Monday, September 19, 2005

Dear Rob Thomas: A Veronica Mars Wish List

Could I be any more excited about Wednesday's premiere of Veronica Mars' second season? Like most of this quirky, intelligent detective drama's fans, who include Buffyverse creator and future guest star Joss Whedon, probably not. And yet, could I be any more nervous about the upcoming season? I suspect that like myself, most Mars fans are biting their nails over one simple yet unavoidable question: after one of the most impressive and assured first seasons in television history, how could this show go anywhere but downhill?

The problem is compounded when one takes into account Mars' unique qualities. The show's first season was essentially a 22-hour-long detective novel. If you've read Alexander McCall Smith's The First Ladies' Detective Agency books (and if you haven't, don't bother), you'll recognize the genre, also called a 'cozy' mystery--although the detective pursues a single case above all others, they allow themselves to be distracted by smaller caselets, usually involving their friends and neighbors. If we accept this view of the first season as a novel, then the second season becomes not a continuation of the story but a sequel, and we all know how troublesome they can be.

Especially when you consider that the second season's overarching mystery is unlikely to have the same emotional resonance, for either the viewers or Veronica, as the murder of Lilly Kane. Before details of the second season started floating around the internet, I was holding out hope that the show would rejoin Veronica several years after the end of season one, thus allowing her to accumulate a new backstory that could serve to make the new case as emotionally involving as Lilly's murder.

No such luck, apparently, but if Veronica Mars' first season wasn't enough to earn its creator, Rob Thomas, my blind trust, I don't know what would be. So, nervous as I am, I will be tuning in this Wednesday for one of the best shows on TV. Before the season stars, however, here are a few things I'd like to see:
  1. Given that the second season mystery couldn't possibly have the pull of Lilly's murder, it might be a good opportunity for Veronica to explore her role as an instrument of justice. There's been a lot of talk on the net about Veronica Mars being the new Buffy, and although in many ways the comparison is apt, one of the key differences between these two petite heroines is that while Buffy's actions are motivated primarily by compassion, Veronica is spurred to action by an affront to her sense of justice. I've talked before about the detective novel as an empowerment fantasy, and it would be interesting to see Veronica evolve as a mundane sort of superhero (one of these days I'm going to write about operatic vs. naturalistic genre shows, not just Buffy vs. Veronica Mars but also Farscape vs. Battlestar Galactica) whose actions will eventually be motivated not by any personal connection to the crime but by a desire to see justice done.

  2. The flip side of this issue is that Veronica is not big on compassion in the face of weakness. She likes catching the bad guys, but comforting the injured victims isn't her strong suit. This is only one of Veronica's flaws--as in all great characters, these flaws have their roots in her greatest strengths--she's also headstrong, arrogant, has no respect for the privacy of others, and is, in essence, a pathological liar. The first season gave us a taste of Veronica's flaws coming back to haunt her when she repeatedly sabotaged her relationship with Logan, but I'd like to see the second season take this issue further. In particular, I'd like to see Veronica confronted with the fact that her actions haven't returned the world to the perfection that preceded Lilly's death (for that matter, Veronica has already been confronted with the fact that a lot of that perfection was a sham), and that, justified as they were, they've caused a great deal of damage to both Logan and Duncan.

  3. And while we're on the subject of Veronica's two suitors... I've managed to be a fan of a tremendous number of shows--including The X-Files, four different Star Treks, Friends, ER, Buffy, Angel, Babylon 5, the new Doctor Who, and Farscape--without becoming anything close to a rabid 'shipper. Do you know how embarrassing it is, in light of this and at my age, to find myself openly 'shipping? I'm not even going to tell you who I 'ship, which in itself is a measure of how far gone I am, since clearly no one with any common sense could watch the show and come to any other conclusion! Sigh. That said, it seems obvious that the mysterious person at the door is Duncan, and that he and Veronica will get back together at least for while. I don't have a real problem with this, but can I please ask that Teddy Dunn be allowed to show some emotion? There's evidence, here and there in the first season, that he isn't a terrible actor if given something to work with, and it wouldn't kill Duncan to go through something like the emotional growth that Veronica has already experienced. What's most important, however, is that the romantic triangle between Veronica, Duncan and Logan not be allowed to overwhelm the show--that way lies Dawson's Creek.

