Ever since Veronica Mars aired its last episode on The CW in 2007, fans of the cult show clamored for some kind of revival. In 2014, they got one, in the form of a crowdfunded feature film that saw Veronica (Kristen Bell), now a successful adult in New York City, getting drawn back to her hometown of Neptune, CA, where she reunited with her tempestuous high-school boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). Fans, having been given exactly what they wanted for so long, were quite satisfied.
As for the show's revived fourth season on Hulu, it hasn't quite gotten the same reception. The show picks up five years later, with Veronica still in Neptune, working at Mars Investigations with her dad Keith (Enrico Collatoni), who appears to be hiding the extent of his ailments in the wake of his near-death in the movie. Season 4 sets Veronica and Keith on the case of a mad bomber, whose targeted explosions around the town of Neptune set up a season-long, multi-character mystery arc. But that's not all that's at stake for Veronica. We learn early on that she and Logan are still together. He works in Army intelligence, so he's away a lot, and that distance seems to work for her. For his part, Logan wants to get married. The Logan of old — moody, obsessive, given to violence; in a word: problematic — is mostly gone, thanks to his oft-mentioned therapy and, we are to understand, his deep and committed love for Veronica.
From here on out there will be SIGNIFICANT spoilers for the entirety of Season 4, including the ending. Don't read further if you don't want to know.
As Season 4 powers to a close, Veronica and Keith discover the identity of the bomber and force him to disarm the final explosive he planted at the high school. With a new lease on life after cheating death, Veronica finally accepts Logan's proposal, and they have a very Veronica-and-Logan no-frills City Hall wedding. Then, in a twist that ripped fans' hearts out, Logan Echolls was killed in a car explosion by the final bomb, which was intended to take out Veronica herself.
The ending has been a fairly significant bone of contention with fans online, but it was a bold direction for the show to go, especially if a Season 5 emerges. Considering the strong opinions on both sides of the divide, Primetimer writer (and Veronica Mars superfan) Ian Carlos Crawford and managing editor (and Logan/Veronica skeptic) Joe Reid will debate the finale, the twist, and Season 4 in general.
Joe Reid: Ian! I don't know much about how you felt about Season 4 except that you super hated the ending. I very much did NOT! But I want to give you the first shot in this debate. Tell me why it's bad.
Ian Calos Crawford: Me? Have strong feelings about beloved fictional characters? Never! I just... I can’t state enough how much I hated that ending. And the interview Rob Thomas gave about Season 4 has made me believe he completely took the wrong lessons from writing Veronica Mars. The show worked because it was noir, teen drama, and soap opera all mixed into one. It didn’t work because it was just a noir mystery — if I wanted to watch something like True Detective I’d... well, I would never want to watch something like True Detective. And saying Veronica couldn’t be interesting unless she’s single is just plain wrong. I'd never been on Team Logan, but in Season 4 they sold me on him 100%. I thought Jason Dohring’s performance was the best he’s given on the show. We got a Logan who definitely got the help he needed and was a lot more chill — something Veronica herself even addressed. She wanted the drama because she’s still struggling with all her trauma from when she was a teen. But having Logan be the one to mature before Veronica was a choice that changed their dynamic and made them a way more interesting couple. So to then have him get blown up in the last minutes of the finale felt not only cruel, but cheap. We didn’t even get to watch Veronica process his death!
JR: Hmm. I hear you. I recognize and respect these feelings... and I thoroughly disagree, on multiple points. To knock these out with a minimum of dramatics: To start, I would say that if you're going to continue Veronica Mars in 2019, teen drama is no longer an option (unless they want to run with Matty as a Nu Veronica option, in which case, I'm open to the notion). So what's left is the noir and the soap. This season leaned harder on the noir, and I'm happy with that choice.
Second, though, I think you and I fundamentally disagree about whether Logan was an interesting character this season. I don't think he was. I don't use the term "narrative black hole" often, but I am breaking the emergency glass to use it here. Logan Echolls was always going to be a catch-22 for this show. He was initially so compelling and such an attractive option for Veronica (and the fans) because he was this outwardly cruel and terrible high-school boy who ultimately revealed himself to have layers and pain and a fucked up home life and all of that. Veronica's attraction to him was dark and wrong and messy in all the ways that a teen noir would want it to be. But the flip side to that is for this show to work, Veronica has to be smart. She's not perfect, and she doesn't always have to be right, but she can't be stupid. And so trying to evolve Logan into someone who could conceivably still be in Veronica's life as she exited her teens and returned to us in her 20s became more and more of a challenge. In the movie, Logan's a mess, and Veronica makes one last effort to save him. She does, and they have their darkly romantic ending, and if that's all there was, then cool. But back for a whole new season, the Logan we got was so two dimensional, mostly because he had to be. He had to be reformed enough that Veronica being with him wouldn't make her look stupid. And while we got a brief flash of wall-punching anger out of him in one episode, mostly Logan just kind of hung around with that hangdog expression he's perfected over the years, waiting for Veronica to do the thing he (and all the shippers) want, which is marry him. And yet it would've been even worse if Logan and Veronica weren't together, because then everything that happened would have felt like wheel-spinning while we waited for them to finally find their way back to each other. (This was a big problem in Season 3.)
Logan's presence on the show was a strait-jacket that Rob Thomas was never going to get out of without a clean and final break from the character. I respect the decision and I'm very excited to see where the show — and Veronica — can go from here.
ICC: I don’t want Veronica to go from here, honestly. I’d prefer Rob Thomas stop ruining my 2nd favorite show by putting Veronica through trauma after trauma. I don’t love the show because she’s a woman who survives a new god damned trauma every season. I liked the idea of Logan being there to sometimes help when she needed/wanted the support. She can’t move forward with her father? And next season, is Keith going to be the one to die? Then Wallace? Then bring back Mac to kill her too?
