In the dark depths of the pandemic, I decided to go back and watch some comfort television. No one could be better, after all, to help me through such trying times than the one and only Veronica Mars.
[Spoilers ahead, obviously.]
I watched the original series several years after it came out—I think because of the release of the 2014 movie—so for me Veronica Mars is more a historical artifact, rather than a nostalgic memory, of the early aughts. Still, it’s hard to beat such a delightful combination of high school drama, crime noir, and class politics. Veronica Mars was fighting the 1% before the 2008 financial crisis made it cool.
After re-watching the original three seasons, I finally got around to watching Season 4. And then, with the third wave of COVID-19 arriving in British Columbia, there was nothing for it but to go back and watch the original series all over again, mostly for the satisfaction of Logan Echolls’s character arc.
During my marathon, I couldn’t help but make some notes about the more delightful and strange aspects of the franchise. Here are my findings.
There are many guest appearances over the course of the series, some of whom get considerably more famous later in their careers. Jessica Chastain plays a neighbour with a dark secret, Paul Rudd is a cranky rockstar, Aaron Paul is a creepy dude already channeling an early version of Jesse, Alia Shawkat and Michael Cera show up for the college tour episode (because of course they have to do it together), Adam Scott‘s character nearly escapes his #MeToo judgement, Kevin Smith sells bus accident memorabilia at a gas station, Krysten Ritter is a ditzy classmate (before she develops super powers and steals Veronica’s personality and job), Tessa Thompson has some major character growth over season 2, and Joss Whedon is a car rental salesman who is awful to the people who work for him (which feels very on the nose these days).
However, the most important appearance is, of course, Paris Hilton. She only shows up for one episode in Season 1 where she plays Logan Echolls’s girlfriend. That would be unremarkable by itself, but then later in the season, they reference the Paris Hilton sex tape as a joke, and on top of that, they make a passing reference to House of Wax in season 2. Which is just all kinds of meta.
Death and Trauma
Over the course of the series, a lot of people die in Veronica’s hometown of Neptune, California. This is to be expected—it is a crime noir show at its core, after all. One of the things I liked about season 4 was that they made a big deal of Logan Echolls finally going to therapy and even encouraging Veronica to go along, which is some good role modelling.
However, when I started watching the series for the third time (don’t judge), I realized how desperately some of these characters need mental health support. By the end of season 4, for instance, the comic relief character, Dick Casablancas has suffered the following losses:
- Cassidy “Beaver” his brother commits suicide after murdering nine classmates and blowing up a plane.
- His stepmom is murdered by the local crime family
- His dad is beheaded by a cartel and…
- His best friend is blown up with bomb ON THE SAME DAY
So he’s probably not in a good place right now.
But that’s nothing compared to Veronica. By the end of season 2, 14 people who attended or worked at her school have died, and 12 of those people either die in front of her or she sees their body. Don’t believe me? I made a list:
- Lily Kane (VM sees body).
- Nine people from the bus bombing (VM sees it go over a cliff, although Meg Manning dies much later from complications).
- Cassidy Casablancas (jumps off a roof in front of her).
- School Janitor (shot by a security guard in front of her)
- Felix Toombs (murdered by Thumper)
- Thumper (murdered by building demolition)
Veronica also finds Amelia de Longpre’s body in an ice box, but she doesn’t attend her school. In short, the violent death rate in Neptune is off the charts and Veronica needs to have that season 4 therapist on speed dial. Finally, by the end of season 4 every single member of the Echolls family has died a violent death—except for Trina. Maybe she and Dick Casablancas can commiserate together in season 5.
Keith Mars Is the Resurrection
The most ridiculous/amazing things about season 2 that I missed on initial watch was the Catholic imagery bookending.
At the beginning of season 1, Veronica cradles Logan after he’s been beaten up by the PCH gang in an imitation of Michelangelo’s La Pieta sculpture. At the end of season 2, after Veronica is nearly murdered and thinks that her father, Keith Mars, has been killed by Cassidy Casablancas’s bomb, Logan cradles her in the reverse position.
Why on earth would they do this? Obviously because the next day Keith Mars is resurrected by the smell of bacon. Alleluia!
Also Keith Mars is the best. I love this dad. He is the best TV dad. My favorite bit is when he confirms that Veronica is his biological daughter. You’re mine baby, all mine.
I could go into the other fun stuff like the episodes inspired by 12 Angry Men and the Standford prison experiment, but here I shall draw my notes to an end. For while I think part of the core of Veronica Mars is that burning desire for justice in a world where all the chips are stacked against the underdog, more importantly it’s that when justice is thwarted, when suffering cannot be escaped, and the rich and the powerful win the day, it’s the love that binds us to other people that keeps us whole. And that’s always a good note to end on.