“There’s Got To Be A Morning After Pill” (season 3, episode 12; originally aired 2/6/2007)
“You’re goin’ soft, Mars!”
So yells Weevil to Veronica at the end of “There’s Got To Be A Morning After Pill.” Veronica has paid Weevil for the favor of stealing Madison’s car in order to get it crushed and cubed, but at the last minute, changes her mind in favor of a less destructive prank. It made me think: “Has Veronica gone soft? She’s seemed harder this season, if anything. Is this how she’s growing up?”
And that’s when I realized that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because we’re not going to see it. There are just eight episodes left, and those don’t include a grand finale for the season. This is actually the first time I’ve been unhappy about Veronica Mars’ early cancellation. Obviously, going into this project, I knew that there were only three seasons, and that the third got cut off before an ideal ending. So I’ve never expected more, and managed to take what good I can get from a wobbly third season.
It’s hard not to make the regular Buffy The Vampire Slayer comparison here. While that show’s seventh season had significant issues, I think it did a good job of showing just how far Buffy had come as a character. She started the series as a reluctant hero, and over the course of it, evolved enough to become a leader. Obviously this wouldn’t have been the same at all with Veronica Mars, both because she’s a different kind of person and because Veronica Mars doesn’t have the same central theme of growing up. But there’s still a lot of potentially fruitful character development that we’re never going to have the chance to explore. I’m not sure I’d like it. I didn’t like it all the time with Buffy, and Veronica has been especially difficult this season, but I still respect it.
At the same that I start to wish I had more Veronica Mars ahead of me, a part of me is also getting exhausted by the show. Perhaps that’s inevitable when you write about something almost every week for a year, but it’s also partially that Veronica Mars itself is less exciting. There’s good character material in “There’s Got To Be A Morning After Pill,” but the case of the week is one of the weakest that the show has done.
Bonnie Capistrano, Tim’s girlfriend/frat boy-loving pinball wizard, finds herself pregnant, but then discovers that someone has snuck her a morning after pill. She hires Veronica to find out who did it. This involves Veronica investigating Bonnie’s father, who runs Capistrano Ministries, and who is a famous local televangelist. But if you think the villain of the piece is the father, his ministry, or either of the two potential fathers, then you probably haven’t been paying attention. As soon as Bonnie’s roommate introduces herself as Bonnie’s oldest friend, well, everything else is just window dressing until the final reveal.
It does give the episode a religious feel, which is ramped up at the end. Bonnie’s father tells her to forgive her friend. What starts as an in-person monologue turns into a voiceover, apparently representing what Veronica is thinking as she decides whether to have Madison’s car crushed. But as far as I can remember, this is the first time a non-Veronica character has had a voiceover like this. It gives the episode an oddly moralistic flourish, maybe not quite an after-school special, but far closer to one than the show has been before.
Despite that, there are several good moments and great images in “ There’s Got To Be A Morning After Pill.” There’s Logan trying, and failing, to win Veronica back with a voice mail. And Dick trying to maintain his bro-tastic façade in the face of Veronica telling him Madison and Logan hooked up. Veronica’s inner dialogue between Sane Veronica and Crazy Veronica. And hell, I’m a sucker for a college stoner getting excited about Space Ghost as a means to let Veronica and Keith know the Dean’s time of death. That’s all good enough.
“Postgame Mortem” (season 3, episode 13; originally aired 2/13/07)
Both Veronica and Keith have to deal with the distressing situation that they might have been hired by the bad guys in “Postgame Mortem.” Such is the fate of the private detective, at times, and it’s one that Veronica Mars hasn’t always dealt with directly—especially since the first season, when the Mars family’s money problems were more obvious.
There are two murder cases to deal with. The investigation into the dean’s murder, and Keith keeps finding more and evidence to suggest that the dean’s wife, Mindy, was the culprit. This doesn’t make much sense, given that she’s the one who hired Keith, but perhaps it was a gamble that she could get someone else to take the blame in a way that would allow her to receive insurance payments. But that’s me making a guess; the show, through Keith Mars, hasn’t examined this particular point in any depth yet.
