In the eleventh episode of the first season of Veronica Mars, Keith pursues a murderer in Neptune that wasn’t caught the first time around, while Veronica does a favor for Mac that ends up throwing her life into chaos. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Veronica Mars.
OH MY GOD, THIS SHOW. There are just so many NOT OKAY things in this episode, y’all. SHALL WE TALK ABOUT THEM. There are three stories at work here: the E-String Strangler, Veronica’s relationship with Leo, and Mac’s struggle with her family life, and all of it is done so, so well. AND SO HEARTBREAKING.
I am not entirely sure that this review needs a trigger warning, but I’d rather be careful so I don’t upset folks. I discuss, at length, issues around adoption and biological parents, and there are passing references to homophobia, drug abuse, and homelessness, too.
Let’s just get this out of the way: IT’S AARON PAUL AND I CAN’T DEAL WITH HIS FACE. Oh my god, it’s like this was a progenitor to Jesse Pinkman. HELP. I just Googled him and he grew up in Idaho. WE WERE IN BOISE AT THE SAME PERIOD OF TIME, OH MY GOD, THIS ISN’T OKAY. Wait, what the fuck? He was in season 9 of The X-Files, which I don’t remember because I’ve only seen that season once.
Anyway, let’s get back on track. (I swear that I am this ridiculous and easily distracted in real life.) This is a stunning look at deception and disappointment, at how Keith overcomes the sheriff department’s expectations of him while Veronica, unfortunately, meets them precisely.
The E-String Strangler plot hangs over everything, which means that Deputy Lamb, clearly the most easily-despised character in the whole show, makes a re-appearance and I just yell a lot at him because I CAN’T STAND HIM. My opinions on Logan are complicated because he’s a complex character. That’s not the case with Deputy Lamb, who should be silenced forever because I HATE HIM. Watching him work with Keith is so frustrating because he is so bad at his job. He’s an arrogant, egotistical sort of cop, one who is consumed with making himself look good instead of doing good work as a cop. He interrupts Keith all the time; he dismisses any concerns or hunches that Keith has; he pursues a confession from Eddie Laroche, despite that it probably won’t be admissible in court. UGH, HE’S JUST INSUFFERABLE EVERY SECOND HE’S ON THE SCREEN.
It’s fascinating, then, to see him contrasted with Leo, who is every bit not like Lamb at all. He’s charming, funny, and he appears to care about what he’s doing. I think it’s a big deal that he chose to listen to Weevil’s rant genuinely! He doesn’t make fun of Weevil or ignore him, and that’s a sign that he’s interested in the community he polices. Initially, though, I thought that Veronica was simply playing off of his attraction to her to get what she wanted. That wasn’t the first time we’d seen that on the show, but this is the first time that she grew to appreciate the company of the man she was trying to trick. And as uncomfortable as it is, I’m glad that the writers hold Veronica responsible for using Leo. Her actions get him suspended for a week from his job, and that’s a big deal. That’s her fault! And he didn’t take advantage of her at all. I didn’t expect it, but I admit that I’m satisfied by the writer’s honesty.
But I wanted to spend the bulk of this review talking about why I responded the way I did to Mac’s storyline. To give a bit of background on how I feel, my twin brother, myself, and our younger half sister all have the same biological mother, but were adopted together by our current mother, though nearly four years apart. I didn’t experience a surprise reveal that I was adopted like Mac does here. No, my mom was respectful and loving enough to tell us very, very early that we were adopted. She had to, though, because there was no other way to explain how different our family looks. My mom is Irish/Welsh, our father was a dark-skinned Japanese/Hawaiian man, my brother and I are mixed Mexican heritage, and our sister is white. It’s not like she could have kept it a secret.
Our biological mother was actually in my life for a year or so after my twin and I were adopted out of foster care, but I don’t remember any of it. Understandably so! And while I always fostered a small amount of curiosity about my biological parents, I never thought of them as my mom and dad. I still don’t, and I never will. The parents who raised me are the ones I love and respect.
It presented a lot of weird things over the years, of course. I suggest you read up on the experience of trans-racial adoptees, as a lot of the literature out there can help explain the very bizarre and challenging role people like me have had to live with. I hold no negative feelings towards the idea that I don’t look like my parents, but I never knew what my birth father looked like, though I’ve been told my brother and I are spitting images of him.
