This entire article is about season four of Veronica Mars on Hulu. So if you haven’t watched that or finished it yet, there will be spoilers ahead.
So unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are aware that a new season of Veronica Mars recently dropped on Hulu. For those who aren’t up to speed on the history, the show premiered in 2004 when our favorite P.I. was just a mini little high school student. The show was canceled after 3 seasons and believed to be dead. Until nearly ten years later, a Kickstarter campaign launched history for being a crowdfunded film because dude, the Marshmallows (fans of the show) are hard core. That movie was a love letter to the fans without a doubt. Everyone came back. Veronica punched Madison. We even all liked Dick. Well, kinda.
Fast forward a few more years and Hulu picks up another season of the show for revival. Hallelujah! Our girl is back! Woo hoo!
But is she really back? I am gonna have to go with no on this one. She really wasn’t. This season was just not the Veronica Mars that we all know and love. I had originally called this lazy writing. They were all over the map. An author I follow said it felt like the writer’s room just had bullet points about Veronica and wrote based on those rather than actually knowing her. That’s a good way to put it. I really felt like it was lazy, poor writing. But after reading many, many interviews and articles with Rob Thomas, I’ve realized this is what he meant to do. So it’s not just lazy writing. It’s lack of foresight and imagination. And some lazy writing thrown in. I’m allowed to say that. I write for television and film for a living.
My first big issue was the violence. Well, actually, no. My first big complaint was the theme song. They ruined the song. First off right out of the gate I admit I was unhappy. Even during my daughter’s two week Veronica binge watch, we never fast forwarded past the theme song and everyone in the room (in the house really) sang along whenever they heard it. Why would you strip it so far back you take all the fun out? Oh wait – that’s pretty much what they did to the show too, so I guess that works.
Okay, so let’s get to the rest of it. This Veronica was meant to be all grown up and doing all sorts of adulting things. So the level of gore and violence must go up???? I mean she did see her dead friend’s body when she was 15. But the audience only caught glimpses. We never actually watched all the kids on the bus die a brutal gory death either. And we didn’t see a lot of dramatic gore and horror in the movie either. She was grown up in that one too, wasn’t she? So why this choice now? It makes little sense to me. There’s an assumption that the fanbase has matured to a point to want to see all the violence and gore. Ummmm, not so much. I am far from a teenager. I watched the show as an adult. I was good with things right where they were on that level. I’m seeing a lot of fan reaction being the same so I think that the creative team missed the mark on this one. Sometimes folks, we all need to hold on to a little of the innocence. The world is an ugly enough place. Veronica had just the right amount of realism but it also let us escape into the soap for a while. This season lost all of that.
And how about that stunning lack of close friendships? The Veronica we knew in high school and college was a hardcore introvert who eschewed all the high school-y things that others liked. She was a loner more often than she was the center of attention. BUT she had a very deeply connected group of friends in her inner circle. The kind of friends that inspired intense loyalty that outlasted drama and crisis. She kept those friends close and leaned on them often. Anyone out there remember pizza nights at home with Wallace? This new Veronica was little more than an angry, bitter, lonely woman who managed to push away and alienate everyone around her. She was annoyed at the mere idea of visiting Wallace. She treated Weevil like dirt. There were no close friends and they made sure to highlight this. Veronica is on her own. So the fans lost that fabulous interplay between Veronica and her peeps. Along with it, they also lost the fun and snark of Veronica being vulnerable with the people she cared about it. Some of the heart and light went out of the show with that decision.
And that big twisty ugly nasty twist at the end? You know the one. It’s in all the entertainment headlines. Let’s talk about Logan.
First off, I’ll confess that Logan’s death didn’t bother me nearly as much as the way they did it. I can totally understand not wanting to prop a character up against another character for the future. That makes it tough for either character to be really fulfilled in story. I also understand the belief that happily ever after gets kinda boring. You need conflict for story. That’s just how it goes.
