Veronica Mars: “Ahoy Mateys!”/“My Mother, The Fiend”
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Veronica Mars: “Ahoy Mateys!”/“My Mother, The Fiend”

Ahoy, Mateys!” (season 2, episode 8; originally aired 11/23/2005)

With Wallace out of town indefinitely, Veronica needs a sidekick. Not that she’s not great on her own, but the show definitely peaks when she can banter with someone who can keep up with her. Duncan? Only partially. Keith? Definitely, but it doesn’t always make sense to have him and Veronica together. So why not hold a couple auditions that also work to tie the episode together?

Mac: This was easily Mac’s best episode. Not that she’s been bad in the past, but it might be the most she’s stepped out of her role as supporting-girl-geek and into some measure of agency. The show’s writers are happy to make this clear, during a meta-scene where Veronica keeps using Mac as a dispenser of technical info and not as a person. This is such totally normal behavior for Veronica that we don’t even really notice, until Mac stops the conversation for a few seconds on the grounds that she’d been testing to see just how long the just-questions conversation would go.

Things get even better when Veronica and Mac head out to solve the case of the week, in which the parents of one of the students on the bus are being harassed with references to his death. The student in question, Marcos, also happened to run a pirate radio show that’s still going. Mac acts as Veronica’s guide to the radio show and the tech of finding it, yes, but once they’re in the field, talking to Vice Principal Clemmons and his son Vincent, they move into a much more interesting relationship (not to mention a cute James Bond bit). Veronica implies to a skeptical Clemmons that Mac is there because she has a romantic interest in his son, creating playful tension. Then when Veronica and Mac finally confront Vincent, they bully him in adorable, girly fashion: “Um, Butters. Your blankie’s blinking!”

Mac doesn’t have a lot to do beyond this, but the case stays interesting and, for this season, fairly grounded. Turns out Marcos’ parents are suing the school district and not accepting the settlement, so things are more complex than they seem—the school system seems a bit malevolent here, but I expect we may see more of that in the future. But in a bit of a throwback way, we get resolution of the case in a story sense, but the ethics are more dubious. Marcos’ parents come across as bullies themselves, sending their kid to anti-gay camp and faking the harassment for Keith Mars’ testimonial benefit. Does that justify the harassment the culprit engages in? Not entirely, but Veronica Mars leaves the dispensation of justice up to the viewer, at a certain level. That’s probably a wise move.

Logan: “Stop! I’ve had a very bad year.” It’s a funny line, it’s a true statement, and being spoken as Logan holds a gun in order to save Veronica from a violent face tattoo renders it that much more relevant. If Mac & Veronica create an adorable, cheerfully funny pair, Logan & Veronica are a dark, bitterly ironic tandem. Neither of these combos are bad, but Logan’s much better for the main plot instead of the case-of-the-week stuff right now.

Veronica’s investigation into the plastic surgeon who’s fingering Logan hasn’t relieved his desperate situation, so she digs deeper. This leads her to the Fitzgeralds, the apparent heads of organized crime in Neptune, when things start going bad, and Logan has to bail her out. The scene in which she was threatened was surprisingly tense. It was obvious that Logan was going to come along, just the way the camera was set from Veronica’s POV and the menacing face just demanding to get punched as Logan’s appears. And then… it doesn’t quite happen. It holds a little longer than normal. It gets beyond the comfort zone. And Logan’s rescue? It’s not the little boy punch-and-run. It’s a gun. In a crime bar. Nothing was this dangerous in season one until the finale.

And it gets even more so. Logan and Veronica’s investigation in addition to a random bit of info brings Weevil and his gang into direct conflict with Logan and Veronica. Veronica chews Weevil out, which convinces him that he needs to understand what happened the night of Felix’s death. Which is a noble goal, but it doesn’t turn out so well when Logan finds out and vows revenge.

Duncan: Duncan actually spends most of the episode away from Veronica, so he’s not really part of the sidekick discussion, but since the beginning and end are the weirdest parts of the episode, he needs to be mentioned. We’ve seen Duncan having visions before (in season-once conversations with Lilly), so his dreams of Meg and Veronica in this episode aren’t quite at the supernatural/random level of some earlier events this season. But they do have the effect of convincing him to give Veronica the cold shoulder, and opening an envelope of Meg’s that apparently contains a major secret

My Mother, The Fiend” (season 2, episode 9; originally aired 11/30/2005)

“Ahoy, Matey!” was a fairly conventional, grounded episode that did very little to alter the conventional Veronica Mars form. Such is not the case with “My Mother, The Fiend,” an episode which brings back the high level of crazy we’ve seen so far this season, but also plays with our perception of Veronica in a way that season two hasn’t done so much.

