who worked on this film. They left everything on the set every day of production. The pay-off created probably some of my favorite mass zombie scenes to date—the train station attack on the stairs and the sequence where Seok-woo, Sang-hwa, and Yong-guk fight from car nine to car thirteen to rescue a group separated from the other survivors. Because there are so many undead, the makeup for them is simplistic. And you know what? I don’t care. They could have slapped white grease paint on them and let them loose and it wouldn’t have done a thing to lessen the performances from the extras and hero zombies.
Train to Busan is the action-packed zombie film we’ve been waiting for since World War Z tried and just didn’t quite hit the mark. There’s some issues, yes, but the writing and action are so solid, the issues get a free pass. I wouldn’t hesitate to watch it again, something I never do with zombie films outside Romero’s contributions to the genre. Train to Busan gets five severed heads out of five. Now what are you waiting for? Go watch it!
Well, this one is a bit different. I went in expecting an established zombie apocalypse scenario. Instead we get a rather unique approach to the zombie origin story. While, yes, this is foremost Maya’s story about getting away from her horrifically dysfunctional household in order to strike out on her own with someone she feels she can trust, the film is at its roots a graphic cautionary tale about drugs and chemical lab safety procedures.
Always, always dispose of illicit drug lab waste properly, lest you bring on Armageddon.
The script isn’t earth-shattering beyond the unique creation story—one which I’d certainly never considered before, and applaud the writer on thinking outside the box in a genre which has been bogged down by Romero and TWD fanfics for too long. That being said, the dialog is often clumsy, or leans heavily on stereotype jargon—like Gault’s dom-heavy dialog, especially in the scene where he randomly corners and belittles Maya about garbage etiquette in their dilapidated, condemned eyesore. Surprisingly, there are personal stories for each building tenant, except for one poor guy who spends the entire film too ill to leave his apartment, let alone participate in the aggressive, murderous side-effects of exposure to the chemical fumes. But like the dialog, there’s quite a bit borrowed from the Lazy Writer’s Guide to Messed Up Characters.
Special effects crews worked overtime on the late-stage infection looks and sight gags. It’s safe to say, most of the production’s focus landed on the last half an hour of pure blood-drenched action. They really dug in, going for the most disgusting things they could think of, within only a slim semblance of reason—again, my mind wanders to that poor guy who never left his apartment and I can’t help but shudder. There’s no formula for the zombie look, since the method of exposure is so unique. But for the most part, they just start rotting, their mind as well. The mixture of real violence and hallucinated violence pushed the final act right over the cliff.
Better yet, that final act actually kept me on the edge of my seat—something which hasn’t happened at all during the last few films I’m reviewed. The tension is beautifully stretched by characters like Roxy, who easily stole the scene anytime she showed up. Roxy’s story is one of few which get some serious on-screen time. Unfortunately, her role is constantly victimized to the point of ridiculous, and all to perpetuate an ugly stereotype. The script failed Roxy. The actor salvaged what they could to deliver a stellar performance. Combine the few standout actors with the locked building thriller vibe and the last act just works. But, boy, you have to sit through some weird dialog and character choices, first. No one in the building is sane before the chemical fumes, after they are a million times worse. Watching Gault and Murphy’s slow decline is probably the most uncomfortable because it feels like an S&M tourist tried, and failed, to write a comprehensive depiction of the live-in BDSM lifestyle.
This film wraps with open-ended possibilities for the universe, my favorite. It alludes to government officials stepping in to cope, which as genre fans know is a signal that things will only get worse from then on out—governments always try to weaponize something they shouldn’t. Maya’s final scene is intense, intentionally misleading, and perfectly caps the bloody final act.
Condemned could have a higher rating, but for heavy-handed use of several unfortunate stereotypes, I’m only giving it 3 bursting eyeballs out of 5.
