Up to this point, I’ve been a big fan of this season’s “Night of 1,000 Veronicas” approach, in which our heroine has to evade, negotiate with, and occasionally blackmail a cavalcade of lesser investigators who think they can outperform her. It’s an honest depiction of how women often have to operate on the job, and a Veronica failing to suffer fools gladly is always the most enjoyable Veronica. But this episode leans too hard in that direction. What should be a solid infusion of late-season plot momentum gets buried under too many false starts and too much horse-trading, often with people Veronica should be running rings around.
That’s especially true of Vinnie, who, like a Cho’s sweet-and-sour pork pizza, is best enjoyed in small portions. The character is intentionally obnoxious, designed to gum up the Mars’s works, but he’s usually redeemed by a tinge of “lovable idiot” vulnerability. Not so in this episode, which goes overboard by having him ooze misogyny on Veronica from a perch at a strip club. Same goes for Penn and Matty, who get an amount of screen time disproportionate to their active contributions to the mystery plot. These characters are best as seasoning, not the main course.
Even worse, the episode doesn’t do much with the plot it does have available. The big reveal that Big Dick and Clyde are behind the Sea Sprite bombing is anticlimactic, delivered as a bland, expository chat in a sterile office setting. Big Dick’s sociopathy may be more realistic than many TV villains’ — Lord knows there are plenty of fratty oligarchs who care more about saving a million bucks on a real-estate deal than murdering four people. But it also lacks any genuine menace, which could have added more punch to Keith’s successful prying about the Phoenix Land Trust shell companies.
The episode is also careless about delineating that “solved” part of the mystery from the questions that remain. Did Clyde, the gun-eschewing gentleman robber, actually kill Perry Walsh to cover up the Sea Sprite mishap? What about the two bombings at the beach and the one at Comrade Quack’s? Was Big Dick behind the anonymous letter? When you’re this deep in the storytelling weeds, it’s important to remind the audience why the mystery still matters, and why unsolved aspects remain unsolved. Instead, the episode fails to delineate the crimes Big Dick and Clyde did commit from the ones they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, have.
It also doesn’t help itself by adding two more plot threads that are only tangentially related to the bombing: a deadly brewery explosion at Chattanooga Charlie’s and a frat boy’s fiery demise in a spring-break beach tent, both of which occurred at least a year prior. Veronica’s less-than-triumphant return to the Pi Sig house at Hearst only seeds the narrative with more questions, making the connection to the current bombings feel even more hazy and distant.
Thankfully, the episode still has its charms — first and foremost, Max Greenfield, who should probably be investigated by the FBI for stealing scenes. Leo speaking Veronica’s love language by intentionally leaving out his confidential files for her to snoop was just unbearably adorable. And if indulging viewers in the dream hang sesh of Veronica, Nicole, and Leo is fan service, then consider services rendered.
But Leo’s overwhelming appeal (and the pair’s near-miss kiss) is also making me feel like Jason Dohring has gotten short shrift this season. Evolved Logan constantly beseeching Veronica to marry him and hit up couples’ therapy should be winning the audience to his side, showing us how much he cares about Veronica. Instead, it feels one-sided, because the show hasn’t spent enough time establishing why their relationship still matters to Veronica, at least beyond the amusing banter and hot sex.
What should be a rich, internalized monologue of Veronica deeply questioning her future — does she want to grow up and commit to the work of a “real” relationship? — instead comes off as a lot of complaining from Logan, and then it’s back to the mystery. I like the overall idea of Veronica being the one to hold the relationship back, but her resistance to pausing and reflecting on her romantic issues is starting to feel like the show’s as well.
On the upside, that gives Logan some more time for crime-fighting, as he bribes a Navy colleague with a milkshake gift card to find Daniel Maloof’s email blackmailer. Turns out said blackmailer is a 17-year-old white nationalist, who only broke into Maloof’s accounts because he left a sticky note with his password on his work computer in Sacramento. The kid knows Maloof bought off the cartel hit men; the question is, why?
That will likely become clearer shortly, as the surviving redneck returns to deliver payback to Maloof in the form of a bullet. With Logan returned to active duty, the redneck is dispatched by a familiar face: Clarence Wiedman, Jake Kane’s onetime hatchet man and the murderer of Aaron Echolls. It’s another tantalizing hint that the Lilly Kane murder might still be on the table — though Veronica is going to have to wade through a lot of other people to get there, starting with the cartel hit men.
• This episode was penned by a little-known first-time TV writer named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (alongside his writing partner, Raymond Obstfeld). Here’s how that happened. And thanks, gents, for the indelible image of Paul Ryan pulling a There’s Something About Mary on himself.
• Veronica blowing her cover during Keith’s fake motel “heart attack” because she genuinely thought he was hurt is one of the cutest things ever.
• Same goes for her dubbing Matty her protégé and bestowing the Stun Gun of Justice upon her. (Though the episode is characteristically self-aware about it: “Do you feel like singing a little Motown into that spatula? Yeah, me neither.”)
• So many iconic Veronica moments in this episode: telling a frat boy digging through beers that “they’re domestic lagers, they all taste the same”; going for her Olivia Pope–style wine nightcap, then filling it all the way to the rim; trying to land a pun as ambitious as “where in the world is cabrón Juan-Diego?”