iZombie: Max Wager
November 12, 2015 10:00 AM - Season 2, Episode 6 - Subscribe

While investigating the murder of a gambler, Liv unwittingly crosses paths with the most dangerous man in Seattle. Babineaux has a super-fan moment when he and Liv question NBA Hall of Famer Calvin Owens. Meanwhile, Blaine's father makes a huge discovery and Ravi delivers some bad news. Major enjoys breakfast.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich (23 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
That was a really strong episode, I thought. I can't even figure out which scenes to gush over first. Blaine hit a trifecta (aptly) with his existential quandary, his clash with his father, and then that heartbreaking scene with his grandfather only to find out that it was for nothing. Liv and Major are friggin' adorable together, and them running into Clive and Dale was great. Ravi made condom balloon animals. Major's not a mass-murderer! And holy shit Stacey Boss. Well done, Eddie Jemison.

Major enjoys breakfast.

And Liv enjoys dessert, am I right?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:21 AM on November 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

"Major's not a mass-murderer!"

I didn't quite follow that because while I realized that he was freezing zombies, it still seemed like he was still killing someone and throwing them into the river. But now that you you say this and force me to revisit it, I realize that this was the point of the mannequins in the warehouse -- he's placing mannequins in body bags, shooting, and then dumping them just in case someone at Max Rager is observing. Then freezing the actual intended victim, which he knows from his last visit to Meat Cute won't actually kill the zombies. Nice!

The one problem is that we only saw two victims, plus Blaine's dad. Where are the others? Other freezers? Did I miss them in the background?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:32 AM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

There were only three in that freezer, meaning that either he'd already been killing zombies for a while before he came up with this plan (sad, but pathos fodder) or the other "missing persons" are in a separate freezer (yay, but possibly too pat).
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:45 AM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

iZombie is my favourite tv-show nobody's talking about! Thank god for Fanfare.
posted by Pendragon at 11:49 AM on November 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

I am willing to suspend my disbelief for the freezer thing because, as anyone reading these knows, I have been having a hard time with the whole "Major is a serial killer but watch his funny interactions with Liz!".
posted by Justinian at 3:02 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm cool with the freezer thing because, as Ivan said, they actually set it up at meat cute. I'm a little confused on how he knows they aren't following him to the warehouse, but maybe he's just getting lucky.

Real Liv is awesome. More her. More her and Major. More everyone and Ravi.

iZombie has done an amazing job on creating 4 very distinct, but dangerous villains.
posted by humans are superior! at 11:42 PM on November 12, 2015

Watched all of S1 and what currently exists of S2 in the last week, and now I’m all caught up! As such, parts of my comments are responding to earlier conversations from previous episodes.

I enjoy investigations of the week, so I’m in the minority here, but it makes the show much more enjoyable not to dislike 75% of it, so, yay! :) I told some friends that it reminds me of Parks and Rec, because everyone is trying their hardest and trying to be kind while doing so. (Not Blaine and the Max Rager CEO, but Liv and her pals.) Also, Peyton dropping off the birthday cake melted my heart, because “everyone in the world forgot my birthday” is one of my favorite angst tropes, but I didn’t want it to actually happen to Liv.

So, question— why does the new M.R. scientist not seem to have any knowledge of zombies who are, you know, maintaining? The CEO and his eeeeevil assistant with great hair both know Liv, so obviously this info is being withheld from their chief researcher for some reason, but I’ve been wondering why they would do that. Maybe they are worried that she will have ethical issues experimenting on zombies if she knows they don’t automatically become ravening monsters?

I also love how Major is starting to regroup and strategize. The shot where he smirked cockily at the evil assistant and then turned around and his face shifted right back into his sad puppy expression was awesome.

Justinian, as someone who just mainlined the whole show, I confess, “Major is a serial killer” never crossed my mind. At all. That would be like Buffy being called a serial killer. Monsters who murder human people in order to eat them are pretty standard sci-fi cannon fodder (as are episodes where one of them is all “but I have human feeeeeeeelings” and the slayer/hunter feels conflicted). I like that the show is making that much more complicated, of course, but I don’t think the idea that Major is doing something awful is necessarily a given. Moreso now that we know he’s playing a much longer game than it seemed at first.

