REVIEW: UNDONE – SEASON 1

Undone (2019)

Staring

Rosa Salazar (Alita: Battle Angel)
Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul)
Angelique Cabral (Friends With Benefits)
Constance Marie (Switched at Birth)
Daveed Diggs (Zootopia)
Siddharth Dhananjay (A Name Without A Place)

Prayers And Visions (2019)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Nicholas Gonzalez (Sleepy Hollow)
Tyler Posey (Truth or Dare)
Jeanne Tripplehorn (The Firm)
John Corbett (The Silence)
Percy Daggs III (Veronica Mars)
Keiko Agena (13 Reasons Why)

Undone (2019)One of the first things you see in “Undone” is a car crash. One of the last things you see, in the pilot at least, is a car crash. One of the things you see the most over five episodes of Season 1 — in a myriad of different ways, interrupting various other moments — is this same exact car crash, where Alma (Rosa Salazar) gets T-boned after running a stop sign because she sees… something… on the side of the road. That “something” holds great meaning to the central mystery, but, as it first appears in the show, it’s just a few brush strokes on the giant canvas that is “Undone”; it’s an important part, but also a means to the bigger picture — and I’m not just talking about the show’s groundbreaking format.undone_UNDONE_102_SG_016_rgb“Undone,” the new half-hour original program from creators Kate Purdy and Raphael Bob-Waksberg (both of whom work on Netflix’s “BoJack Horseman”), is the first serialized TV show made with rotoscope animation. Rotoscoping is a process where artists trace over images that have already been captured, alter that footage with original artwork, or find a way to do both at once — you’ve seen it before in films like “A Scanner Darkly,” and the same team who made Richard Linklater’s 2006 film helped animate “Undone,” as well. The visuals, which are breathtaking in and of themselves, also compliment the series’ wide-ranging ambition, from the genres it smashes together to the themes of its core story. Together, the animation and the writing compliment each other to form a unique new form of television; one that’s easy to get caught up in, even when it stumbles a bit while explaining itself. “Undone” is a fascinating project to examine, but it’s also a very good, very human story, sans the flashy packaging.undone_UNDONE_102_SG_025_rgb.0Leading up to the crash, Alma’s life is presented as mundane to the point of frustrating. She’s stuck in a rut, bouncing between her routine job at a daycare center and a quiet life at home with her live-in boyfriend, Sam (Siddharth Dhananjay). Further exacerbating Alma’s discontent is her all-too-normal sister, Becca (Angelique Cabral) and all-too-traditional mother, Camila (Constance Marie). Becca is recently engaged, which serves as a) a reminder for Alma that her best friend and drinking buddy will soon be domesticated, b) a trigger for Camila, who’s hoping Alma will soon follow in her sister’s footsteps, and c) a trigger for Alma, who needs a change and doesn’t know exactly where to look.undone-amazonThese conflicts heat to a boil over the course of an engrossing debut episode, leading to the aforementioned car crash and a twist on the narrative only hinted at in the initial half-hour. Ostensibly, “Undone” revolves around one question: What happened to Alma’s father, Jacob (Bob Odenkirk)? He died in a car crash when Alma was an adolescent, but he resurfaces after Alma’s own accident to ask for her help. Is he a hallucination? A symptom of brain trauma? A time-traveling pseudo-spirit trying to help his daughter from behind the grave?undone-amazon-series-images-13-600x338From Episode 2 onward, “Undone” focuses on training and practice, as Jacob urges Alma to tap into a mysterious ability he claims to have mastered: the power to travel through space and time, altering timelines along the way. Perhaps she can save his life. Perhaps she can save her own. Or, by indulging in her visions, perhaps Alma is ruining the life she’s already built — are her choices self-healing or self-destructive? Is she burning down everything and everyone around her because she’s fed up with a banal existence, or is she actively addressing her mental illness in order to save those very same things?This kind of confusion should be deeply relatable to anyone who’s taken risks, broken the status quo, or made difficult life decisions. It’s often hard to know you’re doing the right thing as it’s happening, and “Undone” brings that confusion to beautiful, convincing life through its animation. As Alma tries to sort out one issue, others come crashing through — literally. She might be sitting in a hospital bed, but then she’s suddenly transported behind the wheel of her car. Or she’s having a fight with her sister, and the sky comes crashing down around them, sending Alma adrift into the cosmos.undone-undone_102_sg_018_rgb-h_2019_0Purdy, Bob-Waksberg, and director Hisko Hulsing (“Montage of Heck”) find more and more inventive ways to transition between scenes, emotions, and stories as the series progresses, creating a wild atmosphere always grounded in Alma’s perspective. The format helps you see things as she experiences them as much as it helps you feel what she’s going through, but the creative team takes things one step further and realigns the series’ structure, too. After starting off with a pretty traditional pilot (introducing characters, a central problem, and an intriguing mystery), the following episodes have atypical start and end points, fluctuating narrative arcs, and sudden shifts in focus.undone-s01e07-720p-web-h264-phenomenal-largeA lot of that is acknowledged in the storytelling itself, as Alma will comment on the abrupt departure from one topic to another, sometimes steering us back to the original point. In a weird way, it’s like an action movie — except the fights or chase scenes that break up the emotional story are thought experiments or time travel, and Alma can decide for herself if she wants to run with it or go back to what she was doing before being interrupted. This creates a feeling of drifting between stories as much as it blends them together; there’s a murder-mystery, a personal journey of self-fulfillment, and existential queries about what makes a person who they are, all incorporated into 30-minute episodes. Like Alma losing her tether to reality, “Undone” loses momentum while it’s wrestling to work through so much (not to mention while trying to explain itself, which mainly works because of Odenkirk’s dulcet professorial voice).Undone-comic-con-700x300Odenkirk, who also produces, is the show’s beating heart. His mysterious father figure pokes and prods his daughter into action, as Odenkirk creates an endearing, self-aware know-it-all; a guy who has all the answers, dispenses them as he best sees fit, and yet does so in a way that feels earnest. (Odenkirk shows a particular talent for delivering lines like “try, but don’t try try,” making them believably helpful without feeling condescending.) Meanwhile, Salazar carries the entirety of Alma’s crazy journey with a deft touch and quick wit. She’s a grounding rod and a spark of energy, turning exposition into entertainment without betraying the import of the situation. Salazar taps into Alma on every level, and the lived-in performance helps keep the sci-fi story from feeling too out there.undone-undone_102_sg_018_rgb-h_2019_0In  case it’s not obvious from the above descriptions, the animation takes nothing away from these immaculate performances. Each actor shines through just as they would in live-action and deserve accolades accordingly. Every level of “Undone” compliments another, which encourages belief that the ending of the series will be as strong as the start. With three episodes left in the first season, much of “Undone’s” commentary on mental illness has yet to fully form, but given the way Purdy and Bob-Waksberg tied similar themes together in “BoJack Horseman” (like the Season 4 masterpiece, “Time’s Arrow,” written by Purdy), it feels like those answers are coming. For now, there’s enough to admire in the way their new series plays with time to blend significant people with significant events, while allowing its characters to reassess both by taking control of their temporal reality — in doing so, the experimental new series finds significance itself.

