REVIEW: VERONICA MARS – SEASON 1-3

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MAIN CAST

Kristen Bell (Frozen)
Teddy Dunn (Jumper)
Jason Dohring (The Originals)
Percy Daggs III (Izombie)
Francis Capra (Heroes)
Enrico Colantoni (Powers)
Sydney Tamiia Poitier (Death Proof)
Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok)
Ryan Hansen (2 Broke Girls)
Kyle Gallner (Smallville)
Tina Majorino (Bones)
Julie Gonzalo (Dodgeball)
Chris Lowell (The Help)
Michael Muhney (Columbus Day)
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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Corinne Bohrer (Police Academy 4)
Amanda Seyfried (Jennifer’s Body)
Lisa Thornhill (The Family Man)
Kyle Secor (The Purge 3)
Daran Norris (Izombie)
Brandon Hilock (Villains)
Patrick Wolff (Power Rangers Lost Galaxy)
Bradley Joseph (A Cinderella Story)
Duane Daniels (First Strike)
Paris Hilton (Bottoms Up)
Aaron Ashmore (Smallville)
Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Paul Marshall (Cheaper By The Dozen)
Alison MacInnis (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Kyla Pratt (Dr. Dolittle)
Adam Wylie (Under Wraps)
Sam Huntington (Superman Returns)
Lisa Rinna (Melrose Place)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Harry Hamlin (Clash of The Titans)
Jessica Chastain (Interstellar)
Steven Williams (The Blues Brothers)
Adam Kaufman (Buffy)
Bonita Friedericy (Chuck)
Alona Tal (Cult)
Erica Gimpel(Roswell)
Christian Clemenson (Lois & CCLark)
Jonathan Bennett (Van Wilder: Freshman Year)
Chris William Martin (The Vampire Diaries)
Megalyn Echikunwoke (Arrow)
Emmanuelle Vaugier (Two and a Half Man)
Christopher B. Duncan (Three Kings)
Anthoyn Anderson (Transformers)
Jowharah Jones (The Client List)
Leighton Meester (The Roommate)
Max Greenfield (New Girl)
Christine Lakin (Family Guy)
Adam Scott (Krampus)
Cynthia LaMontagne (That 70s Show)
Zachery Ty Bryan (Fast and The Furious 3)
Erin Chambers (Happy Feet)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)
Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Smallville)
Roy Werner (Power Rangers Time Force)
Kevin Sheridan (The Closer)
Jeffrey D. Sams (Soul Food)
Charisma Carpenter (Buffy)
Steve Guttenberg (Police Academy)
Kevin Smith (Clerks)
David Starzyk (Bones)
Ari Graynor (For A Good Time, Call..)
Kristin Dattilo (Dexter)
Laura Bell Bundy (Anger Management)
Dana Davis (Heroes)
Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones)
Rick Peters (The Craving HearT)
Tracey Walter (Batman)
Joss whedon (Angel)
Rodney Rowland (The 6th Day)
Taylor Sheridan (Sicario)
Jason Molina (Alpha Dog)
Lucas Grabeel (Smallville)
Alyson Hannigan (How I Met Your Mother)
B.J. Britt (Agents of SHIELD)
Curtis Andersen (Sabrina: TTW)
Jessy Schram (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Michael Cera (Juno)
Kayla Ewell (The Vampire Diaries)
Patrick Fabian (The Last Exorcism)
Jason Beghe (G.I. Jane)
Samm Levine (Not Another Teen Movie)
Rider Strong (Cabin Fever)
Chastity Dotson (Single Ladies)
Lucy Lawless (Ash Vs Evil Dead)
Keri Lynn Pratt (Cruel Intentions 2)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Rachelle Lefevre (Twilight)
Ryan Devlin (Weather Girl)
Armie Hammer (The Social Network)
Lindsey McKeon (One Tree Hill)
Ed Begley Jr. (Batman Forever)
Parry Shen (The New Guy)
Blake Shields (Heroes)
Ryan Pinkston (Bad Santa)
Jaime Ray Newman (Bates Motel)
Krista Kalmus (North Shore)
Adam Rose (Up In The Air)
Amanda Walsh (Disturbia)
Charlie Weber (Buffy)
Sandra McCoy (Power Rangers Wild Force)
Michael Grant Terry (Bones)
David Tom (Pleasantville)
Charles Shaughnessy (Stargate SG.1)
David Blue (Stargate Universe)
Jeremy Roberts (The Mask)
Robert Ri’chard (The Vampire Diaries)
Jesse James (Jumper)
Paul Rudd (Ant-Man)
Suzanne Cryer (Two Guys and a GIrl)
Ed Gathegi (X-Men: First Class)
Travis Van Winkle (Meet The Spartans)

