With the Veronica Mars movie only a month away, opening in theaters March 15th, I decided to finally take my unopened Veronica Mars DVDs off the shelf and dive right into Neptune High. I immediately became fully immersed in Rob Thomas’ world of high school noir and binge-watched the entire first season within a week. The following are my thoughts on season one. Needless to say: SPOILER ALERT.
Series creator Rob Thomas successfully balanced the tones of high school wisecracks with murder mystery, thanks in large part to Kristen Bell’s magnetic charisma. It goes without saying that Kristen is pitch-perfect as high school sophomore and junior private eye Veronica Mars. She may be small in stature, but Kristen demands attention every time she is onscreen. Her sharp wit and resilient pluck makes it easy for us to root for her. While at times it was easy to forget that the character was just a teenager, Kristen never shied away from playing Veronica’s vulnerabilities. And boy did Veronica go through a lot. Not only was her best friend murdered, she was drugged and raped at a party, her mother abandoned her and her father, and she was socially ostracized at school. And that’s all in the first episode. All of that while keeping up with her homework. You know, typical high-schooler stuff.
Kristen Bell had chemistry with nearly every actor she came across, none more so than with Enrico Colantoli, who played her father, Keith Mars. There was a lived-in ease to this father-daughter duo that harbored many nuanced layers. Veronica worked for her father at his private detective agency and their relationship was at its most interesting when the two were at odds, whether it was Keith trying to protect his daughter from family secrets or the two coming to blows when approaching a case from two different life perspectives. The fierce love between the two characters and the care the show gave their relationship was undeniable. When Keith Mars revealed that he was indeed Veronica’s biological father, I just about lost it. What a tear-jerking moment. No other parental relationship on television holds a candle to Veronica Mars and her father. And who wouldn’t want Keith Mars coming to the rescue when trapped in a refrigerator on fire?
Going into Veronica Mars, I knew that #TeamLogan and LoVe was going to be a thing. I mean, who didn’t? So I spent the entire season anticipating the moment when Veronica and Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) would finally get together. Along the way, I loved watching their characters be drawn into each other ever so slowly, from outright despising each other, to Veronica helping Logan showcase Lilly’s true wild self in her memorial service tribute, to Logan coming to Veronica’s doorstep and asking her to investigate his mother’s presumed suicide. These two sarcastic kids were meant for each other. Even so, when their seismic first kiss happened at the Camelot Motel, I was caught off-guard. I gasped, sat upright, mouth agape. The electric moment was a wholly earned and awesomely organic one, eighteen hours in the making. As for the season cliffhanger, it has to be Logan at Veronica’s doorstep in the middle of the night, right? RIGHT?!
Veronica Mars really captured the fluidity of high school social cliques and just how tenuous relationships can be during those years. Veronica Mars was established as a former elite ’09er, now aspiring to live as middle class. Through this outsider lens, the show was able to explore the many facets of Neptune’s class structures. As a case-of-the-week series, the most intriguing cases were the ones that expanded the world of Neptune and dove into these socioeconomic hierarchies. The show also had an overt interest in the importance of parenting and the lengths parents would go to provide a stable upbringing for their children: from Keith and Veronica’s solid and loving relationship, to the Kanes’ ruthless attempts to protect their son after they believe he’s killed his sister, to Aaron Echolls’ (Harry Hamlin) violent detachment from his wife and children. The often cruel familial cycles fought to be broken in the weekly cases as well.
As for the overarching season mystery of Lilly Kane’s (Amanda Seyfried) murder, I didn’t predict that Aaron Echolls was the killer. While the clues of the identity of Lilly’s murderer were right there in front of me (the fits of uncontrollable rage, the physical violence, the recurring guest star status), darn it, I was fooled. I bought what the show was selling, that Duncan Kane (Teddy Dunn) had accidentally killed his sister in during an epileptic fit of sorts. Red herrings are central to mystery narratives and I fell for this one hook, line, and sinker. Other than the LoVe connection I talked about earlier, there was no other moment this season more shocking to me, than seeing Aaron Echolls’ wild eyes in Veronica’s rearview mirror. It was standard horror fare for sure, but thrilling nonetheless.
Quite possibly my favorite aspect about watching Veronica Mars’ first season, which originally aired during the 2004-05 television season, was the surprising cavalcade of guest stars. Paris Hilton! Melissa Leo! Jessica Chastain! Jonathan Taylor Thomas! Aaron Paul! Adam Scott! Leighton Meester! Max Greenfield! Penny Proud! Going into the second season of Veronica Mars, I’ll be eagerly anticipating more awesome casting coups, more high school noir intrigue, and more all-around badassery from Kristen Bell, Rob Thomas, and company.