REVIEW: VERONICA MARS – SEASON 4

Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)

 

Starring

Kristen Bell (The GOod Place)
Jason Dohring (Izombie)
Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint)

Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Percy Daggs III (American son)
Francis Capra (Heroes)
Ryan Hansen (2 Broke Girls)
Max Greenfield (New Girl)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)
Daran Norris (Izombie)
David Starzyk (Bring it On 5)
Adam Rose (Santa Clarita Diet)
Ryan Devlin (Big Shots)
Julie Gonzalo (Freaky Friday)
James Jordan (Wind River)
Dawnn Lewis (Izombie)
Kirby Howell-Baptiste (The Good Place)
Patton Oswalt (Two and a Half men)
Clifton Collins Jr. (Westworld)
Izabela Vidovic (Supergirl)
J. K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Tyler Alvarez (American Vandal)
Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica)
Mido Hamada (Unknown)
Kyle Secor (The Flash)
François Chau (The Tick)
Logan Miller (Escape Room)
Josh Duhamel (Transformers)
Patrick Cox (2 Broke Girls)
Rodney Rowland (Legacies)
Barry Livingston (Argo)
Clark Duke (Kick-Ass)
Jacqueline Antaramian (Side Effects)
Paul Karmiryan (In The Vault)
Lukas Gage (American Vandal)
Christopher B. Duncan (Legacies)
Patrick Wolff (Starship Troopers)

