Why is it that so many shows I watch recently have weak third seasons?

I grade parts of a speculative fiction story (from scenes to the entire episode) based upon 4 questions I stole from SFDebris.com:

  1. Does it advance the plot?
  2. Does it explore the world?
  3. Does it advance/explore a character?
  4. Is it entertaining?

Usually something that helps one number will help out the numbers below it. (Though #3 can shift around the list a lot, it’s the most flexible entry.) A bit which advances the plot also tends to explore the world and characters and be entertaining (usually). Now whatever else I may say about S3, iZombie hit #4 with fair consistency.

Thing is with only 13 episodes, it needed to be hitting one of the three every minute of every episode. Think about the first season. It had only 13 episodes as well yet almost everything was pitch perfect in its execution. Mr. Boss’ brief appearance? What was it for this season? Why couldn’t he be pushed back to S4 and that time allotted to something else? What did we get out of Shawna’s and Major’s relationship other than a chance to watch pretty people in their underwear? A confirmation by Chase that Major was human? They could have accomplished that any number of other ways or just used Natalie from the start. What was the point of Justin’s and Liv’s relationship? Why not just have Major be a zombie for longer and give the time to those two?

Again and again various things cropped up this season that were ultimately pointless and could have been cut to devote more time to things the season needed more. Like the zombie conspiracy.

Not that it was just side plots. S1 and S2 both really impressed me with their ability to have their stories grow into tighter and tighter knots. Vaughn gives a list to Major, which happens to be Blaine’s customer list – Blaine who is under surveillance by the FBI. All these little story lines intersected and wove together in a motion of pure beauty. Yet for S3 it seemed like all the story lines were pulling against each other – wanting to separate. For example, Blaine gets a zombie bar which the Fillmore-Graves soldiers go to, only to then just have Chase show up and ban attendance. . . . Then nothing. The closest we got this season to the old intersection was when Blaine’s employee was kidnapped by the redneck group Ravi was infiltrating meaning Liv & Blaine had to team up. Then that was it. The times the plots were driven forward by the characters they also tended to dead end suddenly as well. Sure maybe this season’s plot was more realistic by some measure, but we’re in a show about zombies! I didn’t come for that much realism.

STILL. Regardless of all those complaints, there was a lot to love in this season. Instead of finding a winning formula and sticking to it, the show creators continue to experiment and push things. So for example instead of an episode with just Liv and visions, we saw another character share them with her. One episode we the audience never saw the visions but always Liv from another point of view. A secondary cast of characters were added and the world felt a little more real now. (speaking of, I’m really curious to see how Vampire Steve and Jimmy deal with the zombie reveal) Even bigger, they have things brought up during the show that are then referred to again later! The biggest example being Ravi’s blue memory juice. On almost any other scifi/fantasy show, something like that would be there one episode and never mentioned again after that. But it wasn’t!

That’s why I still rank this as one of the best shows on television. They keep working to keep the show fresh, entertaining, and just plain a joy to watch. Even with this being the “worst” season so far, I really want the fourth season to arrive already. For once, I have no idea what it’s going to entail.

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