Re: Babineaux’s weird equanimity with Liv’s personality changes, I think it makes a lot of sense, since his understanding of Liv is that she’s a weird goth morgue psychic. It’s practically a trope on cop procedurals that anyone obsessed with death is a pain in the neck to cops, and anyone who claims to have psychic powers doubly so. He probably thinks her visions are real (given how accurate they always are), but that her weekly performance of the dead person’s personality is a tiresome affectation he has to deal with. (Maybe he watches Psych and sympathizes with Lassiter.) If anything, the fact that he likes Liv as much as he does in spite of her emotional cosplaying is pretty remarkable.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 5:53 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

but I don’t think the idea that Major is doing something awful is necessarily a given.

Eh? If he's really just putting the zombies on ice then one can argue he's doing the best he can under the circumstances even I think it's still pretty crappy. But if he's really murdering innocent people because Liv was threatened I don't see how it can be anything but a given that he would have been doing something truly awful. There is no difference between the zombies he was supposedly killing (but now appears to have been faking the deaths) and Liv. If we accept that Liv is still a person we cannot reject the fact that Major's supposed victims were also innocent people.
posted by Justinian at 6:24 AM on November 13, 2015

Oh, I think I see the disconnect. You seem to believe that the zombies Major targets are murdering humans. There is no evidence for that so far as I can tell. Like Liv, they are innocents.
posted by Justinian at 6:26 AM on November 13, 2015

No, the zombies Major is targeting are former clients of Meat Cute (who are either getting brains some other way now, or continuing to get brains from Shady Plots). I think MAJOR thinks they are at the very least complicit in murder (largely of underprivileged teens). I also think Major is hunting them because the Max Rager CEO has basically told him they will kill Liv if Major doesn't hunt down zombies, and he feels like he has no choice. That's not being a serial killer, because serial killers enjoy their work. Major is miserable.

The fact that the nice guy with a dog was taking care of his aging parents makes his potential (and, we now know, fictional) death poignant, but he's getting brains somehow. Maybe all the nice rich suburban zombies are pulling a Dexter and eating only the brains of bad people, but I doubt it.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:48 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm happy to call Major a potential multiple murderer rather than serial killer then, since that does have connotations.

It has been my assumption that the zombies are getting their brains from Shady Plots rather than through murdering. It's weird how we can come to completely different conclusions about the show; I don't see any reason to believe Major's targets are any more murderers than is Liv while you see it the opposite way.
posted by Justinian at 8:01 AM on November 13, 2015

I'm not saying that I see it the opposite way from you. I'm talking about how Major sees it. The kids he cared about were kidnapped and murdered, and their brains were eaten by rich people who were willing to look the other way to get their needs met. Maybe it's closer to human trafficking than murder for those zombies who didn't do the killing themselves, but they were still eating murdered teenagers. In Major's perspective, as we have seen over and over again, the QED is that anyone eating those brains is very bad and very dangerous.

Also, Shady Plots didn't exist last season, so all the zombies who are still rich and successful and living normal lives were getting their brains last season from Meat Cute, which means they were all eating murder brains. (As was Lowell.) Blaine said at the beginning of S2 that Shady Plots is a new enterprise inspired by Liv's job, but the client list is the same as Meat Cute. The fact that those clients are now getting already dead brains (instead of recently-murdered brains) doesn't mean those clients weren't complicit in Meat Cute's MO. It just means that they have upgraded to a more ethical food source once that became Blaine's slightly safer business model.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:26 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

"That would be like Buffy being called a serial killer."

A lot of Buffy fans -- both at the time, and now -- have had problems with this. The show was inconsistent about its portrayal of demons, but for the most part it was the case that while Buffy was extremely scrupulous about never killing a human being -- even if they were serial killers -- she assumed that it was acceptable to kill any and all demons, whether she knows they've harmed someone or not. In practice, and as the show went on, there were more and more exceptions to this, such as Clem. But there were actually a fair number of demons like Clem -- demons that didn't seem to harm people at all -- partly because the writers (and the audience) found it amusing. Even so, Buffy always seemed to retain an innate suspicion and there was a sense that any demons she didn't kill, she did so only as if they were given a temporary pardon.

Anyway, the point is that given the show's world-building, there were a lot of demons who were clearly people and innocent of any wrongdoing. Or more simply, demons were persons and had moral agency (it's not entirely clear whether that's true about vampires, though) and decisions about the ethics of killing them should be the same as the decisions about killing people. Which Buffy categorically refused to do. It's true that we can see that Buffy's ethos might be the Watcher's Council ethos and that there's some sort of rationale that, well, demons just aren't people and so such reasoning is inappropriate. I think (hope) that most of us can see how historically that reasoning is very problematic. And so, too, are the distinctions that Buffy was making. She wouldn't kill human murderers. She would kill innocent demons. So, yeah, there's a lot of problems with Buffy's morality and a lot of the fans, certainly including me, had trouble with it.

