In the sixth episode of the second season of iZombie, Ravi helps determine if the zombie virus can be transmitted during sex, while Liv eats the brains of a serial gambler. SHENANIGANS ENSUE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch iZombie.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THIS SHOW IN A SINGLE EPISODE. WHAT HAPPENED.
I’ll admit to something: feeling slightly awkward at how often this episode frankly addressed sex. I thought about why that was, and it’s wasn’t exactly a challenge. I’m just not used to television – American television in particular – addressing sex in this specific way. Look, I was raised in an environment where sex wasn’t talked about outside of the context of sin. I went to school in a district where abstinence-only education was our only option. (I think I’ve shared this story before, but in case you’re new: my sex education in high school was so bad that we were not allowed to learn how condoms worked. All reference to them and all images of genitalia were literally cut out of our health books. CUT OUT.) I am absolutely certain that a lot of my bad decisions regarding sex once I came out and started having sex were because I did not know any better. So many terrible myths and bits of miseducation had seeped into my mind, and I consider myself a smart person. And yet? I didn’t know what I was doing.
What’s so fascinating and rewarding about “Max Wager” is that Major and Liv repeatedly talk about safe sex. They devise a method to express their sexual desire for one another without risking exposure to the zombie virus. And when Ravi delivers the upsetting results of his test, the world doesn’t end for them. They speak of creativity, they vow to not let this development tear them apart, and the audience leaves with a sense of hope intact. That’s an admirable thing for this show to pull off, and I ADORE IT A LOT. The writers are honest about the fact that sexual desire can be confusing or seem all-encompassing, too, and that helps. It’s a challenging thing to deal with, but “Max Wager” shows us that it’s not impossible.
Before I get to the THING that completely dominates this episode, I wanted to talk about how this season’s serialized story has allowed the writers to give us a much fuller sense of how crime works in this version of Seattle. The events of “Love & Basketball” spill over here, and that’s how we get to meet The Barber. (Steven Williams!!!) Now, we’re more or less tricked into thinking that he’s in charge, that out of every character in that barbershop, no one is more powerful than the Barber. He’s a charismatic and practical man, one who knows how to do what he wants and get away with it. (Which is why it’s so funny when he argues with the Counselor.) The way those scenes were written and shot allowed us to assume that The Barber was the focal point.
And then, in one expertly acted and filmed sequence, the focus shifted. I’m still in awe of the reveal of Mr. Boss, first by allowing him that utterly eerie monologue about how to kill someone without implicating yourself. That established that man as… well, a monster. A FRIGHTENING ONE. But by having him confront Peyton so blatantly and fearlessly, we get a sense of his security. This is an episode about risk-taking, about gambling with life, and Mr. Boss’s threats towards Peyton are easily the least risky action in the whole affair. And that’s terrifying.
At the very least, “Max Wager” complicates Blaine further. He’s still an awful, vindictive person, one who was willing to kill his grandfather in order to spite his father. Yet you can see how in Blaine’s mind, he justifies things. He views himself in parts, as the addicted loser before his transformation, and then the version of Blaine that gets shit done as a zombie. So where does that leave him now that he’s been cured? Is he now a new person or the same he was as a zombie?
I think Blaine is trying to be the same as he was as a zombie, but it’s not quite working. He appears to express genuine distress at the loss of his grandfather, but… dude, you killed him. (And for nothing, as it turns out.) His job sees him giving people genuine closure in their time of need, and he’s also a ruthless murderer bent on taking over the Utopium trade in Seattle. Blaine is a man eternally stuck between worlds, and his father forced him further into that. Surprise, there’s someone even more vindictive and spiteful than Blaine! (Blaine learned from a master, apparently.) Seriously, I hate Angus SO MUCH.
Except he’s dead now. JUST KIDDING, MAJOR HASN’T BEEN KILLING ANYONE THIS ENTIRE TIME. OH MY GOD. THEY’RE ALL FROZEN. HE KEPT ALL THE ZOMBIES FROZEN INSTEAD OF KILLING THEM. WHAT A FUCKING TWIST, Y’ALL. I CAN’T BELIEVE IT.
The video for “Max Wager” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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