Veronica Mars: “Look Who’s Stalking” / “Happy Go Lucky”
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Veronica Mars: “Look Who’s Stalking” / “Happy Go Lucky”

Look Who’s Stalking” (season 2, episode 20; originally aired 4/25/2006)

In which Logan throws a party and forgets where he is, and Woody reveals part of his true nature…

People who like to talk about television like serialization. Much of the “quality TV” trend is based on serialized drama and comedy, and it’s not uncommon to hear complaints when a show like, say, Justified, does a case of the week instead of getting into whatever the seasonal plot may be. But there’s a downside to that, as episodes like “Look Who’s Stalking” indicate. What happens when a show has a complex plot and needs to tie the strings together? The episodes that do so end up looking like they were written around checklists that need to be completed before we can get to the good stuff.

So what boxes are checked? The one that gives the episode its title is labeled “Woody Goodman stalker video.” Gia approaches Veronica with a video showing her being stalked, a situation which escalates when she shows it to Keith, who is reminded of the original video, and both attempt to track down the stalker.

That stalker is revealed to be Lucky, the veteran/janitor who was introduced so awkwardly earlier in the season. See, suddenly he has a reason to have been introduced! It was actually a clue! But what was it a clue toward? Something about Woody Goodman’s dark past, but what exactly that means is awkwardly and very telegenically interrupted by Sheriff Lamb as Keith is trying to get it out of him. It’s deliberate, artificial, and far-too-predictable, keeping answers from the characters as well as the audience.

Another scene late in the episode works the same way. Logan throws an anti-prom after the normal one is canceled, and does what he can to make sure Veronica shows up. Once she’s there, he drunkenly confesses his love for her and his regret for not making it work. She’s touched, but confused, and leaves. When she comes back to say that yes, she still wants to be part of Logan’s life, Logan answers the door looking confused and holding the door open. This screams “Artifical television confusion! Another woman is in the room!” And, lo and behold, there is indeed another woman in the room: Kendall Casablancas.

I don’t want to say that “Look Who’s Stalking” is a bad episode exactly, although it is frustratingly direct. The parts of it which dealt with new or different information were quite interesting, specifically Woody Goodman’s framing of Keith Mars for being caught with a passed out young campaign worker. Here we have the first example of Goodman’s moral corruption confirmed, instead of merely hinted at. As we all know, you do not fuck with Keith Mars, who starts firing back in the press, arguably sinking the incorporation plan.

The pieces are getting moved around here, and while I admire the narrative drive, it’s hard not to see the manipulation. All will be forgiven if the next two episodes can make use of it, though, so best to just move on… 

Happy Go Lucky” (season 2, episode 21; originally aired 5/2/2006)

In which chlamydia ruins Veronica’s reputation, though she doesn’t have anywhere near as much to worry about as Woody Goodman…

Moving on to the far superior “Happy Go Lucky” seems like a good move. This is serialization done right, using the events of the past to maximize the emotional impact of the present. The focus? The Aaron Echolls murder trial, which has been simmering on the back of the stove for the bulk of the season. But now it’s here, and Aaron and his legal team have a nasty, effective strategy to discredit the opposition. Part of the plan is straight-up villainy, like stealing the papers from Logan’s case, finding out Veronica was treated for the clap, and of course, using Kendall to plant Duncan’s DNA on the Oscar.

But their character assassination of Veronica is more impressive, because it strikes at one of the show’s core struggles: Veronica is special. Perhaps too special. As the audience of the show that bears her name, we understand her specialness. We expect it. It’s not even that she “plays by her own rules” so much as the rules exist to serve Veronica the character/show—most of the time. But there are times when Veronica is brought back to reality, reminded that the rest of her world doesn’t see her as special. She’s not chosen. She’s just a too-smart, too-nosy, unlicensed private investigator who breaks the law for her own purposes. On their own, these situations are justifiable to the viewer. In court, cumulatively? It doesn’t look good, and it shouldn’t look good.

This is when Veronica Mars is at its best, in my view: when the morality and legality of doing the right thing conflict, and the choices made on one side or the other have consequences. Here are Veronica’s consequences for not telling her father everything, for not paying attention to her reputation, for bending or breaking the law: she loses the case. Here are Logan’s consequences for erasing the tapes: he loses the case. They’re kids who are doing what they can do for their own sanity and the good of those around them, but the pressure of their abnormal situations leads to painful difficulties. Like Aaron Echolls walking free.

But the kids aren’t the only ones muddling through. Veronica and Keith team up to discover the truth about Woody Goodman: He’s a child molester, and one with cause to blow up the bus, since two of his victims were on it. Keith, as ever, goes to Lamb, and Lamb sits on it long enough for Woody to get away.

There’s also some relationship stuff going on, which seems like a bit of a sideshow. Wallace and Jackie seem to be dealing with each other quite happily, but Terrence Cook’s suddenly deteriorated situation causes him to push Jackie away, make her change her mind about going to the Sorbonne. Meanwhile, mutual tutoring of Weevil to get him the grade he needs to graduate brings Mac and Beaver together again, first antagonistically, then playfully.

The episode ends with Aaron Echolls freed by his verdict, while Woody Goodman has fled to parts unknown. Something has gone horribly wrong, but there’s another episode ahead of us to see if the game gets turned around.

Stray observations:

  • “Yes! Prayer works!”
  • “What’s a yacht without barnacles?”
  • “I thought our story was epic, you know, you and me.”
  • “Elementary, my dear Wallace. And do you know how long I’ve waited to say that?”
  • “If this is your idea of terms I can understand, I’m going to kill you. Or myself.” I like Weevil much more when he’s just kind of hanging out, instead of in massively intense situations.
  • “If I get you an A, will you shiv him?”
  • I'll be taking a week break between season two and season three, so no review on February 10th, back on the 17th.

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