We Used To Be Friends: Thoughts on Season 4 of ‘Veronica Mars’

“A long time ago, we used to be friends, but I haven’t thought of you lately at all. If ever again, a greeting I send to you, short and sweet to the soul I intend.”The Dandy Warhols, “We Used To Be Friends”

WARNING: This post contains EPIC spoilers about season 4 of Veronica Mars. Read at your own risk! Also, a disclosure that I started writing this in August after I watched the finale and processed it a bit. However, nothing has changed.

Veronica Mars and I go way back. I started watching in the summer of 2005 during the season 1 reruns. I remember packing to move when I saw it was on and decided to check it out after hearing good things about it. The first episode I saw was “Silence of the Lamb,” one with Aaron Paul, who I loved long before Breaking Bad, so I took that as a good sign, and I instantly fell in love with the show. I got the DVDs for my birthday few months later, and the rest is history.

It would be an understatement to say that Veronica Mars changed my life in a way no other show has. I don’t mean this in a “I love this show so much it changed me” way. I mean that through a series of events, it actually changed my life and and even led me to my current career. Not only that but back in the day when IMDb still had message boards, I communicated with some absolutely amazing fans on those boards. I’m still in contact with several of them to this day and have met a couple of them in person. For someone who rarely actively participates in fandoms, despite being a fangirl, that’s saying something. I even made a video about Cassidy Casablancas (Never ‘Beaver!’) around 12 years ago. I sent Mars bars to try to save the show. When the Kickstarter campaign for the Veronica Mars movie started, I donated without a second thought. I was never very into zombies, but I started watching iZombie from the first episode – and thankfully loved it – just because it was another show by Rob Thomas (not to be confused with Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty) and Diane Ruggiero-Wright.

All this is to say that I have been a diehard Veronica Mars fan almost since the beginning, and it’s always been a very special show to me. When I heard about season 4, I had mixed feelings. Part of me said, “Noooo, I’m sick of revivals and reboots! They never live up to the original series!” The other part of me had my over-the-moon face on and was ready to see what everyone (sans Mac) in our favourite Neptune gang had been up to since the movie in 2014. Still, I remained somewhat apprehensive, hoping this show I’ve been invested in for 14 years would not get royally *cursed* up.

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Going into season 4 of Veronica Mars

I’ve never really been a binger. As tempting as it was, Veronica Mars didn’t change that, so it took me a week to get through it because I wanted time to process the episodes. As I started watching, I noticed it focused more on plot than characters and understood better why Tina Majorino turned down returning as Mac, although none of the old side characters had much of a storyline. Still, I enjoyed the usual banter between Veronica and the other characters, even though the bomber was pretty obvious from the beginning. Anyone who’s watched Veronica Mars knows that when they get a big star like Patton Oswalt, that person usually has a significant role in either the motive or the actual killing. I felt it difficult to care about the new side characters in general, but I was eating up all the familiar faces. Who doesn’t love some Dick?!

All was well and good when I first started watching. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of reading what I thought was a safe article about Tina Majorino turning it down (which I thought was a bit silly at the time but now understand her reasoning, as well as her cold wording when she referred to Rob Thomas ‘Mr Thomas’) and an even bigger mistake of reading the comments where there were major spoilers. I knew someone would die, based on headlines I’d seen, and I had my suspicions. I thought anyone would be fine, as long as they didn’t kill off Keith or Logan, especially Logan because Keith dying could still allow Veronica to grow more (or at all – something she’s the only character on the show to never really grow) but be happy with Logan. The spoilers gave away who was killed, and I think this made me prolong my watching even more because I needed to prepare myself for what was to come.

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The final episode was called “Years, Continents, Bloodshed,” which should have been a giveaway, but I’m sure no one wanted to believe the worst could happen.

The truth is that there is no preparation for a character you’ve loved for 14 years suddenly dying. I waited to write this while I processed everything, but I don’t think I will ever get over this one. I’ve basically been stuck alternating between the denial and anger stages of grief.

Despite her being the main character, Veronica has never been my favourite character. I loved Cassidy Casablancas and felt for him, even after everything he did. Keith Mars is the best TV father. But Logan… I’ve always had a soft spot for Logan. Of every character on the show, he had evolved the most. He went from the obligatory psychotic jackass to the guy you rooted for who was a sweet orphan who loved Veronica so much, even though he really kind of deserved better. (As did Jason Dohring, whose tearful thankyou video made me teary, too.) Veronica never seemed to let herself love Logan enough for somewhat understandable reasons, but even though Logan also would have had entirely valid reasons for struggling to love fully (maybe even more than Veronica), he didn’t let anything get in his way. He loved her fiercely and waited for her to get to where he was. To say I was – and still am – a frustrated LoVe shipper is an understatement. They’re probably the first major ship I had and remain in my top 5 to this day. ‘Momentary Thing’ still makes me smile because I associate it their first kiss. ‘Sway’ and ‘I Hear The Bells’ make me sigh about their epic love and how all Logan wanted to do was protect Veronica.

As a Logan lover, like many other fans, the finale left me feeling completely betrayed. To say I blubbered at the ending would be an understatement. It’s not because LoVe is dead now that Logan is dead. Many of my favourite characters (and ships!) on favourite shows have died, and even if I didn’t get over them – I never really do – I still managed to enjoy the shows after their deaths. If I love a character, especially in a Rob Thomas show, there’s about an 83% chance he/she will die. No matter how much I’ve loved them, though, I’ve pretty much always been able to understand the reasoning and support it. I could even understand Logan’s death if there was a good reason for it. I was sad at first, but I didn’t hate it at first either. I was sort of on the fence about everything. I didn’t like what happened, but I initially thought it was well done enough to accept – for about 5 minutes while I cried my eyes out and tried to process it.