All that said, I think that you're right that it's reasonable to assume that some of the people Max Rager has been sending Major to kill are accessories to murder or murderers themselves. But your assumption that they're all former Meat Cute clients isn't warranted. Max Rager is identifying possible zombies through statistical methods that are entirely independent of Blaine's client list. It makes more sense to assume that Max Rager's list is more diverse -- more zombies who are just outright killing people on their own and eating brains, or, like Blaine himself for a while, finding brains in recently buried corpses or like what he's doing at the mortuary, or likewise. Some of those people are more culpable than the Meat Cute customers and some of them are as innocent as Liv is. And, either way, just as it's the case that Clive doesn't pull out his gun and shoot the murderers they track down, or that Buffy would refuse to kill guilty humans, it would still be murder for Major to be killing zombies who are guilty of murder or accessory to murder. But he's unambiguously a murderer when he's killing zombies who haven't harmed anyone. And he has had little or no way to tell the difference.

Which is why he's not actually been killing them, but freezing them.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:29 AM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

your assumption that they're all former Meat Cute clients isn't warranted

Except Blaine has explicitly talked about how he has been making zombies based on their income levels the whole time, and the Max Rager list is partially based on income levels/spending habits. Blaine told his flunkies to go turn rich guys into zombies, and lo and behold, all of the zombies so far are either millionaires (Blaine's entire business model), or people in power (police captain, DA, both part of Blaine's "protection" scheme), or people turned at the party itself (Liv, Marcy), or Blaine's minions. There is no evidence so far of zombies being made by anyone else, except for those being made in the Max Rager basement levels. There is also no evidence of zombies eating brain matter from any other source. Lowell claimed he was robbing graves, but that was a lie (until he actually tried it).

Cue S2, where Liv finds out an unusual number of rich guys are disappearing, while we the audience know that Major is disposing of them. I am...dubious about the claim that the Max Rager list is substantially different from Blaine's client list, given that everything the people at Max Rager say tends to be a lie to manipulate people.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:07 AM on November 13, 2015

So the zombie patient zero was at that boat party and it was there that the combination of the utopium and Max Rager created the first zombie? If so, I didn't realize this -- I thought that this was just one part of a larger outbreak and therefore that other people were becoming zombies independent of Blaine and the boat party.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:11 AM on November 13, 2015

I guess that the tainted utopium + MR could be a unique event. I'm uncertain about the scope because on the one hand I would think that Max Rager wouldn't be so worried about it if this was some extremely unlikely one-off event and not something that has or could happen elsewhere. On the other hand, the idea that they could have one guy, Major, killing off the zombies they identify and that make any difference only makes sense if the outbreak is actually quite limited. Back to the first hand, I'm not sure why they'd need a statistical model when, in the boat party patient zero case, they'd have much more success doing detective work and tracking down the survivors and everyone they've subsequently interacted with ... and then apply their model. But back to the other hand, that is high profile and likely to attract notice while just crunching data is not. Huh.

I think this is confusing because the show hasn't wanted to clarify this. At times the writers have probably preferred the boat party origin story, and then at other times when they're doing the whole Max Rager is villainous and there's a conspiracy, they've wanted to imply some much larger problem that has its origin more in what Max Rager has done rather than a freak combination of circumstances at the boat party.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:18 AM on November 13, 2015

I think the implication so far is that Max Rager is tied to violent, psychotic breaks-- i.e., the kid in the mental institution, but not zombie-ism itself.

But Max Rager plus tainted Utopium seems to be the chemical mix that resulted in the outbreak, or that was my understanding. That would explain why Max Rager is trying to kill off all the resulting zombies (they sponsored the boat party, probably supplied the Utopium too), and also why the show starts with Liv telling Ravi that she must be the only one, because there have been no zombie hordes. She just didn't know, at the time, that Blaine was carefully farming zombies only among the elite, who would be willing to pay to maintain health and status.

I think it is even likely that Max Rager sponsored the boat party to experiment in a semi-controlled setting (supplying the drink and the drugs), because the CEO seems to have hopes for developing a way to cheat death once the formula for the next drink is complete. I think he's pretty annoyed that Blaine built a business model off version 1.0, but only moderately worried about it.

(I don't think Liv and Marcy partook of the drink and drugs, but that the mutation happened on the boat and they were both infected.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:20 AM on November 13, 2015

Oops, forgot to preview-- but yeah.

