TV

‘Veronica Mars’ Debate: Was Killing Off [Spoiler] The Right Move?

Hulu

Veronica Mars has returned to TV and though the Hulu revival didn’t give our saucy, taser-wielding grown-up Nancy Drew a pony, it did give fans plenty to chew on over the course of eight episodes. If you haven’t seen the season in full, best turn away now because we plan to beat this dead horse (and by dead horse we mean Logan Echolls and the decision to kill off the fan-favorite character in the season finale) with spoilery thoughts about the show’s arc this season, how it handled its main characters, and where the tiny blonde detective might be heading next.

Jason Tabrys: That ending was a brutal thing to see but before we get into that I do want to talk a little bit about how strong this season was. While reboots and long-delayed continuations happen all the time now (thanks, in part, to a cultural/industry shift sparked by the Kickstarter campaign that first brought Veronica Mars back with the 2014 film), this feels like one of the rare ones that get it right. And by right, I don’t mean, gosh it’s like we never left Neptune and all these fantastic characters. I mean, you feel the time that has filled in. No one put a sheet over these characters and turned off the lights. They’ve been living and they’ve been getting harder and they have the feels one would expect from living life in one place. And I think that was a fantastic choice. Veronica Mars is grown up in that sort of burnt-out elder millennial space that a lot of people in their thirties absolutely feel, so there’s never a sense that they’re ignoring that similar progression in the original audience. And they did all this without shaking off what felt familiar and right about the original. I’m so happy with how Kristen Bell, Enrico Colantoni, and Jason Dohring found that balance and how additions like Patton Oswalt, JK Simmons, Izabela Vidovic, and Dawnn Lewis felt apart of the show instantly.

Jessica Toomer: They definitely struck the perfect balance between fan service and moving the storyline forward in season four. I think so many shows that have returned from beyond the grave carry this giddy sense of “We’re back.” You can feel it in the characters and the storylines and the number of callbacks. This revival chose not to fall into that trap and I think it was a brilliant move on Rob Thomas’ part. Instead of spending valuable time revisiting arcs of past seasons, the writers hit the ground running and Hulu picked up any slack by offering the original series for fans to binge a month before this season dropped. It was a solid marketing move, but ultimately, it helped fans reenter this world. Unfortunately, I think because we just nosedived into the deep end, some relationships felt a bit undercooked. The issues between Logan and Veronica — though the characters seemed to have been dealing with them for a while — felt jarring to fans whose last glimpse of the pair was a reunion in the Kickstarter film. There were some characters and arcs that suffered a bit from this full-steam-ahead gameplan, and I think that showed as the season progressed.

Jason: See, I like that move. It’s hard for shows to address every happening in their world while covering a large empty space. Either you’re gonna weigh down the proceedings with exposition or you just assume the audience can catch up and get enough from context. I like the idea of putting that much faith in the audience and betting that heavily on the story to come. Also, it’s a lot easier to keep fresh viewers interested if they don’t have to wade through years of history to follow along.

Jessica: True, but it disrupts the flow of chemistry between the actors a bit. Either that or picking back up with these characters five years after the film meant some of the cast was just a bit rusty. I think while some of the relationships on screen felt lived in, others felt disjointed, awkward, and not as fleshed-out as they could’ve been. In my mind, that’s because we’re worried more about moving forward and getting to the action with just an eight-episode cushion than we are about digging into the dynamics of how these relationships have evolved in the time we were away.

Jason: I disagree and now we’re fighting. Bell and Colantoni were in lockstep — their chemistry didn’t suffer from the time away at all and I think they did a really nice job of slowly introducing Keith’s illness and the shifting roles in that dynamic. With Logan and Veronica, I mean, yeah, but I think it was helpful that they were off-balance as a couple considering how complicated things were with them thanks to careers that maybe make it hard to have something that isn’t lust-first/love-second. It just struck me as authentic.

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Jessica: Bell and Colantoni’s punchy back and forth has never, and will never, be the problem on this show, but there was something missing between Logan and Veronica for me. There were problems because of their living situation, yes, but there was a tension there that I wanted to be explained. The way they danced around each other especially when it came to tough topics like marriage just felt out of character with who they were as a couple — this is the pairing that was born out of snark and low-blows. I get that we’re evolving and growing, but it was hard to find any of the original spark in their coupling this season, which made that finale all the more frustrating. Still, seeing the gang together again was enough to turn my Marshmallow heart gooey.

Jason: I think it’s reflective of the fact that while Logan has grown as a person and in his maturity level, Veronica feels somewhat riveted to the floorboards over at Mars Investigations. Which is another thing that is a sad but true reality in some relationships. The question is, was blowing him up to ultimately resolve the mismatch as traumatic for you as it was for me? I actually had one of those “hands on my face and wincing” moments. Thanks to the internet, I knew something bad was going to happen (for a split second, I thought that after Keith sidestepped a big kablooey that everything was going to be Yoo Hoo and Spider-Man comics), but as they choreographed (the hell out of) that moment, it took me by surprise.

Jessica: “Surprised” is a nice way of putting it because I certainly wasn’t Bruce-Banner level chill after the finale aired. Look, I know killing off main characters is in vogue, but I felt this season had plenty of twists and turns, it didn’t need the spectacle of another cliffhanger. It felt like a hollow attempt at eliciting an impassioned reaction from fans and I think that’s a mistake on Thomas’ part, and any showrunner that buys into the lie that just because fans are now talking/arguing about your show on Twitter, it means the story choice was the right call. Have we learned nothing from Game of Thrones?

