iZombie season 4 review

Summing up: probably the weakest season so far – but still better than some TV out there.

Hey Nate! Why don’t you ever talk about some of those HBO shows?  The way you talk about iZombie it seems like [insert title here] would be right up your alley!

Well for one thing it seems like everybody is talking about those shows, so I’m not sure I would have much to contribute to the discussion.  Conversely I don’t see much talk about iZombie so call me a tv Hipster if you will.

Here’s the other thing: while I can appreciate quality, it alone is not enough to keep me engaged (unless it’s bad enough – I am a member of the local mst3k/rifftrax club).  If I’m going to spend my time watching I need either a plot or idea that fascinates me, or characters that I enjoy spending time with.  Most of those shows?  Have neither.  Whereas iZombie is full of both.

When this season began I was hopeful as the problems setting up a government and how a zombie nation society might function is of interest to me.  These are hard challenges for even a group of the smartest people that ever lived, how could just one man like Chase Graves handle it?  Would Major get to be a “founding father”?  How would you even handle the infrastructure?  There’s all sorts of fascinating storytelling avenues to look at and even if they might not be suitable for an entire episode, they would make for fascinating filler.  Instead for this season we got… one bit in a factory.

Indeed if I had to sum up this season in one word, it would be “letdown.”  When Angus’ church started getting popular, I thought we might see an interesting philosophical clash as it came to a head against Fillmore-Graves.  Oh no, they just run at some soldiers and get shot.  I’m uh… so glad we spent time with them.  True David Anders and Robert Knepper are solid actors who play well off each other but… what was it all for?  Isobel was… ok, but shouldn’t there be more impact with the discovery that some people are immune?  That some brains can be converted to cures?  Can Ravi seriously not save some of the brain to try and develop a new cure line?  It just has to ALL be given up?  Not that I mind Clive & Dale being given a happy ending there – I liked that part – but it struck me as odd that Ravi had to recommend the whole brain.  I mean what if he had just a small slice of it when he was going through his monthlies?  Would that cure him?  It just bugs me that much with Isobel seemed arranged for cheap drama than anything really interesting – like what if Fillmore-Grave got a hold of her?

Normally I am of the opinion that a lot of TV nowadays could be reduced to a 13 episode season.  This season was the first one in a long time that I could feel the show being cramped and needing those extra few episodes.  Yet on the other hand, if you know you only get 13 episodes, why bother with the zombie church?  Why not trim down Blaine & Angus and spend that time examining better the strong story points? (Blaine’s plans and relationship to FMG were always more interesting anyway.)

On the one hand I do like for a show to stretch itself and try something different – give a spectacular, entertaining failure than bland mediocrity.  But where was the international community this season?  Zeattle is supposed to be something like an attempt at a whole new nation – yet as far as we could tell, only the United States existed in that world.  Would Canada really tolerate having a zombie enclave only 140ish miles from its border?  Maybe the US wouldn’t want to nuke the site, but would it allow another nation to take a shot and just “fail” to defend the land?  Not to mention what about America’s enemies?  It doesn’t seem like in the modern age that such a situation could be hushed up from the wider world.  So why did we never see China’s president or Putin or a Mexican drug cartel leader visiting Zeattle?  Couldn’t you just see someone like that agreeing to be turned into a zombie in exchange for a steady brain supply? (and you know they wouldn’t be as concerned about ethically acquiring those brains)  What would that mean for the US?  Maybe Fillmore-Graves would be reluctant at first, but as the supplies dwindled or were cut off?  Then again there’s SOME chance this could be a plotline in the next season, yet some of the goodwill has been drained.  Between last season and this one it’s hard not to get the impression that the show runners have trouble with payoffs.  They’ll do great setting things up and getting your imagination fired up… and then nothing comes of it.

I want to keep liking this show – the actors and characters make that easier – but it’s starting to argue with itself.  Like closing out with Liv being applauded for proving that “zombies & humans can live together.”  Well until a brain substitute is found, no they really can’t.  When Major’s protege comes home to find her little siblings starving, that is in some ways a consequence of Liv who has taken brains they could have eaten off the market and instead converted it into another mouth to feed, further straining rations.  But this is never really examined and the starvation effects on the city are often kept off screen.  We never see her weigh the choices she has to make nor see – as a hypothetical – somebody she previous smuggled suffering from brain shortage and cursing her.  The season paints her as unequivocally doing the right thing, even though by the world building, there are bad consequences to that.

That’s why I rate this season as the lowest the show has ever done. Because it felt like the writers painted themselves into a corner they didn’t want to be in.  Rather than dealing with the implications in their usual thoughtful and engaging manner, the writers seemed to have tried to ignore the problems.

Which is what I often find on lesser shows.

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