Chino and the ManIn Hulu’s revival of Veronica Mars, the title character (Kristen Bell) visits one of the many men she put behind bars as a teenager. Realizing that she’s still working as a private investigator, he snipes, “That was your job in high school, right?” Television shows are a product of a particular time in the lives of their characters, creators, and audiences. One of the biggest problems with the recent trend of belated-sequel seasons is that they try to act like nothing has changed for any of those groups when, say, a 32-year-old Rory Gilmore shouldn’t still be acting like a 20-year-old. This issue should be especially acute for Veronica Mars, which in its original run drew much of its power and verve from presenting a hard-boiled gumshoe who looked like she had just quit the school dance team. (She had, actually, in the wake of her best friend’s murder.)Chino and the ManBut the new eight-episode Hulu season is keenly aware that its heroine is stuck in neutral. It’s less surprising for her as an adult to be doing stakeouts and fending off gangsters at gunpoint. But it’s also sad and self-destructive — in a very film-noir kind of way — that she’s retreated to the role she had before she was old enough to vote. When her high school frenemy Weevil (Francis Capra) asks what’s wrong with her, she cracks, “You know, there are a range of opinions.” She spends as much of her narration beating herself up for mistakes and character flaws as she does helping us follow the complicated case that’s brought her back to television. And Bell is just as charismatic, vulnerable, and slick with the banter as she was when she could pass for an 11th-grader.newgirl-ep708_sc9-ray_1203_originalVeronica creator Rob Thomas presciently set the original series in a California beach town with no middle class — only the ultrarich and the people who work for them. The setting works even better amid our present-day class warfare, and the plot involves a series of bombings that may be connected to a movement to drive out the city’s few remaining mom-and-pop businesses. Chief among the early suspects: “Big Dick” Casablancas (David Starzyk), a real-estate mogul (and holdover from the original series; he’s the father of Ryan Hansen’s Dick) publicly insisting that “we need to get back to a better time.” There’s a healthy mix of new faces, including Patton Oswalt enjoying his celebrity as witness to the first bombing; J.K. Simmons at his most charming as an ex-con now working as Big Dick’s enforcer; Kirby Howell-Baptiste as a bar owner Veronica befriends; and Izabela Vidovic as a teen reminiscent of Veronica back in the UPN days. And Veronica of course works the case with her beloved father, Keith (Enrico Colantoni, appealingly relaxed as ever, even as Keith battles health issues), while still trying to make things work with high school flame Logan (Jason Dohring, who apparently lives at the gym now).9a8851bc-3c87-458d-9481-8e4ea386bca3-vmars_101_md_2021r_fThis is the second time Bell and Co. have returned to this world: A 2014 movie introduced us to Veronica as an adult. Perhaps because the film was funded by Kickstarter, Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright (who also co-wrote the new season) leaned hard into fan service, with a mystery that was largely an excuse to bring back as many old favorites as possible. It was fun in spots, but a violation of the bleak noir ethos of the original series, which was at its best when it denied the audience what it wanted and gave them what the story demanded. The Hulu version also features a host of familiar faces, like Max Greenfield as Veronica’s ex Leo (now an FBI agent looking into the bombings), but they turn up only when the plot calls for them. And the ending to this new mystery feels satisfying both to the narratives and to the themes of Veronica’s life as a woman who can’t stop looking for the truth, no matter how much it hurts.Keep Calm and Party OnThe conclusion is darker than some fans may want, but feels like a necessary corrective for this new phase of our heroine’s life. It’s a terrific return to form for one of television’s all-time great underseen gems

REVIEW: VERONICA MARS (MOVIE)

CAST

Kristen Bell (Frozen)
Jason Dohring (The Originals)
Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones)
Ryan Hansen (2 Broke Girls)
Francis Capra (heroes)
Percy Daggs III (Izombie)
Chris Lowell (Enlisted)
Tina Mojorino (Santa Fe)
Enrico Colantoni (Powers)
Gaby Hoffmann (Wild)
Jerry O’Connell (Sliders)
Brandon Hillock (Villains)
Martin Starr (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)
Max Greenfield (New Girl)
Amanda Noret (City Guys)
Daran Norris (Izombie)
Sam Huntington (Superman Returns)
Duane Daniels (Murder on Vine)
Lisa Thornhill (Rush Hour 3)
Christine Lakin (Family Guy)
Jamie Lee Curtis (Scream Queens)
Justin Long (Mom)
Dax Shepard (Hit and Run)
James Franco (Spider-Man)
Eddie Jemison (IZombie)
Jessica Camacho (The Flash)