I'm also used to Rob Thomas doing a lot of hinting at the secretive conspiracies of the very rich without spelling them out, because that is very much a narrative trope he uses on the regular. One of the things he likes to play with is the whole, which conspiracies are relevant here? Which secrets are dangerous secrets? He likes his audience to be unsure about which forces are intersecting where.

So we knew Suzuki was involved, but the extent/reason got several glimpses rather than a big reveal. Blaine likes bragging, so we know more about him, but the reveal that he's also getting back into dealing Utopium WHILE running Shady Plots WHILE trying to take over his father's corporation means we didn't know as much about him as we thought.

The more we see of the CEO (Vaughn Du Clark, I finally looked it up), the more we see that his plans are way more complicated than "whoops my drink has weird side effects", but we still have almost no knowledge about the extent to which is plans coincide with Blaine's, or how anything coincides with the new mob boss, or how any of that will feed into the FBI investigation.

(On Veronica Mars, it was always fairly similar-- which conspiracy should we worry about during this episode? The pedophile ring? The millionaires who paid a drifter to take the fall for the murder of their daughter? The father of that family maybe having a secret daughter? The head of security for that family knowing his office is bugged? The GHB ring? The biker gang? The Irish gang? The cover up of child abuse among the rich? The mayor's plot? The quiverfull family locking their daughters in closets? The frame up job to get the sheriff fired? The serial rapist on campus? The feminist collective plot? Frankly, I hope someone on this show will help RT restrain himself a bit and not crate 12-15 MORE conspiracies by the end of the season.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:32 AM on November 13, 2015

and then that heartbreaking scene with his grandfather only to find out that it was for nothing.

I felt bad for him there. Initially I thought he was going to zombify his grandfather (assuming it might rejuvenate him? unclear how it would work on someone in his condition), so his father would have someone else to worry about since apparently there was a tradition of sons taking over their fathers' shady businesses. A clash of three generations could have been entertaining.
posted by Pryde at 11:46 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think my take on the freezer is that he stopped killing after the guy who woke up and begged him not to kill.
posted by corb at 1:55 PM on December 4, 2015

On the show itself they've only named 3 missing rich men before Blaine's father, Angus. The first was the guy Major was coming to the house and training, the second was the jogger with the dog, and the third was the Max Rager board member which Du Clark himself killed via zombie doctor. So with Angus, that does make it 3 in the freezer from Major. The random news reports from background TV dialog hasn't named anyone else.

Major wanted to delay the "killings" but Rita said as much that if he's defying the odds of their algorithm, they'll go to Plan B, and that's after 8 others that he said "weren't" zombies. Maybe the guy at the restaurant with the son is part of that 8, which means he's only been checking out about a dozen suspected zombies.

This show so far hasn't really forced you to assume things for yourself, it's very consistent in either presenting you with the facts, provide an exposition phone call, or confirming a past assumption. So I'm taking it at face value that Major has only iced 3 rich zombies.

Although this episode concluded with Thrunk only going away for the cocaine in the turtle tank and not the murder of the security guard, which I guess is realistic enough, police can't always put them away for the crime they were originally wanted for.
posted by numaner at 11:11 AM on December 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I could immediately tell that The Barber was somebody I'd seen, but until I looked him up on IMDB I didn't figure out that he was the hunter Rufus on Supernatural and one of the two state troopers that keep hunting Jake and Elwood in The Blues Brothers.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:58 PM on November 2, 2016

The Major reveal is kind of cheap, but their only options were: (1) the last year has been too much for him to handle, leading him down a dark path which results in his tragic death at the end of the season--too dark for this show, it never seemed like it fit; or (2) it turns out that he somehow didn't kill them after all. Okay, I guess, we can pretend like he was shooting the wrapped mannequins in the head and dumping them in a river to convince his employers that he was really killing people, but that doesn't really make any sense. The mannequins are bound to turn up and more likely to get him caught than anything else. The real reason he was doing that was to fake out the audience, which is cheap and artificial drama.

Oh, and (3) it wasn't that big a deal, because they were zombies who were probably complicit other crimes--wtf, that was never an option. Major's actions as we are led to believe them for the last few episodes were psychopathic, the zombies in this show have just as much moral agency and worth as an average person. While we're at it, Major's actions even with the reveal are borderline monstrous. Even assuming the zombies feel no pain/fear while they are frozen, they certainly felt that fear during their abduction, and their families certainly suffer the same as though their missing loved ones were actually dead. Putting any sentient creature through that is twisted, and even if zombies in other fictional universes aren't sentient, iZombies-zombies clearly are.
posted by skewed at 11:07 PM on July 27, 2017

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