Making the world a better place, one show at a time.

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I guess you would like to know a little bit about the person making all these proclamations upon good taste and horrid characters. I'm Andrea and when I was 15 I fell in love. An hour after meeting "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" I was forever altered in the way only love can, and I never questioned for one minute afterwards that television offered me an amazing chance to experience lives and moments that I could never imagine. So now, when I'm not getting distracted by my real life, I write about TV. I also read, am finishing a Master's degree in English Literature, travel, am attempting to learn vegan cooking, am the 5th of 6 children, and drive my roommate nuts by constantly cleaning our already clean apartment. Now that we're old friends, time for you to take my opinions as the be all and end all.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Veronica Mars: Season Two (9), Was It Worth It?

Originally I planned to write a review of each season of Veronica Mars to answer a question for KP in the hopes that I could convince her to watch the show that I love so dearly. Well, my mission was accomplished with the review of Season One, which begs the existential question; do we pursue a course of action when the goal is already accomplished? I am a big fan of futile activities and Pyrrhic victories, so here is what I think of Season Two; two disclaimers and three reasons why to watch.

First Disclaimer: The Main Crime
Season Two is not as good as Season One. The truth is that Season One is so good, there is no possible way the show could live up to itself. This is an unfortunate consequence for many shows that have excellent first seasons (Heroes and Prison Break for examples). This is not to say that Season Two is bad; Veronica Mars, in its entirety, is one of the best shows that ever aired. That said, the emotional connection between Veronica and the case in Season One cannot be repeated. The major case in Season Two is interesting, and as a viewer you really want to know who is responsible, but it is a sense of general outrage that drives Veronica, not the personal attachment that propelled her to hunt down Lily’s murderer. Veronica is the (main) central intelligence, and when she doesn’t care as much, it makes it harder for the viewer to care as much. I will say that I was, and still am, immensely affected by the outcome, but I know that few who have seen it share my point of view. The reveal scene in the season finale is so well done I think it makes the season worth watching, even if you disagree with the choice of antagonist.

Second Disclaimer: The Popularity (or Lack Thereof)
In Season Two, the show creators tried to reach a larger audience (to avoid getting canceled and their plan never worked) so they attempted to open the show through more generally familiar plots. There is one storyline in Season Two that adopts a basic cliché of TV, and even though it’s rendered well, I still don’t like it. It deals with two characters I don’t particularly like, and it ends up being a way of disposing of a character that had been eclipsed by another. Watching the first airings of the episodes I got caught up in it all, but when I watch them again I find this particular plot draining on the show. I know that the cast and crew are better than this plot. It is the only storyline that really uses the teenage-show conventions, so I forgive just how forgettable it is.

First Joy: Logan
Luke will cringe as I make this analogy, but Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) is the Veronica Mar’s Falstaff; as a character he became more than his creators envisioned, he took on a life of his own. Logan transformed from a douche-bag extraordinaire to an empathetic, very human, character. Logan is one of those characters who is immensely flawed but fundamentally good. Logan grows as the show goes on; he never looses certain aspects of his personality, ingrained in him from upbringing and circumstance, so as he becomes more comfortable demonstrating his virtues it never feels like a false change. Nor is personal growth ever portrayed as an accomplished act. Logan takes steps forward and steps back, learning one thing requires learning another, and there is always a struggle. It is his flaws that make him the man who can handle Veronica. Her strident personality is unmatched by any of her male romantic counterparts; she either steamrolls right over them, or extinguishes herself in order to be on their level. Logan takes her on her own terms and is strong enough to both love her and challenge her. Knowing the perfection that is LoVe everything else seems cheep in comparison.

Second Joy: The Guest Stars
Guest stars are usually either a sign of pretension or desperation. In Season Two there are some notable guests, not Oscar winners, but known names nonetheless. These guests are either genuine fans of the show; Kevin Smith and Joss Whedon, or are a matter of inspired casting; trampalicious Charisma Carpenter’s showdown with sluttacular Alyson Hannigan (these adjectives are for their VM characters only) is a thing of beauty for us die-hard Buffy fans. There is one major misfire guest: Kristin Cavillari. This girl cannot act, and it isn’t even campy fun to watch her woodenly deliver her lines while mugging for the camera. Other than this Laguna Beach alum, it is like ice cream on (Ned baked) pie to see these familiar faces spar with Miss Bell for a few moments. Plus Steve Guttenberg, need I say more?

Third Joy: The Consistency
The problems with Season Two are basically overextension; trying to do too much. The majority of what is wonderful about Season One (the characters, the acting, the witty and intelligent writing, the engaging episodic mysteries, the relationships) remains at the highest level. The characters develop, but their foundation remains firm; you never feel that the creators forget who their characters are. The show, on both the creative or technical level, never appears to suffer from laziness. Season Two cannot have everything from Season One, but you will not sit there trying to remember why you fell in love with the show in the first place.

