Warning: Major spoilers for Veronica Mars season four lie ahead.
As Veronica Mars starts streaming its long-awaited fourth season on Hulu, one big surprise about the revival is apparent as soon as the opening credits roll. In addition to a new version of the theme song, by Chrissie Hynde, just three returning actors are listed: Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, and Enrico Colantoni. That means, in practice, that the new season can surprise viewers with a never-ending parade of returning characters. Some familiar faces are pretty much expected. (Nice to see you again, Weevil and Wallace!) Some are designed to catch you off guard. (Been a while, Parker!) And some are such deep cuts that anyone but the most dedicated Marshmallow will need a moment to recognize them. (Hey there … Max?)
By my count, 16 characters, apart from the Big Three, are returning from the original series. And while not everyone that fans may hope to see makes an appearance — pour one out for Mac (Tina Majorino), Jackie Cook (Tessa Thompson), and Trina Echolls (Alyson Hannigan) — it’s a pretty impressive cross-section of recognizable faces. Here are the many returning characters in Veronica Mars season four, ranked by how excited we were to see them again.
Honorable mentions: Marcia Langdon and Pony
Neither police chief Marcia Langdon nor Veronica and Logan’s pooch, Pony, appeared in the TV series or the movie, but die-hard Marshmallows were introduced to both in the canonical 2015 novel Mr. Kiss and Tell. Nice to meet them in the flesh!
16. Jake Kane (Kyle Secor)
I guess it’s good to know that Jake, the patriarch of Neptune’s smarmiest rich family, is still out there doing his thing — in this case, slapping his name on a new high school he paid for. But his glorified cameo in the season finale is a reminder that Veronica Mars outpaced the drama of the Kane family a long time ago. (And if we were going to check in with the elder Kanes, why not Celeste? At least she played a significant role in the Veronica Mars movie.)
15. Liam Fitzpatrick (Rodney Rowland)
The “Fighting Fitzpatricks” have always been one of the more cartoony aspects of the Veronica Mars universe: a single family that, per Veronica herself, consists of “14 kids — 13 criminals and one priest.” Liam’s appearance as the frontman for an unusually shady vending-machine company is ultimately just a detour.
14. Hector (Patrick Wolff)
Veronica Mars was never great at fleshing out the individual members of the PCH’ers, so while it was nice to see Hector again, it’s a little disappointing that his presence serves no purpose beyond giving Weevil someone to dump exposition on.
13. Mercer Hayes (Ryan Devlin)
The best thing about the brief reemergence of Hearst College’s sociopathic serial rapist is the confirmation that he’s still in prison.
12. Richard “Big Dick” Casablancas (David Starzyk)
As the head of NUTT (and an all-around rich sleazeball), Richard plays a much bigger role in the new season than he ever did in the original series. He’s a solid villain who doesn’t realize he’s hopelessly overmatched by both the cartel and his own “ally,” Clyde Prickett. And sadly, since Big Dick’s story literally ends with his head getting lopped off, it’s probably safe to assume we’ve seen the last of him.
11. Clarence Wiedman (Christopher B. Duncan)
With Jake and Celeste divorced and Duncan raising his kid in places unknown, Clarence — the longtime enforcer of the Kane family — has gone freelance. With Logan’s blessing, he offers his services as head of security to Congressman Maloof and his family. Maloof turns him down, but Clarence still manages to save him from a would-be assassin.
10. Tim Foyle (James Jordan)
Veronica’s biggest foil in season three — who is literally named Tim Foyle — briefly reemerges, still in prison for the murder of Dean O’Dell. The scene plays like a variation on Silence of the Lambs, with Tim as Hannibal Lecter, and the whole thing is cryptic enough that it briefly seems as if Tim might play a bigger role in solving the spring-break bombing mystery. Then he never shows up again.
