Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Time of the Season: S2 of Veronica Mars

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 6, 2007

Thank God for Bit Torrent

Another week, another season of Veronica Mars. This one found our plucky heroine attempting to solve the mystery of why a bus full of students (which she narrowly avoided being on herself) drove off a cliff on the first day of her senior year, as well attempting to clear various friends of hers from murder, dealing with being caught in rival gang crossfire, and resolving the perennial romantic triangle between Duncan, Logan and herself. Like Season 1, Season 2 passed the one-week test with flying colors, and like S1, it still had a couple of problems worth noting. Break down, go ahead and give it to me:

(Spoiler Alert, once again)

The Good:

  • Tons of great Logan-Veronica sparring. Both characters just kept getting stronger into the second season, and unlike in the great majority of these shows where I’m usually rooting for the main couples to break up, I really did want to see them end up together at the end, especially after his great “epic romance” speech in the third-to-last ep (and the heartbreaking, if predictable, fallout). Hear he gets phased out in the next season, a shame.
  • Increased presence of Don Lamb (Michael Muhney), Neptune’s bumbling but egotistical sheriff, Cliff McCormack (Daran Norris), the Mars’ reliable if morally flexible family lawyer, and Vincent “Vinny” Van Lowe (Ken Marino), the Mars’ sleazy rival P.I. Three of the best characters on the show, and often a welcome respite from the despicable youth on display for the great majority of the show. Lamb especially–the one character on Veronica Mars who has remained an out-and-out antagonist throughout, something the show was in desperate need of.
  • Britt Daniels of modern rock underground heroes Spoon singing Elvis Costello’s “Veronica” during karaoke night at Java the Hut. Totally pointless and irrelevant, but a much-appreciated shoutout to the show’s indie contingent (especially since they don’t even bother to explain it–it’s just like “hey Britt, doing karaoke tonight?”)
  • The last-episode reveal. To have sketchy new mayor and eventual pedophile Woody Goodman (Steve Gutternberg, in the creepy dork role he was born to play) be behind the whole thing would’ve been way too guessable (and when Woody nearly came on to Logan in the middle of the season, it was more or less a giveaway that he was not gonna end up being such a nice guy), but to have Cassidy “Beaver” Casablancas as the main villain was at the same time incredibly shocking and totally logical. Looking back, it should’ve been obvious–the guy was way too intelligent and business savvy for a 16-year-old, had way too much to prove to his domineering older brother and neglectful father, and was a little bit too weird in his relationship with Mac (since everyone knows that on TV, sexual dysfunction = automatic serial killer). At first his character really seemed like a sweet kid, the kind of scrappy younger brother who just really wanted love and approval, and when he finally hooked up with Mac, I thought his character was done for the season. I actually made an audible “huh??” when Veronica finally fingered him as the killer. Well done, VM writers.

The Bad:

  • The whole business with Duncan and Meg’s kid was just totally ridiculous. The double-twist of Duncan turning on Veronica but then actually turning out to have been in kahootz with her all along, fooling even the FBI, strained credulity even for a show about a 17-year-old female high-school detective, and it was a boring plot line altogether. The one good thing that came out of it was an excuse to get Duncan off the show for good, and that was definitely for the best.
  • The dumping of the relationship between Keith Mars and Alicia Fennell–so they have one argument about her ex-husband coming to town to look for Wallace, and all of a sudden their relationship may as well never even have happened? Their budding romance was one of the better plot elements of the first season, for the show to just write it out completely was disappointing and illogical.
  • Way, way, way too much Dick Casablancas. Why Veronica Mars decided that the show was badly missing an Ian Ziering fill-in is unclear, but not as unclear as why anyone else on the show even bothers to tolerate him–Logan, supposedly his best friend now that Duncan has gone MIA, walks through his scenes with Dick with barely-masked contempt for the would-be fratboy (“You’re not a very complicated guy, are you, Dick?” he asks him incredulously at one point. “I try not to be,” Dick answers). In some ways, Dick is actually by far the most realistic cast member on the show–within five seconds of screen time, you’ll be instantly reminded of at least five people you went to high school or college with–but as such, he sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the cast. Don’t see the point.

The Questionable:

  • The continued littany of improbable 80s pop culture references. All right, so I know there’s a two-decade nostalgia theory at work in most of pop culture–the 80s were spent reviving the 60s, the 90s reviving the 70s, and thus, the 00s reviving the 80s, and that makes sense. But when even your show’s most braindead, culturally illiterate character is making references to 1980 Best Picture winner Ordinary People (as in “Don’t make me go Ordinary People on you!” to his younger brother in a pool)–a movie that maybe two dozen high schoolers in the entire nation have seen–you’ve gone a little bit too far.
  • Tessa Thompson as Wallace’s new flame, Jackie Cook. Beautiful, sure, and at first she seemed like she could’ve been a legitimate rival to Veronica (and all Sherlock Holmeses need their Dr. Moriarty, or Baby with the One Eyebrow, or whatever)–she was just as fast, just as manipulative and probably just as resourceful. But alas, once Wallace decided he’d had enough with her, she mellowed out, and by the end she and Veronica were galpals. I doubt she’ll even get a one-episode appearance in S3.
  • The whole business with Aaron Echolls. The show did the right thing in having him found Not Guilty for the murder, and when Clarence Wiedman showed up on behalf of Duncan in the last episode to dispense his own kind of justice, it was as cheer-worthy as when Dignan showed up in Matt Damon’s apartment at the end of The Departed to make sure he wasn’t the last man standing. But in the meantime, the show clearly had no idea what to do with Aaron, mixing his (seemingly) genuine remorse and attempts to reconnect with son Logan and his near-cartoonish evil, strutting around like a mafia don after his acquittal and bragging to Veronica about how he beat Lily to death, for no particular reason. In any event, I won’t miss him much in S3.

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