In the eighth and final episode of the fourth season of Veronica Mars, I guess? If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to watch Veronica Mars.
You know, up until that final sequence of events, I was ready to say that this season was pretty much exactly what I wanted. Dark and gritty and immensely funny, with in-depth character studies of people living on the margins, of people in a sea of moral grayness. AND THAT SWEET KEITH-VERONICA BANTER. I did feel like Wallace was severely underused, just like he was in the film, but that’s probably my only major criticism of the season. Otherwise? This truly was an excellent experience, and I was deeply satisfied by the resolution of the bomber plot line.
Until the end.
And it’s real hard for me not to just devote this review to dissecting what feels like the most bizarre misstep in the show’s history. Look, I haven’t liked every writing choice on this show, but I never felt like the various writers didn’t understand the show, or didn’t understand the audience. I mean… the movie? The whole movie felt like a love letter to the fandom! And I also want to make it clear that creators should feel free to make the stories they want to make. They should feel empowered to tell their own stories! I don’t need a show like Veronica Mars to hold my hand or tread lightly. Half the fun of it is seeing just how far they’ll push the darkness and the lightness in each episode.
I say all that because this ending, in every lens I can think to view it through, just does not work.
Before I get to that, I still want to acknowledge what a wonderful thriller “Years, Continents, Bloodshed” is as a whole. So much was set up to get us to this point, and then the dominoes fell, and it was glorious. That whole scene at Big Dick’s home? Terrifying. Weirdly funny. Poetically spot-on. I loved that Alonzo once again toyed with a white person’s perception of him, and he was able to buy time by (badly) attempting to pretend to be Big Dick’s gardener. And I bet Big Dick had a real moment there where he thought, “Shit… is he my gardener? Does he actually work on my azaleas and my hedges?” It’s also poetic because Matty gets to witness someone avenging her father’s death, and she doesn’t have to get her hands dirty in the process. Alonzo and Dodie did it for her. He died afraid and alone, and what more could Matty ask for in any real sense? She knows who the bomber really was, and the court system wouldn’t have ever given her the justice she desired.
From this point, this episode is just one shocking reveal after another, and each one is so damn good in terms of crafting a mystery. A really good whodunnit will have the reader/audience believing new reveals each time, at least in the immediacy of an accusation. I should be able to think, after a suspect arises, “Oh, damn, they do seem like they could have done it!” (Though props to mystery writers who can pull out the non sequitur suspects and still hinge a great story on them. I also like ones where I scratch my head and then all the details settle into place way later.) So, I say this because as soon as the delivery ticket said, “Don,” I felt like everything had fallen into place. Oh, Don was SO horrible, and he knew about the nail shrapnel, and he absolutely would have done a ton of things to humiliate Penn, and IT MADE SO MUCH SENSE. FUCK DON. And I bought it, right until they got to that abandoned power plant, and then—and only then!!!—did I realize that this was too easy.
Looking back on this season… lord, I actually called it as Penn (sort of?) pretty early on, but the part that kept tripping me up was that I couldn’t understand why he’d be willing to harm himself at the Sea Sprite. So, Bravo on there being two bombers, because that made this so much more complex and fun to try to figure out. And once you know the truth about Penn, it’s so easy to see how utterly terrifying he is, especially when view some of his behaviors through the lens of his actions. The Murderhead meetings? Him hiring Keith and Veronica to exonerate him, thinking they’ll buy all the “evidence” he planted? Oh, it’s just SO MUCH, and I really do think it works incredibly well. The big climactic scene where Keith says he’ll try to get Penn to diffuse the bomb, risking his own life in the process? It’s heartbreaking and terrifying and exactly the right emotional moment for the show to hit. It’s the culmination of Keith’s arc this season. He was going to retire anyway, right? So why not go out while trying to save the people of Neptune?
I could even buy much of what happens after this, but only if the ending didn’t happen. The thing is: the marriage is an important part of an emotional subplot for Veronica! She spent this entire season struggling with the notion of marriage as a commitment; she made fun of Logan going to therapy; she was tempted to cheat on Logan with Leo. But in the end, she did not act on her temptations, and she finally came around to appreciating Logan’s genuine statement of love. He wasn’t trying to get the upper hand on her; he truly had changed as a person, and the marriage was Veronica’s acceptance of that.
Logan’s death, which unfolds after Penn has been arrested, makes virtually no sense. How could Penn know that Veronica or Logan would be anywhere near Veronica’s car at that time? From a logistical standpoint, the odds are astronomical, and what was most likely to happen was that Veronica’s car would be destroyed. Boy, you really won there, Penn!
Except from a story perspective, and from a character perspective, and from literally any means of analyzing this, Logan’s death is just flat-out cruel. All of the character growth Veronica goes through in these eight episodes is just gone. Gone! It doesn’t matter anymore! Oh, I think this script wants us to think it does, since she finally goes to see Jane, the therapist Logan used. But no? That’s not how this works? Why the cynicism? Why the grim ending? Was this Veronica Mars saying that growth and happiness is incompatible with the show? Because I’ll be honest: one of the most interesting things about season four was that it showed two adults in love. They had drama and conflict, but it wasn’t the same sort of emotional turmoil that we got in seasons one through three. And if this show was gonna give us Veronica in her 30s, I wanted to see her deal with the sort of shit that those of us in our 30s are dealing with. IT DID! It did it so well!!! And now, all the potential of showing how Veronica would deal with marriage is gone. That shit is fucking interesting!
And that doesn’t even touch how cruel this feels to Logan’s character, who, may I remind y’all, started off this show as basically the biggest psychopath in the cast. (Which is saying a lot, given how many truly awful people there are on Veronica Mars.) Yes, there were some huge jumps in character growth for him, particularly between the end of season three, through the film, and then to this point. But it worked. I was so happy to see it. I was so thrilled that a man who should have been The Worst actively pursue therapy and try actively not to be a toxic individual.
Now it’s all gone. Why? WHY??? Like, I feel like there’s another angle here that fucks me up. Did Rob Thomas feel like Veronica can’t be happy? I don’t get it! It seems so fucked up, but not in that way where the show has traditionally dealt with heavy, dark subjects. This feels like deliberate cruelty, and I can’t imagine there’s a good justification for it.
Hell, maybe I can just develop a big headcanon to deal with this. Because no one actually says Logan is dead in the final ten minutes. They just speak of him as if he’s not around. So maybe he left to go deal with his injuries or something, and then next season—if there is a season 5–it’s about Logan and Veronica reuniting.
Christ, this was a stellar episode, but I don’t think I’ll ever wash out the bad taste that ending gave me.
The video for “Years, Continents, Bloodshed” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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