Kristen Bell and Jason Dohring in Veronica Mars (2014)The world of cult TV is a peculiar one. Television shows are canceled all the time, but through the world of DVDs, Netflix, and Amazon, shows pulled from network schedules before their time now have the opportunity to grow a loyal, faithful audience long after the grass has grown over their graves.Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2014)Those fans often wonder if they’ll ever see their favorite characters again, and every once in awhile that wish comes true. Seven years after it was canceled, Veronica Mars, which became a cult phenomenon since it premiered its last new episode on The CW in 2007, returned for one more mystery, this time on the big screen. As any true fan can tell you, Veronica Mars was a witty, one-of-a-kind teen noir series that tackled everything from rape and murder to class warfare.A social outcast after her sheriff father (Enrico Colantoni) wrongfully accused a very rich, very powerful man of murdering his daughter (who was Veronica’s best friend and the sister of Veronica’s boyfriend), Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) was largely on her own in a town full of obnoxious and privileged children of movie stars and CEOs. But the Southern California town of Neptune was divided along class lines. Veronica didn’t fit in with the popular kids, known as the 09-ers, after her father’s wrongful accusation, but she didn’t fit in with the working class either on account of her former association to those same 09-ers. She became a fierce, independent teen whose weapon of choice against her enemies was her mind, her wit, and the occasional stun-gunning. Each episode of the series tackled a new mystery for Veronica to solve, while an overarching larger mystery unfolded over the course of the entire season. It’s not every day a series like Veronica Mars shows up on TV, and so it makes perfect sense that Veronica Mars in its film incarnation be as unique as the series from which it was born.veronicamarsFunded by fans via a Kickstarter that broke several records and reached its goal of $2 million in less than 12 hours, the Veronica Mars film was a labor of love for all parties involved. The movie, which looked great despite not having had the funds it would have had if it had been completely backed by the studio, felt like an extended episode of the TV series. Some people might look at that and see a failure, but to any Veronica Mars fan, that’s the highest form of praise. Instead of an ending, the movie felt like a brand-new chapter recently discovered at the end of a favorite book.Series creator Rob Thomas has always been cognizant of the fact that the film would not exist if it weren’t for the fans, and has said on more than one occasion that it was imperative that they make a film that would do right by the fans who donated their hard-earned cash to bring this beautiful work to life. And that’s what he did. He created a film that he knew the fans would love. And he should know, because he’s probably the series’ biggest fan outside of Kristen Bell herself. Without Thomas and Bell keeping alive their dream of one day shooting a film, fans might have given up hope of ever returning to the seedy seaside town of Neptune, California.Kristen Bell and Ryan Hansen in Veronica Mars (2014)By the time Veronica traded in her pin-straight hair and fancy New York lawyer duds for the jeans, jacket, and beach waves uniform she wore for three seasons, it was clear Veronica was never going to go back to the seemingly perfect life she had in New York with Piz (Chris Lowell). It doesn’t matter if everyone knew going in that she’d end up choosing Neptune over New York and ex-boyfriend Logan (Jason Dorhing) over Piz, because it’s exactly what the fans wanted to see. It’s what the fans paid upfront to see. It’s the open-ended ending the fans waited seven years for. In short: The film delivered.rs_560x415-140311131242-1024.Veronica-Mars-Kristen-Bell.ms.031114_copyThe movie, which followed the first case Veronica had worked since she transferred to Stanford after one year at Hearst College, and which happened to coincide with her 10 year high school reunion, felt exactly like that: A reunion. Because Thomas wanted to please the fans, the movie attempted to bring back as many original cast members from the series as possible, from the still-bitchy Madison Sinclair (Amanda Noret), to the dirty and shameless Vinnie Van Lowe (Ken Marino), who might actually be living in a van now, to the effortlessly charming Deputy-now-detective Leo (Max Greenfield). The movie was a parade of familiar faces, but to fans of the series, it felt a bit like home. Each time a character appeared on screen, it was a wink and a nod to fans.Kristen Bell and Jason Dohring in Veronica Mars (2014)It makes sense that the person to pull Veronica back to Neptune and the private eye world was Logan. He’d been part of the reason she’d left town and their self-proclaimed epic love story was left unfinished. If I take issue with anything in the film, however, it would be the way in which it portrayed her relationship with both Logan and the job of being a private investigator as a drug. Over the course of the series, it was clear her relationship with Logan was toxic, but Logan has grown up and matured considerably in the nine years since we last saw him. Yes, he was quick to resort to violence when Veronica’s sex tape played at the reunion, but that doesn’t change the fact that Logan has come very far since his self-destructive days. He joined the navy and became a pilot. He became a stabilizing force for his girlfriend, Carrie Bishop, whose murder was the central mystery of the movie.Kristen Bell and Jason Dohring in Veronica Mars (2014)Keith’s vocal opposition to Veronica leaving New York and the opportunities there felt real and were grounded in reality. He’s a father who only wants the best for his daughter. But it was never going to happen. The mystery of who killed Carrie Bishop wasn’t the most exciting or intricate case Veronica has ever tackled, but once again, the movie had to find a way to work in a case that would draw Veronica back to Neptune, as well as find a way to work in the cameos fans desperately wanted to see in a short, finite amount of time. Revealing Martin Starr’s new character Stu “Cobb” Cobbler to be Carrie’s murderer made sense, because having it be someone fans knew and loved would have been crushing to the audience. The fact that Dick really never knew the truth about what happened to Susan Knight on that boat was in line with the Dick that fans have come to love or come to love to hate. In short, everything that happened in the film felt just right.Success in this industry will always be measured by how much money a film makes, and there is a special dollar amount the movie must bring in to warrant a sequel, but to fans of the series, none of that really matters. It was never about the money, it was about seeing Veronica, Logan, Keith, Wallace, Mac, Dick, Weevil, and Piz again. Veronica Mars’ success will never be measured in dollar signs, but in whether or not the film made fans happy, and to that end it definitely succeeded.

