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.

Advertisements

TV: iZombie Recovers, Lucifer Falters, Lost in Space Disappoints

Lately there’s been an unusual excess of sci-fi and fantasy TV for me to watch. Unfortunately, it hasn’t all turned out to be must-see television, but it has been interesting enough for me to have a few thoughts to share.

"Brother Love" (Robert Knepper) in iZombie season four(Un)Life in New Seattle:

I went into season four of iZombie with a fair bit of trepidation. While season three impressed out of the gate, over time it began to flag badly. The plot was extremely over-complicated and confusing, and most of the characters ended up going in dark directions that I didn’t care for. I was worried the show was losing its mojo.

However, I am pleased to report that, with only a few episodes left, season four has been kicking all of the ass.

iZombie is now a very different series from when it started. It’s gone from a very simple, lighthearted show with a very small focus to a much more intense drama where the very fate of humanity may hang in the balance.

It’s a big adjustment, but I deeply admire the writers for being courageous enough to shake things up so much, and for the most part, it’s paid off. Season four of iZombie still maintains much of the quirky charm and off the walls humour that made us all fall in love with the series, but it’s now a bigger, more powerful story as well.

I was initially skeptical of the show’s continued reliance on the case of the week formula — it was one of the things that dragged season three down — but they’ve mostly done a good job of making the cases tie into the greater narrative, and they haven’t been afraid to buck the formula when the situation calls for it.

The cast of iZombieSimilarly, I didn’t at first enjoy the idea of bringing Angus back into the story, as it felt like his plot had been pretty conclusively wrapped up, but “Brother Love” has became one of the most spectacularly creepy yet gripping aspects of the series to date.

My one big complaint would be that the season’s attempts at social commentary have largely fallen flat. The conflict between zombies and humans is clearly intended to echo real world prejudices, but real world minorities aren’t an existential threat to the human race, whereas zombies are, so the anti-zombie perspective ends up far more sympathetic than the writers seem to want. Any message of tolerance is lost in translation.

It also feels like a little bit of a missed opportunity not to revisit Liv’s estranged family now that the zombified cat is out of the bag and they (presumably) know why she couldn’t save her brother, but it’s already such a packed season I can understand why they haven’t tried to cram that in on top of everything else.

Aside from that, season four of iZombie has been nearly flawless.

I was pleased to see the show has already been renewed for a final season. Even before the announcement, I was thinking to myself that the story seemed to have about one season left in it, so I think this will work out well.

Hell fallen:

On the other hand, Lucifer’s third season ended up being mostly a disappointment. It started out okay, and it had some good ideas, but a number of missteps dragged it down.

The official logo for the TV series LuciferFor one, it focused far too much on relationship angst. The conflict between Linda and Maze was utterly unnecessary, and the love triangle at the heart of the season was just terrible.

I hate love triangles at the best of times, and this one was made worse by how uninteresting Chloe continues to be. For a romantic arc to work, the love interest has to be appealing to the viewer, but Chloe just isn’t appealing at all. She’s dull, wooden, and lifeless. I can’t understand why anyone would want to be with her, let alone why two immortals would end up competing over her.

Also, the case of the week formula began to really bog things down. It’s always been the weakest element of Lucifer, but rather than de-emphasizing it as iZombie wisely has, Lucifer clung to it with an incredible fervour.

It became painfully predictable. Each week, a new murder where there’s no relevance to the meta-plot, the true culprit is blindingly obvious, and Lucifer makes it all about him in an incredibly childish manner.

Lucifer’s immature ways were amusing for a time, but by now, I was expecting the character to have evolved. Even a show as silly as Lucifer needs some character development.

Lucifer with his renewed wings in season threeHe does finally grow a bit by the end of the season, but only after a truly painful expanse of episodes where the series pretty much just chased its tail.

The frustrating thing is that season three had a lot going for it. “The Sinner Man” was a very interesting villain, and his arc had some memorable twists. There was potential there. Charlotte’s storyline this season was nothing short of brilliant, but it got largely ignored in favour of the petty angst that defined so much of season three.

Sadly, Lucifer has now been cancelled, which means season three may well be its last, barring a miracle pick-up by Netflix or some other network. Despite my criticism of season three, I would like to see it continue. As iZombie illustrates, one bad season doesn’t necessarily spell doom for a show, and the ending of season three did look set to move the show in a fresh direction.

Doldrums, Will Robinson:

Going in, I heard a lot of good buzz around Netflix’s Lost in Space reboot from people whom I respect. Therefore I was quite surprised by how boring it turned out to be.

I mean, it’s not terrible. I’ll probably watch the second season (which is already confirmed). But I can’t say I’m impressed.

For one thing, it is, to be blunt, pretty dumb at times. I never fully recovered from the brain-achingly silly pilot.

The robot and the Robinson children in Netflix's Lost in Space rebootSeriously, guys, that’s not how ice works. At all. I don’t expect a lot of realism from my sci-fi, but when you’re screwing up something you could have tested in your home refrigerator…

The biggest problem, though, is that none of the characters feel real. Dr. Smith is so cartoonishly evil she seem ends up feeling more ridiculous than sinister. The rest of the cast (with one exception) is little better. They all feel forced and unreal.

I also thought the plot was undermined by how much of the show’s drama is dependent on the incompetence of the Robinson children (especially Will, who is just terrible on every level). Either they’re superhuman wiz kids who can serve as part of a deep space exploration mission, or they’re just kids who make mistakes, in which case they have no place on a mission like this. You can’t have it both ways, but that’s exactly what Lost in Space tries to do.

The only strong mark in the show’s favour — aside from the admittedly amazing production values — is Penny, who is awesome. Alone among all the cast, she feels like a real person. She acts pretty much exactly how I would expect a teenage girl to act. She’s precocious, but not superhuman, and relatable in a way the other children aren’t.

And her snark is delightful.

As I said, I’ll probably return for season two, but for me Lost in Space is very much in the “I’m watching this because there’s nothing better to do” category.