Looking for Mr. Goodbrain Part 2: Review for iZombie 313 by A. Zombie
Liv heaps blame on herself for being dosed with Kupps’ brain. We do find out Chase Graves wasn’t the one to ultimately put Kupps in Liv’s path. However, this whole side trip into Liv Is Unfaithful Land is just another excuse to paint her as the bad guy for having sex. Like we’re honestly surprised she A) accidentally fell into bed with a man, and B) the guy she’s currently dating did so thinking they are exclusive to each other. News flash, Liv isn’t written as one woman. She’s always, always been herself and the brain for the episode—mostly the brain. While Liv may want a relationship, whatever brain she’s on will never allow it to happen. Yet again, Liv’s love life is sacrificed for the greater good—it probably will end up fodder for more jokes during the hiatus at whatever comic conventions the creators attend, too. There’s only so many emotional walls you can slam your main character into before it’s just painful to watch. Ask Buffy fans what happens after years of killing or maiming the main love interest. Hint, they stop caring. If fans can’t bother to care about who your main character wants to settle down with, you’re writing it wrong.
The real bad guy for the season isn’t the Truthers bumbling through outing the undead. It’s not Blaine, or his water-logged father, or even his flighty second hand man and their brain-selling empire posing the greatest risk to Seattle and its zombies. Chase Graves is almost innocent, as well, though once he catches on to the plan, he has no choice but to reroute the orders given from within his company to morph them into something productive, not an all-out attack on humans. In a twist I saw coming once the helicopter incident happened, Carey Gold is the one responsible for the zombie assassinations, along with the plot to put Baracus in the mayor’s seat no matter what. She also put Plan B into motion, a plan which undermines the Zombie Island protocol Fillmore-Graves worked toward up until Vivian Stoll’s demise. In the power vacuum, Gold worked her magic, convincing zombies they must strike first before humans have a chance to assemble their pitchfork-wielding mobs. She never took into account the fact that Chase Graves is sincere in his belief that humans and zombies can live together, given enough help dealing with the whole brain-needing problem. Now she’s got all the time in the world to ponder where she went wrong in her attempt to snag control of the deadliest force to gather inside the USA since it formed. Well, that’s if there’s an afterlife for zombies. Gold, her daughter, and anyone in good faith with her were grabbed by Fillmore-Graves by the time the episode wrapped.
Getting the truth about zombies under wraps again won’t be so easy. Nor is it Graves’ plan now that Gold’s scheme to create more zombies—and therefore the public couldn’t ignore the need for brains—actually worked. After Liv drops the bombshell on the public via newly zombified Johnny Frost, Graves swoops in with a prepared video detailing how the company plans to handle the new rush of undead citizens. It also states that Fillmore-Graves fully expects the USA to be on board with supplying brains for the company now single-handedly holding back an epidemic with teeth. That’s going to go over like a lead balloon. But their services are necessary. The zombie population doubled, if not tripled before Liv put a stop to the tainted flu vaccines. Bozzio is one of the unfortunates who were dosed before word spread—the scene where Clive helps color her hair is so easy to miss, but screams volumes about where their relationship could go. I mean, I’m not saying Clive should go undead, but he obviously cares deeply for this woman on a level most people are incapable of. Bozzio is oddly adaptive to the zombie idea. Which is good since she is one now. But I’m not sure she’d want Clive to join her for the sake of their relationship. There is always a chance Ravi will cook up something—he’s currently testing an honest-to-god zombie vaccine.
On the flip side, Major cashed in his humanity chips and signed back up for zombie soldier duty after Natalie and his fellow mercs died in Johns’ suicide bombing. Major is pretty focused on the job. Jumps right into the trenches in the hours after Discovery Day launches to pass out brain mash. He even plays savior, visiting hospitals to scratch and save the poor souls dying from the flu Gold spread during her evil plot. The gang feels he may have turned his back on humanity. They may be right. As much as I enjoy puppy-like Major, it’s time for him to get serious about his future and stop whining about the aftermath of the Chaos Killer. If that means he turns into soldierbro for a while, so be it. Just as long as he’s not building sex forts or writing sonnets about his couch and all the TV he watched from it. That was getting old, fast.
The zombies are out of the morgue and in the public eye. Seattle is lead by an undead man, and the city’s largest new company is also run by a zombie. Yet there’s still tension. Humans won’t take this new reality with a simple grain of salt. They’re going to fear the change, fear what happens if the zombies are weaponized either through biological warfare or straight up attacks. As bigoted as this last season was in certain aspects, expect that to worsen a thousand-fold while the writers bumble through bringing two kinds of people together. I know they can’t leave well enough alone. They proved it when that racist as whoa little old lady laid into Ravi for no reason. While I’m excited to see the show expand its view, it’s going to be painful watching the writers try to get it right without being horrifically offensive to minorities, LGBT, and women.