REVIEW: PLAY IT AGAIN, DICK

Play it again dick poster

CAST

Ryan Hansen (2 Broke Girls)
Kristen Bell (Frozen)
Enrico Colantoni (Powers)
Kyle Gallner (Smallville)
Amanda Noret (Bunny Whipped)
Percy Daggs III (Izombie)
Christopher B. Duncan (My Name Is Khan)
Rose McIver (Izombie)
Daran Norris (Team America)
Robert Buckley (Killer Movie)
Ryan Devlin (Deck The Halls)
Francis Capra (Heroes)
Jason Dohring (The Originals)
Chris Lowell (Enlisted)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)
Lisa Thornhill (The Family Man)

piad7This online series of short 10 minute episodes is worth watching, especially if you’re a fellow Marshmallow. Though it’s less spinoff and more meta with a humorous look at the industry through the eyes of a “Dick” like Ryan Hansen It’s fun to watch with most of the actors and characters we all love making appearances. So if you’re up for seeing some of your favorite actors and characters from Veronica Mars, then this is a must see – even if it’s not ‘quite’ Veronica Mars.

Photo: CWThe series takes a fictionalized version of Ryan Hansen (who plays Dick Casablancas – rich party boy) as he tries to get a Veronica Mars spinoff series off the ground about Dick as a private eye. This interpretation of Ryan is closer to Dick in personality than perhaps what he’s like in real life, which creates a familiar atmosphere for the fans.

Photo: CWHowever, what makes the series work and ultimately hilarious is how it pokes fun at the industry itself. In real life, there’s no way the Dick Casablancas show would make it on the air. Dick as a private eye? And when the fictionalized Kristen reveals how silly she thinks the idea is (and only agrees to be on it because she sees Ryan as a brother, not to mention the zero chance of it getting picked up), we can’t help but agree and laugh at her predicament.rs_560x415-140922161834-560.Play-It-Again-Dick-Ryan-Hansen-Jason-Dohring.ms.092214In a clever scene, they have Ryan pitch his show to real life CW executives as he somehow convinces them to give him money to make the pilot. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Where I stand, the more Veronica Mars content the better. By having this online series, it keeps the show relevant instead of in the archives of the past. Here’s to hoping for another future movie, or even better a limited series order. Till then, we all have Dick. And  it is fun to watch.

