First of all, I should probably mention that I have the investigative skills of a stunned wombat. Seriously, you wouldn't believe the things that I had to have pointed out to me this season: that Logan deliberately targeted Hannah, that the bomb was stashed in one of the bus passengers' bags. I have absolutely no chance of working out the solution to Veronica Mars' season-long mystery simply by examining the available evidence and deducing a theory of the crime. The thing is, I don't think anyone else has a chance of doing that either, or at least not yet. Veronica Mars is a mystery story, which means that although on a certain level it is an intellectual puzzle, first and foremost it is a drama, and its writers' primary objective is to maintain tension and ensure that the mystery's solution is surprising to its viewers. There is, without a doubt, at least one piece of crucial evidence as yet undiscovered, without which the mystery can't be unraveled. The rules of good storytelling demand that this evidence not be revealed until the season's very last episode. There is simply no way, at this point in the story, that I or anyone else could solve the mystery using evidence alone. What I can do, however, is use my familiarity with stories and their conventions to at least make some intelligent guesses about what the season's end has in store.
One of the things I liked about the revelation of Aaron Echolls as Lilly Kane's killer was that, although as a plot twist it was shocking, psychologically it made perfect sense. The writers had made certain, over the course of the first season, that we learned certain things about Aaron and Lilly that made the fact of their affair seem organic to the characters. We learned that Lilly was promiscuous, and that she treated her lovers poorly. We learned that Aaron would sleep with anything female that stood still long enough, and that he had a violent and explosive temper. When the sex tape of the two of them surfaced, the discovery we made, and the theory of the crime that Veronica deduced, dovetailed perfectly with our previous knowledge of the two characters' personalities.
Lilly's murder, however, was a crime of passion--all that was required of the killer was that he or she have a violent temper. The bus crash in the second season was a premeditated crime, and its perpetrator must therefore have a more complicated and unusual personality. The crime was committed in cold blood. It was calculated, although to what extent remains unclear. We still don't know whether the bomb's intended target was the bus or the limo, and I have the sneaking suspicion that Cervando's claim that the explosion was meticulously timed is a red herring--what if the intended target was a single passenger, on either the bus or the limo, and the fact that the bus was at the cliff at the time of the explosion was merely an unfortunate accident? We have no way of knowing just how intelligent and calculating our murderer is, but given the strong likelihood that the gift basket with the bomb ended up in the hands of someone other than its intended victim, I think we can safely conclude that the murderer is not a criminal mastermind. Most importantly, unless we discover a common trait that links all of the victims (or all of the intended victims, if the bomb was supposed to destroy the limo), our killer has no compunction about killing innocent bystanders in order to get a specific person out of the way. We're talking, in other words, about a person who is either mustache-twirlingly evil or a complete psychopath.
Which would be kind of boring, and which is why I find myself enamored of the theory that the killer is a contemporary of Veronica's and not an adult. I'd be happier with a killer who is still somewhat human, and I think the only way that can happen is if they have a teenager's moral deficiencies. By and large, the student body of Neptune High has demonstrated a breathtaking capacity for selfishness, self-centeredness, and a lack of empathy--in other words, typical teenage self-absorption, taken to extremes. These are the kids who thoughtlessly commit grievous sexual and physical assaults, who humiliate their fellow students for kicks, who demonstrate almost no sympathy in the face of their fellow students' pain, and who in general act to gratify their immediate urges without giving serious thought to the consequences of their actions. For an adult to be this season's killer, they would have to be monstrous, but at Neptune High, Veronica seems to encounter nothing but monsters, who at the same time are still recognizably human. The show has toyed with taking its noir tone to such an extreme--mostly by constantly teasing us with the possibility of either Weevil or Logan being killers (and yes, I realize that post-"Plan B", Weevil and Logan are both killers)--but for the most part it has shied away from this level of darkness (did anyone really believe that Veronica was going to sic Harry on Liam Fitzpatrick?). I'd be interested to see the writers take this extra step.