Return of the Dead Guy: Review for iZombie 310 by A. Zombie
There’s only one reason to keep throwing back to Roxanne Greer’s death after her brain gimmick left a bad taste in fans’ mouths, it’s the one thing which will finally expose the puppet behind several deadly incidents in the city. We knew Greer’s death wasn’t cut and dry, not with Weckler being so ready to confess, and his subsequent staged suicide. The motive, however, remained elusive. With only one person alive with a connection to the man, Clive and Liv hunt down his daughter, who said some cryptic things about why Ms. Greer met her end during her final call with her father. They catch up with her at a friend’s house. The girl is wary to say too much in public. Or maybe her problem’s with Clive and Liv. There’s a surprise twist, tying Fillmore-Graves to the Weckler family. Was this their way of shoring up Baracus’ public image? If so, maybe the sniper at the reception wasn’t a crazed bigot, but someone trained not to shoot the mayor in the head. I know a certain company with loads of loyal men who’d pull the trigger in the name of the undead greater good. Could be a red herring, though. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Major and Shawna spend some time in Fort Lust. Yes, it’s as sickeningly sweet as it sounds. No, Liv won’t tolerate Major’s new attention diversion, as evident in her rat-feeding rant. Hilarious since she spends the entire episode apologizing to Drake for killing him, and he’s not really there. Drake even gets between Liv and Justin the first time they hop in bed together. But the minute Major is obviously happy, Liv is in a snit. She’s had ample time to deal with her feelings for the guy. They never see eye to eye for long and spend all their time saving each other from their own stubborn nature. But sure, writers, let’s make Liv the jealous ex yet again because you can’t figure out that adults can move on to new relationships without napalming the bridge with their ex. See Ravi and Peyton for another prime example. They do give Liv a moment to acknowledge her insane behavior—the brain-hopping to escape her violent farewell with Drake. The couple even get another chance to say goodbye. At last, Liv is free to move on. If we’re willing to forget her pettiness over Major’s current lover.
Boss weasels his way into a face-to-face with Blaine. He’s so sure he’s going to walk out of the mortuary the winner. Surprise, Boss! Zombies are a thing. Yes, Blaine brings the guy who’s been gunning for him in on the big secret. The brain supply is in peril without Angus’ firm hand to keep things running. Blaine just doesn’t have the same charm over the phone. He recruits Boss to smuggle brains for the business, after scaring the pee out of him with a little Full Blow Zombie mode, first.
That’s not the only real zombie action. Blaine grrs up again, this time with Liv in tow, to rescue the valiant duo trapped by the torture-happy Truthers. Ravi does his best to keep Don E. comfortable and safe from the groups’ plan to fry him like bacon until he snaps and turns full Romero. He even goes so far as to reach into some dark and mortifying places in order to retrieve Don E.’s burner phone so he can call for help. Rachel drops by, eager to check on the legitimacy of the live feed footage. She’s not on board with the plan Harley Johns and his pals pitch. But other than supporting Ravi as he literally stands in harm’s way, she can’t do much when faced with heavily-armed men hell-bent on hurting someone for fun. But the zombies can. The episode ends with Liv and Blaine Zing up in the car and Ravi’s got a gun to his head.
With three episodes left, things have predictably hit the fan in epic ways. Judging from the preview for next week, it’ll be an uphill battle for Team Zombie if they all want to survive this encounter with the Truthers.
Eat a Knievel: Review for iZombie 308 by A. Zombie
Didn’t anyone on the iZ team look at the optics of a jealous white guy burning a black man alive for impregnating his white girlfriend during an ill-considered prank? We’re not above the race talk in a zombie setting. We’re certainly not allowed to forget that unconscionable crimes are perpetuated against people of color all over the United States thanks to the vitriol coming from the sitting president’s supporters. Yet again I’m left to wonder if this show’s production staff is horrifically isolated from the world or if they’re willfully ignoring the negative messages laced throughout this last season in particular. They have a whole sub story about chasing down men committing zombie hate crimes, then stage a murder where a young black man is burned alive for defiling another man’s “property.” In a world with infinite possibilities, countless ways to murder, and the ability to combine any color of people in a situation, these writers opted for too many instances of white men killing people of color. Let’s not forget, the Travelers are primarily white Republican types and their first known victims were a black family.
