Veronica Mars to the Rescue

vm-picWhenever I find a truly great TV show to binge watch, it feels like a secret, magical – and potentially fragile gift.  I always dread that if I get too attached to it that it will all fall apart. A key character will do something completely out of line with their history or emotional trajectory – an annoyingly common lazy writer’s trick to justify a plot twist (even though I love it for other reasons, Lost was super guilty of this,  which is probably why I’ll never think of it as an actually great show). Or, the narrative will start recycling itself to please the network execs – more of the same to keep the target audience casually but consistently interested. Boring!

I can think of only a few TV shows that have the audacity to tell a complex, character-driven story with integrity, that explore both the darkest and most heroic aspects of the human experience, that focus on characters who step back and forth between hero and antihero as needed, AND as a bonus, do so with humor, humanity, and passion: The Wire, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, True Detective.  And now, Veronica Mars. Yes! Thank you, CW circa 2003!

I realize I’m late to the party on this, but when VM came out, I was wrapping up college, making all sorts of choices that would define who I’d become while I juggled a full course load, fell in and out of love, and stayed on top of which bands were playing when and where and did I have tickets. And I didn’t have a TV.  So I missed it. I always heard good things about it though and somewhere in the back of my head had filed away that “Veronica Mars is a good show.” Sometimes I would even say that to other people. You know, when it fit into conversation.

Late or no – man, I am really nerding out on this shit now.  For all of the above reasons. The writing is good: the characters are complex and flawed and make decisions that are real and imperfect, springing honestly from who they are and the experiences they’ve had. They make mistakes, they hurt each other, they love each other deeply.  The dialogue has a sharp sense of humor. The premise is super fun:  foxy high school PI with a chip on her shoulder helps her classmates with mini-mysteries each week (help me find my dog, help me figure out who stole my credit card, etc.) while she unravels a dangerous, high-stakes criminal investigation in the adult world each season. The story is great: it starts in the midst of a tumultuous time for a segregated community of haves and have-nots – the months following the high profile murder of a teenage girl whose death was too-neatly solved amidst suspicious circumstances. The central characters were all intimately tied to the murder and we get to know them as they grapple with the difficult ways the trauma has defined their lives.

Veronica and LoganBut more than all that, this show is just super badass… in a way that makes me want to be more badass in my very structured, responsible, adult life. In the tradition of the film noir, Veronica is both a noble crusader for truth and an adept navigator of society’s seedy underside. Though her ultimate goal is always pure, she fully embraces the idea that the end justifies the means and doesn’t hold back from seeking vengeance for the wronged – often outside the boundaries of justice. Logan Echolls, the leading man, is both tragic and dangerous – the gender-swapped femme fatale – he is passionate, occasionally violent, smoldering, amoral, and deeply magnetized to Veronica. Being a part of their dance of love and hate is an agonizing delight.

The frosting on top of this gritty noir is the setting: a California high school in a town saturated with Hollywood money. The backdrops to all this crime fighting drip with nostalgic sweetness: homecoming dance, babysitting jobs, student council president elections, locker searches, school newspaper, etc.

Midway through season 2 now, I’m totally hooked. And, after about 35 more episodes, I am already excited to watch a movie the cast and creators made 10 years later – the ultimate treat for superfans.

If you haven’t watched this show yet, you should. And if you have, don’t tell me what happens, ok? I plan to continue my binge for awhile.

– Betsy Midnight

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