We expect that Veronica is the hero. After all, this isn’t one of those ponderous cable anti-hero shows. And Veronica almost always is. I’ve discussed times when she’s behaved in ways that I’m not certain are ethical, but this might be the most blatant case, as her personal feelings lead to her walking a fine line between exposing the truth and destroying people’s lives based on gossip. Everything turns out mostly okay in the end—although she has been used by a conniving vice principal for his own gain, so perhaps not?

Veronica is manipulated into the discovery of her mother’s student records, which leads to the discovery that Lianne had been suspended. Why? Veronica’s convinced it was because her mom was one of the mean girls, and sets about finding out for her mom’s sake. Then when it becomes possible that the events involved a secret Celeste Kane baby, Veronica seeks revenge against her one-time nemesis, who happens to show up to discover, for the first time, that Duncan is back with Veronica. Awkward. So Veronica heads off to track down the baby for use in embarrassing Celeste, which is not the noblest of goals, no matter how horrible Celeste may be.

Of course, that’s when it gets complicated. In a not-terribly-surprising twist, the adopted baby isn’t the random Kane servant who shows up with Celeste, but the most special guest star, Trina Echolls. Veronica begins to use Trina for those “rascally” purposes, but realizes that she might be going too far, and comes clean. Of course, Trina being Trina thinks it’s a great idea as it might grant her access to the Kane millions. But in a somewhat more surprising twist, it’s not the Kanes after all, but a different set of parents: a deaf woman who works at the school, who had befriended Lianne thanks to her ability to sign; and also the principal, who Trina publicly shames. This makes Van Clemmons, the man who had set the whole thing into motion by giving Veronica access the files that would lead her down this path, the new principal of Neptune High. He has his new name tag ready and everything.

Once again, I am intrigued by the decisions to make Veronica less than pure, but this time, I’m not as disappointed by the followthrough. Keith actually calls Veronica out on her motivations. She realizes it, and tries to pull back. It’s still not a totally satisfying examination of Veronica’s ethics, but I’m not sure what would make for that without resorting to, say, Buffy The Vampire Slayer-esque angst.

Speaking of Buffy, this is a good week for reunions, the first of which features two Buffy alums, Alyson Hannigan and Charisma Carpenter getting into a delightful little spat. Their easy chemistry made it a fun scene without needing to read the extra-textuality into it. But the more important reunion is that of Logan and Weevil. Logan gains his revenge against Weevil, who seems to move to escalate, but realizes that despite their bad blood, Logan and Weevil have more to gain by working together. As much as Kristen Bell is the star of the show and deserves most of the attention, I’m always delighted when Jason Dohring and Francis Capra get scenes together. They deserve their own spinoff. Still. I’d rather have that than a Veronica Mars movie.

But the big reveal comes at the end, when Veronica sneaks into the hospital to discover Meg Manning’s pregnant belly, and sneaks out before she might discover Meg’s awakening. Okay, this is getting crazy again—and it opens up new possibilities in the Big Bad sweepstakes, as Meg’s family, and perhaps Meg herself, would probably not be happy with the impending pregnancy, which makes it seem like Meg was the target. Meanwhile, Veronica’s also discovered Keith’s rat-finding, which makes it seem as if Veronica was the target. And I’m sure next week we’ll get even more information. The roller coaster continues!

However, I think I’ve figured out why, despite the fast-paced plot and me generally liking all of these episodes so far, season two of Veronica Mars has kept me at arm’s length. The character-based serialization, which is damn interesting and fast-paced, has taken away some of the wider discussion of power and class from the first season. I have no complaints with the rollicking plot ride, but its improvements may have come at the expense of the show’s theme, which might have been its most important unique quality. Now that I’ve figured this out, I think I may be able to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Stray observations:

  • “Because you don’t need to much work done, I mean, beyond the obvious.” (Lack of) boob jokes—still funny.
  • “The show’s still on?” “A bastardized sub-par version of the show is still on.”
  • “Gee Cassidy, I didn’t think you liked me.” “I don’t. But I respect your desperation.” This “Kendall as CEO” thing can’t possibly go wrong, can it? Nah.
  • I kinda hoped the “Trina as Celeste’s” daughter thing was true, just because it would add an amazing even deeper level of fucked-upness to the Kane-Echolls family interconnectedness.

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