It’s not okay for the writers to make a buck on killing people of color. It’d be great if they quit preaching that women who step out of line will lose their lives or suffer great personal loss. Just knock it off already. It’s not entertaining. You’re attacking your target demographic! There’s no rational reason to target women and people of color so often. None. If that is truly all these writers can come up with, it’s time to put iZombie to pasture and give the money to creatives who’ll bring some actual representation to women-led shows and not trot them out like a freakshow.
The gimmick of the week: Liv eats an immolated professional prankster, tries to staple a guy’s tongue, and channels her destructive nature into a weird “same brain” date with Justin—which includes impalement by lawn dart.
Fillmore-Graves is left scrambling when someone, likely Travelers, blows up the corporate helicopter with Vivian Stoll and her advisors on board. This happens moments after Stoll privately outs Major as human and demands answers, along with a sit-down with Ravi. Major gets another chance to die for zombie kind, hooray. The new commanders seem far tenser than Stoll. I wouldn’t be surprised if the first act of outright zombie/human war comes from Fillmore-Graves. That bunch has itchy trigger fingers.
Blaine hatches a plan. Boy does it work well. There’s just one catch. He had to turn zombie again in order to put everything into motion. Once Blaine is back on his feet, he wipes out all of Angus’ goons. It’s rather impressive to watch Blaine now compared to Blaine pre-human. It’s the same man. Same memories. But this Blaine is flat-out done. He’s either going to rule the city or bite a bullet. So far, everything going in his favor. Good ol’ pops isn’t as lucky. Well, I hope he can hold his breath. The upside to another hostile deBeers takeover is Don E. and Blaine teaming up again to expand on the base Angus founded with The Scratching Post and all those back office meetings.
The episode wrapped with Liv leaving Ravi alone to infiltrate the anti-zombie hate group. Yeah. Like that’s going to end well. None of this will end well. War is knocking on the door.
Dirt Nap Time: Review for iZombie 307 by A. Zombie
So while Liv should have still been in the mood to shrug off the MIA home-brewed drugs, she winds up stalking Blaine. Sure. Pummeling that smug face probably felt great at the time. But does she really think he’s going to buckle under her form of strong-arming when he’s faced off with his reptilian-hearted father for decades, always emerging from each scrape wiser and eager to fight again? Nah. She’s nowhere near his intimidation level. By the episode’s end, he’s also reached the “nothing left to lose” stage. Stealing the cure and lying to Liv’s face is only step one. I foresee a sharp left and a lot of, “What the hell, Blaine,” in the future. The lone wolf is about to go on a hunt.
That’ll put a kibosh on Don E.’s fun, for sure. Right now, he’s still living it up. Zombie prostitutes. Free-flowing booze. Zombies happily munching on the overly-priced brain cuisine. He’s created a little slice of hedonistic heaven in Seattle, and only the dead can enjoy it. The dead and Major, that is. The Fillmore-Graves crew got a tip about the speakeasy. Major’s crew is tasked with checking it out. That’s the “official” order. Really, the guys take a night to blow off steam after losing one of their own on that last mission. While the others get to know the professional women in the back rooms, Major’s new humanity is outed privately by Justin—note, Don E. vouched for Major at the door to bypass the pepper test. You gotta feel for Major. He hasn’t held a steady job since Liv started eating brains for the greater good. His skill set was honed for one purpose during his zombienapping days, and the only place who won’t balk at an accused serial killer collecting a paycheck happens to be run by zombies. Zombies who are highly suspicious of humans. So suspicious, Fillmore-Graves has bodyguards on Baracus to keep their high-level government zombie alive through the incoming storm of zombie hunters like Harley Johns. Johns and his pal do make an attempt to reach Baracus, but their real purpose was simply to provoke the zombies in order to capture video evidence. Which Justin provides after they run him over. That footage is going to cost lives.
Liv’s new beau isn’t off to a good start.
Yeah, that’s a thing. The pair go on a kinda-date to The Scratching Post in order for Liv to question Don E. about the missing cure. Before they find the busy business owner, they spend hours lost in conversation. Because the brain Liv’s on this week turned her into a weird hyper-happy person who listens to others rather well, but talks to them like they’re a three year old. I don’t find it attractive.
