“I Am God” (season 2, episode 18; originally aired 4/11/2006)
In which Veronica gets a little sleep-deprived, a little crazy, and a lot more clued-in…
My only wish for “I Am God” was that it had come sooner. It comes at a good time in terms of the plot—the bus crash plot has been lost in Terrence Cook/Fitzpatrick-land for a little bit too long—but it helps add emotional stakes that had been lacking. As Veronica has visions of the students who died on the bus, “I Am God” humanizes those kids who, other than Meg, we haven’t seen at all. We meet the gay student whose parents were “haunted” earlier in the season, as well as a PCHer who died, and Dick’s “bit on the side.” Knowing these students helps raise the stakes as the climax approaches.
It’s all done in a hyper-stylized set of dream sequences. “I Am God” is probably the strangest episode since “Nobody Puts Baby In A Corner,” but unlike that one’s somewhat random focus, “I Am God” is intently pointed at one thing: the bus crash. This component of the show takes place largely through washed-out dream sequences, with Veronica sitting on the bus, talking to the victims. She knows it’s in her mind, and they know it’s in her mind, but that oddly doesn’t seem to impact the episode negatively. It’s upfront about the weird, symbolic space it’s working in, and that keeps it from being overwhelming.
To be fair, Veronica Mars has pointed in this direction before. The blurry style of the bus sequences is reminiscent of the season-one flashbacks. Within the world of Veronica Mars, we’ve also seen characters struggle through their thoughts on tragic subjects by having their non-conscious processes manifest as hallucinations. In the first season, Duncan, fighting his medication, sees Lilly, who tells him that he knows that the story his parents fed him is false. This is not so different—Veronica’s stress and nightmares are leaving her in a mentally suggestive state. (That doesn’t explain Veronica’s vision of Lilly in the season première, though, which seems to require a more supernatural explanation.)
There are also several clues and new directions for the case to take. The Casablancas boys, secondary players for so long, are suddenly much more connected to the main plot. The strong implication of this episode is that Betina told Dick she was on the pill—but she wasn’t, and got pregnant vengeance, giving Dick the motivation to blow the bus. One of the dream victims also notes that in order for the bomb to work at killing the entire bus, someone had to know where the bus was. Weevil is specifically referred to, but we’re never told why he would want to blow up the bus. And the limo with the rich kids was actually closer. Meanwhile, Keith discovers that Cassidy and Dick had huge life insurance policies in their names, making them targets as well as suspects. I said last week that Woody was the main suspect remaining, but “I Am God” did a good job of creating other possibilities.
Meanwhile, in the B-plot, a high school student named Maureen—I mean Vicki, I mean Angie—is Veronica’s new biggest competition for the Kane scholarship. And she’s not a good person, so Logan and Wallace, forced together by circumstance, join forces in an attempt to crush her academic reign of terror and give the more needy Veronica the best chance at the scholarship. Although it’s a straightforward plot and played fairly low-key, it’s great to see Logan not being a total dick and Wallace operating outside of Veronica’s orbit.
A third plot focusing on Keith investigating a rash of generalized anxiety disorders at the school via blind date is both awkward and amusing, and shows his manipulative badass side in a similar fashion to Logan with Hannah—I think they have the same shit-eating grin when they know they’ve found their mark.
This is a great episode overall, but like I said, I think it would be even greater if it showed up earlier. Still, its intense style and emotional stakes put it on the shortlist of best Veronica Mars episodes.
"Nevermind The Buttocks" (season 2, episode 19; originally aired 4/18/2006)
In which Veronica investigates the death of a dog, Keith investigates a would-be heiress, and they meet up somewhere in the middle…
If “I Am God” confronted the second season’s main storyline in an emotional sense, “Nevermind The Buttocks” took it on entirely via plot. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This second-season mystery has been much more convoluted than the first season’s, which only really had the premiere and finale as full-bore “mythology” episodes. Here’s two in a row, and I have no reason to believe that, with three episodes after this, it’s going to let up.
And to be honest, the show is doing a good job at making all these different ideas plausible. In addition to Dick’s motivation for killing Betina, now we have a whole episode focused on the idea that Kendall Casablancas, con woman extraordinaire, worked with the Fitzpatricks in order to inherit the millions of dollars from the insurance policy. Alternately, the Fitzpatricks have their own motivation, killing the PCHer on the bus. Weevil is briefly given motivation, but happily the show quickly dispenses with him as a suspect.
While I admire the show’s willingness to provide a variety of different explanations for what happened, the thing that prevents me from engaging with it fully is that most of the scenarios, and much of this particular episode, deal with the Fitzpatricks. And to be honest, the show has completely failed at making the Fitzpatricks interesting in any fashion. In a few months, when I look back at this season, am I going to think of anything the Fitzpatricks did? Right now, very much no. Kendall? Yes, something’s been going on there. Weevil? Consistently interesting. Woody? Loving Steve Guttenberg in the role. Dick and Beaver? Fascinating expansion of their characters. Jackie? Not always the greatest, but at worst it’s an interesting failure. Coma baby? Crazy, but definitely memorable. The Fitzpatricks? Uh… I got nothin’. They triggered the moment with Logan and the gun, but that really could have happened with any kind of danger for Veronica.
I’m not sure exactly why I feel that my dislike of the Fitzpatricks in an aesthetic sense makes it okay for me to dismiss them as important in a narrative sense. Because they bore me, I don’t want them or Kendall to be the villain of the piece. Dick or Woody both strike me as far more plausible. There’s also the fact that, four episodes from the end of the season, I don’t expect the suspect that characters are focused on to be the final villain—there must be a twist.
One thing I did like about this episode was that it had Veronica and Keith working together again. Partially inadvertently, of course, as neither of them realizes they’re investigating the same case from different angles, but partially as a team once they do. This relationship is the core of the show, and it’s one that’s been downplayed for a while. We also get Jackie explaining that she’s being written off the show but will go to the prom, but that’s such an afterthought at this point it’s hard to care.
And the episode ends with the revelation that a new Lilly Kane murder weapon has been found, including hair follicles from Duncan Kane. Of course, we saw Kendall bust into his shower, so we know this isn’t the case—or if it was, it would be one of the most remarkably (in a bad way) retcons in television history. Likewise, Veronica being forced to decide whether the potentially violent resolution of her case of the week is worth it seems forced, giving her an ethical dilemma for its own sake. As with much of this season, it’s good, but it’s a little much.
- “Did you watch House Of Wax again? You know that Hilton girl gives you nightmares.”
- “Just because you wiggle your finger doesn’t mean Dick’s gonna come.”
- “I Am God” and “Nevermind The Buttocks” is easily the oddest combination of episode titles we've had.
- Two weeks to go with this season! I'm going to take a break of maybe two weeks after the end, but I'll be moving straight on to season three after that.