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TV Talk: Veronica Mars 
5th-Dec-2006 10:27 am
VMars 14
Seriously, what happened to Francis Capra this year? He looks like Barry Bonds, post-clear.

TV Talk: Veronica Mars

Starring: Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Percy Daggs III, Ryan Hansen, Julie Gonzalo, Chris Lowell, Tina Majorino, Michael Muhney, Francis Capra, Enrico Colantoni

Series Creators: Rob Thomas

I had mixed feelings for season two of Veronica Mars. It was still my favourite show on television, and of higher quality than most of what is on TV, but I felt it was flawed, failing to stay on point with the main mystery (the bus crash) enough to consistently develop the proper level of urgency that a mass murder of her classmates should've had. So, I was encouraged by the CW's decision to limit the show to mini-arcs for ongoing mysteries, instead of drawing them out for the entire season. What worked really well for the first season, the murder of Lily Kane, might not work every season, so instead of constantly trying to up the ante every season with longer and harsher mysteries, why not give us a few in a season, along with the mysteries of the week that make the show so great.

Although, the show never really dragged out the bus crash mystery last season, it just went away from it too often. They did this in season one at times as well, but that was more understandable, as the Lily Kane murder was farther away from her when the season started. There had already been an investigation, and someone had already been convicted of the crime. The bus crash, on the other hand, kicked off the second season, with Veronica (Kristen Bell) quickly deciding that it may have been an attempt on her life. You'd think that would've made her incredibly invested in finding out what happened, but instead, too often she seemed to drift into clues along the way.

Hopefully, the shorter arcs will keep Veronica invested in the big mystery while she gets sidetracked by the MotWs. A tall order, to be sure, as the network has mandated that the show push the MotWs to hopefully bring in new viewers (while, oddly, allowing the show to pursue the bigger mysteries without constantly filling in the details to new viewers. Which is awesome). So it made sense for me to put off discussing my favourite show until the first arc wrapped up, which it did awesomely last week to send the show into the break.

All in all, I think the first arc was a success, albeit with some glitches that hopefully will be improved upon for the next arc. I like that they picked up the thread from "The Rapes of Graff" one-off episode from last season. That episode dealt with the really sinister idea of a serial-rapist at Hearst College, an idea too big to have been dealt with as a MotW, so I'm glad they didn't drop it as soon as Veronica helped bail out Icetwin Troy (Aaron Ashmore). The season premiere dealt with it well, showing protest rallies that reveal that rape was still very much a problem at Hearst, without delving Veronica and the gang into the action too deeply right away. It was important to establish the character's new post-high school roles and introduce the new characters before giving Veronica her mission, which they did quite chillingly when Parker (Julie Gonzalo) is revealed to have been the next victim, and Veronica was unknowingly there when it happened.

Given her history with rape (she was, she wasn't, but, wait, she was), Veronica probably would've been motivated to solve this case anyway, but giving her a personal connection to it through Mac's (Tina Majorino, finally in the main cast!) new roommate, combined with her own guilt for not having stopped the attack that she assumed was simply sex, gave Veronica a purpose. A motivated Veronica is a dangerous thing, not only to the subjects of her investigations, but to herself and her relationships. The series is always showing us the negative consequences to her single-minded drive, be it using her friends while at times disregarding their feelings, pushing people away, or getting herself into dangerous situations, and there was some of all of that this season.

The subject of rape is obviously a touchy one, so I understand if some people were uncomfortable with a show like this dealing with it so extensively. Part teen-melodrama, part noir, and full of sarcastic wit, on the surface, Veronica Mars may not be the best show for such a topic. But, I'd wager that the show did a better job with this loaded topic than your average crime procedural, who deal with graphic shit like this weekly in an attempt to draw in viewers and possibly push a conservative agenda similar to those of 80s slasher flicks (have sex on CSI, wind up dead). The fact is that rape is an epidemic problem on college campuses, so I think it appropriate for the show to deal with it as one of the harsh realities of college life as it starts its new post-high school era.

As for the mystery itself, I think the show did a great job throwing in hints and red herrings, keeping us guessing while providing enough evidence for some viewers to give solid hypothesis as to who was behind the rapes. It's key for any mystery series to allow the viewer to play along, but too many cop out and throw in a surprise ending that was, until that point, impossible to conceive. I'm not saying I had it guessed correctly, but the assailants both were on my radar at different points this season.