Jason: I don’t think shock value was the motive. Thomas’ remarks to Rolling Stone make it sound like it was a move made with the future in mind (well, maybe not Logan’s future) and the kind of stories he wanted to tell within the noir genre. Stories that are, I suppose, made easier by having Veronica be unattached. And I do get that… to an extent. Perhaps Thomas is respecting genre and narrative rules to a larger degree than he needs to. I think the conflict between Veronica’s work life and her trying to be what Logan wanted her to be would have made for an interesting 3.0 version of this show for a little while. And someday I hope to port to the timeline where that exists to have a quick binge. But still, it’s his show, and if he feels more compelled to go the other way and continue to bury Veronica in sadness while turning her into Batman, then I’m compelled to try and be at peace with it.

Jessica: Jason, I’m very happy for you that you’ve achieved such an enlightened state.

Jason: Thank you.

Jessica: But I’m decidedly not as zen about Logan’s death. And really, it has less to do with Logan than it does with Veronica and her growth moving forward. I hope we get many more seasons with the character, and I admit, the premise of her traveling the country to solve cases is an exciting one, but I’m just not convinced killing Logan opened up the path to do that. In fact, I worry that, by having this tension of family vs. career pull at Veronica all season before she ultimately discovered she could have both and then suddenly ripping it away from her in such a trite way, Thomas has reverted the character back to her season one roots — hardened after the loss of someone she loves, aimlessly wandering, trying to find her life purpose. Why spend all season digging into the struggle of a woman choosing the untraditional path when it comes to career and family, to then negate her decision by removing one of her choices? To me, it sends a dangerous message that, for women like Veronica Mars, there’s only a one-or-the-other option in life. You can be a kick-a** detective or have a hunky boyfriend, but not both. Not cool, Soda Pop.

Jason: Truly playing devil’s advocate (not that Rob Thomas is the devil… it’s not like he killed Keith) as I am a bit conflicted about the ending, but I don’t think Thomas is saying Veronica can’t have those things. He’s just saying not now. The idea that Veronica can get (and keep) her love life straight and crush it in her career is, of course, not impossible, but happy endings have a tendency to be just that, endings. The idea that everything falls apart (repeatedly) is relatable. And there are more angles there. Have we seen some of those angles? Yes, but the thing we were praising the show for (its ability to evolve), means it’s also not just for us but also new fans who have not. And so for this new thing to keep moving forward, it seems like Thomas has decided that we need to see the work of Veronica solving her life across a few more episodes. And maybe at the real end, the payoff and the fit will be better.

Jessica: Is this your way of telling me you’re not a LoVe shipper? My world is shattered, Jason.

Jason: I mean, kinda!? I didn’t hate the banter, but honestly, I don’t know that it would have worked out with Logan (which, again, could have been interesting to see). I don’t know that Veronica’s epiphany was that convincing. At best, it felt like a character opening a door that she thought she had to open to keep some semblance of normalcy and to keep Logan from leaving for good. At worst, it felt like an obvious setup to get that fan service moment and then to get to whatever comes next. It did not feel like birds were singing and everything was perfect despite the power of the ship. Maybe the execution (no pun!) would have been better had Veronica slept with Leo to bring her and Logan’s issues to a head. Maybe he could have thrown his hands up and told her he couldn’t keep going how they were going. Or maybe she could have done the same. But one way or the other, I feel like Logan and Veronica were going to go in separate directions. I’m not going to say blowing him up was the best path, but it is the one that leaves zero space for a flip flop. It’s like Thomas didn’t trust himself to avoid the inevitable reunion smash, so instead, he built a wall and propelled Veronica forward with scars aplenty but no way to turn back.

Jessica: I have to agree there. Something was definitely missing in the relationship this season and I think just because they got hitched, doesn’t mean those problems weren’t still there. But man, would I have loved to see Thomas really explore that. As archaic as it is to believe women can’t have it all — which was one of the themes with Veronica’s storyline this season — it’s even more of an eye-roll to think marriage solves all your problems. How interesting would it have been to see Veronica and Logan continue that struggle to find balance and communicate after the elephant of marriage had been removed from the room? At the end of the day, I can see how the preferred direction of noir crime-solving might have been weighed down by relationship troubles, but I’d like to think Thomas is a better showrunner than that. He could’ve written around it. And it would’ve been more authentic, more realistic, to see Veronica go on her Nancy Drew schtick across America while juggling marriage and relationships back home than to have her cut ties and get the hell out of dodge now that Logan’s death frees her from any pesky guilt and self-reflection. As cool as Thomas’ idea of Veronica beatniking around the country sounds, I’m worried this case-of-the-week format is going to interfere with what we love about the show — its kick a** character development. And I think I have reason to worry. Remember season three?

Jason: That assumes that Veronica’s journey is going to be something we go on with her. I don’t think we should assume that season 5 is going to be Kung Fu as she walks the Earth solving mysteries (of the week) and slaying with quips. Not entirely. But I don’t know. In terms of the larger issue: I think we both agree that we would have liked to see Logan and Veronica’s fucked up relationship keep on keeping on for a little while, but I just don’t think we’re going to be equal parts alright with Logan being blown to bits. And, I guess that’s fine, though I wonder if our friendship can be saved by an agreement on this key question: Dandy Warhols theme song or Chrissie Hynde (who I swear I thought was Aimee Mann) reboot version? This is important.

Jessica: Agree to disagree on Logan I guess, but if the sheer nostalgia and Orange County punk of the Warhols version doesn’t scream Veronica Mars to you, well then, you’re a c*ck waffle. [Note: this a reference to season four] No, I did love the revamped, modernized version Hynde gave us. Very noir. Very 2019. But I like the classics. Plus, have you ever watched the music video for the Warhols version? They’ve got monkeys on typewriters man.

Jason: Exactly.

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