The case-of-the week involves a school teacher, Jamie Brennan, and his trio of lovers—all lovingly hand-picked from the parents of his class, with the staff’s full knowledge, and no official reprimand for bringing his personal life into professional life in destructive ways since he has new lovers every year and they inevitably cause a scene at the school. Sure. I believe that. And cows will headline in this winter’s big budget rendition of The Nutcracker. We were never supposed to focus on the womanizer who ends up dying by nail gun, but instead focus fell on his lovers. Macy’s love life in particular takes center stage once the writers attempt to bring in the notion of polyamory/open relationships. In reality, they wrote yet another cheating wife, jealous husband story. Which we’ve seen in probably half the cases Liv solves. Someone on the writing staff needs therapy which doesn’t involve writing out their relationship issues to foist on this show’s poor actresses.
Peyton’s still dealing with the fallout from Liv poorly handling Weckler’s interrogation—the lead suspect in the dominatrix murder and subsequent blackmail case. Not only are there holes in the testimony, but the man’s lawyer thinks there’s something larger at play. He’s right. Weckler won’t part with the memory card in order to make a deal because something on it is worth enough to a third party to keep him alive. Until another lawyer butts in. Thorne boots Weckler’s lawyer, tells Peyton off, and the next day Weckler is found dead in his cell. Nothing suspicious there, folks. Liv’s really botched this case for Peyton.
This is something I’ve waited for them to add to the show. What happens when Liv’s recklessness and egomania isn’t enough to get the job done? She’s certain she’s the end-all, be-all when it comes to getting inside the head of the victim to give them a voice after death. But, come on. Liv barely does her morgue job some weeks. She’s abusive to her boss, Ravi. The number of times she’s embarrassed Clive or committed morally questionable interrogation techniques is astronomical. Let’s face it, Liv sucks at her self-appointed mission. She’s still guilt-eating all these murder victims, with no actual care for the people they were or the families they left behind. All Liv wants is a pat on the head for solving a murder with no pesky laws or moral clauses to worry about. So what if she gets fired? She’s a zombie. Eat a brain, obtain new skills long enough to actually learn them, and go get you a new job. What will the humans in Team Zombie do if Liv continues to not consider the impact of her yo-yo personalities? Will Fillmore-Graves hire them after Liv ruins them like with Major? I think not.
Liv thinks becoming human again will fix her life. Much like in the first episode, I see a character too self-centered to do anything but insert herself in the middle of a hurricane because everyone’s talking about it, then blames family and friends for pushing her. In reality, they jumped in to save her and were blown against the brick wall that is her ego.
Some Like it Hot Mess: Review for iZombie 306 by A. Zombie
Clive wraps the case, suddenly Liv’s under no geas and is free to express her natural self. This leads me to believe the writers and production team knew the Sweet Lady Pain gimmick was a turd in the punch bowl. Yet they ran with it. For what purpose? To further deride sex workers in pop culture? Yeah, no. This isn’t something they can pass off as, “Oh, well, the brains wear off.” Liv rode Janko’s brain until she collapsed, utilizing the mercenary’s self-control to lock down her emotions after Drake’s final death. That took a while. Liv ditched the leather and whips on day two or three. She didn’t over-exert herself in any fights. Nor was she forced to heal any serious wounds. Both would take extra nutrients to heal, possibly explaining how Liv’s typical meal schedule wouldn’t be sufficient. Or we could just say, the writers messed up. They know they messed up. They went to great lengths to make us forget it by rushing Liv into a narcissist’s brain, therefore pitting her against everyone and causing drama. This is akin to tying shiny paper around nectarine tree limbs as a distraction so the birds won’t take the fruit, but truth is, the birds will always get what they want. What fans want is a show with a woman at the helm who isn’t deliberately knocked down to become the laughing stock in order to cover poor decisions from the production staff. I, for one, will keep checking this tree to see if there’s anything worthwhile to digest. There’s so much potential. It’s trapped behind a messy patriarchal wall, though.
