Monday, November 28, 2005

He's Had a Very Bad Year

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a television show with a female lead, be she ever so kickass, will invariably begin diverting an increasing amount of time and storylines to the male supporting characters. It happened to Alias and Dark Angel and even Buffy, and it's happening now to Veronica Mars.

Not, admittedly, without good reason. Show creator Rob Thomas has said that the strain of appearing in nearly every scene in the show's first season was too much for star Kristen Bell. Given that most of the supporting characters on Mars are male (a topic for another rant on another day, which I'm delaying because I so enjoyed watching Veronica interact extensively with Mac in last week's episode), storylines that don't directly involve Veronica would pretty much have to focus on male characters, which in some cases has been quite successful. It was interesting, for example, to see Wallace elevated from faithful sidekick to a complex young man with his own problems.

But the focus, especially since Wallace's departure, has been on Logan, and for all that Jason Dohring is a superb actor who brings tremendous energy to a challenging role, I have to question the direction in which Mars writers are taking this character. The problem isn't so much in the amount of time spent on Logan as in the storylines he's been getting. Logan's an intriguing character because the writers, instead of trying to use Dohring's charisma to win the audience, do their damndest to fight against it by making Logan an unrepentant jackass. They then turn around and keep the audience from turning completely against Logan by constantly knocking the poor kid down. As a result, Logan's life has turned into a litany of woe, one hit after another.

Logan's parade of misfortune is strongly reminiscent of where Veronica was in the series pilot. A common reaction to that episode was that 'everything has happened to this girl'--her boyfriend dumped her, her best friend was murdered, her father lost his job, her mother skipped town, she suffered a severe drop in financial and social status, she was raped--and it was wise of the writers to tone down the tragedy during the season itself. Veronica experienced problems and setbacks--untrustworthy boyfriends, fake purity tests, teasing and ostracism--but none of them on the scale of what she'd already endured. More importantly, she rose to these challenges and overcame them with grace and strength.

Logan, in contrast, seems to be in a downward spiral, and when disaster strikes he either compounds it by giving in to his self-destructive impulses or calls on Veronica to help him. And although, in the short term, it's amusing to watch this character get pummeled, in the long run it gets tedious and, which is worse, distracts from the show's actual main character. How can we give our attention to Veronica's boring relationship with boring Duncan if Logan's on the outs with Irish mobsters? Whether or not Veronica makes Logan's cause her own, he's threatening to take over the show without having the smarts, the initiative, or the emotional resilience to handle the role of main character. Whereas Veronica Mars is a show about a girl who's actively trying to fix her problems, Logan Echolls is a pity party, a show about a kid who complains and makes funny jokes but is ultimately ineffectual.

In a way, I think the writers have written themselves into a corner. If they keep piling more crap on Logan's head, they'll sink into absurdity and compound the problem of the show's errant focus. If they have Veronica solve all of Logan's problems, they'll eliminate a significant amount of the tension on the show and any interest we might have in Logan's developing character. To let Logan solve his own problems, at least in part, would probably be the best approach, if only the writers hadn't made it abundantly clear that the poor kid can't work his way out of a carnival maze without making things worse for himself.

I'm exaggerating the problem, of course. Mars hasn't lost its way yet--in fact, the second season has gotten into its stride in a big way and the last few episodes have been stellar--but I'm definitely beginning to feel that the Poor Logan storyline has played itself out. Let this last disaster--being kidnapped and tortured by Weevil--be Logan's rock bottom. Let him finally come to his senses and and start making positive changes in his life. The characters in Veronica Mars can rather starkly be divided into actors and reactors. Veronica and Keith, who actively seek to understand and change their world through investigation, are actors, whereas Logan and others like him simply react to events without understanding them. If Logan is to have a truly prominent role on the show, let him start acting, making an informed and deliberate attempt to change his life for the better. Otherwise, stop torturing the kid, and bring the focus back to Veronica, where it belongs.


Dotan said...

Well, last episode looked to me like foreshadowing an upcoming break-up with Duncan (who is still really in love with Meg), while things with Logan will be heating up - judging from the way they hooked up the first time, being punched in the face is a powerful aphrodisiac for Logan. Oh, wait. That's actually not funny in the least, considering his twisted background. What I meant is that going on adventures with Veronica is going to bring them closer.
But it does look like they're going to play with us some more, with Logan repeatedly messing things up even more just when you'd hope he'd get a chance at redemption (although I'm not sure what redemption would mean when we're talking about Logan).
Uff. And to think that less than a year ago, I didn't know the meaning of the term "shipper".
Your point about how the first season was very tightly focused on Veronica - I think that's part of the reason many first season episodes were so fast-paced - every scene was about Veronica finding out something or acting on something she'd found out (or both). Almost like Law and Order.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Uff. And to think that less than a year ago, I didn't know the meaning of the term "shipper".

I feel your pain there.

But you know what, right now I'm not sure I want Veronica and Logan to be together. He just seems so beneath her, and the glimpses we got of their relationship over the summer were all about how supportive she was in his time of need.

I want Veronica to be with a guy who gets how remarkable she is and likes her because of that, not in spite of it. So far, all of Veronica's guys - Duncan, Logan, Troy, Leo - have either not noticed how special she is or been put off by it. She deserves better.

Oh, and redemption for Logan means growing up, taking responsibility for his life, and making some good decisions.

Yeah, I'm not holding my breath either.

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