I’m going to try something new here, and discuss each episode of Veronica Mars as I plow through the series. I can’t promise these pseudo-recaps will be full of blinding insights, or spectacular wit, but I can assure you that I’ll have something, however meager, to say about each episode. And I promise no spoilers before a jump.
- I’m floored by how well the comedy and plot are balanced. In “Pilot,” we learn that Veronica Mars’ life has been awful in the past year: Her boyfriend leaves her; her best friend dies; she and her family are ostracized from their community; her dad loses his job, her mom leaves, and the family moves to an extended-stay motel; she gets raped and realizes she has no knowledge of it or immediate path to justice; she has to help her private eye dad to help make ends meet, and deal with all the unsavory stuff that brings with it. That’s a recipe for one massively screwed up adolescence, and seems almost like soap opera. But Veronica handles it with a cute short haircut and acerbic wit. She’s Nancy Drew crossed with Nancy Botwin, and though Veronica Mars shares a fair bit of DNA with Weeds, I already trust the creators and the magnetic Kristen Bell to not let the scales tip too far towards the farce that Weeds has become.
- The music choice in the first episode is incredible. Going from “Weak Become Heroes” to “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” to “Pata Pata” in a span of no more than ten minutes is really ambitious, but by matching each song to a tonally similar moment in the show without compromising the plot, it didn’t seem like any of the songs were shoehorned in. I’m pleasantly stunned by both the producers’ musical knowledge and their judiciousness.
- There’s a way to deal with issues of class and race, as VM will obviously try to do, in broader strokes, and that would require more obvious and lazier characterization. Wallace could be the typical black kid at a upper-class, majority-white school, angry and slangy and tough; instead, he’s a fun, gently nerdy guy who is comfortable with flying a model plane on the beach and hanging out with a white girl who provides the toughness in their relationship. Likewise, the bike gang could be a monolithic Latino menace; it’s not, and despite one of the riders tossing a “Negro” out to describe Wallace, it’s clear their relationships with Veronica and the rest of Neptune will be more nuanced than purely racial. Veronica calls one of them “vato” with a mix of sarcasm and affection, and it’s not forced. It’s just how Neptune is.
I’m going to try hard not to force any of my observations, either, unless it’s something minuscule that I think needs a bigger pull-out, so don’t expect these to be exhaustive reviews. Maybe I’ll pull together bigger pieces for each season?
With every episode, I’ll try to link to resources that might help people who want more, and I’ll be in the comments if you want to chat.