Ok. Let’s get down to… Pizness. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I’ve fallen under the spell of Stosh Piznarski (Chris Lowell) and I can’t get up! In anticipation of the Veronica Mars movie in theaters, I have completed all three seasons of Rob Thomas’ series this past month. You can find my season one reactions here and my thoughts on season two here.
Based on what I’d heard on the Veronica Mars grapevine, I was bracing myself for an abysmal train-wreck. Fortunately, despite some tone-deaf missteps in its thematic storytelling (I’m looking at you, serial rapist arc), season three was a solidly entertaining and enthralling affair overall. It’s safe to say, that SPOILERS follow.
Let’s start by addressing the giant Echolls in the room. Because everything pop culture these days is Team This versus Team That (sorry, Team Deputy Leo), Veronica Mars fans pledge allegiance to either Team Logan or Team Piz. And what shirt will I be wearing to the Veronica Mars movie? #TeamPiz. I’ll be honest with you, going into the third season, I was expecting Piz to be a gigantic wet blanket of a character. Why else would the fandom so up in arms about him? But no, I quickly fell prey to Piz’s charms. He’s a good guy for sure, but he’s way more than a puppy-dog crush. He’s witty. He’s genuine. He has ambition. He defends what he believes in. He provides the stability that Logan (Jason Dohring) simply cannot. (Between Veronica Mars and Enlisted, I’ve had a great time watching the über-charming Chris Lowell this year. PLEASE WATCH ENLISTED, DAMMIT!)
Logan is passionate as all hell, but his quick temper has caused more damage than good. Over the course of the season, LoVe disintegrated, not just once, but twice. His relationship with Veronica (Kristen Bell) was indeed as epic as he proclaimed it might have been the year prior, but it was unsustainable, unhealthy, and downright exhausting. In the third season, Logan lacked personal vendettas and true adversaries to fuel his fire (well, save Piz, Piz’s ribs, and Piz’s face). While in his relationship with Veronica, he only had his own inner demons to wrestle with. As a result, Logan became more reactionary and subdued, and that robbed him of his dynamic spontaneity. The trust issues that caused the schisms between him and Veronica happened off-screen (Logan’s trip to Mexico with Mercer, Logan sleeping with Madison Sinclair). This telling and not showing, a trait that has plagued the series before, lessened their impact. All told, I felt this wasn’t quite the same snappy Logan Echolls from the first two seasons.
In this third season, the ensemble really worked well together. The dynamics just clicked and it was an absolute joy to watch the core group gel as friends, while the outside world swirled around them. (Score one more point for Piz: Veronica’s friends actually liked him!) While storylines such as the Valentine’s scavenger hunt or Wallace (Percy Daggs III) and the gang hanging out at the beach to test out his airplane may have come off as slight, I thought they highlighted the fun of this group of characters. I enjoyed spending time with them. I enjoyed getting to know more about Mac’s (Tina Majorino) inner life and watching Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen) confront his emotions and show vulnerability in the face of past tragedies. Veronica Mars really knows its history and Cassidy’s death resonated with these two characters well into their freshman year of college. By acknowledging their hang-ups, their respective character arcs for the season felt satisfying.
I liked the structure of the smaller mystery arcs at Hearst College, which allowed for more breathing room towards the end of the season for character development. But as for the mysteries themselves, the results were uneven. The first of the two mini-mysteries, the Hearst College serial rapist, was a less than successful arc. It was an all-too-quick introduction to college life that threw Veronica into the deep end. At Neptune High, she wasn’t at the top of the food chain, but Veronica knew the school’s machinations inside and out. Props to the series for tackling complicated gender issues head-on, but the players involved were painted with such broad strokes that their impact hardly resonated. We were presented with all-too familiar stereotypes of angry, self-righteous feminists and sexist, douchey fraternities, with nothing truly subversive under the surface. Still, the stakes could not become more higher than in “Spit & Eggs,” when Veronica defended herself from the rapist’s attack. The threat of violence never felt more real than it did in that episode.
The mystery of Dean O’Dell’s death fared much better, particularly with Patrick Fabian’s excellent performance of the slick and calculating Professor Landry. His assistant, Tim, proved to be a great foil for Veronica. His character had more social standing than her, yet he possessed less detective acumen. Veronica’s deduction of Dean O’Dell’s killer was a delightfully delicious scene. No physical attacks or need for rescue in this climax, just plain ‘ol deductive reasoning. Brain trumps brawn. The other “case of the weeks” had a decidedly more mature tone (Ugandan child soldiers, abortions, prostitution), but were no less entertaining.
The series finale, “The Bitch is Back,” brings Veronica Mars unexpectedly full-circle to the Kane residence, with larger-than-life paintings of Lilly and Duncan Kane overlooking Veronica’s break-in. For the first time, we really see Veronica’s relationship with her father (Enrico Colantoni) put to the test. Keith makes an immeasurable sacrifice for his daughter and willingly tampers evidence of her jumping the fence. This act could jeopardize him winning the sheriff election. His demonstrated love for his daughter is so strong, but we aren’t privileged to a cathartic emotional release, as we did when Keith rescued Veronica from Aaron Echolls or when the two were reunited after Veronica believed him to be dead in Woody’s plane crash. We’re just left with a knowing conversation over breakfast.
Frustratingly, so much is left up in the air in these final moments. Does Logan win Veronica back? Does Keith win the election? This unsatisfying resolution was, in fact, intentional. Creator Rob Thomas told The New York Times, that this lack of closure was his way of sticking it to the network: “My view was, ‘No, I don’t want to make it easy for you to cancel us.'” I understand now why fans were clamoring for a Veronica Mars revival. There was so much potential left in these characters’ stories and so much unfinished business.
Thank goodness I didn’t have to wait for almost seven long years to revisit the awesome world of Neptune. I just need to get myself to a movie theater stat, #TeamPiz shirt in tow.