Veronica Mars is set in Neptune, California, a town without a middle-class. Everyone’s either a millionaire or works for one, and the man largely responsible for Neptune’s unparalleled success is Jake Kane (Kyle Secor), the resident billionaire software mogul. Kane and his family are still reeling from the murder of his daughter Lilly (Amanda Seyfried) some months earlier, and as if that loss wasn’t enough, the beloved Kane family was doggedly pursued by a county sheriff convinced that they were hiding something. Public sentiment turned against Sheriff Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), who was ousted from office and abandoned by his wife.

Cue the title character. His daughter Veronica (Kristen Bell) had already lost her best friend with Lilly’s death, but standing by her father also cost Veronica her friends, her social status, her house…even her mother. Veronica had already been unceremoniously dumped by Lilly’s brother Duncan (Teddy Dunn) shortly before her friend’s murder, and a defiant visit to face her former friends at a party weeks later led to Veronica being drugged and raped. Despite having lost so much, Veronica is resilient enough to move on with her life, and as her father struggles to stay afloat as a private eye, Veronica puts her smarts and determination to work to help ease the caseload at Mars Investigations. She also puts her talents to use to help her classmates with their troubles — for a price, of course. To cap it all off, Veronica’s faced with a couple of her own mysteries to solve. What convinced Lianne Mars to abandon her family, and where is she now? Who was it who drugged and raped Veronica last December? Also, is her father right — did someone other than disgruntled Kane Software employee Abel Koontz murder Lilly? If there is, who orchestrated the conspiracy that led to Koontz’ confession and why?

The dialogue in Veronica Mars has the same sparkle as Joss Whedon’s work…arguably better, even, since Buffy sometimes sounded like a deliberate attempt to be hip, whereas Veronica Mars manages to be witty and clever without feeling quite so forced. The writing doesn’t skew as young as one might expect from a TV show set in a high school. If anything, the target audience seems to be twentysomething — I don’t know how many fifteen year olds would be able to appreciate references to Archie comics or 21 Jump Street, f’r instance. Characterization is another strength of the series, and part of the reason Veronica Mars works as well as it does is that the audience truly does care about the characters. Despite having a seemingly endless array of talents, Veronica isn’t some sort of idyllic Mary Sue. She’s not always right. Her investigations frequently take morally questionable turns. Things don’t always go the way she wants. Not every episode has a happy ending.Image result for veronica mars return of kaneAlong with the cases that are solved in the space of forty minutes and change every week, a couple of mysteries are introduced in the pilot that are gradually explored throughout the entire length of the season. That’s right — unlike the hydra that is Lost, where answering one question spawns ten more, all of Veronica Mars’ mysteries are resolved by the time the season finale rolls around. (The finale tosses out a couple questions of its own, but if a second season hadn’t gotten the green light, it still would’ve been a fitting end to the series.)

