Is it the ultimate "Veronica Mars" and "iZombie" crossover? Not exactly. Is it a blond head-to-head Veronica Mars-meets-Liv Moore sleuthing extravaganza? Technically, no.
But Tuesday night's episode of "iZombie" does bring together the two snarky-smart gals from showrunner Rob Thomas' detective-chick repertoire. Kristen Bell, meet Rose McIver. Or rather, Kristen Bell's disembodied voice, meet Liv Moore's deadish crime-fighter in "Fifty Shades of Grey Matter."
The early buzz around this hour has been nearly deafening. That could be thanks to all the rabid Kickstarter-happy "Veronica Mars" fans or from scads of minds in the gutter. Details have been leaking out for the last month or more about the dram-rom-zom-com's use of Bell's well-known narration.
Bell, who told Entertainment Weekly that she recorded the dialogue on her phone during her kids' nap time, gives voice to some erotic fiction during a brief but important scene. Bell, as herself, reads an audio version of a novel written by a mousy straight-laced librarian who moonlights as an E.L. James-type writer.
We meet the newly published author, Grace LeGare, while she's still (heavy) breathing, but only fleetingly, as she's the subject of this week's murder du jour. And we find out that either she or her publisher had the good taste to hire Bell to record the tale about a randy flight attendant's globetrotting sexcapades.
"I've always felt a connection to her," Liv says when she learns that Bell is tangentially involved in the case at hand. Just one more Easter egg for the die-hards.
Thomas has already employed a number of "Veronica Mars" alums for "iZombie," now in its second season, so fans have been pining for this kind of mashup since Day 1.
Is it worthy of all the advance hype?
"Fifty Shades of Grey Matter" most definitely is a must-watch, if not exactly for the hat tips to "Veronica Mars." It's a solid, fast-moving hour that connects dots in the overarching mystery and allows several gorgeous people to maul each other, in a carnal not cannibal kind of way for a change.
But in keeping with "iZombie's" moral compass, actions have consequences, and Liv winds up second-guessing her impulsive one-night stand with an undead acquaintance, and her BFF Peyton Charles (Aly Michalka) heads straight for "a Silkwood shower" after sleeping with the enemy.
Major Lilywhite (Robert Buckley) almost gets busted with the basset hound belonging to a missing-and-presumed-murdered man and takes his first slippery step into Super Max addiction. It gives him wings, but at what price?
Blaine DeBeers (David Anders) continues his charmed life, walking away from Seattle's finest and an outstanding drug warrant because he's a snitch for the district attorney's office. Target: the local criminal overload and Blaine's direct competitor, Mr. Boss. Self-serving mercenary, thy name is Blaine.
Let's move on to the nitty-gritty, which sees Liv absorb so many of Grace's waking fantasies that she's all nerve endings, flirtatious looks and inappropriate comments. She undresses everyone with her eyes and fantasizes a make-out session with a tattooed stranger, just for starters. That's a pretty awesome setup even if it doesn't involve a micro-cameo from the beloved Bell.
While she's steeped in what he calls "horny librarian brain," Liv slaps her friend and confidant Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli) on the bum, asks for a greased-up wrestling match between Ravi and Major and sleeps with a fellow zombie. She keeps busy. McIver keeps it light, again showing off her ability to slip into the consciousness of the series' victims and make it hilarious and tragic in all the right places.
Liv figures out, by tapping into Grace's memories, that the wheelchair-bound husband is the killer. And by doing so, she proves the point. Sayeth Det. Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin) many a time: "It's always the husband."
Like most of the perps this season, Grace's paralyzed hero, former-firefighter husband is sort of tough to vilify. But he's guilty of lacing her salad with poisonous water hemlock, which takes days to actually kill her. So, off to jail he goes.
And the smutty, emasculating book that he hoped would never see the light of day will probably rake in bazillions of dollars, with a movie option. In short, he gets his comeuppance.
Speaking of punishment, FBI agent Dale Bozzio (Jessica Harmon) is unearthing details about Blaine's sordid past and trying to pin him down as the Chaos Killer. (He isn't, in the literal sense, but he's responsible for those missing rich guys. And that's just the tip of the homicidal iceberg).
If it weren't for Peyton crossing the line and drunkenly giving in to his magnetic charms, he might still be cooling his heels at the Seattle PD. But she forces Clive and Dale to cut him loose, just about the time she begins to learn his true identity.
Liv fills her in on some of the grislier details -- Blaine killed the dear departed Lowell, tried to off Major and caused the explosion that critically wounded Liv's brother, Evan.
Peyton, in addition to being completely skeeved out, is in a precarious spot. She's built her entire case against Mr. Boss around Blaine's intel. She needs him, so now she's stuck with him. This will get awkward and, no doubt, dangerous.
Major, catching wind of Dale's deeper dive into the Chaos Killer case, races to pick up Minor before the cops track the dog's GPS. Then he breaks his own heart -- and ours! -- by ditching the pup's tags and leaving him on a city bus.
Backing up for a quick second here: Major seems to have kicked his Utopium habit, overnight and with no real detox, but there's a new danger in the form of Super Max.
Thomas described the suspicious energy drink in a promo video for this week's show as "not unlike Popeye's can of spinach, and it is used to great effect."