There are many reasons iZombie should be applauded for being bold enough to shake things up.
The series took a huge risk coming into iZombie Season 4, and in some ways, it paid off and made things interesting, but it also may have been too ambitious.
If ever the plight of having a short season was felt it was with this season. There were so many possible storylines that could have been told and not nearly enough time to explore them all. It's as if the series was scratching everywhere but where it itched.
Fillmore Graves is the crux of New Seattle's bubbling tension between zombies and humans.
Despite unofficially being viewed as "that bitch who hates Chase Graves and Fillmore Graves," by the passionate Chase Graves Defense Squad, I find the entity, and it's leader, fascinating.
Jason Dohring sells the role, nailing all the nuance, conflict, and more. He snatches precious seconds of screentime and expertly churns out a multilayered, mysterious character oozing complexity.
Credit where credit is due, Chase is an intriguing individual. He's not a villain. If anything, this season's primary villain is circumstance. It's the craptastic situation New Seattle and all of its citizens have found themselves in now.
The villain is the culmination of fear, hate, and ignorance. The villain is the less desirable traits of humanity while facing an unprecedented, unknown, and cataclysmic event.
Chase and Fillmore Graves are not villains, but they toggle between antagonists and antiheroes depending on your viewpoint. Thus I view and treat them accordingly in that regard.
The issue isn't that Chase and Fillmore Graves aren't sympathetic, or that one can't understand their perspective, even if you're fundamentally opposed to them.
The issue is that an antagonist is only as good as the time spent portraying their alternative viewpoint to the protagonist. This season's attempt at portraying Fillmore Graves and its leader as a relatable foil to Liv and her Renegade saga was feeble at best.
Chase Graves is a terrible leader. He's meant to be the tormented soldier stuck between a rock and a hard place, who is trying to do the best he can with the situation that he essentially inherited, but the execution, pardon the pun, is poor.
We don't get to see Chase in his role very often. Dohring does his best to sell the conflicted part and manages to convince many viewers to give his character the benefit of the doubt, despite the writing not doing him favors.
He sulks and sighs. He rubs his temples and throws tantrums when he's not subduing his rage and frustration. His behavior is reminiscent of someone who is perpetually exasperated, stressed out, and "busy" at an event, but despite all of their floundering about, they're not doing anything.
We're led to believe that Chase is doing so much, but we don't see it. We don't see it because Fillmore Graves and apropos screentime are like oil and water.
When we do see Fillmore Graves, it's to show a shady Russ abusing homeless zombies and stealing brain mash, or an untrained teen soldier scratching a human and not facing consequences because her actions being covered up.
We see Major abusing his power along with all the other soldiers, or public executions, and efforts at peacekeeping backfiring.
Chase struggling with the decision to execute the original Renegade kept him from coming across as a heartless dictator. Unfortunately, he has hardened and become unhinged as the season progressed.
That would be fine and well if we spent more time with him. Chase was more endearing and captivating during iZombie season 3 than whatever it is they're angling for with his character now. The narrative that Chase is a good man who is stuck in a horrible position would successfully hit the mark if we knew enough about him.
We know that he and Gold had different plans for Discovery Day. We also know he did what be felt was right by arranging for half of Seattle to be turned into zombies after Gold set her plan into motion.
But what exactly was part of Chase's plan to prevent something like a brain shortage? It would have happened eventually. What was his solution?
New Seattle is a powder keg. The city is at risk of being nuked any day. The stakes are high, but we don't see Chase's battle with any of this.
There is more to running a zombie city, but his primary focus has been on the brain shortage. It's difficult to feed a city of starving zombies when you have limited brains. New zombies being turned by the day is not helping the situation, but the execution of this storyline is less than desirable.
Zombie smuggling is a problem, but it's not the only problem. Chase's singular focus on that one issue is like an entire crew directing all of their attention to the large hole in a sinking ship while ignoring the dozens of smaller holes. The ship still sinks if you neglect all the other holes.
Right now, there's an issue of supply and demand. Fillmore Graves was only focusing on the increased demand thanks to Renegade, Liv, smugglers, and their soldiers is merely a band-aid to a larger problem.