And so, for years, this was always just a distant thing that I’d only think of if it was brought up. My curiosity wasn’t strong enough to inspire me to seek my biological parents out, so you can imagine my surprise when, in early 2009, my biological mother found me on Facebook. YEAH. She also wrote all of her Facebook emails in ALL-CAPS. I AM NOT KIDDING. So clearly, that’s where my ALL-CAPS OBSESSION comes from.
I jest, I jest. It was a jarring thing to go through because suddenly all that curiosity I had congealed into a super intense desire to finally ask a bunch of questions that no one could ever answer. It’s not like my parents were secretive about these people! It’s just that they didn’t have the answers, either.
When I reached out to my twin and my sister, I am not kidding, they both told me the same thing: How about you go meet her and tell us what it’s like? COOL, Y’ALL, LET ME BE THE GUINEA PIG FOR YOU. THAT’S NOT AWKWARD AT ALL.
But truthfully, as much as I poke fun of them for this, I kind of knew I had to be the one to do this. I did it without talking to my mother. I don’t think she would have felt betrayed or anything, but I didn’t want to hurt her regardless. My brother and sister were much, much closer to my mom than I was, so this test run made sense from my perspective.
So I agreed to meet her, and I hopped on a Metro Rapid bus to head to Santa Monica. Her sister had helped organize the entire thing, and that aunt was someone I hadn’t talked to in ages, either. I found out that due to issues surrounding her mental health and past problems with addiction, she was homeless and had been for years. Yet she rented a cheap room in a motel on Ocean Ave in Santa Monica to meet me, so I spent the hour-long bus ride in a ball of nervous energy. I don’t know, you hear a lot of stories from other adoptees that meeting their biological parents answers a lot of questions and, most importantly, closes a lot of doors that had been open for years. If you’ve read my work over the past few years, you know that I have severe issues with closure, given that so many of my less-than-wonderful experiences revolve around a lack of resolution. Plenty of people have gotten away with the things they’ve done to me; people have disappeared from my life without an explanation; and so much of who I am is an unanswered question. And at that time, I’m sitting on that bus, terrified and anxious about what’s about to happen. Am I finally going to learn who my biological father is? Were the rumors true that I had other half-siblings out there that I had never met? Was I finally going to learn the details of my birth and how my twin and I ended up in foster care?
It was a ten-minute walk from the last stop of the Metro bus to the hotel. The Bay Lodge Hotel. I remember it. It was a dumpy place, with green trimmings that were peeling from years of lack of paint, and when I walked past the lobby, the manager poked his head out and told me that I better not be an undercover cop, which struck me as strange because have you seen me? I could be undercover maybe once before I’d be recognizable to everyone.
She was on the ground floor near the back, and the door was open. In the frame stood a tall white man, who was shirtless. He was swilling beer from a half empty Miller Lite, and as I approached, he told me that I better walk away because he had no business with me.
He stepped aside when a set of hands appeared on his shoulders, and there she stood. I remember my heart dropping almost instantly, not out of shock or surprise or relief. No, I was instantly disappointed. I looked nothing like this woman. She looked like any other stranger I might pass on the street. She was short, her hair was brown, her skin was a light olive in tone, and there wasn’t a feature on her face that looked like mine. (She did have the same nose and facial structure as my sister, though.)
I don’t know why I expected to look like her, but it was readily apparent that I’d projected all of these images and expectations and hopes on to someone I’d never met, and it wasn’t fair. But that didn’t do much to quell the rising sadness and panic I felt as she hugged me, told me that she was glad her son came back to her, and she started talking about things I didn’t remember, memories I didn’t have, and she was so glad her son was here and she can’t wait catch up and live her life with me in it.
Her boyfriend (the shirtless guy from before) stood in the doorway the entire time, staring at us, not saying anything, and it left me feeling trapped. As my biological mother kept talking, I found that I couldn’t pay attention. It was distracting to hear her keep calling me “son” and “my son” and it wasn’t long before I realized that there was something very wrong about the way she spoke about me. All these memories and moments from my life as a toddler she was bringing up… she spoke of them as if they had happened yesterday.