  4. Still on the subject of romantic interests, can we please never see Leo again? Improbably enough, Max Greenfield has a series in the works, but just in case America isn't ready for a leading man who talks as if he has a mouth full of marbles, I'd like a guarantee that the writers will never try to shove him and his so-called 'chemistry' with Veronica down our throats again.

  5. Moving on to Logan, and this time not in a romantic capacity. Common sense says that in the second season Logan will experience something similar to Veronica's outsider status during the year that followed Lilly's death and, since he has neither Veronica's emotional resilience nor her support system, that he'll implode as a result. Can I make a case for the opposite approach? Sure, it'll be fun to watch Logan descend into alcoholism and end up living under a bridge, but contrary to popular myth, fixer-uppers aren't really that attractive. Why not have Logan follow Veronica's path exactly, and discover in himself a strength he never knew he had? When Veronica was ostracized, she went from soft to fiery. Logan, who was already fiery, might go cold (especially when you consider the cautionary example he has in his father about the risks of being controlled by emotion). I think it would be interesting to watch Logan go through this sort of transformation, with all its attendant problems.

  6. One of the key differences between Veronica Mars and Buffy is that Veronica doesn't have a Scooby gang. Even as her circle of friends expanded over the course of the first season, Veronica continued to work alone. Unlike Buffy's friends, who quickly chose to undertake the fight against evil, Veronica's friends function, at best, as sources of information who are uninterested or unwilling to take an active part in her investigations. To a point, this makes sense, but the result has been a flatter and less convincing world than Buffy's. I'm not sure I'd like to see Veronica with a crime-solving posse, but something needs to be done to counteract the thinness of the show's universe.

  7. Seeing as Alona Tal is Israeli, I could easily be accused of ulterior motives for this, but I would really like to see Meg again. It's not just that Tal is an interesting performer who works well opposite Kristen Bell, but the character's journey over the first season mirrored Veronica's own loss of innocence, and I'd like to see the writers take her further down that path.

  8. For all that the first season mystery was superbly constructed, and the identity of the murderer masterfully foreshadowed, the fact remains that the solution was not perfect (why, for example, does Logan tell us that Veronica is at fault for his break-up with Lilly in the middle of the season, and then tell Veronica that he'd decided to break up with Lilly on his own in the season finale?). Several details from last season's mystery have remained unresolved, most prominently the location of Logan's break-up letter and the mysterious contents of Lilly's spy pen (yes, I'm aware that these two questions might answer each other, but further questions are implied by this solution). I would really like to see these details addressed in the second season.

  9. At the beginning of season one, I couldn't have hated Logan any more if he'd showed up at my house and set fire to my dogs. By the season's end, I just wanted to bake him a whole lot of cookies. I know that his family is going to be intimately involved with the second season mystery and so I make this last and most important wish: Rob Thomas, we both know you can do it, but please, please, don't make me love Dick Casablancas.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You mean NEXT Wednesday, right? The premiere of VM is next Wed, September 28. This week is a two-hour premiere of America's Next Top Model (which does mention VM I'm told b/c of last year's winner appearing on VM).

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Huh. So it is. Oh phooey.

(I have no idea why I thought it was this week, by the way. Must be losing my mind.)

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say, Veronica told Lilly Logan had kissed someone else, so they broke up. Then, he drove back to Neptune but when he saw Lilly at the carwash, he realised they were completely over and wrote her the letter.

After she died, he probably felt horribly guilty, and he was angry with Veronica for siding with her Dad, so blamed her for the break up - even though he was breaking up with her totally anyway.

I think it does make sense, and isn't an error.

Thanks,
Jade

Maddie said...

Hi Rob
my name is Maddie cox I live in Mebourne and I ove Veronica mars. Any way My peronts have just split up about something and I dont know why Dad said ot was about her going into jail In the first seaon of veronica she used a web site to help people find things out about their peronts I wondering if that was a real one if it is could you email it to me my email is madzo_rox7@hotmail.com. Make sure to adress it to Maddie cox because it is my friends email mines down and her name is Maddy Smith. It Would mean the world to me.
Thankyou

Maddie

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