It’s a shame that the focus the show Veronica Mars has received over the past couple of weeks has been on a moment in the final episode in the new limited series. It was unexpected and perhaps a bit too much even for people who weren’t fans of that particular character, but it was only a thin sliver of season 4. As a long time fan, I have to say that Veronica Mars has never been about moments. It has always been about a bigger picture. A bigger mystery. A season rather than an episode. And the darker world the protagonist discover beneath the sunny vail of Neptune, California.
The selling point of the original run of Veronica Mars, which I came into during the latter half of the second season, was a riff on Nancy Drew but edgier. Veronica is a high school student who has to balance the supposed innocence of day-to-day teenage life with that of the seedier world to which private investigators expose themselves. The relatable dread of homework and tests is literally yawned off by our protagonist because she and the viewer are learning about the hidden aspects of her town in a way not too unlike Dale Cooper and the viewer in Twin Peaks. It’s this particular balance that gave this show such an interesting and intriguing identity.
The film that Kickstarter produced could have worked well as a send-off or new starting point, but mostly it just served as fanservice. Veronica became an adult, escaped Neptune, and had a promising life ahead of her. But she gave up her career before it started as well as an adoring and supportive man to go back to Neptune because there was so much there left for her — and, let’s be honest, she’s an adrenaline junky with unresolved issues (as she admits in her job interview). And in the movie the view sees a glimpse of things to come. Neptune isn’t all sunshine anymore. As an adult, Veronica only sees the grim darkness of it.
Season 4 is nothing but her seeing this side of Neptune. There’s no longer a balance to the story. Terrible things happen, terrible people surround the events from every angle, and even in resolution there’s a downside. First, that sounds like reality. Second, that sounds like a number of other crime-based shows. So what does Veronica Mars have to make itself unique? The original series had a recurring cast of characters who helped to endear a devoted fanbase. Most of them have been shed in this series, and the supposed direction of future stories will take Veronica out of Neptune. So, it sounds like everything that gave the show its identity and everything that made Veronica Mars unique is gone. That does not mean that the Hulu series was bad. In fact, it was entertaining. But it was missing something. That something was pretty much everything that made me love the original series and constantly promote it to anyone who was willing to take a chance on a new show. Funny enough, with the CW version of Nancy Drew starting soon, maybe that will end up being the new “Nancy Drew but edgier.”