NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “iZombie” are present in this review
iZombie once again steps away from its usual case-of-the-week format in, “The Scratchmaker”, an episode that instead primarily spotlights the forces of New Seattle outside of Liv, Ravi and Babineaux. On that note, it’s Blaine that primarily takes center stage in this episode, as the fallout of Al’s piece begins to destroy his reputation and his business, while he desperately tries to scramble and recover. Meanwhile, Major is desperate to revitalize failing brain supplies in the city, after Blaine’s business tanking leaves all of New Seattle’s zombies under threat of starvation.
After a few fun cases-of-the-week, it’s not so bad to go back to a more dramatic, over-arching New Seattle focus in, “The Scratchmaker”, particularly in how well it spotlights Blaine’s latest fall, and inevitable latest rise. It’s truly amazing to see that Blaine remains as stubborn a cockroach as ever, even into iZombie’s fifth and final season, as he once again prevails against overwhelming odds. Even as the entire city now becomes hell-bent on incarcerating Blaine or destroying him, Blaine still manages to slip through everyone’s fingers, no worse for wear. A little bit of luck plays a part here too of course, since Blaine also happened to have recently discovered the zombie cure secret within Freylich Syndrome-stricken brains, but it nonetheless remains fascinating to see the badass appeal, and yet ironic tragedy, behind Blaine’s character play out yet again.
Complementing Blaine’s latest adversity was the return of some fan-favourite characters in this episode to boot! Seeing a return for Ken Marino’s comical attorney, Brandt Stone is entertaining enough, but chief among these character returns was definitely Stacey Boss, who finally comes back to New Seattle after his brain smuggling efforts abroad, right as Major needs to negotiate a new brain deal for the city. Boss and Don E. conspiring together to cut Blaine out is a very interesting turn, particularly when Blaine’s latest demands and rage inevitably alienate Don E., who is also freshly vulnerable after losing the matchmaker that would have set him up with who she believed to be the perfect girl for Don E. This felt like the story element that got overshadowed the most though, and that’s a shame. This episode very clearly made a deliberate effort to move away from iZombie’s usual procedural format, leaving the case of the murdered matchmaker to feel like an afterthought, one that’s hastily solved and forgotten mostly off-screen. This is also a likely side effect of Clive Babineaux actor, Malcolm Goodwin directing this episode too, though fortunately, Goodwin’s efforts behind the camera do manage to produce one of the most clever and memorable episodes that iZombie’s final season has delivered so far!
Speaking of clever turns, it was also awesome to see Blaine very aggressively confront and threaten Al, only for her to easily drive him out of her house. Even if Blaine manages to successfully negotiate a way back to prominence with the Freylich brains, seeing Al prove to be a match for a character that has always been so resilient and dangerous throughout iZombie’s run is definitely very satisfying. Better still is that Al is soon after revealed to be the niece of Mr. Boss, who actively conspired with her uncle to ruin Blaine, and give Mr. Boss a chance to seize control of Blaine’s brain operation. This was a fantastic twist, and one that only further makes Al a deadly obstacle to the show’s lead characters, while in turn also making the return of Mr. Boss even more exciting and dramatic, considering the damage that Al has done on her own already!
Regarding the subplot with Major, it once again did a great job of building on ever-volatile human/zombie tensions in New Seattle. After Major fails to get military aid from the U.S. government, and is faced with having to potentially pay twice to Mr. Boss what he originally paid Blaine for brain distribution, Major has to start working on some creative solutions with Fillmore-Graves. Even with Peyton being absent in this episode, Major continues to rise to the occasion though, between providing some clever intimidation to Dolly Durkins, whose son is revealed to be one of the zombie soldiers in Major’s squad, while also going behind Mr. Boss’s back to negotiate a new, more public-friendly deal with an Amazon-like distributor, which saves face for New Seattle, while also forcing Mr. Boss and Don E. to drastically drop their pricing demands. It’s amazing to see how far Major has come since iZombie started its run in 2015, and now, even a criminal mastermind as resourceful and powerful as Mr. Boss is struggling to outwit him!
Even with Liv taking a back seat in this episode, we also got a brief check-in with the zombie radicals’ spy being embedded into her organization, which may not have been a large story focus in this case, though did just enough to cement some nice stakes for later. This examination provided a useful opportunity to get a peek at Liv’s vetting process, which involves a ghost pepper-spiked shot, something that Ravi hilariously falls victim to as well. The spy is successfully implanted nonetheless however, giving us one of only a handful of fun opportunities to see Liv on matchmaker brain in this episode, wherein she’s obsessed with fixing everyone’s love lives. Even with little screentime dedicated to it here though, this storyline provided a solid dose of humour and suspense, even as Major and Blaine both secure their own big wins in the continuing human/zombie relations battle.
There’s a few other quick story bits of note in this episode, such as Blaine murdering Tanner in a fit of rage after he ditches the last of the zombie cures to avoid police suspicion (this is the catalyst for Don E. defecting to Mr. Boss, even though Tanner really was asking for it here), and Bozzio finally going on maternity leave, with Babineaux now filling in as acting lieutenant. The big finish of the episode naturally revolves around how the characters have yet again failed to stop Blaine though, with their efforts to do so simply forcing him to keep doubling down on becoming an even bigger monster than he was before. Like I said, the over-arching tragedy of Blaine’s character is spotlighted very well in, “The Scratchmaker”, which also manages to balance a fairly busy series of storylines with plenty of other interesting material, despite a deliberate effort to move away from Liv’s and Babineaux’s usual murder case and brain shenanigans. The anticipated return of Mr. Boss was another big highlight too, especially when it’s revealed that he and Al are blood relatives that are actively in cahoots with one another! One has to wonder how Blaine’s latest survival of circumstance, and Mr. Boss losing the extortion effort against Major, will play out with Al, but somehow, I imagine that the heroes’ victories are doomed to remain very short-lived regardless.
- Blaine continuing to outlast his foes, even when everything is taken from him
- Mr. Boss' big return, and reveal as Al's uncle and co-conspirator
- Major continuing to hold New Seattle together, against the odds
- Don E.'s romance subplot suffers from the diminished case-of-the-week emphasis