Fast Times at Neptune High (Part 1)

Back in the middle of March, a kickstarter campaign for Veronica Mars was started by show creator Rob Thomas and show star Kristen Bell. Their initial aim was to reach $2 Million. They did that on their first day. A couple of weeks later, they passed the $4 Million mark and it is still growing. There are some cool incentives like if you donate $10,000 you can get a cameo in the movie. Even a donation of $10 will get you a copy of the shooting script on the day the movie opens, so it’s up to you whether you want to be spoiled or not. The kickstarter officially closes on Friday, April 12. If they get to $5 Million, it will mean that they can actually film in Southern California, where the show is supposed to be set. Otherwise, they will be filming in Baton Rouge, LA, which offers better tax breaks. The advantage of recreating Neptune on location is that they will be able to use the beaches, the palm trees, the architecture. Everything would just look right.

I got excited right away by this news. This is the kind of cool, geeky things that can happen when the Internet is put to good use. Fan-based crowd sourcing to raise funds so that we can watch projects we want to see. If this model works, can another Firefly movie be far off?

The only snag to all this was that I haven’t actually seen Veronica Mars. A small point, but something that I felt I needed to remedy before I saw the movie. I was aware of the show, for sure. I knew it was critically acclaimed but like Firefly, was cancelled before its time. It lasted a respectable three seasons and then it was gone. I don’t know anything about the show. I don’t know how it ended or if it ended well. I’m not even sure I will like it, but I’m willing to give it a go. I figure that I can handle three seasons. On its surface, it gives off a bit of a “Dawson’s Creek” or “90210” vibe. I’m saying this without actually ever watching any of either show. All I know is that I probably wouldn’t like DC or 90210. I don’t know what I’m basing that on, let’s call it a gut feeling.

A friend of the blog let it be known that she owned all three seasons and she would be happy to lend them to us. So we’re all set. I thought maybe I’d record my thoughts here and there throughout the viewing. Kind of a recorded live-blogging of the “Veronica Mars” viewing experience, ten years after the fact. I’m not going to slavishly record my thoughts episode by episode, AV Club style, but maybe some initial thoughts and a round-up after each season? How does that sound? Oh, and SPOILER ALERT, okay? I’ve been tempted to check Wikipedia from time to time regarding Veronica Mars, but I’m glad I’ve remained relatively spoiler free so far. So if you haven’t seen the show, and don’t want to hear about it, I’d stop reading now. I made one little mistake and watched the “Veronica Mars kickstarter video” which inadvertently delivered a bit of a spoiler regarding Veronica’s love life, but other than that, I’m clean.

Thoughts halfway through Season 1.

So we’ve settled into a viewing schedule. Our regular viewers are myself: who hasn’t seen a single episode, my wife: who has seen the odd episode out of order when they were rebroadcast three or four years ago, and our friend Carol: who has supposedly seen the whole series but only remembers the vaguest and broadest story arcs. For example, she doesn’t even remember who killed Lilly Kane, a pretty important part of Season 1. Carol’s sister, Sheila (the owner and lender of the series) checks in with us from time to time to monitor our progress. Tuesday night has become Veronica Mars night for the foreseeable future. After supper we can usually get two, sometimes three episodes in. The most we’ve watched in one sitting is four. The thing with this show is that it is so well written and so damn addictive that we haven’t been able to keep our viewing to just one night a week. Wednesdays and Thursdays have also seen some VM action, and even the weekends are not spared.

