This Is A Post About Veronica Mars

When I started this blog just five months ago, I ranked my top five television shows. In order, they were Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Buffy, Firefly, and Alias. Since then, my respect for Firefly decreased a bit when I learned how similar the premise was to Cowboy Bebop – which promptly joined the ranks of Top Five. And even though I had seen Veronica Mars by that point, I only considered it Top Ten quality. This past month (OK, it’s really been the past two weeks), I re-watched the whole series and fell in love with it anew. So, sorry Alias, Veronica Mars has become my new Number Four show.

So, I’ve already briefly blogged about this show, and how it was sadly canceled. But I felt the need to do it justice and really give you a full rundown.

Veronica Mars was just an average teenage girl living in Southern California. She wasn’t wealthy, but her dad was the sheriff, and she was dating the richest and most popular boy in school – Duncan Kane. His sister Lilly is Veronica’s best friend, and is dating Logan Echolls, son of actor Aaron. Her life is pretty ideal, until Lilly is murdered.

As sheriff, Mr. Mars investigates the murder, and becomes convinced that Mr. Kane killed his daughter. The town is so outraged that they hold a special election to remove him from office. The fall from power (presumably) causes Mrs. Mars to start drinking heavily, and eventually she flees town. Veronica meanwhile is going through hard times. Duncan inexplicably breaks up with her, she is drugged and raped at a party, and the popular crowd forces her to choose between supporting her father and popularity. Like a good daughter, she sticks by her dad, loses all her friends, cuts off most of her hair, and joins her father’s private investigator office.

All that is before the show starts. Throughout the first season, Veronica investigates Lilly’s murder for herself, while solving crimes and tracking down crap for schoolmates on a weekly basis. She makes a few new friends, and tons of new enemies. She dates a few boys, and continues to grow closer to her father. In short, she kicks ass and takes names. And steals my heart.

One thing I particularly love about the series is how well it balanced the ongoing arc and the mystery of the week. Unlike most arc-heavy shows I’ve watched, Veronica Mars didn’t alternate between a few stand-alones, and then an episode that is 100% focused on the arc. Instead, the majority of each episode was the stand-alone, with maybe five minutes per episode given to the ongoing mystery. In my opinion, that is a great balance between remaining accessible to new viewers while rewarding the long-term audience.  It’s similar to the approach Fringe took early on, which I think was reasonably effective (especially for a “niche” show).

Another thing I appreciate about VM is the character of Veronica herself. She’s really smart – but not in a really brainy way. She’s really sassy – which is mandatory in girls I’m going to give my heart. Let’s face it – she’s smoking hot (and like 5’2″ – which is really really attractive when you’re 5’5″). But she’s also deeply flawed. She’s incredibly jaded, as you would expect from a girl with a dead best friend, an alcoholic mother who abandoned her, a very public fall from grace, and a job investigating adulteries and murders. She definitely has trust issues – especially in season three – and is a big believer in revenge. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that if you mess with the bulls, you get the horns – to your love life, your car, and everything else you love.

But one solid character can’t carry a show in my opinion. It’s why I can’t watch 30 Rock. I mean, I love Tina Fey but hate pretty much everyone else on that show. So let’s look at the other characters. At the top of my list would have to be Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni of Just Shoot Me!), Veronica’s father. He is every bit as street smart as his daughter, and just as witty. They have the same dry sense of humor that randomly turns into awful puns and strange vaudevillian numbers. He’s an odd combination of fiercely protective and refreshingly easy-going. If you’ve seen Easy A, Olive’s relationship with her dad (Stanley Tucci) has a lot of the same elements as Keith and Veronica’s. And ultimately, it is my favorite parental relationship of all time. Possibly favorite relationship period. Wallace – V’s best friend – is also fantastic. He is optimistic where Veronica is pessimistic, social where she is anti-social, merciful where she is merciless, and in general a good guy and loyal friend.

Moving on to love interests, this is another strong spot for the series. Personally, I think the third season focused a little too much on love relationships and not enough on friendships – but it’s college. The first two seasons however did a much better job with it. Veronica doesn’t spend her time pining away after Duncan, she just occasionally wonders why he broke up with her with no warning for no reason, and tries to figure out if he’s a killer. She dates a cop for a while. And then she – spoiler alert – dates Logan. I’m not gonna lie, when she first kissed him, I was appalled. It seemed like it came out of nowhere, and besides she was meant to be with Duncan! But then the more I thought about it, the more I loved it. I mean, when Logan tells everyone that Veronica is his girlfriend, and if they don’t like it they’re dead to him? One of my favorite scenes. His incredible devotion to Veronica and willingness to do everything for her shows that he is so much more than just a tortured bad boy. And I mean tortured fairly literally. Besides, Duncan was kind of boring.

The show also had a great tongue-in-cheekiness that I really appreciated. From various mythological themes (last I checked, Veronica MARS lived in NEPTUNE, drove a SATURN, met an OLYMPIA and an APOLLO, investigated the TRITONS, infiltrated PAN High School, and watched Clash of the Titans), to comments like “Rob Thomas is a whore” (in-show referring to the lead singer of Matchbox 20, but really a reference to the series creator of the same name), the show acknowledges that it is a tad ridiculous, and enjoys it. You’d be amazed how many episode titles are just awful puns.

Also, in a lot of ways, this show was the spiritual successor to Buffy: the Vampire Slayer. Both feature a tough and sassy blonde cheerleader type girl fighting crime (demonic or otherwise) in Southern California. Both were noted for sharp, witty banter, pop culture references, and great character development. Veronica Mars even seemed to acknowledge this fact in casting Alyson Hannigan, Charisma Carpenter, and even Joss Whedon himself in guest starring roles.

Other things I loved: the music. From Postal Service to Bloc Party, some of my favorite bands are heard over the course of these three seasons. And while trendy music doesn’t make or break a show, it certainly helps (just look at The O.C. and early One Tree Hill). Also, I love noir. I love the intricate plots, the flashbacks, the strange lighting, the narration, and the emphasis on crime. I also love that it takes place in high school, in always-sunny California, and the main character is a teenaged girl who used to be on the dance team. It’s a pretty unique take on the genre.

All in all, this was a phenomenal show. I seriously wish I’d taken my friends’ advice and watched it when it was on. But I’ve watched it now, and I am so glad I did. I love every second of it. Even the third season, which is universally accepted as the weakest of the three. [Sidebar: I know it gets flack for abandoning the season-long arc structure, but I support it. It would have gotten really tired having some cataclysmic disaster happen every August and get resolved every May. Better to have more manageable mysteries. I wish there had been the full 22 episodes instead of only 20, so there could have been a final arc, but the finale is so fantastic, it makes up for it completely.] It has amazing characters who interact phenomenally well. There’s mystery, there’s drama, there’s action, there’s humor. It’s got something for everyone, and it’s all on Netflix.

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