Liv isn’t the only woman on the show getting this flavor of treatment in the writers’ room. Peyton still suffers barbs from Ravi over her personal life, only for every crappy thing he’s said to be proven right so Peyton is obligated to apologize. Apologize to the man so obsessed over who she’s kissing, he hopped in bed with a woman he detests? Are you kidding? But, it happens. This week’s case is centered on the victim, Yvonne, and her affair with a married club owner, with a jealous coworker red herring. Who actually offed the self-centered party girl? The roommate she screwed over. A woman, by the way. Not one of the sexually-motivated angles Clive and Liv investigate produces a lick of information. I dare not go back to count how many of the women who’ve died on the show were given a similar treatment, but off the top of my head it’s already too many. And when the victims themselves aren’t interesting sexually—because of race, weight, age, etc.—a side character, like Rhonda in episode 304, is tapped to fill the position. Could we not?
For a fun writing exercise, I’d like iZ writers to pen a script which has no mention whatsoever of sex. It happens in shows lead by men all the time! Why is it any different for Liv? She’s a zombie! That’s rather interesting on its own. Add in her career choice and it’s a story all in itself. With so much story fodder, why the obsession with the women on the show having sex? This isn’t how you present women’s sexual liberty. Go back to the drawing board.
Major is back to his puppy-dog-esque self after taking the cure. Ravi isn’t as calm. He obsessively tests Major’s memory. He’s so desperate to save his bro, he asks Liv—doped on dingbat brain—to take shifts watching their human-again friend. Which, of course, she doesn’t even bother trying to do. In an attempt to do one last good thing before he loses himself, Major takes an unannounced trip to visit his family. Cue panic. Flailing. And a big ol’ truth bomb dropped on Peyton like a load from a rhino’s backend. Blaine faked it. Well, most of it. The cure does indeed strip memories, but it’s more like a hard reboot than a full wipe. It took a couple days for Blaine to remember his old ways, and he hated it. He hid the truth to start over. Great news for Major, but Blaine’s lies put Peyton in an awful position yet again.
A functional cure also means Liv can finally stop being a pawn for whatever weird fantasies the writers are working out on the page.
Or not. See, the cure’s gone missing. There’s only one real suspect in Team Zombie’s mind.
Don E. has a regular at his bar who’s flat-out tired of the brain game and wants out without eating the end of a pistol. Being the ultimate businessman, Don E. skips over to the morgue to present Ravi with a lucrative deal, they split the money from the rich guy and hand over the cure. No go. Ravi has a finite amount of serum and probably has names to go with most of them on his mental list. Obviously there’s a demand for the cure. Who’s always around when there’s an opportunity to exploit? Yeah, Don E. is the usual suspect this season. But in this case, he’s the scapegoat when Blaine absconds with the remaining syringes of the serum. It looks like he’s going to make a new designer drug for the dead set based off the blue memory goo. So why take the cure, too? My guess is population control. Slip the cure into his drug and watch Angus lose his brain-munching customer base. It’s Blaine, the sky’s the limit with his scheming ways. He may surprise me.
Wag the Tongue Slowly: Review for iZombie 304 by A. Zombie
This review discusses adult content.
Fasten your seatbelts. The muck is deep on this path.
Let’s just start with the case. A lot of the seriously harmful language toward women comes in during the latter half of the investigation when Clive and Liv bring in coworkers harassed by Cheryl, the office gossip monger who accidentally overdosed from Utopium-laced yogurt. While under the influence of Chatty Cathy, Liv has one vision. It’s a scene from an adult film outing coworker Rhonda as a porn star. That wasn’t the first time the character had been outed; in the backstory, Cheryl exposed Rhonda by sharing her films with the entire company—likely via an illegal download so Rhonda didn’t even profit from the sales. Yeah. Okay, no. That’s not a quirky plot point to exploit for some cheap giggles when The Guys find out the case involves porn. For sex workers who are outed, it’s rarely something they can just brush off. The stigma behind the work instantly pollutes their new work environment. They’re almost expected to perform in some sick corner of their coworkers’ minds. For someone who may want to move past that stage of their life with a clean slate, outing means uprooting and finding a fresh place to start life again. Rhonda doesn’t even react to the second outing, this time to the police and morgue crew, in a believable way. She fluffs her chest and draws focus to her body, indicating that the attention thrilled her in a way. There’s the performance I mentioned, used this time to, I don’t know, talk her way out of the cops looking at her movies? It makes no sense for a former sex worker whose been outed twice in professional settings to wave it off with a flirt. Frustrated? Yes. Angry. Totally. And I don’t buy that crud excuse that she’s hiding her part in the prank-gone-wrong. It’s careless writing which put the character in such a horrible position. They could have done literally anything else when Rhonda formulated a comeback to Clive’s questioning, but by choosing the exploitive route, they’ve failed to uphold the safety of women foremost. The week before Liv traipses down Domme Road, writers demonstrate how much of a train wreck it’ll be by failing to handle Rhonda’s story with any consideration for sex workers as humans.