REVIEW: VERONICA MARS – SEASON 3

Starring

Kristen Bell (The Good Place)
Jason Dohring (The Originals)
Percy Daggs III (Detention)
Francis Capra (Izombie)
Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint)
Ryan Hansen (2 Broke Girls)
Tina Majorino (Waterworld)
Michael Muhney (The Young and the Restless)
Julie Gonzalo (Cherry Rush)
Chris Lowell (GLOW)

Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Ken Marino (Agent Carter)
Patrick Fabian (Better Call Saul)
Jason Beghe (One Missed Call)
Charisma Carpenter (Angel)
Brandon Hillock (Villains)
James Jordan (Destroyer)
Andrew McClain (Alienate)
Rodney Rowland (Legacies)
David Tom (Swing Kids)
Samm Levine (Inglourious Basterds)
Rider Strong (Cabin Fever)
Chastity Dotson (Patriot)
Keri Lynn Pratt (Samllville)
Rachelle Lefevre (Twilight)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Ryan Devlin (Izombie)
Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger)
Lindsey McKeon (One Tree Hill)
Krista Kalmus (Fired Up!)
Ed Begley Jr. (A Mighty Wind)
Parry Shen (Hatchet II)
Robert Ri’chard (House of Wax)
Michael B. Silver (Jason Goes To Hell)
Daran Norris (Izombie)
Blake Shields (Heroes)
Ryan Pinkston (Will & Grace)
Jaime Ray Newman (Bates Motel)
Richard Grieco (21 Jump Street)
Adam Rose (Santa Clarita Diet)
Dianna Agron (Glee)
Laura San Giacomo (Pretty Woman)
Amanda Walsh (Disturbia)
Michael Grant Terry (Bones)
Sandra McCoy (Power Rangers Wild Force)
Charles Shaughnessy (Sabrina: TTW)
Patricia Hearst (Cry-Baby)
David Blue (Stargate Universe)
Jamie Chung (The Gifted)
Eric Jungmann (Not Another Teen Movie)
Brittany Ishibashi (Runaways)
Brianne Davis (Six)
Amanda Noret (She’s Out of His Mind)
Chris Ellis (Armageddon)
Carlee Avers (The Changed)
Toni Trucks (Grimm)
Juliette Goglia (Mike & Molly)
Jeremy Roberts (The Mask)
Anthony Azizi (Lost)
Jack McGee (Gangster Squad)
Fred Stoller (Little Man)
Duane Daniels (First Strike)
Paul Rudd (Ant-Man)
Suzanne Cryer (Two Guys and a Girl)
Edi Gathegi (Beauty and The BEast)
Tangie Ambrose (Why Him?)
Patrick Fischler (Birds of Prey)
Kyle Secor (The Purge: Election Year)
Max Greenfield (New Girl)
Christopher B. Duncan (Legacies)
Jim Jansen (A.I.)

Kristen Bell and Jason Dohring in Veronica Mars (2004)In its third 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.Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)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.Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)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.

REVIEW: VERONICA MARS – SEASON 2

Starring

Kristen Bell (The Good Place)
Teddy Dunn (Jumper)
Jason Dohring (The Originals)
Percy Daggs III (Detention)
Francis Capra (Izombie)
Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint)
Ryan Hansen (2 Broke Girls)
Kyle Gallner (American Sniper)
Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jeffrey D. Sams (Cupid)
Alona Tal (Cult)
Max Greenfield (New Girl)
Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones)
Charisma Carpenter (Buffy: TVS)
Steve Guttenberg (Police Academy)
Bradley Joseph (Stone & Ed)
Kevin Smith (Jay & Silet Bob Strike Back)
Michael Muhney (The Young and The Restless)
David Starzyk (Cam Girls)
Ari Graynor (Bad Teacher)
Kristin Dattilo (Dexter)
Melissa Reneé Martin (The Secret Craft)
Miko Hughes (New Nightmare)
Valorie Curry (The Tick)
Cress Williams (BLack Lightning)
Brandon Hillock (Villains)
Laura Bell Bundy (Scream Queens)
Geoff Pierson (24)
Tina Majorino (Scorpion)
Dana Davis (Heroes)
Christine Estabrook (Spider-Man 2)
Jonathan Chesner (Bones)
Harry Hamlin (Clash of The Titans)
Daran Norris (Izombie)
Rick Peters (Holidays)
Joss Whedon (Angel)
Patrick Wolff (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
James Molina (Runner Runner)
Roy Werner (Power Rangers Time Force)
Christopher B. Duncan (Legacies)
Amanda Noret (Bunny Whipped)
Rodney Rowland (Legacies)
Duane Daniels (Fashion House)
Lucas Grabeel (Smallville)
Lisa Thornhill (Agter The Sunset)
Lucy Lawless (Xena)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)
Kevin Sheridan (Heart of Dixie)
D. Elliot Woods (Ballers)
B.J. Britt (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Curtis Andersen (Sabrina: TTW)
Jessy Schram (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Virginia Williams (Fuller House)
Dawn Olivieri (American Hustle)
Aaron Ashmore (Samllville)
Michael Cera (Juno)
David Tom (Swing Kids)
Kayla Ewell (Th Vampire Diaries)
James Jordan (Wind River)
John Prosky (Heroes)
Amanda Seyfried (Ted 2)
Erica Gimpel (God Friended Me)

