“Versatile Toppings” (season 2, episode 14; originally aired 3/15/2006)
In which pizza boys are robbed and queer students are blackmailed…
I may be mistaken but I believe that we hit an important milestone in the last batch of Veronica Mars episodes with “Ain’t No Magic Mountain High Enough,” although I only noticed with “Versatile Toppings”—we’re no longer only dealing with storylines that deal with parenthood as a major theme. It’s included in both episodes, primarily in terms of the Jackie/Terrence relationship, but it’s not the most important component of the storyline anymore.
That thematic consistency was one of the most interesting things about Veronica Mars season one, but it was also the sort of thing that could drag the show down over time. After all, both “Magic Mountain” and “Versatile Toppings” are straightforward episodes that easily could have fit in with season one apart from that, and the former is fantastic, while this one is solid. So I’m glad those constraints have been loosened, although given this season’s forays into insanity, I may live to regret that.
The main story of “Versatile Toppings” involves a mugger attacking pizza boys. Ryan, the gay student from earlier in the season, is one of those pizza boys, and he thinks he lost a master list of students at a Neptune gay & lesbian student website. Those students are now being blackmailed for $5,000 or they’ll be exposed to Neptune High’s crushing social norms. Veronica—well, Veronica does favors.
Gay and lesbian teens in high school would seem to be a hot-button issue, but this was a notably low-key episode on the subject. I suppose a large degree of that is timing—2006 comes after the rush of gay-and-lesbian-characters-taking-over-television of the late 1990s (Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Willow, Will & Grace, and Ellen, to name a few examples) but before the crazed anti-bullying narratives of Glee. It’s a thing that’s part of the social structure of Neptune, and like many things in Neptune, it’s bad but difficult to confront head-on.
Which is why Kylie, the lesbian who’s actually committing the blackmail, is a fairly interesting antagonist—she’s basically doing it in order to have an excuse to come out with her girlfriend. Sure, she’s psycho, but she freely admits that psychosis. It’s somewhat refreshing how unapologetic she is about the whole thing, which Veronica also goes along with, not exposing Kylie to any punishment. I wish we’d had a bit more time dealing with her, but no such luck.
Of course, the big revelation of the episode are explosives in a locker near Terrence Cook’s cars. But the fallout from that is one of the big plot points of the next episode, so, onward!
“The Quick And The Wed” (season 2, episode 15; originally aired 3/22/2006)
In which Veronica tracks down a missing bride, but all is not as it seems, of course…
The somewhat sprawling ambitions of the overarching plot of season two of Veronica Mars cause a big problem with Terrence Cook in this storyline. It goes along fairly conventionally, with Keith telling Sheriff Lamb about the bombs, Lamb being a dick, and a warrant being put out for Cook, which is how the narrative would be expected to go. And then Lamb tells Keith that Cook is in surgery, after being shot, after breaking into his crazy stalker’s house in San Francisco. Huh?
It’s probably the most egregious example of Veronica Mars telling-not-showing yet, and it’s also a good indication that we’re not supposed to take the too-obvious Cook seriously as a suspect. In season one, right around this time, we got a scene of Aaron beating the piss out of Trina’s horrible boyfriend. Logan and Veronica showed up at the end, but the bulk of it was beforehand, and it was the biggest clue that Aaron had a temper which made him worth being suspicious of. Here? We have a nominally important event, occurring totally off-camera. Meg’s death was similar, and I think both indicate the story fraying at the edges.
What’s interesting is that even while the main story is shedding itself of dross somewhat, the cases of the week are becoming more and more important to each episode. Which is not to say they’re getting really good—I’d say both of these episodes are a little weaker than normal, to be honest, though not terrible—but rather that somewhere in each is a story that you can work with even if some of the larger craziness doesn’t quite work.
This week, Veronica Mars is chasing a disappeared bride-to-be, whose bachelorette party seems to have gotten a little bit too out-of-control. Does she have cold feet? Swept up by an old flame? Something even more nefarious? As far as it goes, the revelation—that she was set up by the groom-to-be and old frenemy Vinny Van Lowe to cause the marriage to be canceled in such a way as to avoid embarrassment for the groom—was a lot of fun, especially the denouement, where Heidi tells off the groom and his family. It’s not deep, and it doesn’t have many great Veronica Mars moments, but it’s solid enough.
The real meat of the episode comes from the non-Mars characters, though. First, Cassidy and Kendall are starting to get serious about their real estate business, which directly relates to Not Maury Levy explaining how Woody’s incorporation proposal will lead to plummeting real estate values outside the new city, and even higher ones within the city, throwing Cassidy’s plans out of order. Also a problem? That his company is low on cash flow, leading to Kendall trying to work with Aaron Echolls, who apparently tells her how to steal Duncan’s money.
It’s always good to see Aaron, who adds an even more interesting dynamic to the second season than he did to the first, thanks to his actor’s total conviction that Duncan Kane committed the murder. A True Hollywood Stories-like exposé of him and his family also makes Logan look bad, forcing a confrontation between Logan and Hannah’s family, and more directly, between Logan and himself.
If there’s anything really important to take away from “The Quick And The Wed,” it’s Logan’s struggle. His master plan to attack Dr. Griffith through his daughter has indeed come to fruition, but through Veronica and his actual, legitimate feelings for Hannah, he’s starting to have second thoughts. I don’t really know how I feel about this. Yes, I love Logan as a character, and giving him depth is a good thing generally. But this is fairly ham-handed, right down to other characters specifically talking about Logan and whether he’s charming and soulless or not. So the end, when he comes to Veronica, saying he’s made a huge mistake? It feels like it’s telegraphed, even forced. And maybe that’s necessary to bring Logan emotionally back in Veronica’s circle. But it doesn’t quite ring true… yet.
- “Why can’t the evil get jobs like the rest of us?”
- “Sorry to blow your mind, Veronica, but I’m a lesbian.” “Oh. That’s cool.” “Only when you’re in college.”
- “What have I told you about thinking?” “It makes my breasts smaller?” I rewatched a Buffy season three episode right after this, and they combined to increase my respect for Charisma Carpenter. So fun.
- “Well, if it helps you decide on your wardrobe, I’ll be wearing an ‘I’m With Stupid’ T-shirt.”
- “How could you say that to me? Like I’d ever sex up a drummer.” That Heidi wedding scene was incredible, really. Guest star knocked it out of the park without any warning.
- “You didn’t get it from me.” “How many times in your life have you had to say that?”
- Hey, I know I said I’d do another Big Bad Power Rankings, but the top three are still the same: Woody, Aaron, and Weevil’s gang (with the Fitzpatricks as a parenthetical, like so). Not sure if that’s a sign of weakness in the show or not.