Then there’s Ravi. At this point the character has to go, or the writers need a good talking to about how to stop enabling awful male behavior by depicting it through a character who used to have a moral compass. They’re obsessed with Peyton’s sex life since Liv isn’t having any and it’s not good television. I pity these women who were brought onto a show which could be so unique, but the story lines written for them are the same two or three plots we see for women in most entertainment. And now Ravi has a terminal case of creepy guy syndrome. If Ravi were a real man, no woman in his social circle would date him at this point in his life. He’s fixated on Peyton’s sex life, without any consideration for her feelings, and fueled by his righteous indignation that she dare sleep with anyone else. Ravi publicly humiliated Peyton and blackmailed Blaine to test a serum he didn’t know would work or kill the guy. He’d rather get drunk and wallow in his sense of betrayal than help a friend do what could possibly be his last mission before he loses his memory. Sleeping with a woman Ravi hates is more preferable than a heartfelt conversation to clear the air with Peyton, but it’s her fault for catching him in the aftermath of the act. The topper is the instant Ravi heard there is an adult star under investigation by their team, he’s practically a walking cartoon penis. Obsession comes hard and fast, and after Ravi binge watches hours of Rhonda’s films, he’s rearing to get his stalk on. The audacity of the writers lies in that they felt no guilt over Ravi stalking a woman who’d been endlessly harassed by the deceased and her coworkers, only for the police to dredge it up again. Yes, Cheryl died from Rhonda’s actions. It was reckless to prank someone with drugs. No one should ever be dosed without consent. That doesn’t give writers license to treat a sex worker with so much disrespect, though. She’s still a human, not a physical embodiment of all sexuality and its perceived evils.
In other matters, Major finally has a solid lead on Natalie. He’s also too close to death for Ravi’s comfort. With that in mind, the dynamic duo band together and bumble through tracking Osborne Oates—some scum-sucking jerk who apparently is way into human trafficking. Through him they find a scary as hell security guard, but most importantly, Natalie’s hideout. There’s a hitch in the plan. Well, other than Major having nothing left to lose and making rash decisions right and left. Natalie won’t leave. She refuses to endanger Major. His last ditch effort to help is to give her his syringe with the cure, plus a warning about the memory loss. While he does escape Natalie’s guard squad, he’s likely heading straight into another mess when his zombie squad deploys on its first mission the next day.
Clive and Liv do make progress with the anti-Z message board. They track a local gun range owner who piques their interest with his posts, and the zombie-heavy advertising for his business. The plot strands tangle again, almost wonderfully so, when Harley Jones turns out to be brother to the Max Rager employee who, literally, lent Clive and Liv a hand at the doomed party. Jones is pretty much who you think he’ll be. White. Not in great shape, but large enough to be threatening. Mouth runs off without his brain fully engaging. The only difference between Jones and other crackpot racists is he has insider information about zombies and poses an actual threat. Despite that, he says he’s not the one who pulled the trigger on Wally’s family. I believe him. He seems to type to brag about horrific decisions. And now I’m going to throw up my eyeball pudding at that thought.
Next week, Domme Brain. I’m honestly not looking forward to it.
