‘Veronica Mars’ Revival Brings New Blood to Neptune but Fails to Evolve the Old

“A long time ago, we used to be friends, but I haven’t thought of you lately at all”, these words floated through my teens, taking me back, again and again, to the Mars Investigations office. Quickly leaving the upbeat, saturated school days, crowded with cliques, every new incarnation of the credits became more stripped down and darker than the last. This revival is no different, pairing a new version of the song with edgy neon graphics of the last three characters standing, almost fifteen years since their first appearances.

While supporting characters previously earned a spot on the opening credits, Veronica Mars season four places our main trio: Veronica (Kristen Bell), Keith (Enrico Colantani) and Logan (Jason Dohring) against the rest of Neptune. The personal and mundane dramas of dog-nappings and stolen mascots are distant memories as a new generation of spring breakers flood Neptune. 

The usual beach town chaos is intermingled with politics as uptight locals resent the business owners hosting the troublesome teen tourists. After a bomb goes off at the Sea Sprite hotel, Veronica spies Matty (Izabela Vidovic) grieving for her father. Some things never change, and as the patron saint for women scorned, our titular heroine can’t resist and is pulled into yet another complicated case. 

Following the legacy of talented VM alums Tessa Thompson and Krysten Ritter, the new characters do not disappoint. Kirby Howell-Baptiste (who should be, and is, in all good television today) plays Nicole, a nightclub owner and kindred spirit to Veronica as another protector of vulnerable women. Patton Oswalt is a pizza guy, who dabbles in solving crime with other conspiracy theorists while JK Simmons plays Clyde Pickett, the ex-con right-hand man to Dick Casablancas Sr. With trigger happy Mexican hitmen on the sidelines (Clifton Collin Jr), Logan in the Navy, and Leo (Max Greenfield) in the FBI, the players are more advanced, and with deaths steadily more violent, the game has higher stakes.

Embracing the streaming era with a focused eight-episode arc, this revival goes full noir thriller. However, while discarding the emotional buffer of the slow burn procedural format, Rob Thomas loses touch with the characters he crafted so carefully in season 1. The old humour still has its charm: the timeless dad-daughter dynamic, hilariously named dogs, Logan’s motivational quote voicemails etc. but for the sake of conflict, logical character development is lost. Are we expected to believe, for instance, that after introducing Veronica with a degree in psychology, that she’d judge Logan for going to therapy? Or that after four seasons, she’d still be surprised by Weevil’s good intentions behind his complex issues with criminality.

While losing the teen drama is an understandable evolution, the conclusion of this arc will make or break die-hard Veronica Mars fans. The bombardment of trauma is getting overwhelming, solving her best friend’s murder and her own rape were explored over tens of episodes, and this brand of shocking storytelling has an expiration date. It has become the mark of poor show-running to not know how to handle characters learning, growing and being happy. 

The crowd-funded 2014 film brought a glimpse of new pastures, after the false start of the original season 4 at the FBI, years later we saw Veronica with a promising legal career. But, the addiction to the Neptune nostalgia brought Veronica, and the show, right back to the start. Seeing old friends was exhilarating then, nearly a decade after cancellation, but by this second revival, the magic has definitely worn off. Another season, if ordered, may bring some reprieve, and we may finally leave this gentrified Neptune behind, or see it from Matty’s perspective. 

But I humbly suggest, perhaps it is time for Rob Thomas to get a new idea. As fun as it has been, seeing Bell and Colantani solving crimes again, the Mars family is getting tired. Looking to Amy Sherman-Palladino’s success moving on from the Gilmore Girls revival with The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, I hope Rob Thomas can one day grace our screens with something different. 

You can relive the glory days of Veronica Mars and see the revival with seasons 1 to 4 available on Hulu

 

by Fatima Sheriff

Fatima is a third-year Biomed at the University of Sheffield. For insight into her personality, her favourite films are: Bright Star, Paddington 2, Taare Zameen Par and Pride & Prejudice and in 2017 she listened mostly to the Hidden Figures soundtrack.  She loves TV shows with original concepts, witty writing, and diverse casting. Examples include Legion, Gravity Falls, and Sense 8. Her Twitter and TVShowTime are both @lafatimayette.

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