This review contains spoilers.
5.1 Thug Life
Over the past four seasons, iZombie has slowly and steadily moved from an entertaining murder-of-the-week dramedy to also being one of the most politically relevant shows on TV. As it launches its fifth and final season, we return to a New Seattle that is much changed from the Seattle we first visited in the show’s pilot. Much like the slow, often scary changes we’ve seen in the real-world, iZombie‘s setting has lost much of its sense of stability, resulting in acts of violent desperation that have become frighteningly more common in real-world America.
The action in the season five premiere picks up six months following the events of the season four finale. Major is still in charge of Fillmore Graves, a zombie-run military corporation that has enacted a kinder martial law on the city—but it remains martial law nonetheless. When a video showing a human woman being mauled and presumably killed by two zombies goes viral, tensions between the living and the dead become even more strained within the city.
As is the case with most marginalised groups, it is the zombie population who is the most vulnerable. Zombies may be in charge of Fillmore Graves, but New Seattle is the only zombie enclave in the United States. If the U.S. military wanted to bomb them, it could, even if it would mean killing the human population that mostly populates the city.
Relations between humans and zombies living within New Seattle aren’t without hope, mostly because of our core group of characters, who got a headstart on wrapping their brains around the zombie “issue” and what it is like to have loved ones across species borders. Peyton, who is effectively running the city now that the mayor is dead, sees Liv, Clive, Ravi, and Dale as a task force of sorts across the city’s departments. She asks them to get to the bottom of the mysterious murder before things get worse.
Of course, things do get worse. Leader of the Concerned Humans Imposing Common Sense and small business owner Dolly Durkins attempts to light the powder keg that is New Seattle by going on Frost Bites to debate Peyton about the state of human-zombie relations. For Dolly, zombies shouldn’t have any rights. They all deserve to die. She is afraid of them, and her fear has radicalised her and caused her to radicalise others.
As the episode progresses, we find out that Dolly is the leader of a terrorist group. A grieving man, who has lost both his wife and child in some undefined way to the zombie outbreak, shows up at her taco stand, ready to be the Concerned Humans’ suicide bomber. Dolly gives him a van loaded with explosives, tells him he is a hero, blessed God, and leaves him to drive into a Fillmore Grave checksite, killing four soldiers.
Meanwhile, Liv and Clive continue to investigate the murder that has put everyone on high alert. The search leads them to a park outside of the city, but there is no sign of a body: just a seemingly grieving boyfriend who beats them to the punch. Given that the murderous incident was accompanied by a zombie woman distracting a nearby anti-zombie grocery store clerk, there appears to be more to this incident than meets the eye.
Did the woman who was seemingly murdered run her car into the zombies’ car on purpose? And, if so, for what purpose? Was she in cahoots with the men? And does the missing woman’s boyfriend know more than he is letting on?
For now, some measure of stability in New Seattle is being held, in no small part because Blaine was able to restore his steady stream of brains into the city, which was threatened when the border agents he was regularly bribing saw footage of the human woman seemingly being murdered by zombies. Blaine kidnapped the five border patrol agents, threatening their loved ones and presumably killing the one who refused to be coerced into cooperating again.
That man may be the only objecter right now, but he represents a problem for the zombie population if he is a harbinger of things to come. Right now, Blaine is living like a king inside of the New Seattle, untouchable for a Major and Fillmore Graves who actively need him to keep the zombie population fed. He is the epitome of the real world’s one percent, living a ridiculously luxurious life while others suffer.
As Candy tells Don E., who is the one who is doing the day-to-day work that is holding down the business, “it was beauty killed the beast.” A sign of things to come for Blaine? It doesn’t seem like he can end the season and the series in power, but what will be the thing to bring Blaine down? Presumably, it will be Liv. They have been in a power struggle of sorts since Blaine first changed her in season one.
There have points when they have seemed to be frenemies, but Liv has never forgotten who Blaine is and she, like so many others whose lives have been changed without their consent by a greedy Blaine, deserves justice for all of the pain Blaine has caused her—even if she ultimately chooses the life of a zombie over the life of a human.
And how is that cure coming? Season five introduces an outside pharmaceutical facility that is teaming up with Ravi to research zombie-ism and a possible cure. When an eager and brilliant young doctor makes the connection between Freylich Syndrome (the illness that Isobel had) and the zombie cure, Ravi only barely convinces her to keep her findings from the rest of the research group, as it will most likely mean people hunting down the roughly 300 kids who live with Freylich Syndrome for their brains and the zombie cure that comes with them.
If you read my review’s opening paragraph and didn’t know the show, iZombie might sound like a depressing watch, but it impressively isn’t. Unlike most of the topical dramas on TV, iZombie isn’t dour, self-serious, or disheartening, which is a minor miracle. Rather, it is consistently funny, with some of the best quips and one-liners on TV. It’s going to be sad to see it go after this final season, but, if this first episode is anything to go by, it is going to go out with a bang.