I particularly like how the show tied in a seeming one-off sub-plot, Professor Landry's (Patrick Fabian) prison experiment, which, if I have deduced correctly from the photo Veronica discovered in Moe's (Andrew McClain) room and the relationship between Moe and Mercer (Ryan Devlin), is where Moe and Mercer met. Moe mentioned that his participation was a "life-altering" event for him, which now seems like an experience where the charismatic and sociopathic Mercer brain-washed Moe into helping him date-rape coeds. I do so hope the show explains this when it comes back.

While I was overall pleased with the first arc of season, culminated in an A+ episode with "Spit & Eggs", there were some kinks that need to be worked out, kinks created by the accelerated storytelling necessitated by the mini-arc format. They had a lot of business to take care of these first nine episodes. Along with the serial rapist thread, the show also had to introduce its characters and us to the new surroundings of Hearst College, deal with the fallout from last season, show the characters in their new lives, and introduce new supporting and main cast members. The new supporting cast have been handled well, which is good because the large supporting cast that comes in and out of the series is a strength of the show (albeit one that demands a lot from viewers). However, the introduction of new main cast members was less than strong. Majorino and Michael Muhney (Sheriff Lamb) were added to the main cast, but that was more a recognition of their place in the series than a real change, so it went fine (although I would like to see more Mac. I can only hope her absence in some episodes was caused by her Big Love commitments, because she's awesome in that as well). New characters Parker and Piz (Chris Lowell), on the other hand, weren't handled as well.

This isn't the case of creating too bloated a cast, as they've really only replaced Jackie (Tessa Thompson) and Beaver (Kyle Gallner) with Parker and Piz, leaving the cast size the same as last season. The show just had too much to do to properly ingratiate the characters to the audience, a situation I hope they improve in the next arc. Lowell is a great addition as Piz, who not only gives Wallace (Percy Daggs III) a buddy to be a guy with, but also has a role (radio announcer) that can both be a storytelling device and a tool at Veronica's disposal (like Wallace's office aide job used to be). Also, his bad dancing last episode at the Pi Sig party was fantastic. Parker is a tougher character to warm to the audience, especially since non-Veronica females on this show haven't fared well with fans (see: Jackie, Meg, Gia). I liked what the show did with her this last episode, which I hope will be a stepping stone towards her having a bigger role in the show. I think her character can be a good balance to Veronica and Mac's sardonic tone, so I hope they have more in store for her.

I also think there's work to be done dealing with the fallout from last season. It's possible that Veronica's somewhat-bitchy attitudes at times this season can be traced back to what happened, which would be nice, since I think there needs to be a reason why she's been a bit of a pill at times this year. I definitely think that some of the tension between her and Logan (Jason Dohring) can be traced back to last season, if not for the seeing Beaver kill himself in front of them (after he tried to kill them), then at least for Logan's relationship with Kendall (Charisma Carpenter), and possibly Duncan's (Teddy Dunn) relationship with Meg (Alona Tal). They've touched upon Veronica's trust issues, and I hope they bring it to a head this season following her and Logan's breakup. What I don't want to see is Piz end up being Logan's romantic foil, cause that would be death for his character.

I didn't really like how hastily they wrapped up the Kendall storyline to begin the season, but I figure they just decided not to pursue her story any further and had to wrap up loose threads. What I didn't like about it, and subsequent storylines, is that they've made Keith (Enrico Colantoni) look sloppy. Cormac Fitzpatrick (Jason Beghe) got the best of him and Vinnie Van Lowe (Ken Marino) got the best of him twice. In all, I don't think Keith has done very well this season thus far, so I'd like to see that turn around. He's too strong a character and Colantoni is too good in the role to waste.

However, it's too early to judge these flaws too harshly, as the series has a way of wrapping things up just when you thought it had forgotten them. I think they've set up the next arc nicely, the murder of Dean O'Dell (Ed Begley Jr.), which should give Weevil (Francis Capra) a bit more to do, as you have to imagine he'll be the first suspect, and shine suspicion on supporting characters like O'Dell's wife (Jaime Ray Newman), Professor Landry, and Veronica's new rival Tim (James Jordan), along with anyone who wrote a particularly strong paper planning out the perfect murder. Should be fun.


