Like a Tornado: Veronica Mars Season Four

I had mixed feelings when the fourth season of Veronica Mars surprise-dropped early a couple of weeks ago, after 12 years off the air (and a Kickstarter movie). Veronica Mars is one of my favorite TV shows of all time, so I was excited to enjoy more of it… but also uncertain whether the show would live up to my expectations. Perhaps it was better to leave Veronica in the mid-2000s, I thought. The idea of the revival had got me super excited. The actual episodes airing felt a little more complicated.

But Veronica Mars is still Veronica Mars, in all her stubborn, messed up, self-righteous glory. She lives in Neptune on the beachfront with her long-time boyfriend Logan and her dog pony, and she works as a private investigator (officially, now) with her father at Mars Investigations. Spring Break is here, bringing 09er-like kids to party from all over the country, and, as Veronica warns us, nothing will be the same once it is over.

Fans’ feelings about the show certainly aren’t. I could have said a lot about the new season, but it’s impossible to talk about it without talking about that ending. Of all the things that happened this season, I’m pretty sure that is the main thing (maybe even the only thing) people will remember. Long-time fan favorite Logan is killed by the final bomb, and we skip to a year later, when Veronica is driving out of Neptune, heading towards cases new.

I really enjoyed the first few episodes of the season four. I got a little less enjoyment out of some of the mid-to-later episodes, but overall, my feelings were mostly positive. But the ending overrides everything, and honestly, I don’t know how I feel about it in the long term. The episode title being “Years, Continents, Bloodshed,” and the fact that I knew the internet was freaking out about the finale made me a little wary, to say the least. I was somewhat primed to dislike it, because I knew how passionately the internet had reacted, but I don’t know whether expecting to hate it made me dislike it more or less.

I will say that there are some spoilers that you appreciate having, and although I was really upset when I accidentally read what would happen to Logan as I finished episode 6, that may have also made me a bit more prepared for the moment when it came. It hurt, but it wasn’t the sort of raw shock that I might have felt seeing one of my favorite characters die unexpectedly. Because of that, I probably can’t comment too much on the plot twist moment itself.

But I’m going to go against the grain here and say that I don’t think the loss of Logan is The End of Veronica Mars. An independent, travelling Veronica is definitely an interesting one. Rob Thomas has said in interviews that he wanted to kill that nostalgic connection to the old seasons and take the show in a new direction, but in some ways Logan’s death brings Veronica even closer to her original form. This will be a Veronica Mars dealing with a fresh trauma once again, looking at the wreckage left by the tornado and starting to rebuild. Before Logan’s death, Veronica seemed middling-ly happy and stubbornly refused to grow. Now she must start that process of refinding herself again.

But Rob Thomas has said that he wanted this to be a season of transition, moving away from the teen soap element to focus on the mystery from now on. Honestly, that, more than Logan’s death, makes me wary about a potential season 5. Veronica Mars’ first season is so amazing because of the deeply personal mystery and how it tied into everything in Veronica’s life. She had personal stakes like you wouldn’t believe, and they were tied to every person she met. A Veronica who travels has the potential to reawaken some of the magic of that first season, in that there’ll be new complicated webs of character histories to uncover, but I care most when Veronica REALLY cares. I’d almost prefer the bomb that kills Logan to be the start of the story, a new mystery unfolding, and not the personal stake thrown in when the story was otherwise done.

Veronica and Logan’s relationship is actually going to be its own post entirely — I was already planning to write about their relationship in this season before that ending happened, and I still have many things to say about pre-ending Veronica/Logan too. There’s a lot to unpack there.

However, I will say that when you have your protagonist say that without her dad or her boyfriend, she’d stick her head in the oven, it’s not super cool to blow up that boyfriend a couple of episodes later. Like maybe give your protagonist a break.

Despite its apparent mission to kill nostalgia, the new season also introduced Matty as a teen!Veronica-like character, and allowed Veronica to guide and protect her. I was initially a little disappointed by the fact that Veronica and Matty didn’t really connect about the trauma that motivated them both, and that Veronica didn’t provide emotional support or guided that Matty really needed. But maybe that was the point — Veronica couldn’t provide that help. She can teach Matty about being a teen sleuth, and protect her from some of the dangers that a stubborn teen girl might overlook, but she cannot help her to process her grief in a healthy way, because Veronica does not know how to do that herself.

I found myself getting increasingly angry at Veronica for her actions and choices that were destructive to both herself and others around her — acting more like an out of control teen than Veronica ever did when she actually was a teen. (Again, I’ll write post on Veronica and Logan specifically, but fair to say, she’s not exactly mature about her emotions and hang ups). She’s still as untrusting and judgemental as ever, still stubborn about seeing this black and white world, stubbornly rejecting anything she perceives as weakness. She believes she has seen and survived the worst there is to see, and so anyone who reacts differently to her moral code has no excuse.

If nostalgia had you remembering a badass Veronica Mars, the revival certainly made clear that she was always deeply flawed, and that the way she handled her trauma as a teen has had serious emotional repercussions as an adult.

Of course, the heart of Veronica Mars has never been Veronica/Logan, but Veronica’s relationship with her dad, and there, at least, the nostalgia holds up. Although Logan’s death was shocking, far more poignant (and perhaps more painful) heartache seeing Keith struggle with memory problems, and try to hide them from Veronica. Thank god that, at least, got a happy ending. Killing Keith, to me, would have been truly unforgivable heartbreak.

Because shows don’t need to come back and then “kill nostalgia.” It’s best if they create new stories, rather than relying too much on the old ones, but they don’t need to create tragedy for tragedy’s sake, to kill off the fan favorite just to be “dramatic” or “impactful.” They don’t need to punish the fans for caring about the old incarnation while creating the new one. Make us care with your storytelling skills. Make us cry with the writing, not with frustration over the current trend of “shock twists” over narrative.

Was Logan’s death a shock twist over narrative? I don’t know. It seemed really unlikely Logan would go to move the car at that exact moment. It seems overly convenient how far ahead Penn would have had to plan this. But Rob Thomas seems to genuinely believe it was necessary for the continuing story he wants to tell. I suppose we’ll have to wait until season 5 potentially arrives to know for sure.

What do you think?

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