Dang, Veronica had a busy summer! The summer before MY senior year I worked at a movie theater (guys, don't ever eat movie theater hot dogs) and slept A LOT. If I was lucky I'd get in a game of GoldenEye or something. But leave it to Veronica Mars to engage in TWO romances, get involved in TWO murder trials, and hold down a job as a hostess at a cafe/coffee house/karaoke bar/restaurant. (What?) She seriously made that summer count!
Not to brag, but I feel pretty fortunate that I got to start Veronica Mars Season 2 so quickly after finishing Season 1. Can you imagine having to wait all summer to know what happened next? WHO was standing at her door? And how would the events of the finale play out in Neptune? There were a lot of spinning plates to address and the first four episodes of Season 2 definitely benefited from having Season 1 fresh in mind. Obviously having watched only four episodes means it's too early to judge Season 2 yet, but (A) I loved all four of them and (B) there are already some noticeable differences. Let's start with the most obvious changes first: New faces in the title sequence!
Seems ol' Dick Casablancas wasn't going to spend Season 2 as the glorified extra he was in Season 1!
Late Season 1 addition Beaver and/or Cassidy Casablancas was the more shocking promotion. The writers must've had big plans for him this season! (Full disclosure: I may have accidentally read a spoiler about him, so... hmm.)
I have no idea who this lady is.
And I don't know if it counts as a trend just yet, but the first two episodes of this season ended with huge, out-of-left-field cliffhangers that I don't recall being the norm during Season 1. Aesthetically at least, Veronica Mars Season 2 isn't nearly as '90s as it was in Season 1, right? Veronica's styled better and the camerawork feels less MTV and more cinematic. Oh, and another noticeable thing about the first four episodes? The guys have been taking their shirts off WAY more than before. Just an observation!
Although Season 2's first episode featured some heavy flashbacks (mostly romance-related), I'm relieved to see that the new season-long plotline(s) won't be as flashback-centric as the Lilly Kane stuff was. I just don't love the flashback style... all super-saturated with vertical flares. It kinda makes me seasick! I don't know, I have mental problems.
Okay, let's roll this bus off a cliff!
Season 2, Episode 1: "Normal Is the Watchword"
Case of the week: Though Veronica had made a half-hearted attempt to get out of the teen private-eye game, a school controversy involving possibly fraudulent drug tests dragged her back in. Specifically Wallace, Meg and a few other non-drug-using star athletes all tested positive for illegal substances and were summarily kicked off their respective teams for the entire year. After a misdirection involving a kid who'd been pantsed and subsequently laughed at by all the athletes in question (and who was the principal's son, to boot), Veronica rather handily traced the false positives back to a consortium of corrupt parents who'd plotted to get their children better positions on sports teams. For a case of the week, this was actually a pretty minor element in the episode and was squared away about halfway through. That's because Veronica had A LOT more to worry about.
The plot thickens: Specifically, this episode both filled in the gaps of what had gone down since Season 1's "I was hoping it'd be you" moment PLUS a few present-tense mysteries were just ramping up. It turned out Veronica's romantic life had grown VERY complicated over the summer, and the simple mystery of WHO her current boyfriend was ended up being hilariously drawn out throughout this episode. The gist: As it happened, it was, in fact, Logan who'd been at her door that night. BUT he'd been beaten nearly to death by Weevil's gang and might have murdered one of them. So, you know, it wasn't the most romantic reunion imaginable. Later that summer Logan was exonerated for the crime and once again it looked like a rich kid was going to get away with (alleged) murder. But after getting his car shotgun blasted and also getting involved with too many school pranks, Logan finally found himself dumped! Veronica had had enough of that lifestyle, I guess. Fortunately Duncan had taken to hanging out at Veronica's new workplace (that weird cafe/karaoke joint, Java the Hutt) and finally made his move with a romantic fortune cookie. So ta-da, Veronica and Duncan were back together!
Meanwhile Keith Mars had spent the summer writing a quickie cash-in book about the Lilly Kane murder; Aaron Echolls was locked away; and the Kanes had moved to Northern California where they awaited trial for ruining Neptune, basically. On the plus side for Duncan, he got to live in a hotel penthouse now! Hard to be sad about that. Wallace was still useless, but his mom was still dating Keith Mars, so that's something. As for the Casablancas family, it seemed like they were being set up as the new Echollses: rich and awful. Dick and Beaver's dad had married a hot gold-digger and we learned right off the bat that Logan was sleeping with her behind everybody's back.
In addition to the still-unsolved thread of how exactly Logan came to find a bloody knife in his hand while lying beside a dead body, the BIG mystery that was set up by this episode—surely meant to be as season-spanning as the Lilly Kane case—related to the episode's final image: a school bus full of students driven directly off the cliff during a class field trip. While visiting a local baseball stadium, half of the journalism class opted to take a Casablancas-hired limo back to school while the other half took the bus. But after the ghost of Lilly Kane distracted Veronica and caused her to run into Weevil at a gas station, the bus took off without her and she narrowly avoided a watery grave. Meg (who now considered Veronica her enemy for Duncan-related reasons) wasn't so lucky.