Logan’s death was nothing more than emotional manipulation of the audience at that point. And it was also a HUGE plot hole for me. So you arrest a serial bomber who was just in Veronica’s car and her car doesn’t get searched? The backpack doesn’t become evidence in the investigation? You don’t canvas the entire area for more bombs? Have a bomb squad roll through and clear it? And even if someone overlooked the car, wouldn’t P.I. Mars (one or either of them?) see the backpack in the back of the car? Yes, it was on the floor. Yes it was dark colored. But it’s also not a big car. Someone couldn’t see that BEFORE the bomb blows up? Even super Naval intelligence officer Logan doesn’t mention the backpack in the back of the car? I feel like that was really just lame oversight. (Hence my earlier reference to lazy writing.) It wasn’t clever. It wasn’t essential to any plot points. It was kinda sorta just slapped in there.
I’m also annoyed that they faded to black and then threw up that one year later title card.
This left no chance for the fans to go through their own forms of grief with a funeral or memorial. It could have been the golden opportunity to let everyone in the cast come back and snark about him one last time. We coud have even gotten insight into things he’s done for the Navy. Recognize the hero. Show how very much the troubled young man grew into an incredible human being. And give us that chance to see the heart, love, friendships that really were at the center of Veronica’s life.
Now I will say that I loved Logan’s voicemail message. That was nice and I am really glad they did it. But it also felt like we went into a store to pick up a dark, soapy graphic novel and they handed us a copy of Playboy and told us we would love it. The voicemail message from Logan at the ending was a heart eyed emoji sticker slapped on at the end of a big old mess of a season. It felt like they were trying to convince the fans that they got what they wanted by throwing that nugget in there. Hint: They didn’t.
The entirety of Season Four felt like the antithesis of the movie and Thomas openly admits that he meant it that way. He has stated in interviews that he thought the movie might be the last we see of Veronica, so he wanted it to all be nostalgia for the fans who funded the movie. His intent with this season is that he wanted to make more Veronica Mars and he didn’t feel he could do that with her being happy. Or married. But he’s also recognizing (perhaps a bit too late) that taking everything we loved about the show and destroying it may not have been the best way to get the fans clamoring for more.
From a writer’s perspective, I find his approach extremely short sighted. This article in particular is one that just set me off.
In it, Thomas states:
It felt to me like Veronica and Logan being happily ever after is the end of the series. I don’t know how I could’ve kept writing him into Veronica Mars as the husband or as the boyfriend.
Even in this iteration, I feel like trying to work him into the periphery of the case felt strained. Imagining a world where he’s not involved in the Veronica Mars mystery cases, and just served as the happy husband or happy boyfriend wasn’t appealing to me.
Now he’s the creator of the program and yes, he gets to pick and choose the direction. However, as a writer, I find myself being stretched all the time. I get notes that are outside what I’d pictured and sometimes, it’s really hard to stretch it and make it different. But I have clients and shows and producers that have expectations and I work hard to meet those. It changes me as a writer. It makes me better when I rise to the challenge. I grow. And when I have killed off characters, it’s been to advance the story. Not because I couldn’t figure out how to write it.
I really felt like he was lacking in imagination. Logan and Veronica have never been happily ever after with ease. Their relationship has always been fire and ice. Totally tumultuous. You think cause they are married that would be different? Suddenly getting married makes you a fairytale and happily ever after? Newsflash: It doesn’t. Marriage is hard. Really hard. And a military marriage at that? Imagine the tug and pull of Veronica being on her own all the time and then feeling like her wings are clipped when Logan comes back. There are a LOT of things that he could have done to keep them fresh.
And he also could have chosen to kill Logan in another way as well. Easy when the guy is going to Mogadishu. Make him the big damned hero and lay down his life for a brother over there. Let Veronica grow through that cause she’s always been attracted to the bad boy. How’s it feel to have the hero go that way? Yeah, it’s cliche but it’s also real life. I was a military spouse for 20+ years. It resonates because it’s real.
Rob Thomas had a different direction for the show. He has stated clearly that he didn’t want nostalgia to run Veronica. I get that. I totally do. But then…don’t make more Veronica. Give the fans what they wanted. Leave them with their nostalgia and their sharp, witty, female lead. Don’t burn it all to the ground and then try to create something completely new from the ashes. That’s shortsighted. The fans would have followed Thomas to a new show about a female investigator without a doubt. Do something new.
Now they’re just a bunch of really angry burnt Marshmallows that don’t have an interest in following you anywhere.