Veronica Mars (Season Three)


Rating 4½

Created by Rob Thomas

Written by Rob Thomas (three episodes), Diane Ruggiero (five episodes), Phil Klemmer (five episodes), John Enbom (seven episodes), Jason Elen (one episode), Jonathan Moskin (two episodes), David Mulei (two episodes), Robert Hull (two episodes) and Joe Voci (two episodes)

Directed by John Kretchmer (five episodes), Harry Winer (three episodes), Jason Bloom (two episodes), Nick Marck (three episodes), Michael Fields (three episodes), Steve Gomer (one episodes), Rob Thomas (one episode), Tricia Brock (one episode) and Dan Etheridge (one episode)

Starring Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni, Percy Daggs III, Francis Capra, Michael Muhney, Ryan Hansen, Tina Majorino, Chris Lowell, Julie Gonzalo, Ed Begley Jr, Patrick Fabian and James Jordan

Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) has now graduated from Neptune High and enrolled at the local Hearst College, as have various other graduating students from the high school, including Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) and Wallace Fennel (Percy Daggs III). Veronica continues to live at home with her father, Keith (Enrico Colantoni), the former sheriff, who now works as a private investigator. Wallace moves into a dorm room on campus, as does another friend of Veronica’s from high school, Cindy ‘Mac’ Mackenzie (Tina Majorino). Logan is living in a suite at the Neptune Grand, a luxury hotel, where he is later joined by his friend Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen). Veronica soon finds herself investigating a series of rapes on the college campus and gets embroiled in campus politics, falling foul of the Dean, Cyrus O’Dell (Ed Begley Jr).


The third and final season of ‘Veronica Mars’ marked several changes. The main characters had now graduated from Neptune High and, mostly, enrolled at Hearst College, requiring a new setting. There was also a change of network, following the merger of UPN and WB to create the CW Television Network.

The show had initially been commissioned by UPN to fill the gap left when ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ came to an end. It was heavily promoted as the “New Buffy”, which it clearly wasn’t, but once again it is impossible not to compare the change brought about at the beginning of this third season with that in season four of ‘Buffy’, when that show made the change from its original high school setting to a university campus. ‘Buffy’ made the transition successfully, although it certainly wasn’t welcomed by all fans, and ‘Veronica Mars’ does the same. In fact, it proves, I think, to be a better setting for the show.

This third season introduces a new title sequence, intended I imagine to create a more sophisticated and noir feel, complete with a new (inferior) version of the title song, ‘We Used To Be Friends’ by the Dandy Warhols. Although hardly the most important aspect of the show, it did take me a while to get used to it. As a friend remarked to me, it sets the mood, which might partly explain why I felt slightly underwhelmed and disappointed during the first few episodes.

In the first two seasons, each episode would house a self-contained story, a “case” for Veronica to solve, and also hold clues to the wider murder mystery, a story-arc told across all 22 episodes of the season. Season three follows a similar format, but this time rather than having one season-long story arc, there are three, dividing the season into smaller segments. There are also threads connecting one segment to the next. It perhaps does not flow as smoothly as the earlier seasons, chopping and changing as it moves through the episodes and leaving the impression that something is either missing or being held back from us. Some characters now feel sidelined and have a lesser impact than before; Wallace, for example, and, in particular, Eli “Weevil” Navarro (Francis Capra), although it is interesting how believable his change from the leader of a motorcycle gang to a maintenance man at Hearst College actually turns out to be. Ultimately, however, I think I enjoyed the third season even more than the first two seasons, although I do not claim it necessarily to be the best of the three.

There are 20 episodes in total this time around. I am not sure why this is. The final episode leaves a number of storylines unresolved and, having not paid close enough attention to the DVD set when I first purchased it, I was fully expecting two more episodes. As a result, the ending felt anti-climactic and left me disappointed. In retrospect, I think it actually works quite well, although I will have to wait until I watch the season again in its entirety before I discover just how well.

Rape, specifically rape involving the use of a so-called “date rape drug” on the victim, such as GHB, was a theme of both the first two seasons and is dealt with again in the third season, in greater detail this time around. ‘Veronica Mars’ is not a gritty hard-hitting realistic show and an in-depth exposé of this serious and very emotive subject should not be expected, but it does deal with it in an interesting and, I think, responsible way, looking at the issue from various angles.

A feminist group on campus wants the Pi Sig fraternity house shut down, but campaigns for their cause in a very confrontational manner. Veronica argues that she is searching for the truth, whereas they are seeking revenge and simply direct their anger at the most obvious target. Equally, the attitudes of the members of the frat house, and the activities that allegedly take place there, are repulsive – as reprehensible as the stance taken by the Dean, who refuses to accept that the institution he represents has any responsibility in the matter.

Various characters are used to represent different views and attitudes. Dick Casablancas, another graduate from Neptune High and a member of Pi Sig, is a repellent sexist, his attitudes born out of ignorance and arrogance. A friend of mine commented that he was impossible to relate to on any level, even simply laughing at him, because he was the kind of person who would be capable of raping a woman without even realising he was doing it. I understand the sentiment, but I don’t agree. As objectionable and downright offensive as Dick clearly is, I think he does know the difference and I actually don’t think he would be capable of rape, in as much as such a statement can be made with any degree of certainty. In fact, I suspect the character was used to make this very point, that the very overt juvenile and simplistic sexism of someone like this is not, in itself, an indication of his likely inclination towards perpetrating rape, knowingly or otherwise.

One aspect of the show that many television critics picked up on for particular praise across the three season of the show is the relationship between Veronica and her father, Keith. I concur. It was a highlight of the show – one of many.

The viewing figures for season three increased slightly from the season two average of 2.3 million to 2.5 million, although this is perhaps to be expected because CW has greater network coverage than UPN did. However, it was officially announced in January 2007, four months before the final episode of the season was broadcast, that the show would not be returning for a fourth season.

In September 2008 it was confirmed that creator Rob Thomas has been working on a possible film script. It has also been claimed that executive producer Joel Silver is keen on the idea of a film version, but in January 2009 it was stated that Thomas’s priority is the new television series ‘Cupid’, an updating of his short-lived 1998 series of the same name.

‘Veronica Mars’ was not a groundbreaking television series in the way that, as examples, ‘M*A*S*H’, ‘Twin Peaks’ and ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, were. The influence of that latter show is obvious, but so are other influences. One storyline, in season one, about an inspirational teacher who proves to be anything but perfect, is a copy of an episode of the earlier ‘My So-Called Life’, a series that ‘Buffy’ also borrowed heavily from.

In the end, ‘Veronica Mars’ is just a very likeable show that easily becomes addictive viewing, helped by some good casting and a constantly impressive performance by Kristen Bell in the lead role. Given its viewing figures, the cancellation was inevitable and, in fact, it did well to survive as long as it did, but its demise is to be lamented.

Review posted 1 February 2009


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