In the first episode of the first season of Veronica Mars, Veronica struggles with developments that have brought up painful elements of her and her fatherâ€™s past in the town of Neptune, California. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to start Veronica Mars.
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Trigger Warning: I have to discuss rape as part of the plot and in a personal sense, so please take care when reading this review, as itâ€™s impossible to address â€œPilotâ€ without talking about it.
So, as is tradition around here, I will confess to what I know going into Veronica Mars so that you can see just how unprepared I am. In particular, this show is going to be a doozy for me because I know the following:
- Kristin Bell is Veronica Mars.
- Rob Thomas is the creator/showrunner, and heâ€™s not the dude from Matchbox 20, which I have also discovered due to Twitter is about the oldest joke in the history of the universe. GOSH, Iâ€™M NEW, I HAD NO IDEA. GOSH.
- Mysteries??? Itâ€™s mysterious?
- I LITERALLY KNOW NOTHING ELSE. No character names, no cast members, no themes, not one single plot of the show, nothing at all. Itâ€™s precisely what I love doing, yâ€™all, and itâ€™s about to happen, because I AM IGNORANT OF ALL THAT IS VERONICA MARS.
And Iâ€™m so thankful for that, because this pilot is FUCKING FANTASTIC. Pilots are rarely just meh. Theyâ€™re either hit or miss for me. Iâ€™m either 100% interested from the get-go, or Iâ€™m bored and disinterested until something better comes along. But I always approach new shows on Mark Watches far differently than new books for Mark Reads. Pilots are a strange thing because so many people expect things to be instantly gratifying, whereas with a book, most folks are willing to be patient with the narrative. Despite that theyâ€™re different storytelling mediums, I tend to like treating a season of a television show like a novel, and so the pilot is just the first chapter. Who reads just one chapter and decides that the rest of the book is crap? (Actually, thatâ€™s happened to me before, but thatâ€™s a different story.) So, I come to new television shows with patience. Iâ€™m willing to give them time.
Except then Veronica Mars gives me a compelling introduction to this universe, and I donâ€™t need half a season because HOLY FUCKING SHIT, THIS IS SO FANTASTIC. I absolutely love the noir tone to this show, which takes place in a fictional California town that feels freakishly familiar. It reminded me of Malibu, California, or perhaps somewhere in the South Bay, places where there isnâ€™t really a middle class. Itâ€™s just the rich mingling with the poor, which is shockingly the case in a lot of California cities. This dynamic, which the show captures surprisingly well, is represented throughout the characters. Veronica Mars is about a family who fell from their social graces because of a murder, and itâ€™s as much a noir as it is a biting commentary on class. Itâ€™s fascinating to me how much of this informs the characterization of these people, too. Veronicaâ€™s jaded attitude is not just there for the sake of it; she saw her best friendâ€™s dead body. Her father was voted out of his job after accusing the head of the Kane family of murder, and her mother left her behind after the stress of losing their social standing became too much; and then, in a desperate attempt to show her peers that she was not fazed by what had happened to her, Veronica attends a huge party, only to be drugged and raped and then immediately disbelieved by the first cop she talks to. Fuck Don Lamb, for the record, and Iâ€™m fairly certain that thereâ€™s not much of anything that can redeem his character for me after that scene. What a gross, disgusting human who â€“
Well, Iâ€™m jumping ahead of myself. Iâ€™ll talk more about that in a bit. The city of Neptune isnâ€™t just full of the rich and the poor. Itâ€™s also actually racially diverse like California is. One of my main gripes about Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the fact that for a show set in a Southern California high school, there were almost no regular characters of color. Here, two of the main characters are Latino and Black, most of the background cast is diverse, and it looks like where I spent most of my life growing up. Itâ€™s believable! That doesnâ€™t mean itâ€™s perfect. I think I like Weevil, but as it stands, his whole womanizing gangster thing feels a bit too much like a stereotype. EXCEPT THEREâ€™S A BIT AT THE END WHERE I FEEL LIKE WEEVIL GIVES A HINT OF SOMETHING MORE. Weâ€™ll see. Weâ€™ll see.
But Wallace, yâ€™all. Wallace. God, what a fantastic character. Well, Veronica and Keith count, too, and itâ€™s so rad to go into this pilot without knowing anything and be able to come away with such distinct feelings about these three characters. Theyâ€™re well-defined without being caricatures, and thereâ€™s just so much potential. Wallace is a geeky black kid who is eager to be adventurous when the time calls for it, and heâ€™s also fiercely loyal, as demonstrated by his rapid attachment to Veronica. Who he hangs out with extensively despite all the horrible things he hears about her! He doesnâ€™t care about the rumors because she helped him. A FEELING. I ALREADY DEVELOPED A FEELING FOR THIS GODDAMN SHOW. Itâ€™s over, yâ€™all. ITâ€™S OVER.