Eat, Pray, Liv: Review for iZombie 303 by A. Zombie
Ravi tells Major he’s got a few weeks left before he must take the cure or die. By the episode’s end, I’m certain that time frame is far, far shorter. This guillotine over Major’s memories is held by a single strand on a frayed rope. He knows it. The painful truth is right there in his eyes while watching Liv play that ridiculous dancing game with his new work pal, Justin. One might mistake it as a nudge toward a rekindled relationship. It just so happens that happy friends are one thing Major has lacked since the zombie thing started, and if he’s going out soon, he might as well do as Liv’s brain-influenced babbling suggests—live in the moment. In the moment doesn’t include bland, bagged brain mush. He and Justin break the feeding protocol to imbibe in the real thing. I’m digging this happier Major. How long until he’s forced to take the cure? What if the memory serum doesn’t work—we’ll talk testing ethics later—and he’s rebooted while serving in a zombie mercenary squad? There’s no real good outcome unless Ravi’s serum does indeed reverse the memory snafu, but that opens a whole new world of problems for Major’s future.
The thing with Ravi and Peyton? The plot went to the place it never should have. Why? So Peyton could say some deep, insightful things and be all grr-arg, woman power! And then they turn around and have Ravi learn absolutely nothing from forcing Peyton into a corner where she had to defend not only her right to make decisions for herself, but her right to have sex at all with anyone who isn’t Ravi. The cap on the entire ridiculous story is after Ravi is a sex-paranoid nutjob in front of Team Zombie while professing his love, Peyton goes to him and appears to at least somewhat forgive him with a kiss. But wait, he’s already slept with the woman he swears he hates more than snails hate salt. Why even trot out this moral lesson? All men will see is that Ravi still has sex with an attractive woman, so what’s the problem with how he treated Peyton? You don’t get to berate someone in front of their friends about who they sleep with, mortify them, and win a prize. To assume Ravi can have whoever he wants, whenever he wants because he said he’s sorry is precisely how this show continues to perpetuate unhealthy romantic expectations. It’s obvious in the weird sub plot stating Liv can’t be happy in bed because she’s secretly unhappy and guilt-ridden over her brain-eating. It’s the way Peyton has been used as a fire hydrant in a dog park since the get-go, men marking their territory right and left. It’s Major caring more about women he barely knows, but the two closest to him are constantly in danger, sometimes through his own doing. It’s the writers assuming every non-STEM employed woman Liv eats is secretly a slut, crazy, or too caught up in “being a woman” to have a career. For a show with a woman on all the advertising, it does a crap job at representing them. I know not one woman who would’ve kissed a man after what Ravi said when he emotionally blackmailed Blaine into taking the memory cure. Not. One. A few certainly would’ve punched him, instead. With a fist, not lips. Got that, iZ writers?
Let’s get to the case for the week. Topher is a mindfulness teacher, focused on helping others look past negative thoughts, to live in the moment without fear. During his solo meditation, someone introduces his personal Shambhala to a Buddha statue. Clive and Liv dig up a far different past for the Zen guy. Once upon a time, he was a venture capitalist with partners Mitch and Devon. Things went sideways, someone turned to drugs for start-up money, and Mitch spent years in jail while the other two moved on to become legitimate businessmen and mindfulness coaches. It doesn’t take a genius to solve the crime once they look past the red herring a “random” homeless guy tosses in their way. Topher’s brain is one of the better personalities foisted on Liv, honestly. His case just isn’t that intriguing.
While Liv and Clive seize Mitch’s future moments to pay for his newest crime, Blaine is having one hell of a week. The last problem on his list is the potentially harmful serum Ravi bullied him into testing. The first problem, really the only real problem Blaine should worry about if he were his old self, is Angus. The old man wastes no time letting Blaine know he’s back from the deep freeze, in part as a test, but mostly to see the fear of God in his son’s eyes. Disappointing day for Angus; Blaine only fears the man he used to be, the horrible person he’s forced to face every time someone coughs up a story he can’t remember. After getting his money back from Blaine, Angus sinks it all into a restaurant. His new business will eclipse the under-the-table brain biz Blaine’s running in the mortuary’s basement. We’re talking top of the line service. For the right price, Angus’ new associate, Dino, will secure any brain their customers desire. Don E. is way out of his element, and seriously missing Blaine, but tries to be clever enough not to get dead. That may require more work than he thought. Angus won’t wait for word-of-mouth advertising. Nope. Don E. will make customers to fill Angus’ demands. If everyone thought Stoll had a bad idea for zombies taking over Seattle, DeBeers is about to make it a thousand times worse.
That’s if Katty Kupps doesn’t expose zombies to humans before they do it themselves. She’s close to connecting the dots. Too close. Seattle is a zombie powder keg. Isn’t it great?