So what do I think of it all? For those who don’t know the show at all, Veronica Mars is a high school student in the fictional Southern California town, Neptune (cute, right?). A year ago, her best friend, Lilly Kane, was MURDERED. Veronica’s dad was the sheriff in town and believed that the Kane family had something to do with the murder, and when someone outside the family confessed and was arrested, her dad lost his job in a recall election. What’s even worse was that she was at a house party and someone drugged her drink. She woke up the next morning and it was clear that she had been raped. She reported this to the police, but didn’t tell anyone else, not even her Dad. Around this same time, Veronica’s boyfriend, Duncan (who was also Lilly’s brother) dumped her and she lost her status as one of the rich, popular kids. Veronica’s Mom also ran off, and her Dad decided to stay in town and open a Private Investigations firm to pay the bills. Veronica works there part-time. I think that’s all you need for background, right? I should also mention that at the high school there are two distinct groups: the “Oh-Niners” named for their zip code. Basically your garden variety rich assholes. And the “PCHers”, which as far as I can tell stands for “Pacific Coast Highwayers”, a group of non-white, lower middle class students. Before Lilly Kane’s murder, Veronica Mars was deeply embedded in the “Oh-Niners”, but has identified more with the “PCHers” since her family’s fall from grace.

Here are my thoughts on the characters.

Keith Mars

Watching this show as someone on the cusp of 40, I identify more with Veronica’s Dad, Keith Mars. He’s my favourite character on the show, and I’m glad he is actually a real part of the show, not someone who bookends stories or is just there as a convenient plot device. He is able to outsmart the douchy guys who Veronica brings home from time to time, and I felt vindicated that her boyfriend Troy turned out to be a liar and a drug dealer who was cheating on Veronica the whole time. I didn’t like Troy, and Keith saw right through him too.

Veronica Mars

The opening shot of the pilot has Veronica Mars on a stakeout outside a seedy motel, waiting to snap pictures of someone inside one of the rooms. Before long, a motorcycle gang pulls up and begins to menace her. Cut to opening titles. What a great opening! You’re instantly interested in this character and her world, and you want to learn more. I like the character of Veronica Mars. She’s so smart and clever, and she’s been through a hellish year: her best friend was murdered, her Dad loses his job, she loses all status in the school, her boyfriend breaks up with her, and her Mom disappears. Any one of these things would be enough to sink any one of us, but somehow she carries on each day, facing new challenges and ridicules from the “Oh-Niners” and “PCHers” alike. I find myself taking an almost paternal interest in her. I care about who she hangs out with and who’s she’s dating. I admire her strength and positivity and her ability to not let the small shitty high school things seem to bother her. They do bother her, of course. I mean, she’s just a kid, but she puts up a good front, which makes those moment when her guard is down all the more dramatic, like when she received some upsetting news from Lilly’s accused killer and she is seen sitting out in her car, sobbing all alone. Heartbreaking.

Wallace

Veronica Mars befriends Wallace on the first day of school. He’s being threatened by the PCH gang and she comes to his aid. Wallace, not being a rich asshole, also must work in the school office for part of the day. I’m not sure how this jibes with California child labour laws, but we’ll let that pass. Things work differently in Neptune. The advantage of having Wallace in the office is that he is able to access student files to aid Veronica in her various investigations. Wallace and Veronica have great chemistry and he’s just about the only other character I trust in Neptune, aside from Keith Mars.

Mac

Another misfit. She is great with computers and helps Veronica from time to time when she has tech questions.

Leo

A deputy in the sheriff’s department who has a crush on Veronica Mars. Veronica uses him from time to time to get information pertaining to the Lilly Kane murder case, but even when he finds out he’s being used, he doesn’t seem to mind too much. He is sweet and lovable and if I were Keith Mars I wouldn’t mind at all if the two of them were an item, despite the slight age difference and the possible ethical conflict of a deputy dating a high school student. But hey, it’s Neptune: things work differently here. Also, has anyone else noticed that things move pretty quickly in Neptune? I mean one day, those kids stealing from Wallace’s convenience store are arrested, and THE VERY NEXT DAY they seem to be well into a trial. In just 24 hours, both sides have had their discovery meetings, a jury has been selected, a judge and court room were assigned, and evidence was being heard. Is Neptune really a suburb of MegaCity 1? In a later episode, a student is arrested in the morning AND THAT VERY AFTERNOON he’s out picking up garbage on the side of the highway as part of his community service agreement. Later on, we learn a student got pregnant from a teacher. We can only assume that the pregnancy took 2 months, like a gerbil.

