iZombie, “Spanking the Zombie”, aired May 2, 2017 IMDB
iZombie is a TV series about a world in which an infectious disease gives people a craving for brains, though some can retain their human intelligence and appearance. The protagonist is Olivia “Liv” Moore, a police forensic scientist who investigates murders by literally eating the brains of the victims and inheriting their memories and personalities temporarily.
In this episode, the victim is Roxanne Greer, who worked as a pro dominatrix known as Sweet Lady Pain. This is literally all we know about her. Even though Liv has access to some of her memories and behaviours, all we see is a few visions of her interacting with clients. We learn nothing else about her, not her family, her background, how and why she got into this business, what she thinks of the work or the men she sees, or what she is like when she’s not being a dominatrix.
What we do get is plenty of dominatrix attitude from Liv. After eating Roxanne’s brain, she becomes both seductive and domineering, and wears black, close-fitting clothing. While this might work with some men, most would probably think she’s deranged.
Liv: [to police sketch artist] “When you want your advice, I’ll beat it out of you. Now be a good little sketch bitch and take up the pad.”
Liv experiences visions from Roxanne’s brain, and uses them to make police sketches of Roxanne’s clients. This links her to a local news anchor and a defense attorney, seen in her visions in typical male submissive scenarios (French maid costume, schoolboy costume).
The news anchor eventually tells the investigators that one of Roxanne’s clients who somehow knew Roxanne was secretly recording sessions, stole the camera’s memory card, and used it to blackmail the news anchor. After arresting the blackmailer, they find he has served time in both prison and a mental institution.
In order to link him to the murder of Roxanne, Liv convinces Clive to let her play “bad cop.”
Liv: “Let me work him over, see what I can do.”
Clive: “You want to be bad cop? That requires genuine intimidation, Liv. I’m sorry. You’re many things, but intimidating? I don’t think so.”
Liv: “Watch me.”
Liv enters the interview in full dominatrix cliche mode, swinging a collapsing baton and accusing him of strangling Roxanne because she discovered him stealing the video recordings.
He just confesses, flat out. “And let’s just say it’s for the reason you said. It’s as good as any other.”
Throughout the episode, the characters consistently dismiss or ridicule BDSM.
Liv: “Remember where we found her? In her dungeon, surrounded by freaky sex toys and strangled by her own whip. Does that sound fun to you?”
Clive: [standing next to a sling in the dungeon] “This is where you end up when your parents don’t tell you they love you.”
Liv: “Don’t be so closed minded. A control freak like you could enjoy being told what to do for a change.”
Liv: “A regular man of the people when he’s not spread-eagled on a bondage bed wearing a gimp suit.”
Clive: “Thanks for planting that image in my mind.”
Liv: “The Baracus session was a Hallmark movie in comparison to the visions I had last night.”
Liv: “I ate her brain and had a vision of you wearing a gimp mask. You told Lady Pain you were a bed-wetting, thumb-sucking liar and unworthy of your success. Think that will fit on a bumper sticker?”
Baracus: “That’s just two consenting adults.”
Liv: “Don’t apologize. It’s pathetic.”
Johnny: “Look, hookers, strippers, yeah, but a dominatrix? I’m a married man, detective. I already give way too much of my money to a woman who abuses me.”
Then there are moments which don’t make any sense at all. When another detective berates Liv and Clive for interfering with his case, Liv says she was aroused by his attitude. Faced with Liv’s domineering behaviour, her colleague Ravi starts saying random words in hopes that one of them is his safe word, as if it’s a magic spell and not something that a person picks for themselves.
Though iZombie’s premise allows deep explorations of individual subjectivity, this story goes no further than puddle-deep into BDSM. Roxanne is nothing more than a bitchy attitude and some fashion choices. Her clients are ridiculous, morally weak men who want to be punished for their success. Even the murderer doesn’t have an explanation for why he killed her. Does a dead pro dominatrix not even merit a motive to her murder?
Addendum: This plotline came up in a later episode, S03E10 “Return of the Dead Guy”. Weckler, the man who killed Roxanne Greer, apparently hung himself in prison before trial. Liv eats his brain, and convinces her friend (an assistant district attorney) to put on a dominatrix catsuit and whack her butt with a flyswatter to trigger memories. Liv acts as a smart-assed masochist to get some enthusiasm out of Peyton, who calls her an “undead slut.” This scene is played for laughs and titillation, though it does give her a vision that Weckler did kill Greer and he was actually murdered by a guard, which proves to be part of a coverup.