Veronica Mars, Season Three: a review

I’m not sure that I’m a ‘Marshmallow’ any more than I am a ‘Trekkie’ (or ‘Trekker,’ I can’t really keep up with the socially acceptable labels).

I am a fan of the television show Veronica Mars. Let’s establish that at the start, OK?

This was a great show that I never watched while it was on the air. I just finished watching episode 3.20 “The Bitch is Back” a few minutes ago, the last episode of season three, which makes it the last episode of the televised series. I am in the year 2017 as I type this, and the series ended in May 2007, almost exactly a decade ago, lacking about a week, to be exact. I never saw an episode until I began watching it only months ago. This has been my modus operandi over the years. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Smallville. Seinfeld. And, now, Veronica Mars. All shows that I’ve watched every episode of only after they have been off the air for a while. A long while, in some cases.

I promise you that there are shows currently on the air that I’ve been watching. But, for a long period in my life, I watched very little television. I’ve written about this before and am not going to rehash it here. Let’s just say that I’ve attempted to fill in a few things I’ve missed through the years.

Now, I’m going to write a review of a series that was canceled a decade ago.

Season three of Veronica Mars was a mixed bag of wonders. It didn’t have a season-long mystery arc like the first two seasons. Since the second season seemed to strain a groin muscle trying to keep the bus crash story alive until the end of the season, this was, in many ways, preferable. The Lilly Kane mystery in season one worked very well, however. Something more akin to that in this season would have been good. Would have been better than what we got, in fact. This season became more of an episodic drama with some serialized elements, and a bunch of mini-mysteries throughout. I liked it well enough—better than season two, not as much as season one—but it doesn’t feel like a unified whole to me.

As Veronica, Wallace, Mac, and Logan—and, in effect, Weevil—move to Hearst College, we are also introduced to an all-new cast of characters. There’s Wallace’s roommate Piz, a Rob Lowe look-sorta-alike, who is another working class character for Veronica to interact with. He later becomes Veronica’s vanilla white-bread romantic interest after she, predictably, breaks up with Logan Echolls. Again. Unfortunately, although Piz seems like a good guy, he has about 2% of Logan’s charisma. Then there’s Parker, who is Mac’s roommate, which reminds me to ask the question again why friends don’t become roommates when they enroll in college. This happened to Buffy and Willow too. Remember that? You can argue that Veronica doesn’t live on campus, I guess. But, since Hearst is in Neptune, there was really no reason for Mac to be there either, was there? Except to introduce Parker, who first presents herself as the anti-Mac, a free-spirited, rather round-heeled young lady. I’m feminist enough to announce to the world that I don’t think that this is necessarily a bad thing, unless you get roofied and raped while your acquaintances believe it’s just another casual tryst for you, which is what happens to Parker. I remember the actress Julie Gonzalo from the short-lived Dallas reboot, and I like this actress. She later becomes Logan’s temporary (until the last episode) romantic interest, but this is after she revives the rape story from season two and gets her head shaved. Even Mac ends up with a couple of romantic partners during the season, following her traumatic experience with Cassidy “Beaver” Casablancas in the second season. Ultimately, neither of these relationships go anywhere. Wallace seems to be sidelined most of the season, which I think is a mistake. Surprisingly, Dick Casablancas becomes a major player during this final season. He’s still just another surfer-dude douchebag, but remains somehow lovable in spite of this, and he gains a little more depth during the last three shows of the series, especially after his father returns to face the music.

There are also the usual suspects throughout the season.  A randy professor having an affair with the dean’s wife. Sheriff Lamb, who [SPOILER] is killed off just to let Keith Mars return as sheriff for a few episodes. Vinnie Van Lowe, played by my favorite utility actor, Ken Marino, one of the most likeable unlikeable people to show up in the series. The oily lawyer, Cliff McCormick. Deputy Sacks, with his pornstache. Ultimately, returning quasi-villains Jake Kane and Clarence Wiedman.

There are several mini-mysteries in this season. The rape story. Solved. The murder of the dean. Solved. The murder of the coach. Solved. Don Lamb’s murder wasn’t really a mystery. He was just killed with a baseball bat by Richard Grieko. I hate it when that happens.

There were other mysteries-of-the-week as well. Too numerous to mention probably.

Keith has a temporary love interest in his former Just Shoot Me co-star, Laura San Giacomo. Wallace’s mom Alicia has disappeared from Neptune, and no one seems to miss her deceitful ass, including Wallace. It doesn’t ultimately work out with San Giacomo, either.

Patty Hearst guest-stars in a piece of stunt casting in one episode. She occupies space and recites her lines, ultimately only proving that she can’t act her way out of a paper bag.

The actor who played Lucky the janitor last season returns with a bad wig as a new character, fooling no one. It’s no surprise when he’s revealed, Scooby Doo style, as a villain again. I mean, were there no other actors to cast in L.A.? Really?

Weevil shows up only for convenient plot points this season. In the penultimate episode of the series, he’s accused of selling fake college I.D./debit cards. Of course, he’s innocent, at least until the end of the episode, in typical Eli  “Weevil” Navarro fashion.

In the last episode, “The Bitch is Back,” Jake Kane and Clarence Wiedman return while Veronica is trying to expose the Castle, Hearst College’s version of Yale’s Skull and Bones secret society. My mind was blown when Veronica broke into the mansion where the society was gathering, only to see a large oil painting of Lilly Kane on the wall. This was brought full circle when Jake Kane showed up. In convoluted noir fashion, Veronica was trying to expose the Castle because one of its members secretly videoed Veronica and Piz making out, then sent the video as an email attachment to, well, everyone it seems. This leads to Logan beating up Piz, because he thinks he’s responsible, then Logan and Parker breaking up, because Parker sees this as a tacit admission of Logan’s enduring love for Veronica, and then leads to Keith Mars destroying evidence to keep Veronica from being prosecuted, which may end with Mars losing the sheriff election to Vinnie Van Lowe. Of course, this is where the series ended, so we’re left hanging.

I don’t know if any of these dangling questions are answered in the Veronica Mars movie. I will eventually see.

I did enjoy this season, mostly because I liked spending time with Veronica and Keith, and many of the other characters. I liked it more than season two, as I wrote before. It hurts me to say this, but I feel like the series was running out of steam, and maybe it was a good thing that it ended. That would disqualify me as a Marshmallow, I suspect.

If the show had been allowed a fourth season, I think a return to a season-long story arc would have been preferable. But, it would have had to be something big and complicated, and something that would have ensured Veronica’s involvement and passion. The death of Keith or Logan, perhaps. Alas, that never was allowed to happen.

But, there is more story out there, as I am aware. The movie, of course, and some novels co-written by Rob Thomas.

I’ll watch the movie. I’m still undecided about the novels.

For what it’s worth, I still recommend Veronica Mars to those of you who’ve never watched it. It’s not a waste of time..

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