I changed the subject a lot. I tried to tell her about what I was up to, but she found a way to bring things back to my brief time in Los Angeles, or when I was in Boise. I asked about my father. She told me his name (which I honestly can’t even recall anymore) and said he was off in Mexico somewhere, probably having children again. I remember trying to press her on the subject, but she’d wave a hand and start telling me about her sister and how they used to play games with us, how they were a huge part of my life, and did I remember them at all?
I got a glimpse of another life that day, a life I could have lived with a woman who was a stranger to me. That’s what I took away from my meeting with her. She would always be a stranger to me. I left that motel room incredibly disappointed, feeling like I’d been given even more questions than answers. My biological mother was so damaged from years of drug abuse and homelessness and any number of horrible things that happened to her, and she didn’t bring up a single one of those years. No, it was like I’d been taken away from her and then for 24 straight years, so didn’t remember a thing. She picked up from the day I left, and I couldn’t deal with that. I wasn’t prepared to deal with it. And it made me think about all the awful things that had happened to me as well. The alcoholism, the abuse, the homophobic parents, the severe identity issues I had as an adopted child, being homeless twice at that point in my life, and I was terrified that it had all been some sort of absurd genetic destiny, that because my biological mom had gone through many of the same things, I was certain to go through them, too.
I never contacted her again, despite that my aunt who had arranged the meeting insisted that I do so, that she deserved to be in my life, and that I was obligated to do so. I stopped talking to my aunt, too, who couldn’t accept that I didn’t want this person in my life. My mom that I’d been raised by was my mother, and I unequivocally accepted it and cherished it after that day. I have had plenty of problems with my mom over the years, sure, but I left that hotel room thankful that I had her. I know that I’ll never, ever get closure on my origins. I won’t know where I came from aside from a few names and haphazard stories and tales that always seem to contradict each other, even when I try to remember them myself. To this day, I can’t seem to remember what my biological father’s name is, despite that I’m the only person who heard it in-person. I can’t remember a lot of things about that meeting in the hotel, despite that I normally have a great memory about these sort of things.
I had a bizarre moment this past August while I was in London for LeakyCon. I remember it was in the midst of my busiest day at the convention, but my boyfriend and I stole away to an upstairs cafe around the corner from the con’s hotel to grab lunch. The place had wi-fi, so I used it to catch up on iMessages and emails and Twitter, but it was all sidetracked when I checked Facebook to find an email from my aunt. My biological mother had died in the tub the night before. And I felt nothing. Not sadness, not grief, nothing at all. It kind of scared me because I’m normally an emotional sort of person. Puppies make me cry, y’all. (Which is why you should all understand my love for the Kristen Bell sloth meltdown.) And I was in a foreign country, and this whole possible chapter in my life had just closed, and that was it. I’d never, ever get to talk to this person again, I could never get any answers, and my curiosity died with her. I couldn’t feel anything but this weird sense of… I don’t know. I guess it’s closure in a way, which is a weird word to use because that’s precisely what I didn’t get. But I think her death allowed me to accept that I didn’t need to know anything about my father or where I came from. I had this whole beautiful life ahead of me. I was in fucking London across from my boyfriend, who I loved more than anyone I’d ever had in my life, and my life was just so full of possibility. So I finished my meal, and we went back to the convention, and the day passed without much thought on my end about what had just happened.
This all does have a point besides just providing me an opportunity to tell a story to you. I imagine that it must be a little uncomfortable to read some of that because… well, it’s hard for me to think about sometimes. It’s not easy dealing with disappointment, to read a story that doesn’t have a happy ending, and yet, I felt courageous enough to share this with you because of how the writers treated Mac in this episode. While this is clearly not the same issue, I think that the respect that they show for the complicated nature of Mac’s dilemma is empowering. These issues of identity and origin are not simple things to deal with. It’s not like Mac can just go live with her biological parents and that would solve everything. No, her own parents are good people. They care about her deeply! And just because she’s so different from them doesn’t mean they don’t deserve her love, either.
There is absolutely no closure for Mac at the end of “Silence of the Lamb.” There’s no easy answer for her. And I can relate to a life without answers. I can also relate to the glimpse of hope that Mac gives us at the end of all of this. She turns back to her family, and there’s no anger or ire in her face or in the way she speaks. No, there’s a life for her with her current family that’s hers, and I think she can accept that for what it is. I think that I’ve done the same myself, and that’s the sort of hope I cling to.
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