9. Max (Adam Rose)
He’s no replacement for Mac, but her ex-boyfriend Max gets a brief cameo at a Neptune City Council meeting, where he reveals he has opened a boardwalk marijuana dispensary called High How Are You? Sounds about right!
8. Principal Van Clemmons (Duane Daniels)
Over the course of the original series, Van Clemmons morphed from one of Veronica’s antagonists into an unlikely ally, tacitly approving of her amateur sleuthing (and using it to serve his own interests). By the time graduation rolled around, Veronica and Van Clemmons were acknowledging their mutual respect, so it’s nice to see that he’s still there looking out for the next generation of Neptune outcasts. (Now: What happened to his son Butters?)
7. Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen)
It’s no surprise, of course, that Dick turns up in the new season of Veronica Mars. He’s a longtime fan favorite, and Ryan Hansen has a whole show about trying to get a Veronica Mars spinoff started. The really great thing about Dick’s return is the bait and switch of his introduction: a scene in which his throat is slit by a gang member … which is then revealed to be a scene from a crappy action movie he costars in. It makes perfect sense that Dick would parlay his sunny, dim-bulb charm into a career as a C-list actor — and, of course, the de facto king of Neptune’s spring break.
6. Vinnie Van Lowe (Ken Marino)
The new season of Veronica Mars manages to up the sleaziness of Neptune’s grimiest PI, who operates out of a strip club while bilking the Maloof family out of thousands of dollars. As always, Veronica and Vinnie are at the center of some of the show’s sharpest sparring matches — and given Vinnie’s cockroach-esque knack for survival, the show just wouldn’t feel right without him.
5. Cliff McCormack (Daran Norris)
As with Vinnie, it just wouldn’t be Veronica Mars without Cliff, the shameless but ultimately good-hearted public defender who bedevils the Neptune police department by advocating for the town’s underclass. He even manages to spring Penn Epner (new addition Patton Oswalt) — so yeah, maybe he’s a little too good at his job.
4. Parker Lee (Julie Gonzalo)
Veronica Mars’s flawed but underrated third season, which moved the core cast from Neptune High to Hearst College, introduced a host of new characters. But until now, we’ve never found out what happened to Mac’s old roommate Parker, who dated Logan until she realized he was still in love with Veronica. Unfortunately, her life doesn’t exactly seem to be blissful — her husband left her for a blackjack dealer, and she warns Logan to enjoy the honeymoon phase while it lasts. Still, it’s nice to see the show close the loop on a character it left in a moment of despair. (Now where’s Hannah?)
3. Leo D’Amato (Max Greenfield)
Apologies to all you Duncan and Piz apologists, but apart from Logan, Veronica has always had the most chemistry with Leo. Throughout the series, Leo’s path has run parallel to Veronica’s, and his reemergence as an FBI agent is the surest sign yet that he and Veronica have some undeniable compatibilities that even Logan can’t quite match. Veronica and Leo’s flirtation ultimately remains a flirtation, but at least Leo fans get the consolation of Veronica’s steamy dream about hooking up with him.
2. Eli “Weevil” Navarro (Francis Capra)
Fans who haven’t read the Veronica Mars book Mr. Kiss and Tell might be a little confused by the tension between longtime allies Veronica and Weevil, who has returned to a life of crime following the events of the Veronica Mars movie (and loses his family in the process). But despite a few crackling arguments scattered throughout the season, Weevil comes through in the end, saving Veronica and Keith from near-certain death. Deep down, he’s always been a Marshmallow.
1. Wallace Fennel (Percy Daggs III)
As always, Veronica Mars stumbles a bit by failing to give Veronica’s doggedly loyal BFF anything to do beyond supporting her sleuthing. But in a particularly dark season of television, Wallace provides one of the few unambiguously bright spots: He’s happily married with an adorable infant son and working as a high-school physics teacher and varsity coach. He has even developed an independent friendship with Logan! In a series that provides very few happy endings, it’s nice to see Wallace getting one. (At least until season five rolls around …)