Veronica Mars, Season 2: a review

I just finished watched season two of Veronica Mars, and I want to begin this review with an unqualified blanket statement:

Even when I don’t like this series, I still like this series.

Now, I can begin to qualify this statement. Every episode of this series isn’t great. There are some uneven performances at times, though never from Kristen Bell or Enrico Colantoni. Nor from Ken Marino, who makes me laugh every time he appears on-screen.

Teddy Dunn, who played Veronica’s on-again, off-again boyfriend Duncan Kane, is now, apparently, a practicing lawyer; he graduated cum laude from Boston College Law School in 2013. To him, I say, “Congratulations!” To you, I say he’s in a better place, because acting was not his true calling.

I’m not going to nitpick every performance, however. Let’s just say that Mr. Dunn set the low bar for the series, and when he (SPOILERS AHEAD) left the show after kidnapping the illegitimate baby he fathered with his former girlfriend Meg, who spends most of her screen time this season in a coma—it’s complicated—the show was left better for it.

Season two’s story arc is not quite as engaging as the mystery of Lilly Kane’s murder in season one, although it involves the murder of multiple Neptune High students in a tragic bus crash. Veronica was spared the same fate only through a convenient coincidence that caused her to miss the bus. This mystery is presented in episode one and is allowed to grow more complicated as the season continues, populated by tangential mysteries that are largely red herrings, until the ultimate Big Bad is revealed in the final episode. I know this series is years-old at this point, but I’m not going to ruin that reveal for you if you haven’t watched it yet. I will say, however, that the solution to this season’s puzzle felt somehow less satisfying that season one’s.

Lest you think my previous comments mean that I didn’t like this season, I’ll direct you back to my original statement. As a whole, I may not have liked the sophomore season as much as I did the freshman, but I still liked it: a lot.

Let me give you a brief, nearly-incomprehensible synopsis of the season.

Logan Echolls, perennial bad boy and son of the previous season’s Big Bad, is accused of murdering PCHer Felix Toombs, but, since he is a privileged 09er, the charges are dropped. We learn that Neptune has a professional baseball team, the Sharks, and we meet its owner, Woody Goodman, played to the hilt by Steve Gutenberg. Then…bus crash, survived only by comatose Meg and Veronica, who missed the bus. First suspect, the bus driver, whose daughter naturally asks Veronica to clear his name. Wallace meets new cast member Jackie, daughter of famous Shark ballplayer, while Woody Goodman convinces Keith Mars to run for sheriff. The bus driver is cleared. Dick and Cassidy Casablancas become main characters this season. Dick is an entertaining douchebag; Cassidy—known as Beaver—is a tortured genius little brother. Stepmom Kendall is ubiquitous and sexy (played by Charisma Carpenter, no less). Keith Mars discovers that his girlfriend Alica Fennell—Wallace’s mom—is a bit of a liar (he has a type), and then Wallace discovers that his real dad, whom he knew nothing about, is still alive. Wallace disappears from the series for several episodes when he goes to live with his dad in Chicago; he is sorely missed from the show. Meanwhile, we learn that Jackie’s dad, Terrence Cook, the famous ballplayer, has large gambling debts and says he’s being blackmailed by Sheriff Lamb. Keith Mars loses the election for sheriff because he apparently let the bus driver off on a DWI charge years back.  Veronica discovers a voice mail left by one of the bus crash victims that indicates there was a bomb that went off prior to the crash. Keith discovers a rat taped under one of the bus’s seats. Logan is re-arrested for Felix’s murder after a witness comes forward. Veronica helps proves that the witness has ties to the Neptune crime family, the Fighting Fitzpatricks, whom we’ve never heard about until now. Weevil no longer believes that Logan killed Felix, and the two team up secretly.  Along the way, Veronica discovers that the comatose Meg is very pregnant, then the baby is born and Duncan Kane kidnaps the baby to keep it from Meg’s parents, who were revealed in another episode I failed to mention to be child abusers. Veronica helps Duncan, of course, and then goodbye Teddy Dunn. At some previous point I failed to mention, a dead man named Red Herring (okay, that’s what he was; I forgot his name) washes ashore with “Veronica Mars” written in Sharpie on one palm. He is a former stunt coordinator who worked on at least one Aaron Echoll’s movie. So, Aaron is still a valid suspect in the bus crash. Other suspects are paraded across the screen as well. Famous ballplayer Terrence Cook, Kendall Casablancas (who also has past ties with the Fighting Fitzpatricks), Lucky the janitor, and Woody Goodman, among others I’ve forgotten, of course. But, not the real culprit. I honestly don’t think that he (or she, I could be trying to misdirect you here) was a suspect until the final episode of the season. I also don’t think that the show played strictly fair with the clues. Oh, also Wallace came back and was accused of some hit-and-run in Chicago. And it was one of Weevil’s PCHers who actually killed Felix, and Weevil gets the ultimate revenge (along with Logan). Aaron Echolls is found not guilty in his murder trial and released. At some point Veronica caught chlamydia and is treated for it; it becomes an important clue in the season finale. Our resident computer nerd Mac becomes an item with Beaver Casablancas. Jackie skips out on Wallace, saying that she’s going to Paris. And Veronica serves jury duty, and Kevin Smith and Joss Whedon both make guest appearances as clerks.

I know that last paragraph was a tough block of exposition to get through. That’s how I felt about the branching, meandering, and sometimes converging plot lines this season. Tougher to follow at times than the average soap opera. In fact, until I started to look back over the episodes, I didn’t realize how much really happened during the season. It was a lot, and much of it defied logic and good common sense. At any point during the season, any of the designated suspects could have been the season’s Big Bad, and it seemed to be a coin-toss going into the final episode, which ends with a death by suicide and another tragic explosion, and a minor, ultimately inconsequential, cliffhanger. 

I was, however, entertained throughout the season. I enjoyed the interplay between my favorite characters, even when the storyline itself was disposable. That’s the secret to this show. The mystery itself is secondary to the characters. And I like that.

I’m saddened by the fact that only one more season remains for me to view—and, oh, one crowdfunded movie.

In spite of my gripes, I like this series. Even when I don’t like it.

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