The TV Girl


Luke said...

Could we spoiler alert the
comments? I just have a couple burning questions after this, that would require spoilers to discuss:

To which storyline are you refering to as the draining one?

You say you were bothered by the "choice" of antagonists for the conclusion of the central mystery... what was it that bothered you so much about it? (I have reservations about it too, but I just wanted your more detailed take...)

On another note: what did you think about the increasing size of the cast that seemed to render people like Wallace to be underused?

Lastly... despite the asking for a cringe... the more I think about it from talking the other night, the more I think you are right about the Logan/Falstaff comparison. I hope that's not disappointing to you.

Asiankp said...

YES. YES. And YES. I love it..I'm so excited to watch season 2 that I just wet myself. Okay, not really, I do have bladder control but honestly, sometimes I scare myself at how much I enjoy watching fictional characters.

The TV Girl said...

I am never disappointed when I convince some one to see things my way. Your look the other night was like you were going to throw your shoe at me, and maybe I deserved that, but I didn't want you to think I didn't take into account your reservation. I know I sound like a lunatic most of the time.

Sorry that this review was really really really cryptic, I feel so bad spoiling this for Pry. KP STOP READING!

The draining storyline: Comma Meg and her love child. Didn't have any great like for Meg anyway. Would have been way more interesting if she had died in the bus crash, but they had found out from an autopsy that she was pregnant and Duncan had gone all bonkers with guilt. And though I really like Duncan's last episode, they had to write him off because Logan became so much more interesting.

My prob with the antagonist. First, I had (have) a deep attachment to this character, and it hurts that I was fooled the way all the characters were. It broke my heart to see the way this character was treated, and I just wanted something good to happen to them. Instead they are a total sociopath. Made me question my judgement of character. Second, I still to this day cannot figure out what the point of bringing up the rape/non-rape thing again was. Aside from the heroic way Logan handles the situation, it doesn't add anything to the story as a whole. Plus I think that their choice, and the way they approach it, says that there is only a limited amount of healing in the world. It is like the character is doomed, but portrayed as evil. Certain events make you damaged, not crazy, or at least not that crazy.

Finally, I found anything that took time away from Wallace to be unbelievably offensive. I think this becomes a bigger problem in Season Three where it was like he is a cameo. Then I start to have a serious problem, but I always want more Wallace, there is really never enough for me. I think the episode where Wallace and Logan work on the science project together makes up for some of the Wallace missing. As she returned to being more socially adjusted the show starts to feel kind of off balance, and the more characters they add the more that feeling increases for me. You?

Luke said...

Thanks for the great response. I did realize you needed to go cryptic to not spoil things, but I really had to ask.

Yeah, I could have done without that storyline too. Duncan I thought was basically useless that whole season (I actually am far less charitably inclined toward his final episode than you are). I do like your idea for an alternative scenario.

I think the Duncan thing along with the Wallace problem we mention below were both results of the one seeming problem this show had consistently: not knowing what to do with their supporting cast. They do well with the Harry Hamlins, Ed Begleys, and Alyson Hannigans of the world who show up on occasion, but I mean more their regular cast: Wallace, Duncan, Mac, the Sheriff, Piz, whatever that girl’s name was who was in the opening credits during all of season 3. Season 1 worked pretty well, as everyone was connected to the mystery (except Wallace, which is actually central to his purpose as a character), but after that, there is a definite drop off in using them properly. It was like the writers didn’t figure out when a character outlived his/her purpose until it was painfully obvious.

I agree that the show feels more off balance the more characters it tries to balance. Its ok to have a huge cast on a show like Heroes where there is no central lead, but on a show like Veronica Mars, where you have a lead who is in 75%+ of your scenes, there just isn’t enough extra screen time to go around for a large supporting cast. Again, I think they did great with people in and out of the picture for one or two episodes at a time, but it was more the regular cast they had trouble with. It really requires careful planning to use them properly. If you don’t suddenly you have unbearable scenes of Piz and his dumb-ass radio show (he did have a talent for booking guests at the right time though…), or Wallace leaving for Chicago, or you forget Mac exists other than she is in the opening credits, or you have just-raped-girl dating your male lead. I think Buffy occasionally had similar problems… but that’s probably another post.

For the antagonist: I guess I never formed an attachment to the character like you did, so I don’t have quite the same reaction. I agree that brining up the rape plotline AGAIN was pretty useless, and in fact, it seemed to detract from that (in my opinion best of the series) episode in season 1 when Veronica learns about what happened.

Anyway… that was long. Hope it made sense.

The TV Girl said...

Oh Luke, you that which is true, but makes us all sad.

Luke said...

Sorry... didn't mean to be so negative. I should throw out too that I LOVE this series. I think Season 1 in particular is about as good a season of television as I have ever seen. I just had this one major frustration with seasons 2 and 3 and needed to vent. Thanks for the forum to do so!!

The TV Girl said...

That is what I am here for dude!