Questions? Comments? Theories? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Comments 
5th-Dec-2006 06:35 pm (UTC)
I agree with you on most points.
Veronica + Piz would = Meredith Grey + George O'Malley. But geting to see George get crushed was awesome though, so maybe...
I'm personally still waiting for Dick (Ryan Hansen) to justify his existence. So far he could be replaced with a frat boy played by a Golden Retreiver. A not particular intelligent Retreiver at that.
I hope Duncan never gets mentioned again, unless it has to do with whole, he kidnapped his baby, took off to Australia.
I also really liked how they dealt with Dean O'Dell. As the college version of Principal Van Clemmons, he gets a fairly interesting part to play to begin with, and ups the ante by knocking him off, as well as giving Veronica Mars several reasons(guilt, professional curiosity, her pseudo-friendship with the man) to pursue his murder(Does anyone actually think it's going to turn out to be suicide?).
5th-Dec-2006 07:20 pm (UTC)
I made the O'Malley connection too, and I don't want to see Piz become an O'Malley.

I'm actually okay with Dick not developing much. Obviously, there's room for it, especially with his brother turning out to be a killer and all. But, if he doesn't do much more than be stupid and rudely funny, I'm okay with it.

I don't see it as a suicide, especially since it seems like someone entered his office after the eggs hit his window (which should make the Lilliths suspects, but I doubt it was them).

One more question: what did Dean O'Dell do at the Neptune Grand?
5th-Dec-2006 07:54 pm (UTC)
According to Rob Thomas both Professor Landry and the Dean's wife are still alive so I am guessing all the Dean did was yell at them a bit.

I hope they kill of Piz because he is annoying, not as annoying as Duncan mind you, but still a pain in the ass.

Finally, what are your thoughts on the fact that after his second myster Veronica Mars is going to a complete MOTW format starting with the final five episodes of the season (although the last two is possibly a two parter).
5th-Dec-2006 08:59 pm (UTC)
I'm interested to see how it will play out. I think this might give the show a chance to develop the relationships and characters more without neglecting a bigger mystery, but I'm not sure the show will have the necessary urgency without a big mystery, especially closing out the season.

But, maybe it will help the show pick up steam with new viewers (it had it's highest ratings ever last week, so fingers crossed!), and thus will be picked up for a fourth season.
5th-Dec-2006 08:21 pm (UTC)
I wondered about the Neptune Grand as well. Possibly a double murder-suicide then? Or maybe his wife decided to finish him off, ditto for professor whatshisname. The Liliths are suspects as well.

I doubt all of the above just for being too obvious. Maybe the Ftizpatricks? Perhaps Dean O'Dell did more than just watch boxing and maybe placed a bet or two. The Fitzpatricks haven't shown up in a little while.

My beef with Dick is less about his development as a character, on one hand you can count the times he has gone beyond the range of a clever canine, than he gets a billing as a cast member. If he was just a recurring character fine, but he's a regular cast member and should justify it. Especially as Veronica Mars has had many recurring characters more worthy of being a regular member, and he gets a lot of screen time(say compared with all the new cast members) to do very little. I just personally think if he wasn't there, someone more interesting would, otherwise he's just an oxygen pirate.
6th-Dec-2006 03:22 am (UTC)
I just caught the last 15 minutes of VM tonight. It was just a rerun of the season opener, but something that caught my attention was when VM went into Parker and Mack's room, when Parker was being raped, the radio was playing. It sounded kind of like Mercer, but I'm not sure at all.

Does anyone else have any thoughts about this? The Radio Station was KRFF Hearst College Radio, and it didn't specify which radio show in particular.
6th-Dec-2006 04:23 am (UTC)
I imagine it was his radio show. The show established that Mercer was in love with himself (like when he checked himself out in the mirror right before he was about to rape the girl), so I imagine he likes to hear his own show. Plus, he uses the radio to drown out the girl's screams and doing them when his show is on gives him an alibi.
6th-Dec-2006 08:45 am (UTC)
Whew. Glad I didn't miss a new ep tonight.
6th-Dec-2006 09:59 pm (UTC)
Yeah but Veronica Mars made it clear that Mercer's show was a call-in show, so he couldn't just pre-record. So Parker was another of the faked rapes. But when Veronica Mars was looking up Mercer's alibi, I think she would have noticed if Mercer was on the radio that particular night. So I'm either completely wrong (very likely) and misidentified Mercer (again very likely) or it was just some other radio show with some other generic sounding male voice.
7th-Dec-2006 02:40 am (UTC)
You're just wrong. Mercer's is not a call-in show, it's a techno show. It was playing during Mercer's attack of Veronica. As she was getting ready to leave the Pi Sig party, she heard the recording loop, which clued her into the fact that Mercer pre-records his show.

As to why she didn't think of that earlier, I can only say she was distracted by her issues with Logan. Parker's rape was real, as evidenced by the fact that we heard it happen.
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