Veronica Mars has a capable cast to match the quality of the writing. Veronica is strong and cynical…bright and sarcastic…and even though all of the trauma she’s suffered over the past year has aged her somewhat, she’s still an emotionally vulnerable teenage girl. That’s a lot to juggle, but Kristen Bell is talented enough to make such a colossal task seem effortless and captivating enough to carry a show on her shoulders. Of course, Bell is joined by a strong enough supporting cast that she doesn’t have to shoulder it all herself.

After cutting down Wallace (Percy Daggs III), the new kid at school, who’d been stripped naked and duct taped to a flagpole, he and Veronica become best friends. In teen-TV land, it’s an immutable rule that people of different genders can’t just be pals…there’s this endless temptation to couple everyone. Veronica Mars manages to resist, resulting in one of the few platonic friendships like this left on television.Enrico Colantoni, who plays Veronica’s father, is another fan favorite, able to shift from warm, loving, and borderline-goofy to secretive and deadly serious when the situation calls for it. There’s also Eli “Weevil” Navarro (Francis Capra), the leader of a local biker gang from the wrong side of the tracks who engages in some mutual backscratching with Veronica.

The character who stands out the most — aside from Veronica, of course — is Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). Like Kristen Bell, Dohring is endlessly engaging. He’s introduced as an “obligatory psychotic jackass”, but as the season progresses, Logan’s humanized without being watered-down; even when he’s doing something as thoroughly loathesome as bribing a homeless vet to join in on his homebrew Bumfights video, there’s an undercurrent of understanding why Logan is the way he is. The character changes throughout the season, but the shift feels deserved and natural, not just because that’s what’s scrawled on the whiteboard in the writing room.Other guest stars throughout the season include Napoleon Dynamite’s Tina Majorino as computer whiz Mac, Aaron Ashmore as a love interest with a shady past, Logan’s movie star family (played by Harry Hamlin, Lisa Rinna, and Alyson Hannigan), Anthony Anderson, Zachary Ty Brian, Joey Lauren Adams, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and, in a shameless bit of stuntcasting, Paris Hilton. The fact that the second episode of Veronica Mars manages to be really good despite a Paris Hilton guest spot really is a testament to how good a series this is. Oh, and, in true Laura Palmer fashion, just because Lilly Kane is dead doesn’t mean that Amanda Seyfried can’t rear her head in nearly every other episode.The conclusion to most of the mysteries caught me by surprise. Throughout the entire season, the only time I correctly guessed the culprit was in “Lord of the Bling”, and even then, the motivation and execution were well out of my reach. The many twists the stories take are clever, and watching these episodes a second time, I could spot all sorts of clues and hints that didn’t seem that important the first time through.  Veronica Mars is a series that’s easy to dive into as a marathon, but for viewers catching these episodes for the first time, I’d recommend drawing it out a bit.

