Looking back on Season Three of Veronica Mars
By Owen K. Craig
This season of Veronica Mars was the worst season we had seen yet… and I’m going to miss it terribly.
Season Three was a strange beast that was equal parts hit and miss. The move of the show’s setting from high school to college left things feeling strange, and the writers seemed to get sidetracked by all the possibilities of the new setting while forgetting a lot of the details that made the last season so great. I was a huge fan of Season Two, maybe even more so than Season One. I thought that the Dick/Cassidy plotline was a great one and I couldn’t wait to see the fallout this season. Problem was I had to wait a long time. Instead of the continuation of that plotline, we ended up with the return of the Hearst rapist as our first mystery. I applauded the return of a past plotline that felt unresolved and was excited to see it continue, but at the same time was disappointed to see what, to me, felt like one of the most pressing and exciting plotlines fall by the wayside. See what I mean? Hit and miss. Still, Piz was funny and looking to be a great new character, Parker was going to show the human side of the tragedy that was going on, and the opening scene was a great one in Veronica Mars history. The season premiere was a bit on the fluffy side but I was just happy to see the return of many of my favourite TV characters to the small screen (after all, if Buffy The Vampire Slayer can recover from its many terrible season finales surely Veronica Mars can do the same). A little rough on the landing, but I was excited. (Hit!)
Then something happened, the show and I weren’t clicking like we used to anymore. I was confused. The dialogue was still great, I still loved the characters… so what was going on? First, there were character issues. Veronica was still undoubtedly one of the greatest characters on television (see my list), and Kristen Bell was firing on all cylinders this season. (Hit!) Yet Season Three expanded the cast to include two new characters, Piz and Parker, as well as promoting supporting characters from the past, such as Sheriff Lamb and Mac, to the opening credits. As a result many other members of the supporting cast – like Wallace and Mac – were rarely seen (Miss!). Sure, they popped up from time to time, but the lack of attention paid to them was glaring. Even worse, many of the big-time players from Season One and Two were mishandled. For example, what had happened to Logan, the man who used to be my favorite character? Logan started suffering from Spike syndrome. Much like Spike in Season Seven of Buffy, we had just seen Logan’s soft side too much this season. He was no longer threatening, he was no longer badass, and he was no longer interesting. I don’t know who the mopey lapdog in this season was, but it wasn’t the Logan I know and love to watch. (Big miss!)
In addition to character issues there were also problems with the stories. The first of the show’s mini-arcs – the Hearst Rapist – was a strange one. While I was excited to see the return of a plot-dangler from the past, problems with using the story of a serial rapist became apparent as the story progressed. How can a show dealing with a teenage detective ever do justice to something as horrible and tragic as rape without going into Boys Don’t Cry territory? This is the same network that airs Smallville and Gilmore Girls, after all. While I applaud the show for trying to tackle such a difficult issue, in the end it may have been too much for the show. I found something exceedingly creepy about the matter of rape being discussed with a simple “we gotta stop this guy” or “that asshole raped Claire”, as it seemed to understate an issue of monumental importance. I understand that some of that was addressed in the (fairly convoluted) reveal of what was going on, but the whole thing left me feeling uncomfortable. And not in a good way. (Miss!)
The show made a stunning rebound, however, with the mid-season finale’s wrap-up of this arc as it was as exciting as the season finales of Seasons One and Two. It had Veronica kicking ass, it put an end to lapdog-era Logan (or so I thought). Mac, Wallace and Piz were getting some screen time as Veronica’s sidekicks again (not just brief cameos) and even though the rape plot was still kind of creepy, the episode was more satisfying than the show had been as of late. (Hit!)
The second mini-arc was the murder of Dean O’Dell. In between more decent mysteries we got some scenes of Logan moping, Mac venturing into relationship territory and Piz’s crush on Veronica growing. These episodes were working more often than not. Sure I’d like to have seen Logan give into his more destructive qualities as he gets over Veronica, but overall, the episodes were serviceable if not particularly interesting. As if answering my prayers, the show took a huge swerve by killing off Sheriff Lamb, leading to some great developments on the show. (Hit!)
This is the point where the CW kicked fans in the teeth. For the end of the season we were deprived of what would have been a third mini-arc and instead got five one-off episodes. (Gigantic miss!) These episodes were a mixed bag. The plots were thin, and without a more interesting bigger mystery to back them up, seemed a little dull, despite a fun guest appearance by Paul Rudd. It was fun to see Keith as sheriff and the character development was great, but I felt a little unfulfilled. (Miss!)
Then something happened that changed everything for me. The season (ARGH! SERIES!) finale was, without question, the greatest episode of the whole season. It was classic Veronica Mars. (Hit!) Veronica was once again shunned by her fellow students as they whisper behind her back (Hit!), Logan was interesting and unpredictable again (Hit!), Mac and Wallace got plotlines (Hit!), Weevil was badass (you get the point)…I couldn’t believe it. Everything I loved about the show was back in top form. No longer was I enjoying mediocre quality, I was immersed in vintage Veronica Mars goodness. It was enough to make me think that perhaps next season would have gotten back on track and delivered Veronica Mars the likes of which we had never seen.
And now there’s no more.
Then it hit me, sure this season couldn’t live up to the greatness of Season One and Two, but in the end it’s better than no Veronica Mars at all. That’s what we’re left with now. Still, rather than choosing to get mad at the CW (which is VERY tempting by the way) I will take the opportunity to end on a positive note.
Thank you to the cast and crew of Veronica Mars for creating a show that has entertained me for three seasons. I wish it could have been more, but I’m thankful for what I got. To appropriate the show’s opening song, a long time ago we used to be friends, and I am grateful for our time together.