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.

 

Kristen Bell and Teddy Dunn in Veronica Mars (2004)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.Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)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).Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)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.

REVIEW: VERONICA MARS – SEASON 1

Starring

Kristen Bell (The Good Place)
Teddy Dunn (Jumper)
Jason Dohring (The Originals)
Percy Daggs III (Detention)
Sydney Tamiia Poitier (Death Proof)
Francis Capra (Izombie)
Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint)

Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Michael Muhney (The Young and The Restless)
Corinne Bohrer (The Flash 90s)
Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables)
Lisa Thornhill (Agter The Sunset)
Kyle Secor (The Purge: Election Year)
Daran Norris (Izombie)
Brandon Hillock (Villains)
Bradley Joseph (Stone & Ed)
Patrick Wolff (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Duane Daniels (Fashion House)
Jonathan Chesner (Bones)
Christian Clemenson (Apollo 13)
Aaron Ashmore (Smallville)
Wilmer Calderon (Fast & Furious)
Paris Hilton (House of Wax)
Ryan Hansen (2 Broke Girls)
Bobby Edner (The Amanda Show)
Paula Marshall (Murder In The First)
Alison MacInnis (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Kyla Pratt (Dr. Dolittle)
Adam Wylie (Child’s Play 2)
Robert Baker (Supergirl)
Sam Huntington (Superman Returns)
Melissa Reneé Martin (The Secret Craft)
Lisa Rinna (Days of Our Lives)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Harry Hamlin (Clash of The Titans)
Amanda Noret (Bunny Whipped)
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dar Thirty)
Adam Kaufman (Buffy: TVS)
Steven Williams (Jason Goes To Hell)
Bonita Friedericy (Chuck)
Alona Tal (Cult)
Tina Majorino (Scorpion)
Erica Gimpel (God Friended Me)
Anastasia Baranova (Z Nation)
Jonathan Bennett (Mean Girls)
Chris William Martin (The Vampire Diaries)
Megalyn Echikunwoke (That 70s Show)
Kevin Sheridan (Heart of Dixie)
Emmanuelle Vaugier (Two and a Half Men)
Max Greenfield (New Girl)
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
Christopher B. Duncan (Legacies)
Katie Leclerc (The Big Bang Theory)
Bridget Hoffman (Total Recall)
Anthony Anderson (Transformers)
Jowharah Jones (Ugly Betty)
Ken Merckx (Masked Rider)
Christine Lakin (Family Guy)
Adam Scott (Krampus)
Leighton Meester (The Roommate)
Alyson Hannigan (Buffy: TVS)
Cynthia LaMontagne (Austin Powers)
Zachery Ty Bryan (Home Improvement)
Erin Chambers (Stargate: Atlantis)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)
Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Last Man Standing)
Theo Rossi (Luke Cage)
Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy)
Roy Werner (Power Rangers Time Force)
Kyle Gallner (American Sniper)

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.Kristen Bell and Jessica Chastain in Veronica Mars (2004)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?Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)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.Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)Along 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.Kristen Bell and Alona Tal in Veronica Mars (2004)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.VM-S2D2_04After 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.Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)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. Kristen Bell and Francis Capra in Veronica Mars (2004)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.