But thereâ€™s just nothing in this pilot quite like the amazing dynamic between Keith Mars and Veronica Mars. It is a thing of beauty. Here are a daughter and father who clearly adore the hell out of one another, who want the best for their loved one, and who are entirely obsessed with being private investigators. I got a sense that Veronica really only started doing detective work once her mother was out of the picture, and itâ€™s almost like she had to pick up the slack when her father was desperate to make enough money to support the family. Oh god, that dance he does when he comes back from his job. No, I am not going to be able to handle this family at all. YOU ALL DID THIS TO ME.
Even the rest of the characters are easy to distinguish. Weâ€™ve got Duncan Kane, Veronicaâ€™s ex who turned against her after Keith went after his father for Lilly Kaneâ€™s murder. Then thereâ€™s Logan, who was Lillyâ€™s boyfriend, and is now also firmly against the general idea of Veronicaâ€™s existence, so he bullies her. A lot. I donâ€™t like Logan, either. A lot. And I donâ€™t think this is a simple case of just giving Veronica some antagonists to mess up her day. No, this is all about building an atmosphere to explain why Veronica is the way she is. As I mentioned before, her bitterness is based in having her life essentially taken from her. It explains why sheâ€™s so close to her father, and then informs why sheâ€™s so friendly with Wallace. She doesnâ€™t have much of anything aside from Mars Investigations anymore. Her mom is gone, the city she lives in is full of people who hate her and her father on principle, and she now lives firmly in the lower class. OH BOY, CAN I RELATE TO THAT LAST ONE. I mean, I started out generally poor, then got SUPER POOR, then moved to Oakland and entertained 18 months as a middle class tech worker, then got laid off and have been living firmly in the lower class since the beginning of 2012. I mean, I know how to live on very little means, so itâ€™s strangely familiar, but I know how jarring and upsetting it is to suddenly lose that kind of class status.
And amidst all of this, there are so many fantastic stories. The murder of Lilly Kane obviously hangs over everything, especially since itâ€™s had such a catastrophic affect on the Mars family. The reveal at the end of â€œPilotâ€ that Keith hasnâ€™t let go of the case, despite that someone has already confessed to the murder, signals that thereâ€™s much more to this. Weâ€™ve got the mystery of who Jake Kane is meeting with (LIANNE MARS, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?!?!?!), along with the fact that Veronicaâ€™s rapist is still on the loose.
About that. Yeah, so, obviously, given my very personal and traumatic experience with rape, that came out of nowhere. Strangely, it didnâ€™t trigger me, which I sat there anticipating because one of the times I was raped involved someone drugging me. For the most part, I think that the episode handled this well, showing us how absolutely disorienting it is to wake up as Veronica did, and then portraying Don Lamb as an antagonist for his behavior. That made me feel a lot better about this because the writers arenâ€™t trying to ignore how traumatizing it is to be raped and how horrifying it is to be dismissed as Veronica was here. Again, I hate Officer Lamb with the passion of a billion raging suns, and Iâ€™m going to stay hating him until otherwise stated.
Itâ€™s interesting to think about how this episode is organized, because it introduces a ton of stories, and all but one of them is left unresolved. The only closure we get is on Wallaceâ€™s story. Through a complicated plan of double-crosses and favors that Veronica calls in, sheâ€™s able to piss of Logan (GOOD) and Don Lamb (EVEN BETTER) and get Weevilâ€™s motorcycle gang off of Wallaceâ€™s back, since itâ€™s not like Wallace actually did anything wrong here. And so thereâ€™s the foundation of a friendship here between Wallace and Veronica, and then weâ€™ve got a hint of a possible ally in Weevil, who must be feeling some gratitude towards Veronica for what she did for his CLEARLY GUILTY friends. I do like the idea that this whole show explores the grey areas of morality, especially since itâ€™s not like Weevilâ€™s friends deserved the help they got. But Veronica did what she had to do to help Wallace, and I admire her for that. It seems Keith is following the same logic, since he openly lies to his daughter out of some desire to help her, too. I got the sense that he never really lies to Veronica, but weâ€™ll have to see. In the end, weâ€™re left craving more on purpose. Itâ€™s a brilliant way to close out a pilot because it accomplishes so many things that take other shows a lot longer to pull off. I can identify the characters and identify with them; I get a sense for the tone and style of the show; I am left wondering how certain stories will end; and I care what happens to some of these people. This is one of the strongest pilots Iâ€™ve ever seen, and by gods, Iâ€™m excited to see more of this. I know that I havenâ€™t addressed every single detail, but Iâ€™m hoping my video commission covers some of the gaps. You can download thatÂ right here for just $0.99.
ONWARDS TO MORE VERONICA MARS.
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