Tonight’s episode of iZombie was a highly anticipated hour for one main reason: fans wanted to see Major Lilywhite act like a teenage girl. And while “Zombie Knows Best” certainly gives us plenty of hilarious Major moments, along with some very funny Liv scenes as well, their goofy father-daughter dynamic isn’t what made tonight’s installment another excellent episode. No, this week’s iZombie works so well because it turns its attention over to Clive and provides some much-needed depth and context to his relationship with Wally.
While I appreciated the relationship between Clive and Wally that was introduced in last week’s premiere, I also felt that the season opener was so crammed full of other storylines that iZombie didn’t really get the chance to explore their connection in a truly deep or meaningful way. Clive’s history with Wally certainly gave the Season 3 premiere more emotional weight, but it lacked the detail and specificity that the series usually puts into all of its characters’ relationships.
That’s why “Zombie Knows Best” is such a pleasant surprise. Using flashbacks, the episode dives deeply into Clive and Wally’s history, showing how Clive became a pseudo-father to the kid while they lived in the same apartment building. Clive protected Wally and his mother, Anna, from his abusive dad; he babysat Wally while Anna was at work (and even let him watch Game of Thrones); and he grew to develop romantic feelings for Anna, feelings he would have certainly acted on had he not gotten caught up with his undercover work.
But as we discover by episode’s end, things didn’t just end sadly for Clive when it came to Wally and Anna; they ended tragically. In the powerful final scene of “Zombie Knows Best,” it’s revealed that Clive is the inadvertent cause of Wally and his family turning into zombies, and while he shouldn’t blame himself, it’s clear that he most certainly does.
Clive’s undercover work forced him away from his apartment for so many weeks that he wasn’t able to be there for Wally and Anna when Wally’s father was released from prison, and by the time he returned, they had already moved in with her brother. Clive mentions to Cavanaugh (whose interrogation of Clive opens and closes the episode) that Anna wrote him a letter, and when Cavanagh asks how long ago that was, Clive tells him that it was 22 months ago, the same time that Fillmore-Graves employees became zombies on the retreat they went on, the same time that Anna and her family also turned into members of the undead.
Malcolm Goodwin delivers a fantastic performance throughout this entire episode; he’s even able to pull off Clive’s mustache in the flashbacks (Wally tells Clive that he looks like “Black Tony Stark”). But Goodwin is at his absolute best in that final scene, as he’s able to portray Clive’s heartache, pain, and regret over the loss of Wally and his family by uttering only two words. In that quiet, beautiful moment, Clive envisions the life he could have had with Wally and Anna if his job hadn’t gotten in the way, a life full of happiness and love and family, a life in which two of the people he cared about most are still alive and breathing.
In many ways, this scene is just as heartbreaking as Clive and Bozzio’s break-up from last season’s finale, as, yet again, we witness Clive having to sacrifice what he wants most for the good of others. Plus, after seeing Clive take down and arrest Wally’s dad, we also now fully understand why Clive has such unrelenting anger for fathers that abuse their children. It’s the rage that we first saw him express in last season’s “Love & Basketball,” and it reemerges somewhat during tonight’s installment as Clive learns about what’s happening between Winslow and her stepfather, Ken.
As powerful as this week’s Clive’s storyline is, though, iZombie smartly balances out the darker, sadder aspects of “Zombie Knows Best” with more overtly comedic moments, such as Liv’s consistently enthusiastic attitude and pretty much every single word Major says throughout the hour. Seriously, though, if Malcolm Goodwin delivers what could be considered his best dramatic performance on iZombie so far in tonight’s episode, it has to also be said that this is easily Robert Buckley’s best comedic work on the series. The way he delivers over-the-top phrases like “Ew!” and “Can’t even!” is absolutely priceless, and I lost track of how many terrific lines Major had throughout the hour because there are just so many good ones.
Furthermore, while the case of the week isn’t exactly a laugh riot (a teenage girl sleeping with her stepfather is easily one of the most disgusting and disturbing cases that iZombie has ever given us), it remains intriguing enough throughout the hour, as both Winslow and her stepfather seem like the prime suspects before it’s revealed that her mother is the actual killer. Plus, the case never detracts from the outrageous comedy caused by the father and daughter brains that Liv and Major eat, and for the record, both of those brains, especially the teenage girl one, are early contenders for brain of the season (although since dominatrix brain is only a couple of episodes away, I have a feeling that they’ll soon be dethroned).
And while “Zombie Knows Best” seems much more interested in diving into Clive’s backstory or supplying Major with a new problem that he can freak out about (his outburst over Peyton to Ravi is so good) than pushing this season’s overarching plot forward, the episode still makes time for the “zombies vs. humans” storyline in its final 10 minutes. Liv and Clive visit the house of Wally’s next-door neighbor, who called in to Chuck Burd’s radio show and mentioned that he lived next to zombies. They quickly find out that he’s not the person who killed Wally and his family, but the neighbor does provide Liv and Clive with some vital information, as he shows them the message board that he and other zombie believers post on. Somehow, someone hacked into the neighbor’s account and found out where he lived before posting a photo of Wally’s house with its address to the message board, calling for anyone and everyone to go and kill the zombies that lived there.
This new information doesn’t bring Liv and Clive any closer to cracking the murder case, but it does prove to them (and Vivian) that humans are more dangerous to zombies than ever. The war between the living and the undead may not be here just yet but it’s coming, and when it’s all said and done, I doubt that Clive will be the only person who has lost someone he loves.
- No Peyton or Blaine in this episode, but their presence is still felt thanks to Ravi, who speaks to both Major and Liv about what he should say to Peyton about their current situation. Of course, since Major is on teenage girl brain, his and Ravi’s conversation is the more entertaining of the two, as it begins with him calling Peyton the most selfish person on earth and ends with emotionally asking Ravi if they’re still best friends (Ravi assures him that they are). Thanks to the supportive dad brain that Liv eats, her conversation with Ravi turns into a pep talk of sorts, as she encourages him to just be honest with Peyton about how he feels and lets him that he’s a “pretty cool guy.”
- While at mercenary training, Major discovers that Fillmore-Graves zombies get their brains from a tube. The brains that they eat are different brains mashed together into a type of yogurt-esque substance, so they don’t have radical personality changes or get visions. A smart move by Fillmore-Graves. If you’re training mercenaries, you want them to be focused.
- I love that Ravi actually follows up on Liv’s promise to give him a “crisp five-dollar bill” if he finds anything useful from the Chuck Burd recordings.
- How great is the reveal that Wally was the person that turned Clive into the insane Game of Thrones fan that he is today? Such a nice, little detail to add to their backstory. Kudos to the writer of this episode (and iZombie‘s co-showrunner), Diane Ruggiero-Wright, for including it.
- I’m still debating what’s better: Major singing along (terribly) to Katy Perry’s “The One Who Got Away,” or him telling Ravi that the song is “so you and Peyton!”
- “How bout turning it down a couple hundred decibels, Sparky? I don’t think Miley Perry Gomez wants her fans going death.”
- “If they wanna eat brain mash, let them eat brain mash. But in this house, we eat whole brains, and we solve murders.”
- “Your abs make me want to kill myself.”
What did everyone else think about this week’s episode of iZombie? Comment below and let me know.
[Photo credit: Katie Yu & Jack Rowand/The CW]