This week on iZombie, Liv eats an agoraphobe, Ravi is a nerd, Major fails to learn from his butt-kicking in zombie world, and all the barriers between zombie life and the real world get thinner and thinner. Episode six, “Virtual Reality Bites,” proved to be a pretty compelling, entertaining episode with no major flaws!
Trust me, I’m as thrilled as you are. After a few missteps, it looks like iZombie has finally found its footing.
And this week, I am going to talk about Bradley James. So buckle in.
Important things in this episode
- Major investigates Blaine’s empire further
- Liv eats a bad brain and Lowell stops by to help
- Major finds out that Liv is involved with someone else (who is a zombie)
- Lowell makes a move and flees when it goes badly
- Clive investigates Blaine’s butcher shop
- Blaine seems to murder his lady friend
- Liv makes out with Lowell
- Sorry guys
- I’m only human
- Liv and Ravi find out that Blaine is up to something vaguely bad
- Blaine’s empire expands, endangering Liv’s douchebag little brother
Are you sensing a trend? All of the humans are getting slowly and inexorably dragged into zombie affairs, and at this point, it just seems like a race to our first casualty.
Well, our first major casualty. That guy in the picture is definitely dead.
Even the murder mystery, which has been so disastrously overshadowed in weeks past, worked well to keep the overarching plots running smoothly. Liv’s social anxieties helped propel character interactions. Her gaming abilities let us see Ravi’s incurable and adorable nerdiness. And her reluctance to eat the half-rotten brain was one of the best comedic parts of the episode.
The other best part?
There are two levels on which Lowell Casey is wonderful and refreshing. The first is that his romance has not leaned on any of TV’s usual harmful tropes. The second is that he is finally making good on that depression metaphor.
First up: Romance tropes! It is the usual thing to make the romantic interest seem despicable for some reason, so that we can have an obstacle in the way for the lead to overcome. The only problem with that is… well, all of it.
Let’s go over to our CW sibling Arrow and the inestimable look at Ray Palmer. Perfect, chipper, adorable, passionate guy. So naturally, we bring him into Felicity’s life when he’s stalking her.
Despite the fact that making women uncomfortable is drastically out of Ray Palmer’s character, this behavior is eventually swept under the rug. This repeated plotline in Arrow and BtVS and every rom-com ever eventually ingrains the following thought into people’s heads: It is okay if you cross people’s boundaries. In fact, if you do it enough times, they will learn to like you.
Ew. Ew ew ew ew.
So when I saw Bradley James being introduced as a love interest, I begged the high heavens, “Please don’t make him one of the creepy ones.”
And they didn’t!
Thanks to every PTB in the CW sky, they didn’t. Lowell is considerate, values consent, and brings presents at opportune times. And the whole English rockstar thing doesn’t hurt either. So far (knock on wood), Lowell hasn’t done anything heinous. And isn’t it sad how low a bar that is, and how thrilled I am to have a fictional male pass it.
With that chipper thought, let’s move on to our second level: the depression metaphor.
The parallels became more obvious this week, when Liv ate a brain with social anxiety and found herself unable to leave the house or do much of anything but play video games and Skype herself into interrogations.
She also had a date with Lowell, which she had to cancel. She did so by faking a disease, and then realizing “You’re a zombie. I can just tell you,” and explaining about her “bad batch of brains.”
If you look at Liv’s food-induced social anxiety as a parallel for real social anxiety, some things start to become familiar. Someone (Liv) gets a wave of anxiety and can’t follow through on their plans, and the other person (Lowell) gets left in the lurch.
Lowell could have had the average response of irritation. He could have taken it personally and assumed she was standing him up. He could have said she was inventing her anxiety. He could have gone “You’re being silly/It’s just in your head/Get over it,” which is the least helpful advice ever for people with mental illness. They know it’s irrational. That’s why it is so frustrating.
But he didn’t do that. Instead, he moved the date to a more comfortable location: the apartment she couldn’t leave. He brought her something to help with the symptoms. (And I want to be clear, I don’t recommend swapping prescription drugs willy-nilly. But psychopharmaceuticals seem to function a little differently in zombieland, so we’re going to overlook that.) And he let her talk about what was happening.
Lowell has a bit of an advantage in that he has also suffered from similar symptoms. Apparently he recently “ate a brain with PTSD.” This gives him a little more insight into Liv’s case, and helps him help her.
Ravi and Clive are also pretty good at this. Peyton is getting better at this. But Lowell is great at it, right off the bat.
To be honest, my favorite part of this episode was when they were talking about their various zombie-related troubles. Specifically, when Lowell was explaining that he couldn’t perform at concerts anymore, for fear of hurting someone. “I can still play in the studio,” he explains.
To which Liv replies, “I’m sorry. That is so unfair and awful.”
Because that’s what mental illness is. It’s unfair and awful, and in our world, you don’t ever get to talk about it. You have to hide it and pretend to function like everybody else.
So to see a show honestly and sympathetically discussing mental illness? It’s wonderful.
Even if they are technically talking about zombies.