It certainly doesn't help that our prime adult suspects are all such bores, and, in terms of story logic, extremely unlikely killers. After laying out such a compelling argument for her guilt in "Never Mind the Buttocks", I think we can safely conclude that Kendall is not the killer. Terrence Cook has been a red herring from day one, and Woody Goodman, although obviously a shady character, is far too obvious. They all have secrets, and no doubt are involved in the bus crash in one form or another, but I find it hard to believe that any one of them will be revealed as the killer.
If we do accept the notion of a teenage killer, who are our suspects? If we dismiss the characters who have been underexposed (Mac, Butters, Cora, Jane), or overexposed (Weevil, Logan, Wallace), or who are simply too stupid to tie their own shoelaces, much less orchestrate a murder (Dick Casablancas), we're left with a rather small group of potential killers. The first is Jackie, and I realize, even as I write this, that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Jackie is capable of mass murder. There's certainly been no indication that she has either the determination or the intelligence to carry out the bus bombing, and given that she was practically a stranger to all of the potential victims, it's hard to imagine what her motive might be (her rather flimsy justification for an animus against Miss Dumas notwithstanding). I'm really only considering Jackie as a possible killer because, if she isn't involved with the bus crash, I am at a loss to determine the purpose of her existence.
I disliked Jackie when the writers wanted me to dislike her, and I liked her when they wanted me to like (read: pity) her--between dissing Jane Austen and being dunked in cold water by half the school, there wasn't much chance that I wouldn't respond to her exactly as the writers wanted me to--but at no point did I develop any feelings of my own towards her. Jackie's taken part in quite a few plotlines over the course of the season--she gave Wallace something to do, was a minor motivator in his decision to leave Neptune, and her behavior after Terrence was accused of the bus crash makes for an interesting counterpoint to Veronica's actions when she was similarly ostracized. I find it hard to believe, however, that the writers truly introduced Jackie for no other reason than that she should take part in these minor plotlines, and while this certainly wouldn't be the first time that Thomas and his writers had grievously misjudged a character's appeal and effectiveness (exhibit A being Duncan, the first season's alleged femme fatale), I'd like to believe that they had a greater purpose in mind when they came up with Jackie. Since she's apparently leaving the show (hardly a great tragedy, although Tessa Thompson did her best with what she was given) I can only hope that that purpose will come to light before the end of the season, and one possibility is that she had something to do with the bus crash.
In all honesty, though, I don't believe Jackie is the killer. I am less certain, however, about Beaver Casablancas. Throughout the season, the writers have gone to great lengths to show us just exactly how little we know about Beaver, but we do know that he's clever, that he's calculating, and that he has a vicious streak and a mountain of barely suppressed rage brewing against the world. And then there's the implosion of his relationship with Mac under extremely suspicious circumstances. In other words, there's a very good chance that Beaver is seriously messed up. I can't offer any compelling evidence for Beaver's guilt, or even suggest a motive (my best guess is that Woody Goodman is involved in some capacity. I think the theory that Beaver's sexual hang-ups have to do with some sort of molestation on Woody's part makes a great deal of sense, and it's possible that Woody manipulated Beaver into placing the bomb on the bus--and that Beaver has now turned around and is manipulating Woody), but he's the only character whose guilt makes any sort of sense, psychologically and from a story logic standpoint.
Most importantly, Beaver's guilt would hurt like hell. In spite of the disturbing undercurrents to his behavior, we've come to feel for this kid. We'll be gutted if it turns out that he was capable of committing such a horrible crime (assuming, of course, that the writers don't turn Beaver into a super-villain at the last moment, but I think we can trust them not to do that), and a character we love--Mac--will be heartbroken. Veronica will be forced to choose between upholding justice and hurting someone she cares about. In every respect, Beaver's guilt would be a satisfying solution to this season's mystery and so, even though I can't offer a shred of evidence for it, I'm willing to commit myself publicly to the theory of his guilt.
And yes, I realize that I haven't dealt with Curly Moran.