WARNING: Spoilers For Veronica Mars Seasons 1-3 and Veronica Mars: The Movie below.
Marshmallows rejoice because the new season of Hulu’s Veronica Mars revival is almost upon us.
The show, which sees Veronica investigating a new mystery that involves an explosion, murder, and a bunch of scantily-clad Spring Breakers, is even darker and more grown-up that previous iterations. Kristen Bell returns to kick some butt and tase some bad guys as she tries to clean up the town of Neptune and prevent a class war from breaking out while also adjusting to domestic life with her long-term boyfriend, Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring).
Before you start bingeing the new season, here’s a quick guide to what’s happened in the world of Veronica Mars — from the show’s original run to the films and books that have followed — plus a teaser of which characters and stories you should pay attention to if you’re going to solve the case.
The Original Mystery
When Veronica Mars aired 15 years ago on the now-defunct UPN, it practically invented the noir, teen murder mystery genre that shows like Riverdale now bank on. The series, which followed Kristen Bell as the titular detective, who was balancing high-school with her side gig of snooping, built much of its season one storyline around the tragic murder of Veronica’s best friend, the rich, hard-partying Lily Kane (Amanda Seyfried). Lily’s murder devastated the town of Neptune and altered the course of Veronica’s life forever. She split from her jock boyfriend (Lily’s brother Duncan), was exiled from her group of popular friends, and filled the void of intimacy with an obsession to uncover who was responsible for Lily’s death.
The answer to that question took everyone by surprise and ended up re-shaping the narrative moving forward. We learned that Aaron Echolls (Harry Hamlin), the father of Veronica’s nemesis-turned-love-interest Logan, had been having an affair with Lily (who was Logan’s girlfriend at the time) and killed her to keep the relationship secret. With Logan’s family life a wreck, his father’s legacy tarnished, Veronica nearly burned alive at the hands of Aaron, and a biker gang thrown in the mix, season one ended on a cliffhanger that promised even more drama. And it delivered.
Season two saw a new mystery — the crash of a school bus that killed a shocking number of Neptune High students. The crash and the conspiracy behind it were the overarching cases of show’s sophomore run, as Veronica uncovered a connection between Neptune businessmen intent on widening the economic gap between the rich and the poor in the town and the nefarious dealings of parents of her high school classmates. The season ended with the death of Aaron Echolls (who had just been acquitted for Lily Kane’s murder), Duncan’s decision to flee the country, a gang war put to bed, and the romantic reunion between Logan and Veronica. Oh, and the crew’s college acceptance letters.
Season three picked up with Logan, Veronica, her best friend Wallace (Percy Daggs III), and Logan’s 09er buddy Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen) attending college together. Veronica had two new cases to solve. The first concerned a serial date rapist that brought back memories of Veronica’s own date rape in high school. The second saw the group investigating the murder of the college’s dean. A handful of new characters were introduced in season three, most notably Stosh “Piz” Piznarski (Chris Lowell), who became a romantic rival for Veronica’s affections when her relationship with Logan started to deteriorate. The show’s third season performed poorly in the ratings department, so its new network, the CW, decided to give it the ax, but that didn’t stop fans from campaigning for a follow-up film, which they eventually got.
Veronica Mars broke all kinds of Kickstarter records when Bell and creator Rob Thomas decided to launch a campaign to fund a movie meant to serve as a catch-up for fans and a continuation of Veronica’s life, which, by this time, had taken her far from Neptune and her old group of friends. The campaign raised over $5 million by the time it was done and helped Thomas bring to life his story for a now grown-up Veronica Mars, who was living in New York with Piz and fielding job offers from prestigious law firms. When the death of a former high school classmate — and Logan’s involvement — forced her to return to Neptune, she discovered that her hometown was still rife with criminal activity. Thomas has said the film was a service to the fans of the show who stuck around to see Veronica back on screen, but a few key plot points from the movie make their way into this upcoming season of the show.
First, Veronica and Piz ultimately broke up, with Veronica returning to Neptune to take over her father’s private detective business. She resumed a relationship with Logan, who was serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, and reunited with her friends Wallace and Mac (Tina Majorino, who won’t be returning for season four). Another big development was the reveal that Weevil (Francis Capra), the former leader of the PCH biker gang who had reformed into a family-man when Veronica first returned to Neptune, had reverted back to his criminal ways by the end of the flick. That, coupled with a car wreck that left Veronica’s dad, Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) in critical condition, and the ousting of a corrupt Sheriff Dan Lamb (Jerry O’Connell), left Veronica working double-time to ensure Neptune got back on the right track.
The New Case
Which brings us to season four, a revival that digs deep into the noir roots of the show’s first season and sees Bell returning as a grown-up, more hardened Veronica Mars. She’s still fielding relationship drama with Logan, who presses the issues of marriage and family even though Veronica is vocally averse to both, and she’s keeping her detective services chugging along by helping rich housewives evade their disgruntled ex-husbands. The big mystery dominating this upcoming season revolves around an explosion at a popular Spring Break hangout that ends in tragedy. Veronica is hired to investigate who is behind the murder. The case puts her in the middle of a class war within Neptune, with the town’s elite on one side calling for an end to the seasonal festivities they claim are destroying the aesthetic of Neptune, and the working-class citizens on the other side trying to keep tourism alive to keep their businesses afloat.
Veronica re-teams with some familiar faces in season four, most notably Wallace, Weevil, and former love interest Leo D’Amato (Max Greenfield) as she works the case while her dad battles the effects of the car crash that happened five years earlier.
The Book Series
Thomas released two novels in between the Kickstarter movie and Hulu’s new revival. The creator has said that the new series is “98% canon” with what happens in the books, so they’re probably worth a mention. The first, The Ten Thousand Dollar Tan Line, followed a series of crimes that were terrorizing Spring Breakers in Neptune, which gels with the premise of season four. Veronica was just setting up her detective business and doing a long-distance thing with Logan while he served in the Middle East.
The second, Mr. Kiss and Tell, is the more relevant of the two in terms of the new season, as Veronica investigated a murder tied to a Mexican immigrant. The show plans to dive into the class dynamics at play in Neptune, and the imbalance of power amongst its citizens, so this arc might provide clues as to who’s responsible for the devastating explosion at the motel on the show.
What To Look For In Season 4
Veronica Mars commands the most screen time of any character on the show — which, duh — but this season our spunky sleuth is really struggling with acclimating to domestic life. As mentioned earlier, her relationship with Logan is tested when he brings up the idea of marriage and starting a family, something Veronica distrusts because of her parents’ history and the relationships she’s seen crumble in Neptune over the years. The conflict pushes her into the path of Leo, who now works for the San Diego Police Department as a detective and comes to Neptune to help solve the bombing case when a high-profile victim is identified. Leo and Veronica’s relationship felt strange when the show first aired because of their age difference — he was a rookie cop, she was a high-school student — but their pairing now seems more appropriate and might be a threat to any LoVe shippers out there.
Keith Mars is also facing a crisis when season four picks up. The former detective is now assisting his daughter on the case — and investigating petty crimes on the side — but his ongoing health issues threaten his career. He’s also still working with Weevil to take on the corruption in the sheriff’s department, which earns him some new enemies.
Finally, the most important returning character this season is someone you’d never expect: Dick Casablancas. Dick is Logan’s former 09er buddy, a hard-partying trust fund baby who still hasn’t outgrown his frat boy lifestyle when we meet him in season four. He’s an actor now, with small roles in truly ridiculous movies, but it’s his family’s connection to the chaos in Neptune that’s of real interest this time around.
Have fun sleuthing, Marshmallows.