Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for this week’s iZombie episode Twenty-Sided, Die. Meta spoiler alert: You’re not missing anything if you just read this review. It was a Bad Episode.
If you follow me on Twitter (and why wouldn’t you be?), you probably know I’ve been hyped for a week about the iZombie episode Twenty-Sided, Die. Just from the title alone I knew this would be the rarest of all geek TV episodes: the D&D episode. And while I know iZombie doesn’t always get its subcultures correct (I did a lot of eye-rolling during the romance novelist episode. What debut author gets a freakin’ book tour these days, let alone a romance author?!), they never fail to be entertaining even when the details are off.
That streak ended with Twenty Sided, Die.
The episode begins benignly enough. It’s game night, and two recurring background characters (including my favorite Jimmy, the police sketch artist who discovered some things about himself a few weeks ago when Liv was on dominatrix brain) are in a D&D group with three new characters. The DM makes a toast in character, takes a swig of wine, and promptly dies.
When Liv, Ravi, and Clive show up to the crime scene, I wasn’t surprised that Clive was disdainful of adults playing the game – that firmly fits into his character mold. I also wasn’t at all surprised that Ravi was the first to recognize the D&D setup, and that he vitriolically denies he’s a “nerd” like the players (Ravi, you were excited about a magician’s convention. Stop lying) but eventually reveals a panache for character accents that would make David jealous.
But it’s the reveal of the suspects that slowly but surely takes the episode into truly disappointing, and well-worn, directions.
The players are three guys and a woman. And every single person, including the deceased DM, is in love with her. While Zoe is legitimately a good player, she definitely manipulates the guys to get the benefits of their attention. The sketch artist does terrible Conan-inspired fanart of him and Zoe. When another player discovered Zoe is a “Twi-hard,” he recreated his whole persona to be a gothy vampire (even though the Twilight vampires aren’t particularly gothy?). And the final surviving player got a freaking tattoo of Zoe’s name, even though his crush on her unrequited.
While Liv on DM brain didn’t acquire the DM’s obsession with Zoe, every other personality trait she did absorb was abysmal. The DM carried a set of dice with him at all times, and Liv not only does this too but uses the dice as props for making simple decisions. She also narrates her every move – and the moves of people around her. And that’s about it to signify she’s on DM brain. It’s an extremely one-note joke.
And then the whole mystery goes unsolved, as a random international hacking element is introduced that means the case is now being handled by the FBI. While this brings back the welcome return of Agent Bozzio, Clive’s love interest from last season, and is probably setting up a future story arc, it meant that most of the episode that dealt with Liv on this highly anticipated brain was essentially a waste.
The only delightful part of the D&D oriented story was the requisite scene around the game table. Liv makes a great DM, and here Ravi revealed that he’d probably been lying earlier about not playing D&D. While Clive’s turn from D&D skeptic to enthusiast is predictable, the actor is a delight and I love it when Clive reveals his secret nerd proclivities.
But (there’s always a but) this scene continued the poor representation of women in gaming. Peyton, Liv’s best friend, is at the table as well representing the cool girl who is too good for D&D. She puts less effort into naming her character than Clive (“Brangelina” versus “Earl” – a dwarven fighter who I like to imagine is an homage to Carlos the Dwarf), looks for every excuse to get her character killed off, and becomes the focus of Ravi’s obsession who puts his character in harm’s way in order to protect “Brangelina.” While Ravi’s obsession plays well with how he’s acted around Peyton all season, it mimicked the earlier storyline of guys being obsessed about the sole female player in an ugly way.
Lots of other things happened in this episode – Blaine is officially back in the brain business and is selling brains that have been marinated in Ravi’s memory solution. Ravi infiltrated the zombie true believers meeting and claims he’s close to a vaccine to prevent a whole lot of kidnappings. The zombie mayor candidate is shot and Liv needs to talk him down so he doesn’t go Full On Zombie Mode in front of the press. Agent Bozzio returns! But none of those are really connected to the brain of the week, which is most of the reason for watching the show – especially when I was so excited to see this particular brain.
I love iZombie. I’ve called it my absolute favorite TV show on the air right now. It is batshit crazy, but the mysteries are usually pretty clever and the plot always comes together in truly spectacular fashion just when it feels like it’s all gone way too far. One bad episode doesn’t negate all of that. But when iZombie pops up on Netflix this summer, this is one episode I recommend you just skip to avoid the latest lazy representation of the gaming hobby.
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