I think the show would’ve worked with them as a married couple with issues. Logan being the one who is telling her they both need a therapist was great. I genuinely enjoyed that. I definitely thought the season was going to end with Logan leaving her at the altar. I still would’ve hated it, but at least he wouldn’t have exploded right in front of her? I not only felt it was cheap and mean — but it also felt stupid. I genuinely though, during that close up on her scratched up face, “Is this her villain origin story? Or is this all a dream?”
JR: I was uncharacteristically wary going into Season 4, considering I'm a fan of the show and enjoyed the movie just fine (even if I don't remember much about it; Gia Goodman did what again?). Reboots have largely been not great for my enjoyment of either the new thing or the show that came before, and Veronica Mars was a show I largely loved but whose missteps in the past were very apparent and whose fanbase is one that can easily turn someone off. (Here is where I remind everyone that the shipper portmanteau for Veronica and Logan was "LoVe.") But I have to say I really loved the new season. I liked how sparingly it leaned on the old familiar characters; lord knows I missed the likes of Mac, Piz, and Kendall Casablancas, but it was nice to feel the freedom of new characters. Even the setting of Neptune as a spring break haven felt like we were getting to look at the town with fresh eyes. And while he wasn't exactly brand new, I thought Big Dick Casablancas was a great choice for villain (or decoy villain). I was very into the new characters played by J.K. Simmons (a bad guy whose badness was often less than we suspected) and Kirby Howell-Baptiste (my favorite Friend of Veronica since the early days of Wallace and Mac). I like the urgency of the bombings, and I liked how Thomas took advantage of Hulu's loosened content restrictions in a smart way. (Yes, Hulu put the kibosh on profanity, but I don't think the CW would have ever been onboard for a bomb-collar.) And while I'm never the guy who gets out ahead of a Mars mystery and solves it, the detective work felt satisfying and multi-layered, just the way I like it. How did you feel?
ICC: It’s funny you mention Krysten Ritter’s character because when Veronica Mars originally aried, she wasn’t famous — when the movie came around, at first I forgot she was in the show and thought she was a character made up for the movie. I think that’s one of the weaker points of the show actually, that there are so many characters who were important for five episodes but are then never seen again. I mean the wonderful Charisma Carpenter’s Kendall died almost off screen in Season 3. So much so that I assumed she’d return at some point, since we never saw her body, we just saw the shooter shooting.
But, I will say I absolutely loved the movie. I was always Team Piz (ya know, since he never paid homeless people to fight or smashed in Veronica’s headlights), but I’m also realistic and knew she’d end up with Logan. Given how much I enjoyed the movie, I went into this new season excited and with nothing but high hopes.
And with the exception of the ending, I enjoyed the season. I felt we needed more Wallace (and I very much missed Mac), but the new characters really brought a lot to the show. I wanted the season to end with a Leo/Logan/Veronica/Nicole polyamorous relationship. I think Veronica would do really well having more than one partner. I loved how often they got drunk or high and it wasn't met with a punishment the way it would’ve when the show had first aired. Them doing E caught me so off-guard, I had to rewatch that scene to make sure I’d heard everyone correctly. I love watching my heroes let loose and have fun. I’ve even been playing Billie Eillish’s “Bad Guy” on repeat after watching Veronica dance to it in this season. I also loved the Weevil development (but where the hell was his family). I didn’t love some stuff, but the show always had one too many plotlines going on — I thought the Mexican cartel was the weakest point. They felt like they belonged in a different show. But if the season hadn’t ended with Logan blowing up, I would’ve pretty much loved it as a whole.
JR: You're not wrong about the cartel; I thought that was a tremendous waste of Clifton Collins, Jr., although inasmuch as it dovetailed with the Congressman's storyline I was okay (but that was mostly because the Congressman's finger-missing brother was played by my darling sweet Paul Karmiryan from So You Think You Can Dance). And I'm on the fence as to whether I'm tired of the "deus ex Weevil" trope (where V gets in over her head, and we think this might be the one scrape she can't get her way out of, and that's when Weevil and his gang show up to muscle her to safety) or I think it's a foundational part of the show's charm, like Ron Swanson's ex-wives or Murphy Brown's secretaries.
ICC: I’m at a 3. I’m holding a grudge against both Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell for putting Veronica through yet another trauma in the last few minutes of the finale. But I will watch whatever they put out and then hate tweet about it because I am part of the problem. Unless she starts dating Nicole next season — then I might be somewhat back on board.
JR: I'm at a solid 8. I am always one to advise that TV shows (especially dramas) quit while they're ahead, but I like the reset that happened in Neptune this season. Especially now that Keith got his brain un-fogged — a narrative cheat, to find out that instead of early-onset Alzheimer's he was just mixing the wrong meds? Perhaps, but I'm glad we don't have to see Veronica suffer through that trauma. I'd especially love a Season 5 if folks like Matty and Nicole and even Clyde stick around to keep Neptune interesting. There's a story in there about a young person whose dreams and abilities pointed her away from her small-town upbringing but who keeps getting drawn back to save that town from itself. And honestly, not to be a dick about it, but I really want to see what a Logan-free Veronica Mars (and Veronica Mars) is like, at long last.
ICC: I do agree there’s more to tell with those new characters and would welcome them back if the show returns. Just do me a favor and keep Veronica single forever, I can’t handle anymore love triangles or exploding husbands.
People are discussing Veronica Mars in our forums. Join the conversation.
Ian Carlos Crawford is a freelance writer, host of the podcast Slayerfest 98, and someone with way too many feelings. Follow him on Twitter at @ianxcarlos.