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This meme I made accurately depicts my experience with season 4.

Then I read the interviews. The interviews with Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell turned my pain into rage. Veronica finally got over her fear of commitment and married Logan, and they didn’t even make it a day before he was killed. And why? I’ll let Rob Thomas tell it:

I tried to imagine writing Veronica Mars mysteries the way we want to tell them going forward and her still having a boyfriend or husband waiting back home. The fan service is that they actually got married. I know that sounds funny, but I feel like the fans would forgive that more than if Logan became such an asshole that they broke up, or if Veronica had cheated on Logan with Leo. The latter would have been more likely than having Logan revert to bum fights. It’s just hard to imagine a detective show with a 35-year-old woman with a boyfriend. I just don’t want to write that… I feel like for this show to work as a detective show, it has to be with Veronica as a single woman.

Basically, Logan was killed because Rob Thomas can’t think of a way for a woman to be happy with a good job and a partner. Kristen Bell essentially echoed this, saying, “A story is only interesting because there is conflict… There’s nothing interesting about perfection. You want to see someone struggle… And you want Veronica in the underdog position.”

Do we, though? I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an absolute sucker for tortured souls (again, Cassidy Casablancas), but that doesn’t mean I don’t want happy endings. You can have conflict and struggle without killing off a central character, but Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell seem to think that Veronica can’t be happy in any area of her life. You can have a strong female character who is good at what she does and happy in her life without being boring. (Leslie Knope, anyone?) To think otherwise is lazy and misogynistic. Veronica can have pain (Hasn’t she already had enough?) without losing the person she was finally ready to be with. To imply that Logan, a changed man, would be the one to turn into ‘such an asshole that they broke up’ or would revert to bum fights shows that they don’t even understand the character they’ve written.

With Veronica Mars, they’ve always run the risk of it becoming tragedy porn, and that’s exactly what it is now. You can have growth or find other ways to get Logan out of the picture without killing him off 2 minutes after their wedding. Fans have waited so many years for Veronica to get over herself and commit to Logan – or to anyone – and find some happiness, only to have it happen and instantly get ripped away. I appreciate that co-executive producer Diane Ruggiero-Wright hasn’t watched the last episode because she’s a fangirl as much as the rest of us, and I understand that she has to support it to an extent publicly, but unlike Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell, she seemed to not be fully supportive of killing Logan. She’s also the one who pushed for them to get married, but there’s no solace in them getting married if they can’t even be happy for an hour.

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Apparently Rob Thomas thinks it should be that hard.

The other major problem is that Rob Thomas wants to take Veronica out of Neptune to be a real, big girl detective who travels around the country to solve mysteries on her own. How many detective shows are on TV? I have rarely, if ever, watched a show because of the mystery or because of the plot. Yes, it helps when those things are good, but personally, I have always been drawn to characters more than anything. Even if you ignore that Neptune was a character itself, who wants to watch a show without the regulars? Sure, some people who showed up in the movie or season 4 were a bit superfluous, but a show about Veronica Mars solving mysteries on her own without others in every episode and regular interactions with them is boring. There are so many mysteries on TV already, and this idea will do nothing to set Veronica apart from any other detective. The heart of the show is gone without all of the other characters.

My other issue is that it is so stupid and out of character for someone like Veronica to not even check her car for bombs after she had a serial bomber in it. The absurdity of it all – Veronica’s lack of common sense, the explanations for Logan’s death, the idea that women can’t be strong and successful in their field and happy without being boring – is just too much. It’s not even that I don’t want to watch the last episode again. I don’t want to watch the entire series again because it’s too difficult to watch knowing what happens and how this once-great series was ruined for some cheap tragedy porn. It could have had a great ending with Veronica and Logan getting married, and I for one would have been perfectly content with it ending there forever, but they went and How I Met Your Mother‘d it up. It only reaffirmed that, like Gilmore Girls and Arrested Development and probably others before it, revivals are generally unnecessary and carry a significant risk of ruining what was once a great show.

I should say that I don’t think writers should cater to the fans. However, there is still a responsibility to satisfy your viewers or have a legitimate reason to do things, especially for a show like Veronica Mars that only came back – more than once! – because of the fans. Rob Thomas has said that he might regret killing Logan if the show doesn’t come back for a fifth season, which appeared to be contingent on the reception of season four. The fact that he has stayed off Twitter since the episodes were released – save for a single tone deaf tweet in August about music from Josh Kramon, the show’s composer, which instantly caused backlash from fans – shows that he is aware of the fan reaction and is now cowering away from it. I know some people who didn’t like Logan or didn’t like Logan and Veronica together or whatever the case may be, and they didn’t mind the ending. However, they are the minority. A large percentage of fans have said that they will not watch Veronica Mars if it comes back, and I am in this camp. I don’t want to watch a show with Logan dead, without the other characters that made Veronica Mars what it was, with Veronica outside of Neptune, especially when the explanations for all of those things are so insulting, and I know there are many others who feel the same.

If Rob Thomas made a bet with himself about that ending, I think it’s fair to say he’s lost the bet. I think a lot of people could have gotten over it if Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell didn’t do such a terrible job of defending it or if there had been a legitimate reason. As it stands, if nothing else, he has forever tarnished the series and made me – and I imagine many other fans – lose faith in him and not want to watch any future projects he may have. For my part, I will have to live in denial and pretend like season 4 doesn’t exist, and the whole series ended when it should have with the movie while remembering when ‘we used to be friends.’

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I can’t decide if this was a message from Rob Thomas to fans or if it’s a message fans now want to send to him – short and sweet to the soul, we intend.

 

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