The biggest cultural shift in the decade since Veronica Mars left UPN (well, besides the end of UPN) is that everyone wants to be Veronica Mars now. We’re a whole society of Bald Avengers, desperate to prove ourselves crime-solving geniuses and perhaps overly empowered by technology to do so. Veronica Mars 3.0 could have tuned out that reality, letting Veronica remain three steps ahead at every turn. But it’s fun to see it used for plot fodder instead, with half of Neptune trying to out-Veronica Veronica and leaving plenty of headaches for her in their wake. The episode’s title is appropriate: Veronica is playing a rigged game, with too many self-involved gatekeepers keeping information out of her reach.
Appropriately, that list starts with Tim Foyle, the criminology TA that Veronica repeatedly outsmarted as a college freshman. He’s still doing time in Chino for killing the dean of Hearst College, alongside season three’s other big perp, serial rapist Mercer Hayes. But Veronica’s prison interviews with the pair aren’t just a walk down memory lane: They’re a reminder of the misogyny she faces at every turn, even (and especially) when she’s good at her job. Putting bad guys behind bars should earn Veronica a modicum of respect; instead, she ends up having to endure more harassment, and leaves with hardly any useful information.
Veronica’s visit to Chino isn’t her only strikeout of the episode. After cornering Juan-Diego, her mugger/the Sea Sprite’s shit-and-run artist, she almost gets raped by his crew of PCHers. Weevil, as usual, blows the whistle in the nick of time, but he’s less than forthcoming about whether his guys are taking payoffs from NUTT to vandalize the boardwalk businesses and rob the spring breakers.
Weevil’s always been behind the eight ball, and I usually like that the show acknowledges that the game is even more rigged for him than for Veronica. But the white-privilege guilt trip he lays on her this go-round feels unfair; after all, he’s the one who chose to ditch the straight-and-narrow and return to the gang. In any case, it seems like their relationship is no longer as collegial as it was at the end of the movie. I wonder if there’s more to come on that, or if the show’s just hitting reset because it allows it to draw the plot out more.
Veronica’s run-in with Weevil is also her first encounter with Alonzo (who’s dating Weevil’s sister), but for now, the pair are only acquainted from afar. Alonzo and Dodie are still mired in their newfound business relationship with Daniel, who’s riven with guilt after paying them off with $100K to ice the crazy rednecks. But by the time he reconsiders, it’s too late — for one of them, anyway, as we learn at episode’s end that the other survived. Seriously, these two have to be the worst hitmen of all time.
To counter all the bad breaks in the case, the episode brings back two of Veronica Mars’ all-time charmers: Max Greenfield’s Deputy Leo, now an FBI agent, and Ken Marino as rival P.I. Vinnie Van Lowe. Greenfield, in particular, lights up every scene he’s in, basically walking away with the episode. Veronica and Logan might be written in the stars, but I am personally powerless before the prospect of Leo’s grin and endless supply of free snacks. He even manages to ruffle Evolved Logan.
Meanwhile, Marino only gets one scene, but his comic timing is as ferocious as ever. I don’t think anyone else could get a laugh out of me with a pun as dumb as “Captain No-Hair-Ica.”
Speaking of said Captain, Enrico Colantoni has always been a gem, and that’s especially true in this new season. This episode had great moments for both Serious Keith (still struggling with that memory loss) and Comic Keith, getting white-dad day-drunk with Clyde Pickett. Clyde’s involvement in the conspiracy is still an open question, but J.K. Simmons is great in the part, making him as likable in this episode as he was menacing in his initial appearance. He’s up there with Bell and Colantoni in terms of his ability to play both the humorous and serious sides of Veronica Mars incredibly well.
The big missing link for me in this episode was the third bombing, which should have been its centerpiece (so gruesome! So targeted!) but was mostly met with a shrug. It’s especially weird that Keith and Veronica don’t do any digging into the victim this episode, since Veronica was right there watching him drug drinks the night before. I’m sure they’ll get to it, but it’s another instance where I’m not sure if the show’s attempts at a “darker,” more violent Neptune are paying off. The show wants it both ways: the visceral thrill of chopping or blowing people’s heads off, without having to take the fallout as seriously as it does more pedestrian crimes.
That contrast is highlighted in the climactic final city-council meeting, with the script devoting more time to the controversy over NUTT than the reaction to a week of bombings that have killed six people, injured tons more and completely upended Neptune’s economy. Viewers know the two issues are interrelated, but the town doesn’t — and it’s highly implausible that anyone would be hosting a town hall on urban planning when there’s a serial killer on the loose.
But the threads are finally joining thanks to Penn, who once again torpedoes Veronica’s investigation, stealing Matty’s intel so he can resume his time in the spotlight. Another day, another dollar, another mediocre male pretender to Veronica’s throne. It’s not that Veronica can’t catch a break; it’s that she lives in a place (and a society) that’s purposely designed to never give her one.
• I love how Dick has absolutely nothing to do with the case, but just keeps showing up to delight us all with ridiculous stuff like wearing heelies and getting a part as a mannequin in a Hallmark Christmas movie. (Did you catch the cameo from Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland as his failed romantic prospect?)
• Keith and Veronica mock-arguing in ’40s noir slang was almost unbearably enjoyable. Maybe if this franchise keeps getting revived long enough, we’ll get an Archer-style time-warp season.
• The Hulu Neptune Grand is a real downgrade from the UPN Neptune Grand, which I was not expecting. I know brutalism is back in vogue, but seriously, that is one ugly-ass hotel.
• I hope Keith does find a nice lady with a cane fetish. I’m still sad that that whole fling/Just Shoot Me reunion he had with Laura San Giacomo in season three didn’t work out.
• A character suggesting that he’s putting all his savings in guillotine futures is very Veronica Mars; another character responding that he should consider the ancillary market in baskets is very, very Veronica Mars. I love this show.