The central arcs of Veronica Mars’ first season were all intensely personal: Veronica being abandoned by her mother, not to mention every one of her former friends, roofie-fueled date rape at a party a year earlier, and the brutal murder of her closest friend, Lilly Kane. How do you follow up a season like that? t’d be nearly impossible to craft another set of stories that’d resonate in quite that same way without retreading familiar ground, so season two of Veronica Mars takes a different approach, shifting the focus away from our plucky junior detective and more towards the sticky underbelly of Neptune, California as a whole.Mayoral candidate Woody Goodman (Steve Guttenberg) has a vision for the glorified country club that is Neptune. Incorporating Neptune would have a Tide with Bleach effect, making the whites whiter and the rich richer as property values are boosted and less desirable elements are rezoned onto someone else’s doorstep. Woody’s plan is announced as the tensions between the haves and have-nots are already boiling over in Neptune.Logan Echols, the cocky son of an aging Hollywood action hero, has walked away unscathed from accusations of stabbing a Hispanic biker to death, prompting a series of vicious attacks from both sides. The stark differences between the classes are also apparent after a school-sponsored trip; the rich kids hop in a limo and ride back in style, and the not-so-privileged cram into a rank schoolbus and careen off the side of a cliff. The town is torn apart by the tragedy, and Veronica, who’d barely missed the bus and was very nearly among the dead, is determined to find out if the crash was a terrible accident, suicide, or something much more ominous.Image result for veronica mars driver edIt’s a hectic season, with a bus crash, two murder trials, class-slash-racial tensions throughout Neptune, a sheriff race, the possibility of Neptune incorporating, the ambiguity about Wallace’s family life, a coma-baby, Beaver following in his shamed father’s footsteps as he tries to get his own real estate endeavour off the ground, the strife former baseball star Terrence Cook and his overbearing daughter Jackie (Tessa Thompson) bring to Neptune, the newly-introduced clan of Irish drug-peddlers known as the Fitzpatricks, and the machinations of Dick and Beaver’s scheming stepmother Kendall (Charisma Carpenter). There’s enough to follow The season plays a lot better on DVD; it’s easier to keep the scores of characters and plot points fresh in the mind over the course of a few days as opposed to the better part of a year.In its third — and ultimately final — season, Veronica Mars steps away from any season-length stories. Slightly truncated to twenty episodes, season three is neatly grouped into three distinct chunks of episodes. The season opens with Veronica settling into her freshman year at Hearst College, but the campus continues to be plagued by a spree of sexual assaults. Mac’s bubbly roommate Parker (Julie Gonzalo) is the latest victim to be roofied and raped, with the attacker leaving his calling card by shaving her head. Having suffered through the past couple of years as a rape victim herself and unwittingly in a position to have caught Parker’s rapist during the attack, Veronica’s grim determination to put an end to this reign of terror makes up the first and the lengthiest of the season’s arcs.The season’s second arc picks up a couple of months after the grisly final shot of “Spit and Eggs” as the police have shrugged off the death of someone close to Veronica as a suicide. A devastating emotional blow delivered just hours earlier, a gunshot to the temple, a vague suicide note typed on a PC…it’s tragic, yes, but the pieces fit neatly together just the same. Still, it’s a scenario lifted directly from a paper Veronica penned for her criminology class on how to commit the perfect murder. Throughout the course of their investigation, Veronica and her father become entangled in a pair of other murders, among them the death of one of Veronica Mars’ most enduring characters.Facing cancellation and attempting to make the largely serialized series more accessible to new viewers, Veronica Mars draws to a close with a set of five standalone episodes. There aren’t any overarching investigations, although some threads leak from one episode to the next, including a sheriff’s race between Keith Mars and an unlikely contender.

The season premiere introduces two other Hearst students who’d go on to stick around for the rest of the year: Wallace’s roommate Stosh “Piz” Piznarski (Chris Lowell) and Mac’s roomieuntitledThe hunt for Hearst’s rapist, which runs for the nine of the season’s twenty episodes, is the highest point of the set. It’s the most engaging of the season’s various arcs, which is impressive considering that these episodes have to juggle the weekly mysteries, the overarching search for the rapist, and introduce the new characters and Hearst College as a whole. There seems to be some connection between the rapes and the Greek system at Hearst, pitting Veronica against a group of feminists determined to bring the frats down, forcing her to defend the same lecherous halfwits she thought were tied to the rapes last season, and clawing her way into the Zeta Theta Beta house. This first half of the season also gives the supporting cast a reasonable amount of screentime, including Wallace and Logan on opposite ends of an Abu Ghraib-inspired prison experiment, Logan stumbling onto a life-changing discovery when trying to find out why his trust fund is dwindling so quickly, and Keith making the same sorts of excuses with a married client as the skeevy men whose infidelities pay his rent. The arc comes to a close with “Spit and Eggs”, which, in true Veronica Mars form, plays like more of a thriller than a mystery, and it’s by far the most intense episode of the season. Veronica Mars was an excellent a show spread across 3 seasons and become a great cult show, and with the arrival of the movie saw resurgence in its popularity.

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