Don't I know you from somewhere?
Veronica Mars came back STRONG with recognizable guest stars. Hey, Steve Guttenberg! He played the owner of the local professional baseball team and, as we'd learn in the next episode, candidate for Mayor of Neptune.
No less than Buffy's Charisma Carpenter played Dick and Beaver's foxy step-mom!
Haha this lady was on America's Next Top Model at the time and, I believe, got this role for winning a challenge? I used to watch a lot of ANTM and I definitely remember that at least a few cycles offered the girls a chance at a role on Veronica Mars. So, congratulations Naima Mora! You played the third doomed journalism teacher and were repeatedly referred to as "Ms. Dumbass" by Dick Casablancas!
Oh, but here was a true star: Krysten Ritter! Man, Krysten Ritter is the best. She played Steve Guttenberg's daughter and we immediately got a sense that she was most likely crazy after she introduced herself with some rambling speech about how she wasn't dressed in a way that was accurate to her personality. Relax, lady.
Episode verdict: It's frankly amazing how much information this episode packed into 42 minutes while still feeling breezy and funny. While it doled out nuggets of info to help clean up last season's issues, we also wasted no time before Veronica jumped back into her old ways. The episode also ended with that breathtakingly horrifying ending, a multiple-death shocker that served to remind me just how murder-lite Season 1 was. Sure, there was that serial killer episode but for the most part not too many people got killed. Season 2 really started things off with a bang in that regard, and I'm already hooked.
Season 2, Episode 2: "Driver Ed"
Case of the week: For the second week in a row, the supposed "case of the week" was relatively minor. Also notable: Wallace took the lead in solving it. When the new girl in school (oh, THAT's who the mysterious newcomer in the credits was) got her car side-swiped in the parking lot, Wallace attempted to win her over by finding the culprit. In a fairly amusing twist, it turned out that her car had been hit by a reporter posing as a student, à la Josie Grossie in Never Been Kissed.
The plot thickens: The primary case this week was an extension of last week's shocker: Following the bus crash the citizens of Neptune surmised that the bus driver had committed suicide, but his daughter refused to accept that explanation and turned to Veronica for help. With the aid of a conspicuously recognizable convenience store clerk, Veronica eventually discovered that the bus driver hadn't been suicidal and the supposed suicide note he'd left on his computer was actually a Dear John letter meant for his wife. While it was made clear to us and the driver's daughter that the driver hadn't committed suicide, there was no indication about whether his name would ever be cleared in any meaningful way. A rare unsatisfying victory!
A few more plotlines were teased out in this episode: First Logan and Mrs. Casablancas's affair got a lot more R-rated as they began to brazenly get it on in the Casablancas's living room. Meanwhile Steve Guttenberg's character propositioned Keith Mars to run for Sheriff again, an idea Keith initially rejected before realizing that the sitting Sheriff was a piece of garbage and he'd do a better job of it. Oh, and Veronica and Duncan got it on, because life is short!
But the final scene was a mini-bombshell: A corpse washed up on the beach with the words "Veronica Mars" written on his hand! What did it mean??
Don't I know you from somewhere?
I've been made aware that Veronica Mars had a big following amongst famous geeks and that I should expect a lot of cameos. But this Kevin Smith thing was more than a cameo, it was a full scene and also the linchpin of this particular plotline. I mean, sure, it was an appropriate part for him, but still: Distracting!
This one was slightly more obscure but delightful nonetheless: Miko Hughes played this stoner in the parking lot! If you don't recognize him here, try picturing him as a three-year-old, holding a scalpel, and chasing his mom around the room in Pet Sematary. I once saw an E! special on former child stars and apparently Mike Hughes had to eventually sue his parents for emancipation or something? Totally not sad at all.
The bus driver's daughter was played by Ari Graynor, an actress who's been on the cusp of superstardom for a while now. I think her biggest gig so far has been Fringe? I don't know. All I know is she was really good in this episode. According to IMDB she won't be making any more appearances on this show, which is a bummer.
Episode verdict: Another great episode that continued increasing the soapier aspects of the show. I especially appreciated that Wallace took the reins on his own investigation... I guess I've never really understood what his purpose was, but it's starting to seem like he's becoming more of a Watson figure to Veronica's Sherlock? Also I appreciated the misdirection of making the bus crash seem like the case of the week, even though the conclusion reached in this episode only served to intensify how suspicious the whole thing was. It was definitely becoming clear that something bigger and more nefarious was at play there, and again, I love that the big mystery is unfolding in the present-tense rather than in flashbacks.
Season 2, Episode 3: "Cheatty Cheatty Bang Bang"
Case of the week: Continuing the previous episode's (slightly icky) thread that was the Logan-Mrs. Casablancas affair, Beaver hired Veronica to get photographic evidence that his gold-digging step-mom was, in fact, cheating on her husband. After first catching her taking meetings in a motel room with some dude, Veronica learned that Mrs. Casablancas was actually paying off the City Assessor as part of Mr. Casablancas' multi-million dollar real estate scam. Oh, but she was definitely ALSO cheating on him, as Beaver discovered when he saw photographs of she and Logan together. Mr. Casablancas didn't seem too upset though; the episode ended with him shredding all his documents and hopping on a helicopter out of town.
