One part tension, one part pandemonium makes iZombie’s season finale the Walking Dead, with a pulse.
The two hour season finale picks up where the last episode left off with a Major zombie problem. After being arrested under suspicion of murder, Major is sent to jail to await trial. But the prison food isn’t exactly able to sate his unique appetite. The episode works on multiple levels. Time is running out for Major, but there’s also a building tension from both Liv’s attempts to secure a brain as well as trying to figure out how to get said brain inside to Major. Alternately, there’s a spotlight on Dale and Clive attempting to build the case against Major as the Chaos Killer. It creates an intriguing contrast as Dale and Clive and Liv and Major are both teams that are easy to root for, but are also working against each other directly. There’s a masterful amount of teasing in the episode as false resolutions, build the tension to a fever pitch. Many scenes end up being infuriating in the best possible way. Liv stands on the sidelines of her own show; and it works wonders for showing the direct consequences of her actions. It successfully conveys her powerlessness to stop events from spiraling out of control, and lends credence to her desperate gambit in the end. Despite the emotional angle of Clive’s sabotage, the resolution isn’t earned.
Regardless of a proficient control of tension, the episode still ends in an unsatisfying way. A lot of the time is spent building a solid and convincing case against Major, but by the end the audience is expected to believe that it was actually just a house of cards; easily erasing the entire plotline to this point. This is partly due to a bad scene transition showing Liv’s confession to Clive, followed immediately by Major stepping out of prison. It affects the validity of the acquittal, and created a poorly conveyed passage of time.
The episode wraps up well, by leveraging the characters’ interactions as a significant asset. iZombie has a strong cast, and that fact forgives most of the show’s missteps. There’s also a strong showing for Rahul Kohli as Ravi contends with both being accused of aiding and abetting Major and taking his first life in an altercation with Janko. It’s not only a worthwhile event for Ravi as a character, but an ideal jumping off point for “Salivation Army.” Blaine’s role in the episode is more interesting than previous episodes, but still severely lacking. Without David Anders’ bringing the Blaine charisma, the character fails to leave a lasting impression on any of the scenes.
iZombie has set up the pins, it’s only right that they should be the ones to knock them down. With all the talk of the bloody nature of the show it’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room. Just how much can a zombie show on the CW get away with in regards to presenting a convincing horror atmosphere? Now, season one proved its Romero merit by giving fans a grisly taste of just how much iZombie can do despite their network television status, with Major’s shocking Ving Rhames act in “Blaine’s World” (the season one finale). But you’ll probably be as surprised as I was to discover that that was just a dress rehearsal.
Okay, let me slow down. Bad stuff first. Not everything works about the episode. There’s a subplot involving Blaine, Peyton, and Ravi that does none of their characters justice. It’s all a little too run of the mill for iZombie and it was a shame to see the Mr. Boss storyline end with a great big “meh…” The conclusions for the characters of Gilda, Vaughn, and Drake all end up on the same spectrum from anticlimactically to disastrously. It’s just a little too obvious when all of your rental characters are wrapped up at once, and that’s a problem that “Salivation Army” suffers from glaringly. There’s also absolutely no incubation period of Clive’s initiation. He just kind of rolls with it. Good on him for being a team player, but it really diminishes his personal character when he evidentially has no outstanding opinions about learning that zombies are actually a thing. Finally we arrive at my biggest problem though. MAJOR IS SUPPOSED TO BE DYING! Isn’t he? Unless I missed something, didn’t he revert back to being a zombie, and the very expiration date that came with that reversion is the reason that Blaine took the second cure that made him lose his memory? So why is it that no one seems to be in a hurry to cure Major? I’m sure they’ll pick this up next season, but the purposeful ignorance of an important arc that is supposed to breed tension violates the very purpose of the arc.
Alright we’re all nice and loaded up with negativity, so here’s some hard truth. No matter what “Salivation Army” fails at, it’s too much fun to be brought down as the episode sets the stage for a mini zombie apocalypse when some hapless scientists mix tainted U with Supermax. It’s absolute chaos, and a masterfully organized closed circle. Concept makes “Salivation Army” just two steps shy of genius. The recipe for iZombie’s big finale sees the big launch for Supermax with a prison themed extravaganza at Max Rager headquarters, and considering Vaughn Du Clarke’s inability to do things half-assed, it includes a real live lock-in with real security gates. Yeah… So while Major, Clive, and Liv attempt to find the missing Chaos Killer victims, including Drake, things at the party get a little Unwell. I’m being stupid, but really all hell breaks loose and it’s surprisingly effective at visually conveying a chaotic atmosphere with laser focused will. The action moves at a frightening pace, it’s bloody, and surprisingly gory; so iZombie actually goes toe to toe with the best zombie apocalypse movies when it comes to quality.
Final Word: Everything in my critic brain tells me iZombie’s finale fundamentally doesn’t work. There are dangling plot threads, ignored character arcs, continuity problems, and moments of unsubstantiated information. Damn if I didn’t have a hell of a time though. Some horror movie level/horror action direction is responsible for most of it, but the real star is commitment. EVERYONE brings it. Whatever “it” could be considered, in this case it’s a standard idiom for dedication; but how awesome is it to actually be convinced in the power of the zombie apocalypse without having to worry about who’s sleeping with whom or when is some psychopath with a bat gonna force you to watch a gang of thugs beat your friend to death? With every joke in both “Dead Beat” and “Salivation Army” a fell farther and farther away from critical apprehension and just got lost in the good time. Besides that there’s a can’t miss cameo and a shocking jumping off point for the next season that could possibly be game changing for the series.
“Dead Beat” and “Salivation Army” don’t get scores. One: Because there’s two of them, and I don’t do math this close to Friday, and Two: Because despite all of the problems that each one suffers from they marry iZombie’s best assets (phenomenal cast of characters, smart humor, and conceptual mastery) and the essential components of zombie stories (claustrophobia, action, and gore) to build a finale that plays all your favorite zombie classics with an iZombie wit.