Chase puts more resources into finding zombie smugglers, namely both Renegades than he did into capturing Russ, who went the entire season stealing 40% of the city's food supply and selling it for profit.
It shouldn't have taken so long to capture their mole, and in the end, 16-year-old kids were left in charge of his transport. The teens and Major are the only competent soldiers in their New World Order Regime.
At the heart of Fillmore Graves' plethora of missed opportunities, and what the brain shortage storyline is lacking, is the organization actively working towards increasing their supply.
Fillmore Graves and Chase's hard-on for Renegade and Liv wouldn't seem like petty vindictiveness and would feel genuine and well-intentioned if they were shown pursuing other avenues to rectify this messy situation.
Blaine can run multiple brain businesses with what seems to be an unlimited supply of brains from numerous sources, so it's frustrating that Fillmore Graves are inexplicably hamstrung.
Chase's plan to hold the country hostage for brains was unrealistic if he expected an entire nation to donate their brains. There are not enough people dying at the rate needed to sustain 10,000 zombies. There are even fewer willing to donate at all.
In the meantime, Don E mentioned one of their sources came from overseas. In many countries outside of America, organ donation is automatic. Blaine and Don E have the resources and connections to tap into this revenue, so why don't Fillmore Graves?
There is also a matter of Chase having Blaine under his thumb at the beginning of the season. He used Blaine for street information and gossip, but he never considered using him for his unlimited supply of brains he was using to keep his businesses booming?
Chase, my love, that's a waste of a zombie gangster.
Does Fillmore Graves, who do whatever they please as the law and order faction of a city under Martial law, not use the remainder of the brain leftovers at the morgue to further supply food to the starving zombies who aren't fortunate enough to wear a uniform?
Those are the small missteps the show could have exploited but didn't. Let's talk about the larger ones. Last season, the CDC was brought in and barely utilized, but if there was ever a time for CDC involvement or any form of medical and scientific involvement, it's now.
As a military regime that was well established last season and to our best knowledge well before we knew they existed, are we supposed to believe they never had access to scientists?
The early days of Fillmore Graves had a community including a school for zombie children. It's possible that zombies being out of the open means certain parts of their organization are no longer necessary. They should have scientists though, right?
Chase found out Major had mysteriously returned to a human state. He scratched Major himself to turn him back into a zombie but did he never follow up on how Major got cured in the first place?
It's as absurd as it is maddening that Chase is kept in the dark. How is it possible that he never heard about the zombie mayor getting turned into a human and then killed?
It would make sense for an overworked and overwhelmed leader dealing with a zombie surplus and a brain shortage to be motivated enough to assign a special task force in search of this zombie cure. It would mitigate the crisis. They could have discovered the initial cure and spent the season trying to reverse engineer it to create more.
Chase and Fillmore Graves could have also had a group of scientists working on synthetic brain solutions. I'm talking a brain version of Tru Blood that could sustain the population. It wouldn't have to be a success, but at least it would have been an attempt.
Chase, who cherry picks when he plays dictator and when he plays tortured leader, didn't exploit Blaine when he had him under his control. It shouldn't be a surprise that he didn't exploit Ravi either.
Ravi has been at the forefront of zombie studies for a while. It sucks that his research studies have been limited this season, and pulled out as a big gotcha for the penultimate episode of the season. That aside, Fillmore Graves not having anyone researching zombiism at all is inexcusable.
So in the end, it's hard to accept that Chase and Fillmore Graves are doing the best they can when we never see any of it.
Not only is Chase confined to the walls of Fillmore Graves, but he's inconsistently written within them. He volleys back and forth between being portrayed as the tormented leader at the mercy of a counsel and an autocrat who does whatever he pleases to the chagrin of those around him.
He has an army of zombie soldiers, many of whom are terrorizing humans and zombies alike, but other than commending Major for being the only one who gets things done, he doesn't do anything about this increase in insubordination, abuse of power, incompetence, and ineffectiveness.