The plot thickens: Veronica was made aware of the corpse with her name written on its hand and she immediately set about figuring out what was going on there. First she recalled that she'd had an actual run-in with the guy just recently at the roadside memorial to the crash victims:
Later at Logan's house, she saw an old movie poster of Aaron Echolls' and noticed that the dead man's name was listed in the credits as Stunt Coordinator! Which meant that, of all people, Aaron Echolls may have been involved in the bus crash and the whole thing was arranged in order to murder Veronica! Harsh!
In a tiny moment that portended big things for Wallace, Keith and Alicia were approached in Chicago by a mysterious man who seemed to think Alicia's name was Cherie. She got real shifty when he chased them to the elevators. And it turned out he was a cop!
Oh, and at one point the entire episode ground to a halt so that a man in a ho-hat could stand up and sing the most frightful version of "Love Hurts" ever recorded. Apparently this was Courtney Taylor-Taylor, the lead singer of The Dandy Warhols, who also sing the theme song. I frankly don't care who it was, it was NOT necessary to my life. And I'll say it again: Java the Hutt is the weirdest establishment!
Don't I know you from somewhere?
Episode verdict: The bus crash plotline continued to be pretty compelling, plus Veronica's dialogue was particularly hilarious in this episode. Is it just me or are her scenes with Sheriff Lamb among the most consistently hilarious the show has to offer? I care zero percent about Wallace's new girlfriend. Where is that going? But man do I love Charisma Carpenter. She was mostly a silent femme fatale in this episode which seemed like a waste of her comic timing, but still. Overall the episode just flew by; Season 2 is already noticeably more self-assured and quicker-paced than I recall Season 1 being.
Season 2, Episode 4: "Green-Eyed Monster"
Case of the week: Going behind Keith Mars' back, Veronica secretly agreed to a "gold package" investigation into a woman's fiancé's life. Secretly rich, the woman just wanted to know whether her hunky Scottish boyfriend was after her money and whether was being faithful to her. After misdirections involving Hebrew lessons, housesitting for Nicolas Cage, and using Google, the woman dumped him believing he'd been unfaithful when in actuality he hadn't. As it turned out he was the secretly rich guy who loved her without reservation, and her jealousy and judgmentalism destroyed their relationship.
The plot thickens: The bus crash case continued to widen as Weevil was suddenly linked to the dude who'd washed up on shore. Apparently Weevil had received a phone call from inside the Echolls residence on the night the dude had been killed stating that he'd been responsible for the bus crash. Or something? I guess the important thing was that the Echollses were still very much involved, but that's just a little TOO obvious for the fourth episode of the season, right?
Meanwhile Meg remained in ICU after the bus crash and Veronica learned that Duncan had been visiting her almost every day. When Meg's sister handed over Meg's laptop so that Duncan could wipe it of any personal information that Meg's parents shouldn't see, Veronica and Mac had to help crack the security and Veronica ended up secretly saving a copy of those files for herself. What would she find??? We didn't learn yet.
In the final scene, the man who'd spotted Alicia Fennel in Chicago showed up in Wallace's driveway and introduced himself as Wallace's FATHER! Whoops, Alicia's got some 'splainin' to do!
Don't I know you from somewhere?
The jealous girlfriend character was played by Laura Bell Bundy, another actress perpetually on the cusp of being well-known. I'd guess her highest profile gig was as Elle in the Broadway version of Legally Blonde, but personally I'm most impressed that she was in the unaired pilot of Strangers With Candy. That show is my everything.
Episode verdict: Well, I don't know what to tell you. I really enjoyed this episode also. I loved the undercover work Veronica did, and I'm getting more and more invested into her relationship with Duncan. They seem to really like each other! I'm not completely sure I understood what was going on with Meg's laptop, but it was great getting to see her bad-girl sister again. And I'm excited to see where the stuff with Wallace's dad is headed. It'll hopefully make Wallace more interesting? Fingers crossed!
After four episodes this season already feels more cohesive and better blended than last season did. Cases of the week are set up weeks in advance, we're learning more and more about characters' back stories, the dialogue just keeps getting snappier. There hasn't been even ONE disturbing or questionable sexual incident yet! I'm intrigued by the fact that Lilly Kane was sorrrrt of a ghost in the first episode and then sat out the next three? What was up with that? I still feel like there's an inappropriate amount of sexual tension between Keith Mars and Veronica, but that could be just me. Anyway, so far so good!
... Were you happy that Veronica got back together with Duncan or were you sad about Logan?
... Did Veronica fall back in with '09ers a little too quickly?
... Should we be worried about Veronica Mars cast members who DIDN'T appear in Party Down?
... Did you spend your senior year of high school living alone in a hotel penthouse?