AND THAT’S ABOUT IT AS FAR AS LIKABLE CHARACTERS ON THIS SHOW GOES

I mean there’s this Weevil character (I think his real name is Eli). The jury is still out on him for me, but I think I might get to like him. He’s a leader in the PCHers and hates all things “Oh-9”. Veronica Mars helps him out early on, and he seems to be open to helping her on cases from time to time, when it suits him.

And that’s pretty much it. The rest of the group is made up of generic looking spoiled rich asshole types. The before-mentioned Duncan: Veronica’s ex-boyfriend and brother to the murdered Lilly. Logan: Lilly’s ex-boyfriend, and Dick Casablancas, local boob who seems to be channelling Matthew McConaughey from “Dazed and Confused”. How will they factor into the story? We’ll have to wait and see.

Thoughts at the end of Season 1.

Well, holy heck, those were a couple of intense last couple of episodes, weren’t they? The whole “Trip to the Dentist” episode, which goes over the night that Veronica Mars was raped, was annoying in its Rashomonish take on the evening. A bunch of unreliable narrators leaves us with a variety of stories and I’m not entirely sure we know exactly what happened. I wonder if we’ll ever know the truth from that night. We know Veronica doesn’t remember anything, and it’s questionable as to how much (SPOILER) Duncan remembers. If you go with his story, Veronica was conscious enough to consent, so it wasn’t rape. But the bottom line is that Veronica did not consent, so it was, by definition, rape, right? I guess you could call it “non-consentual sex”, to try to make it sound less rapey, but I think it’s still rape. It brings to mind the recent Steubenville case. I guess the best case scenario would be that both Duncan and Veronica “blacked out” and had no knowledge of what happened. The actus without the reus, if you will excuse the first year law school talk. But that wasn’t what seemed to happen, if you believe Duncan’s story. So, yeah. Gross.

The other major mystery of season 1, the Lilly Kane murder, was a complete surprise to me. Again, SPOILER (Jesus), it all sort of made sense that Logan’s Dad was the culprit. We knew he had a violent temper and that he was abusive to Logan, so the signs were there if we knew to look for them. The final episode did a nice job of casting suspicion on a number of possible killers, Agatha Christie style, until the final showdown and OF COURSE Keith Mars is the hero, coming to the rescue at the last minute.

What does this mean for Season 2? Presumably The Kane/Mars feud can be put to rest, despite the fact that Veronica’s Mom and Duncan’s Dad seem to still have a connection. Will Veronica return to the “Oh Niners” at the expense of the “PCHers”? And what about this awful, skeevy development between Logan and Veronica? I’m not exactly sure what it is about that guy, but he makes my skin crawl. His character is given these long dramatic shots that I think are intended to bring out sympathy in the viewer, but all I see is a spoiled rich asshole who doesn’t deserve the time of day. The fact that VM chooses him over Leo means that Veronica drops a few degrees in my estimation of her. What. The. Hell? I mean, what does anyone see in him? It is beyond me. I was right about Troy, but I know that Logan is in it for all three seasons and according to the Kickstarter campaign, the movie as well, so I’m going to have to endure him somehow. It’s sort of like when a friend of yours is dating an ass. You can’t really say anything, right? You just have to let it run its course or risk damaging your friendship. I have to remember two things: 1. Veronica Mars is 17 and will make dumb mistakes like we all did at her age, despite the fact that  she is so smart and cool and excellent in other ways, and 2. these are FICTIONAL CHARACTERS created by the same dude who created “Party Down”, so why am I getting so invested?

Both excellent points. Let’s meet back here after season 2, okay?

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Fast Times at Neptune High (Part 1)

  1. That girl’s gotta get out of Neptune…

  2. Pingback: Fast Times at Neptune High (Part 2) | Mountains Beyond Mountains

  3. Joanna

    Team Logan!

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