The ending of Veronica Mars’s revival season seems designed to infuriate its viewers. More than just deliberately making people mad, the ending feels deliberately, painfully provocative, as if the season’s primary purpose is to bring back everything original viewers loved about the show and then blast it into smithereens.
Showrunner Rob Thomas knows it. He knows that many viewers will be furious, he knows they will revolt, and he is desperately hoping they will forgive him for what he’s done. “I’m terrified about it,” he told Vulture.
Let’s back up to what actually happens in the final episode. After finally identifying the Neptune bomber, Veronica races to disarm a bomb at a high-school dedication ceremony, and for a moment it looks as though her father, Keith, will perish when the bomb explodes. But he’s fine; the bomb is disarmed and the mystery seems to be resolved. Then the show presents us with a new potentially disastrous ending: For a moment, it seems as though Logan is going to leave Veronica at the altar, destroying her newfound sense of trust. But that doesn’t happen either — Logan shows up, the ceremony happens, and everyone’s happy.
The real crushing blow comes at the very end. Veronica and Logan come home after the wedding, and just as Logan goes out to re-park the car, Veronica finally puts the pieces together about bomber’s final riddle. She runs to warn Logan that the car is wired to explode, but it’s too late. The bomb goes off, and Logan dies. And then, as if that weren’t enough emotional devastation, the last few minutes of the season jump forward a year, giving us a new vision of Veronica. She’s even more jaded, even more grief-stricken, in more pain than we’ve ever seen her. The season ends with Veronica driving away from Neptune, desperate to leave it behind forever. It is an ending designed to wallop the audience, to convince viewers of several disastrous possibilities only to then blindside them with something entirely unexpected.
It is also, as Thomas puts it, an incredibly high-stakes bet. Although there’s been no official announcement that the show has been green-lit for additional seasons at this point, Thomas’s goal is to use season four as a “bridge,” a way to transition the show from what it once was — a high-school show about a teen detective — into a new set of Veronica Mars adventures, with an adult lead and a fully noir sensibility. “[For] the show I would’ve liked to do moving forward,” Thomas explained, “I would’ve been reluctant to keep doing the same thing in Neptune.” And in order to create a new world for Veronica, one where she assumes her destiny as a damaged hero detective, Thomas had to figure out how to extricate the character from the old version of the show that launched her. “The longer I play these high-school relationships,” he said, “the more it will feel like nostalgia. I almost feel like it will grow sad, it will be a process of diminishing returns to keep being the thing we always were.”
As a result, the entire fourth season became a meditation on nostalgia, on the dangers of resisting change and trying to preserve the past in amber. Counterintuitively, season four first does this by actually re-creating the thing it once was, by feeding that desire for nostalgia. Veronica’s relationship with her father is a mirror of the close, unusual insularity they had when the show opened. The mystery, as it was in the first season, is tied together with the corruption and gentrification of Neptune. And from the start, Logan Echolls appears in the fourth season as a wish-fulfillment boyfriend, everything the show promised he might be when Veronica first fell in love. He comes striding out of the ocean in the first episode, wet and buff and nearly naked, a serving of thirst-slaking nostalgia offering himself up for Veronica’s (and the viewers’) pleasure.
But it’s immediately clear that the show’s deliberate evocation of its own past is also at odds with its present. Logan has finally grown into a mostly stable, less self-destructive person. He’s managing his anger, attempting to grow up, offering Veronica commitment and security, actively in therapy. But Veronica has a hard time accepting older, wiser Logan. The scene where she and Logan go to dinner at Wallace’s house lays out the problem pretty clearly: Logan’s pulling her toward happy, settled, safe couplehood, a place where Wallace has already landed. Veronica, distracted by the bombing news on her phone and uncomfortable with the sight of Logan holding a baby, cannot bring herself to connect to or want that life. Detective Veronica pulls away from Domestic Bliss Veronica; the two versions of her cannot co-exist.
In order to continue being Veronica Mars, Thomas felt, there was no path for Veronica and Logan to stay together, and there could be no option for Veronica to really go home again. “The happy pairing off of the leads of the show usually mark[s] the end of the show,” Thomas said. “Badass private eye and her husband back in Neptune didn’t feel like the show that could sustain itself moving forward.”
Thomas knows it’s a risk. Especially after the Veronica Mars Kickstarter-funded movie, a story that was overwhelmed with fan service and nostalgia, he knows it will be hard for fans to accept. It’s one thing for the show to be so much darker than in the past; it’s another for it to so thoroughly destroy one of the most beloved relationships on the series.
But it’s also true to the character Veronica has always been. She has never been fueled by good feelings and security; she has always been most motivated by her own fury and grief and sense of injustice. Especially if the show never continues, this ending would be fitting for the show’s deeply cynical worldview. Veronica, full of righteous anger and pain and the unwavering knowledge that the world is unjust, driving off into the sunset? That’s a final vision of the show that feels consistent with everything Veronica Mars has always been.
There is some (possibly unintentional?) irony to it, though. In killing Logan to cut away Veronica’s past, in preventing her from staying with her high-school relationships forever, Thomas is also stopping Veronica from growing. Her marriage to Logan was progress, it was a step toward becoming a new person, and the step relied on internal development rather than an outward, superficial change of venue. By forcing Veronica to leave everything behind, this version of a Veronica Mars ending also freezes her in time, as the wounded and furious person she’s always been.
Thomas hopes it’s not the end, though. He hopes that the fans will accept Logan’s death so that he can make more Veronica Mars stories, and he knows there’s a chance that they will not accept it, and this will be the end. “I know there’s a shot that Veronica Mars fans will hate me for killing Logan, and what they loved about the show was not the mystery, it was her friends and romantic relationships.” It will take him a few weeks before he can judge the viewer response, Thomas thinks. “I won’t know for a while. Will this gamble pay off? I do not know. If you never see Veronica Mars again, know that I lost that bet.”