Still, even with that flaw, this might be the show’s best mystery at an intellectual level. Veronica’s connection to the Lilly Kane murder made it involving, but too much of it was attached to her emotional state as well as Keith’s. The Kane parents were too evil, the teenaged boys too romantically charged. The bus crash was, perhaps, too ambitious and wide-ranging. It allowed for a variety of different angles and red herrings, but it grew exhausting. Too much guesswork involved Woody Goodman as a replacement for Aaron Echolls. Both of those mysteries were unbalanced, altered by viewer expectations as well as character relationships. The rape plot, meanwhile, was burdened by the massive emotional connotations of rape as well as feminism and gender examinations.
What makes this third season’s second mystery work is that it is so balanced. We have a few different suspects: Mindy, Landry, Tim, and Nish. We also have no particular reason to like any of them, or any reason to believe that they couldn’t do it. It’s a closed system with multiple possibilities, somewhat akin to a Murder On The Orient Express or Clue-like situation. Well, it’s not a totally closed system. There’s room for a wildcard or two.
One of those wildcards may be the case of the week, where Wallace’s basketball coach ends up dead after fighting with his son and losing a game. There’s something odd about the whole situation, though. It’s the first time we’ve had a case of the week that Veronica didn’t solve since the Hearst rapes were introduced back in season two. Instead, the end comes when Josh, the coach’s son who hired Mars Investigations and seems to have convinced Veronica of his innocence, uses a gift from Veronica in order to break out of prison—which leads to Veronica being arrested. That’s the sort of cliffhanger the show hasn’t done for a weekly case. We also hear that the coach was killed with a gun, which is an ever-so-slight connection to the dean’s murder. Either way, it’s an interesting structural departure, though I can’t judge more until I see where it leads.
However, the most memorable part of the episode, for better or for worse, isn’t connected to the mysteries. It’s connected to Logan making a Manic Pixie Dream Girl friend—only the girl happens to be 11 years old. She’s the little sister of Dick’s latest fling, left in Logan’s care as revenge for Logan sleeping with Madison. On one hand, I liked Heather, at least a bit. Her cheerful willingness to deal with Logan’s depression doesn’t ring false, and it’s given a partial explanation by her sister.
On the other hand, Heather is so ridiculously contrived as a way to help Logan out of his funk that it’s almost embarrassing—like one of those movies where an emotionally distant male has a pet or a kid or something dropped on him out of the blue, and he has to learn to love again. She’s a Manic Pixie Dream Girl in every way, except for being desexualized. She exists within the narrative to help Logan, even though she has her own emotional difficulties, and even though she would be well within her rights to want nothing to do with the situation. The Plot Contrivance Child is not good storytelling, and it’s below Veronica Mars. Then again, Veronica Mars seems unlikely to use Christian platitudes in voiceover to explain why Veronica changed her mind.
“Postgame Mortem” works as a mirror image of “There’s Got To Be A Morning After Pill.” There, the character material worked while the case of the week fell apart. Here, the case of the week is fascinating even as the characterization grates. But in both cases, the overarching mystery of Dean O’Dell’s death is still compelling, and the show finally seems confident in its new setting
- “And he’s not even my brother anyway cause my parents just told me I’m adopted.” Veronica’s time at Neptune High prepared her well for this.
- “Shut up, Sane Veronica. I’m in charge now.” …Barry?
- Heather also finally breaks through Logan’s mood by playing Mario Kart: Double Dash, and call me a target audience sucker, but that’s my probably my favorite GameCube game. Between Space Ghost, Double Dash, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, it’s a good week for Veronica Mars pop-culture references.
- “I’m afraid I can’t do that, sir. We’re running out of salt-and-pepper shakers.” Logan’s ruining room service.
- “You can wear your T-shirt that says ‘I’d rather be home crying.’” For an episode where Dick gets married, he’s fairly subdued here. Still gets a few good lines.
- “And don’t worry about the sheriff. He has a long and proud history of being wrong.”
- “I would have settled for ‘I find her nosiness charming.’” Veronica gets a touching recommendation from Dean O’Dell. Another good reason I miss him: Having an authority figure on Veronica’s side could have gotten interesting.