iZombie has really hit its stride this season, taking the time to create a solid mythology while quickly zinging multiple plot points, a balance that’s hard to master. In a good show, mythology building is organic: You’re so transfixed by the storytelling and the characters that all of a sudden, you find yourself immersed in a world that didn’t exist 10 episodes before. And yet it makes total sense. In “Max Wager,” we get a perfect example. You barely register that you’ve just learned that zombie-ism is potentially transmittable through s-e-x — you just notice that the leads are so hot for each other they’re rebuilding lost intimacy and playing Skype strip poker. (You also notice that Liv says that Major is wearing a G-string, but we never get to actually see it.)
When Liv slurps up compulsive sports-gambler brains — Clams Casino, very clever, Team iZombie — she’s willing to take risks on everything from competitive donut choosing to horse races. But as tempted as she is to sleep with Major, she doesn’t take the ultimate risk in her own life: turning him back into a zombie just so she can get her groove on. So despite the fact that the brains a zombie eats control her, somewhere deep down, her own neurotransmitters are as undead as she is, sparking when there’s a personal decision she has to make.
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The cold open is downright sitcom, as new roomies Ravi and Peyton, sitting at the breakfast table, watch a re-energized Major bop around like he got laid the night before. “Body snatchers,” Peyton suggests. “If that’s Rihanna coming downstairs, it would explain so much,” deadpans Ravi. Of course, it’s Liv, clad in one of Major’s shirts (the lady in a rom-com couple doesn’t own PJ pants). As Ravi and Peyton ponder the meaning of their own Ross and Rachel, Major and Liv smooch. “It won’t always be this nauseating, right?” Ravi asks. “Suffer, bitch,” Major says.
For a cutesy premise, his mandate is oddly prescient; the first casualty is Harry Cole. Last week’s killer is this week’s victim, mowed down by machine gun fire after scoring a plush plea bargain. Things are starting to get interconnected as cases carry over from one show to the next. It’s nice to shake off the procedural structure, though with great power comes great responsibility. As iZombie forgoes a linear, case-of-the-week structure, it becomes more complicated to navigate its twist and turn storylines. But it’s succeeding. Cole’s debt and death lead us to his bookie, the office “fixer” Mr. Thronk, and ultimately, his killer, his college BFF turned pro-basketball player.
Meanwhile, Clive’s love life is heating up as he and FBI agent Dale sit on a park bench eating Chinese takeout and discussing life, liberty, and the pursuit of brains. When Major and Liv roll up hand in hand, the group has the awkward encounter couples have when one is not really a couple and the other is mixed up in a (Utopium) Huffy the Zombie Slayer murder mystery. We’ve all been there, amirite?
NEXT: Blaine gets knocked down, but he gets up again