'iZombie' is Starting to Get Legit Scary

The CW's bloodiest teen comedy is raising the stakes in anticipation of its season finale

Even if The CW’s iZombie features a brain-eating scene in every episode, it’s not exactly a frightening series. The momentum is built on each murder of the week, and on the growing relationships between its central players: Liv (Rose McIver), Ravi (Rahul Kohli), Clive (Malcolm Goodwin), Blaine (David Anders) and Major (Robert Buckley).

Overall, the show’s second season has suffered more distractions and misdirections than it did in its debut season, but the show continues to store tricks up its sleeve. Last night’s episode, for example, ratcheted up the dread that’s been building since last year, in several minor storylines.

This week, we saw a development over at Max Rager, when Vaughn Du Clark (Steven Weber) closed an elevator door on his daughter, who was running from one of the “full Romero” zombies locked in Max Rager’s basement. Though it appears Gilda (Leanne Lapp) survived, it’s unclear whether she was bitten or scratched. We watched her hobble off into the office, soaked in blood and looking desperate for the first time in the show’s history. It was fun, above all else, to watch Leanne Lapp get to emote something other than her character’s predatory sensuality.

The dread came into play during a long, uninterrupted close shot of Du Clark’s face, as he listened for signs of his daughter’s survival, probably hoping she wouldn’t make it. That shot was the second of two silent takes; the first was played for laughs when Clive caught Ravi and Liv dissecting a rat, and no one involved in the situation knew quite what to say. Both bouts of silence were an interesting experiment for a show that sold itself as Veronica Mars 2.0: Now with Cannabalism!. The showrunner, Rob Thomas, is known among fans for his quick, light dialogue, and for writing characters who respond to dangerous situations with puns. Though iZombie’s dialogue still crackles, it was nice to watch the actors take a brief respite from trying to one-up each other’s wordplay.

But, back to those negative feelings, the ones typically associated with horror shows. We watched Major kidnap Liv’s boyfriend, Drake (Greg Finley), while Liv waited to confront Drake with his job at Max Rager. On the other side of town, Blaine’s cronies noticed him coughing, and he gave up all the information on his multiple crime rings and delivered a sad goodbye speech, just in case taking Ravi’s experimental zombie-cure killed him (again).

The Major-kidnapping scene isn’t really anything new. iZombie fans have gotten used to watching Major sneak around at night, and Liv’s boyfriends never last very long. Still, it was painful to watch Liv waiting around, and her anxiety mirrored Du Clark’s in a way that felt balanced. There’s a lot of pained, worried waiting going on in iZombie right now, which bodes well for the second season’s final episodes: if there’s one thing the show demonstrated a knack for last year, it’s ending a television season with a bang.

Promos for next week’s episode promise the return of Liv’s often-absent best friend Peyton (Aly Michalka), and a reboot of the episode where Liv ate a romance novelist’s brains. This time, it looks like her cartoonish sexuality will be physical, because she’s about to eat a stripper’s brain in order to solve her murder. The goofy-sexy Liv trope is tired, because it detracts from what really works in iZombie: tense situations that elicit genuine, deep emotions from its cast. Although the show continues to want us to care about Liv and Drake’s doomed romance, it did succeed in putting the spotlight on the Max Rager office again.