iZombie’s Final Season Provides a Satisfying Conclusion… Eventually

iZombie has become one of my favourite shows over the past few years, and as much as the thought of it ending is bittersweet, I was glad to see the series ending on its own terms, rather than being cut short without a proper conclusion as far too many genre shows are.

An official promo image for iZombieSeason four was absolutely brilliant, so I went into the fifth and final season with very high expectations… only to experience no small amount of disappointment.

I have a lot of faith in the writers, so I kept the hope alive throughout, but most of the season was slow, scattered, and just not all that compelling. They spent too much time on the formulaic weekly murder cases while spreading themselves thin over multiple major ongoing arcs. There’s a pretty gripping plot about the virus beginning to spread beyond Seattle, but it never really amounts to anything.

The biggest flaw, however, is the introduction of a new antagonist.

Looking back, iZombie’s biggest problem throughout the series is that it hasn’t done its villains justice. Blaine is a fantastic villain with a great actor behind him, but after season one, he just fell by the wayside and was never really utilized to his full potential. It made sense to move the focus off him for a while to prevent over-using the character, but eventually he should have taken centre stage again. But he never did.

In season four, Brother Love proved to also be a charismatic and frightening villain, but he was in the end unceremoniously killed off, and the show was once again left without a compelling central antagonist to hang the story off of.

Season five would have been the perfect time to bring Blaine back in a big way, but instead they introduced a new villain who serves pretty much the same role Blaine did — shady weirdo who started the outbreak — but it’s out of nowhere, and there’s just not the time to develop him into a memorable character.

Making matters worse, he ultimately gets pushed aside to make way for someone even duller to take up the mantle of Big Bad. The new character’s entire arc was a complete waste of time, and it takes up half the season.

Ravi Chakrabarti in iZombieWhat should have happened is that Blaine should have taken up the remnants of Brother Love’s movement and set himself as the leader of radical zombies. He could have reclaimed his role as the series’ main villain, and they wouldn’t have had to waste time developing new characters.

The other major issue — no pun intended — is Major. Man, the writers just don’t seem to know what to do with that character. Last season, he’d gone full evil, and a character I’d once loved become one I longed to see brought to a bloody end. In season five, all that’s pretty much ignored, and Major is back to being the white knight.

I’m especially bothered by the fact the show just kind of writes off the fact that last season Major rufied Liv and brainwashed her to be his wife. That’s really not the sort of thing that should just be laughed off.

Now, I think the mistake was making Major go bad in the first place. They should have just kept his and Liv’s relationship strong throughout rather than going to increasingly desperate lengths to add drama. From that perspective, his sudden redemption in the final season could be viewed as writing a wrong, but it’s still hard to swallow.

However, in the end my faith did pay off. It takes until the last two episodes, but the final season does eventually find its footing, and the ending is very nearly perfect. It wraps up every character’s story in a pretty satisfying way while providing the mix of humour, drama, and excitement that we all love about iZombie.

It’s just a shame it was such a rocky road to get there.

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Review: Dark Phoenix

I never listen to critics. I almost never agree with them. Nonetheless the buzz around Dark Phoenix was so uniformly negative that it did eventually dampen even my hype. It doesn’t help that the last X-Men movie, Apocalypse, was a bit underwhelming.

Promotional art for X-Men: Dark PhoenixSo even though I’m a huge fan of the X-Men movies, I went into Dark Phoenix with very low expectations.

I was a fool. The critics are wrong — Dark Phoenix is fantastic.

The film begins with the X-Men ascendant. They’ve achieved the acceptance Professor Xavier has worked so hard for, and they’re now a household name, beloved by mutants and humans alike. But the success has started to go to Xavier’s head, and after Jean Grey is nearly killed on a dangerous mission undertaken despite strident objections from Raven, events start to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy the X-Men and all that they worked to achieve.

It isn’t perfect. There’s a few minor things that made me do a bit of a double-take, and not in a good way. The writers definitely don’t understand how physics work in space, and I’m not sure I’m onboard the X-Men suddenly having Dragonball Z style power level meters.

There are times when Dark Phoenix does feel like it’s repeating the same story beats as the last take on this arc, X-Men: The Last Stand, but on the plus side this is a better movie than that was.

It also feels a bit rushed at times, and the ending feels a little too inclusive for my taste, but at the same time, “it left me wanting more” is kind of a good problem for a movie to have.

Dark Phoenix is not the best X-Men movie, but it does capture a lot of what is best about this franchise and its characters.

Sophie Turner as Jean Grey in Dark PhoenixWhat strikes me most about this movie is how human all of the main characters feel. Dark Phoenix shows Xavier at his worst — he screws up badly in more than one way — but his reasoning for all of his choices feels very understandable. It doesn’t feel like it runs counter to how virtuous he’s been in the past. Indeed, it’s his very optimism and desire to always do the “right” thing that trips him up.

Dark Phoenix is about Xavier making terrible mistakes, but at no point does he feel unsympathetic. He just feels human.

The same is true of Jean Grey. This movie also takes her to a very dark place — no pun intended — but again her emotions feel valid throughout. You still feel sympathy for her.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: This is what makes the X-Men special. No matter what powers they may have, they still feel like three-dimensional people, with flaws and vulnerabilities. They feel real in a way that most superheroes don’t.

Dark Phoenix is a movie that easily could have slid into the ridiculous with its godlike cosmic forces and sinister alien threats, but by focusing on nuanced characters and believable emotion, it manages to still feel grounded and relatable.

Another strength of the X-Men films that Dark Phoenix carries on is that it nails the tone very well. It’s ultimately a very optimistic movie; it’s about the power of love and compassion to conquer all. But it’s also not afraid to go to dark places when story calls for it. The victories feel earned because they come at a high price.

Professor Xavier and the X-Men in Dark PhoenixDark Phoenix also does an admirable if slightly imperfect job of maintaining another strength of the X-Men: its ensemble cast. The heart of the story is Jean Grey, but lots of other characters get their spot in the sun, too. There are a few I’d like to have seen more of — especially Storm and Quicksilver — but the film does do a pretty good job of giving every cast member at least one moment where they get to be awesome, whether it’s a powerful character scene or kicking ass in battle.

Beast, in particular, gets a lot of attention, and the movie is better for it. All credit to Nicholas Hoult for a very strong performance.

This is why I don’t listen to critics. I loved this movie.

Overall rating: 8.5/10