Okay, people I know in real life need to watch Veronica Mars. Because last night’s season finale? Amazing. And I want to talk to people about it so badly it hurts. I mean, I’m talking with online people, which is cool, and I watched it with some online-friends-turned-real-life-friends, but when I get obsessed about stuff, I want to share it with everybody I know, and I know exactly two people at church who watch it.
Mark, did you see it last night?
Anyway. It’s the best show currently on TV (yes, better than Lost, better than 24), and the best show ever since Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you know me, you’ll know that’s saying a lot. It’s extremely well-written, has amazing actors, better continuity even that Buffy, it’s a great mix of comedy and drama and mystery. It doesn’t quite have the depth of Buffy, but then, very few shows do, and at the risk of losing my Buffy fandom cred, I have to say that I think Veronica Mars is more consistently good that Buffy was (except Buffy season 3, perhaps).
The basic season one premise is this: Veronica Mars is a high school junior in Neptune, CA, home of rich and famous movie stars, software magnates, etc. And also people like Veronica, the daughter of the former Sheriff, who is now barely making ends meet as a private detective (Veronica helps him, which is the impetus for a lot of the plots). See, Keith Mars was well-loved and respected as the Sheriff, Veronica hung out with the exclusive ’09er crowd (kids from the high-rent 90909 zip code) and dated Duncan Kane, son of software millionaire Jake Kane. Until Veronica’s best friend Lilly Kane (Duncan’s sister) was murdered, and Keith believed that her father Jake Kane was responsible. When another man confessed to the murder, clearing Jake’s name, Keith was run out of office, Duncan broke up with Veronica, Veronica’s mom left town, and Veronica pretty much became a complete outsider. There’s also the little incident where she was roofied at a party and woke up not remembering who raped her. Sure, it’s pretty mature stuff for a teenage show…which is why it’s not just a teenage show.
The thing that Veronica Mars does better than any show outside of the Buffy/Angel/Firefly-verse is balance individual episode plotlines with the overall season arc, and on into multiple season arcs. 24 does a great job with long arcs, but each individual episode is meaningless without the context of the others. Most crime shows (CSI, NCIS, Numb3rs, Without a Trace) have very good individual episode plots, but it’s only superficially important to watch them in order…most of them are complete standalone eps, and it takes all of five minutes to figure out the interpersonal relationships necessary to enjoy the episode. Lost does a better job of balancing individual episodes with season and show-long arcs, but even it focuses more on the bigger arcs than the individual episodes. Veronica Mars can make completely self-contained episodes that have a beginning, a middle, an end, and a theme (which usually plays off the clever puns in the episode title). But the theme almost ALWAYS ties in to the season long arc; to Lilly’s murder or Veronica’s rape in the case of season one. Season two has about twice as many plot threads, but we won’t go into them all here. It’s a masterpiece of plot development.
And the continuity! Oh, the continuity. And I don’t only mean the arcs. I mean little things. Like in 1×11, two girls turn out to be switched at birth. Their families are on different social strata, so they don’t interact hardly at all on the show. Then, in 2×20 (more than A YEAR later), they share an elevator and have the exact same eye-rolling reactions to their elevator mates. Again. In 1×15, there’s a kid who makes a videotape that helps Veronica out on an investigation. We don’t see him again until 2×21 (again, some 13 months later), when he turns out to be a pivotal part of the season two mystery because of some other videos he was involved with. Again. In 1×21, there’s a plot involving a snobby mean girl who spits in people’s drinks. In 2×20, this girl hands a drink to one of Veronica’s friends, and Veronica takes it from her saying, “You really don’t want to drink that.” There are A TON of examples like this. This show knows its audience, and plays up to it. It’s freaking awesome.
And the finale yesterday proved that ANY episode can be reopened, ANY mystery we thought was closed can be reopened, ANYTHING can happen, but not because they’ve just decided to change what happened earlier Alias-style (oh, but she didn’t really die; see, we were going to have her just die, but then we decided we wanted her to come back so we wrote this whole elaborate explanation of how she didn’t really die); no, this was planned. If you look back at all the episodes up until now, you can tell that the big plot twists in the season two finale were at least allowed for even back in season one. It’s incredible.
And I haven’t even dicussed the way that actors Kristen Bell and Jason Dohring can make you laugh or cry with the slightest movement of their eyes or lips. The amazing supporting cast that makes you remember and care about even the characters that only appear in a handful of episodes. Season two struggled a little bit with balancing the stories of all the characters, but it redeemed itself by the end. The dialogue, which is the height of cleverness and sometimes audacity. The evershifting relationships…the characters that are so well-developed that you’d know them if they popped up in your coffeeshop…the incredible cinematography, which makes it almost impossible to resist making fanart from the gorgeous shots in every single episode…the integration of film noir stylings with teenage sensibilities. I simply cannot talk about this show enough.
I can’t wait to see what they’ll do with season three. So when it comes on in September, give it a try. (Notice how I’m saying “when”, even though it hasn’t technically been renewed yet…it’s on UPN right now, and with the upcoming UPN/WB merger into the CW, things are a little up in the air until next week. But I have faith.) And come borrow the S1 DVDs from me over the summer.