Some days he has everyone under his control, but most times he doesn't. So when he does things like recruits teenagers as soldiers, assign them tasks that should be reserved for seasoned adults, and punishes them for behaving like teenagers, it's outlandish.
Say what you will about Jordan and Captain Seattle's actions and inability to follow orders properly or react appropriately, but they're the reason it's frowned upon to have anyone under 18 as a soldier.
Chase's ability to assert his authority by shooting (and killing) teenagers he never should have recruited, but his inability to get a handle on The Scratching Post dwelling zombies who wreak havoc, or capture Russ in a timely fashion -- none of that helps him out in the sympathetic department.
Honestly, neither does his soldiers keeping him out of the loop. It reached a point of him coming across as incompetent and inept. That is a disservice to the character.
He can't be everywhere at once, and he can't know everything, but I'm hard-pressed to determine what Chase does know.
This season he has been portrayed as out of touch, and when you add into the mix that there is a hierarchical structure to FG, it makes it all the worse.
He doesn't know what is happening outside the walls of FG, but we don't see what he's doing inside the walls either. He has his hands full, but we don't see them in action. At some point, he realizes that his people are keeping things from him, and he descends into paranoid leader mode because it wouldn't be the first time his people have orchestrated or moved against him.
Yet, he doesn't take the initiative to remedy the situation. He doesn't hit the streets himself.
It makes no sense that Chase is the last to know about Angus. He's the first to know about some rogue organization we haven't seen yet that is recruiting zombies, but Angus, who kicked off his Brother Love bit by murdering people and feeding his horde of followers, that eluded him for months.
When Chase found out about them eventually, he pushed it aside until Angus broadcasted a zombie sermon to the masses.
Chase, for some incomprehensible reason, is oblivious to the growing unease and disillusionment with Fillmore Graves. He's unaware that zombies resent the organization. He's unaware that humans are set up to be killed for brains. There is so much that Chase is in the dark about it's infuriating to watch.
There is so much about FG that could have been explored but wasn't. So far, this season they served as antagonists and a unit failing miserably at keeping the peace in a city of chaos, strife, and discord.
They served as a poorly manufactured contrivance that put a wedge between Major and his friends. That's not to say that Major's commitment to the only place that accepted him post-Chaos Killer doesn't make sense.
It's just that Major committing morally questionable and reprehensible actions that are the very antithesis of his established characterization at the behest of FG doesn't make sense. Not to mention, the sheer hypocrisy of a notoriously reckless and occasionally self-righteous Major not understanding the actions of a notoriously self-righteous and occasionally reckless Liv.
Major's association with Fillmore Graves eventually reached a point where it was flat out uncharacteristic, but perhaps it's because there is a disconnect between what Fillmore Graves was supposed to be and what Fillmore Graves actually became. It's a disconnect because of the poor writing for this organization.
As the finale approaches, it's evident that Chase has become the "big bad" that no one wanted him to be. Fillmore Graves is on the brink of destruction. It's possible that their chapter will come to an end. At best, it will be a stepping stone to Major's redemption arc.
It's difficult not to reflect on the season and look back at all the wasted potential that was Fillmore Graves. There was an opportunity for Chase Graves to evolve into something unexpected. I mean, it's Jason Dohring!
In the end, the series may have overshot and missed. As far as Fillmore Graves and Chase Graves are concerned, as the saying goes, never fall in love with potential for they may never reach it.
What did you expect to see from Fillmore Graves this season? Are you disappointed that Chase, and Jason Dohring, wasn't utilized better? Did you think there were too many missed opportunities with the Fillmore Graves storyline? Hit the comments below!
If you'd like to catch up on the season before the finale, you can watch iZombie online here via TV Fanatic!
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is an insomniac who spends late nights and early mornings binge-watching way too many shows and binge-drinking way too much tea. Her eclectic taste makes her an unpredictable viewer with an appreciation for complex characters, diverse representation, dynamic duos, compelling stories, and guilty pleasures. You'll definitely find her obsessively live-tweeting, waxing poetic, and chatting up fellow Fanatics and readers. Follow her on X.