I started watching Veronica Mars maybe three years ago. I got about three episodes in, decided I was sick of the grainy quality of my pirated files, and figured the story really wasn’t all that interesting anyway. I dropped it, and it joined the rest of my unfinished “classic” series like the X-Files and Buffy.
Then, a few months ago, a Kickstarter came online. It was trying to fund a Veronica Mars movie, channeling the anger of fans who deemed that the death of the show after three season meant it was “killed too soon.”
Turns out, it’s quite a fanbase. The Veronica Mars movie shattered its fundraising goals, bringing in $5.7M after asking for $2M. The movie got the green light from Warner Bros. and is currently filming as we speak.
Well, with that kind of rabid fanbase, I knew I had to give it a second chance. I took a time machine back to 2004 and actually ordered the DVD box set of all three seasons, which set me back about $100. Fortunately, it was well worth it. My fiancée and I blazed through all three seasons over the past month or so, and we discovered what all the fuss was about.
More devastating with a camera than most people are with guns.
The show opens and we meet Veronica Mars, an ex-popular kid who fell from the cool circle after her best friend Lily was found murdered and her dad, then sheriff, falsely accused the victim’s powerful father of doing the deed. Shortly after, Veronica is drugged and raped at a party, just in case the slaughter of her friend wasn’t scarring enough.
Veronica’s father, Keith, is now a private eye after losing his law enforcement job, and she helps him out with cases, despite being in high school. Once her classmates learn of her investigating prowess, she’s often hired by kids her own age who need their own mysteries solved.
I was worried the show was going to be a bit too procedural, with a case of the week and all that, but fortunately, the writing is so good that I didn’t even mind. Yes, there’s a new case every week or so, but past events are never forgotten, and always surface later even if they were minor happenings at the time. And the central threads of Lily’s death and Veronica’s rape always ensure there’s a grand overarching plotline that’s interesting as well.
Veronica Mars, as a character, is quite simply one of the best leads I’ve ever seen in a TV show, male or female. Kristen Bell’s portrayal of her is funny, brave, incredibly intelligent and the furthest thing from any possible stereotype you could conceive about an attractive high school-aged blonde. The show is brilliantly written, and because of that, it spawns a host of fantastic supporting characters to share the spotlight with Veronica. Logan, Veronica’s arch enemy/true love, is a fan favorite, and constantly has some of the best lines on the show. Her platonic BFF Wallace is a touch less interesting, but still consistently likable. The only character I didn’t care for at all was the dead-eyed Duncan Kane, Veronica’s ex-boyfriend and Lily’s brother, as he just never fit in with the vibe of the show.
The best fictional pairings don’t have to be romantic.
The relationship I found most touching was the one between Veronica and her father. The dynamic the two have just seems so natural and authentic, and it’s not one you see very often on television. Veronica teams up with many people on the show, from Logan to computer hacker Mac to biker badass Weevil, but none are as great as when she’s working with her father to bring down bad guys. The mysteries are interesting and will always have you guessing, though I will say that the show’s constant use of red herrings can get a bit old. It gets to the point where if someone looks like a suspect, they’re automatically innocent, or if they look harmless, they’re the evil mastermind. Eventually, you can figure the mysteries out for yourself a lot of the time, once you know the cards the show always plays.
Season two was as good as the first, with a central mystery about a bus crash having as many twists and turns as Lily Kane’s murder. Season three, when Veronica goes to college, had good individual episodes, but lacked a connecting thread. There are seven episodes devoted to one mystery, then seven to another, then the last few just sort of trail off and lead to an anti-climactic finale. I’m not sure if that’s related to its cancelation, but it was a strange way to end the show.
Even stranger was what I found on the DVD extras. There’s a short proof-of-concept pilot for revamped season four which fast-forwards Veronica out of college and into her first year at the FBI. Only Kristen Bell remains, the rest of the cast gone, and it’s a rather horrifying look at how the show could have been completely lobotomized into just another boring crime drama.
The first official shot from the upcoming film.
Fortunately, the movie isn’t going that direction. Though it does take place years later, this is the same Veronica we know and love, and nearly every single member of the old cast, major and minor, have signed on to return.
The show blends comedy and drama in a way that never gets old. I lost track of the number of times I laughed out loud or had my heart caught in my throat across the three seasons. In short, I now understand why it’s such a beloved classic and has spawned such a devoted fanbase who want to see it rise again.
I’m happy I gave this show a shot in time to appreciate the mammoth accomplishment that is reviving the project as a movie. If you haven’t tried it for yourself, watch the first five episodes and get back to me if you’re a convert or not.