** This article contains spoilers for the entirety of the Veronica Mars canon.**
Veronica Mars is a show I slept on for far too long, and I really have no good excuse for missing out. I was 16 when the show debuted, which would have put me squarely in its target demographic. Between the original series’ ending and its first comeback – the fan-funded film which premiered in 2014 – I had several friends tell me (several times) how much I would enjoy it. As I started becoming more invested in television as a medium, as I began to study its history, Veronica Mars would often come up as an example of how TV was growing into something more complex; evolving as an art form.
This is a show that’s been on my Must-Watch List for years, but it wasn’t until the announcement of the show’s second comeback – this time a full season on Hulu – that I decided to push the show to #1 on that list. Still, the list is what I watch when I’m not busy with all the television that’s currently airing, and we all know that’s a lot. So, I only managed to get my act together and watch the damn thing, when there was about a month to go before the fourth season premiere. But, once I started, I couldn’t stop. I’ll confess that I watched nearly all of season two in just one day, and, in total, it took me just over a month to get through 64 episodes and a feature film.
It took me almost two weeks to watch the fourth season, which contains just 8 episodes.
At first, I was simply trying to pace myself; these were the last 8 hours of fresh Veronica Mars content that would be available for a while, maybe forever, and I wanted to savour them. At around the halfway mark, though, I noticed I’d started to feel a disconnect from the show and its characters. By the end of episode six, I wasn’t sure I even liked Veronica anymore – maybe teen angst just doesn’t have the same impact or resonance as adult cynicism. And, when the finale reached its roughly 45 minute-mark, I was angry and couldn’t help feeling I had just wasted an entire month of my life, to watch a show that was going to break my heart for all the wrong reasons.
** Final Spoiler Warning **
Here’s the thing, I love dark television. I am here for peak bleak TV. As long as the tragedy and turmoil faced by the characters in these kinds of shows, is for the good of the story being told, bring it on. As long as a show’s depressing subject matter is being depicted for some greater purpose – not just for the sake of it, as with the “torture porn” type series – then I say, give me ALL the feels. The death of Logan Echolls, despite what showrunner Rob Thomas would have you believe, was not for the benefit of Veronica Mars’ story. Quite the opposite, actually, it was the epitome of lazy writing choices.
It was the easy way out for Thomas, who, as outlined in this Rolling Stone interview, didn’t want to write about a 35-year old woman with a boyfriend – which I’m guessing is no different than a 35-year old woman with a husband, since Veronica and Logan were married before the latter was murdered. Thomas believes the show wouldn’t be as interesting moving forward, with Veronica in a steady relationship. That her marriage would be too much of a win to maintain that certain underdog status, which makes it so easy for viewers to root for her. Thomas hoped this could be a fresh start for Veronica, should the series continue on for future seasons.
While I have no doubt Thomas truly believes this was the best direction for his show to take, a large majority of the fans, a decent handful of critics, and myself, all agree this was a mistake. Of rather epic proportions, in fact. It’s the kind of choice that causes me to lose faith in a showrunner. If there is another season of Veronica, and I choose to watch it, I’ll be doing so with a hefty dose of skepticism. I won’t trust that a good story, driven by thoughtful decision-making and backed by compelling arguments, is coming my way. Based on some of his thought process behind getting rid of Logan, I’m not even sure Thomas understands how to write in the voice of a well-rounded and nuanced adult woman.
Firstly, there’s this long-standing problem on TV (and in films, no doubt) where strong female characters aren’t allowed to have love interests. These women are either too tough, too independent and “don’t need a man/woman/partner,” or they’re too cynical to even believe in love. Throughout the first 3 seasons, Veronica was both cynical AND in relationships, and nothing really changed about that in the fourth season. Logan even addressed the idea that both he and Veronica are loner-types who were making their relationship work on their own terms. Which, by the way, was super interesting and would have made for a really compelling dynamic to explore between the two, but the show quickly glossed over it instead. So, because Thomas just isn’t compelled by an independent woman who might also be capable of love, we don’t get to see Veronica live that life.
Or, maybe we will, but just not with Logan because it’s his death that will propel Veronica into a new chapter of her life. It will be the loss of her (barely) husband that gets Veronica to a less cynical, more vulnerable place in her character’s development. It’s your classic fridging trope, though Logan was far better developed than most women who suffer this treatment. It makes no difference that the gender roles are swapped here, though; it wasn’t cute when we had to watch woman after woman die to drive a man’s storyline forward and it’s just as ugly in reverse. Ugly, lazy, and just too easy.
Had Thomas decided instead to tackle the unique bond he’d spent years creating between Veronica and Logan, the two could have become one of the most fascinating couples in TV history. Logan’s progression and Veronica’s seeming regression was already one of the most engaging aspects of this fourth season. Their dynamic had evolved SO much, not just from the show’s pilot, but from the last time we saw them interact romantically, in the film. There was so much more story to tell between the two of them, and to have thrown it away seems so utterly careless and wasteful.
In general, this season never quite hit the mark in terms of screen time for Veronica and Logan. A lot was accomplished in terms of character development for them as individuals, but Logan and their relationship was mostly sidelined. It really feels as though only the bare minimum effort was put into examining their more grown-up dynamic. They weren’t afforded the space they deserved and it’s a real shame. Their marriage could have been just the beginning of a truly rich exploration of a non-cookie-cutter relationship.
But Veronica has to be the underdog for the show to work, apparently. She has to be the kind of character we feel compelled to root for because she’s the nice guy that bad things happen to. Fine, I get it. Most people gravitate towards the underdog story, including me, and the tactic does work. I don’t know about you, though, but I don’t want to be stuck in rooting mode forever. That sounds real tedious. I like to see my underdogs take a win every so often. I like to see my rooting pay off from time to time, and get to hang out with a character who isn’t just miserable for their entire life. Why couldn’t this relationship have been one of those wins?
Perhaps Thomas was concerned that having Veronica and Logan married would take some of their spark away and detract from the show – that has been a bit of a curse for TV couples in the past. I have to believe these two would have been different though, considering their personal histories, both together and individually. I have no doubt their relationship could still have been the source of some weighty story conflict and tension at some point. Getting married wasn’t going to cure everything between them. It wasn’t going to turn what they had into 24/7 rainbows and roses. This one, happy relationship couldn’t possibly have shone so bright it eclipsed the show’s noir aesthetic.
Logan’s death has cast quite the shadow over Veronica Mars, though. It may not be enough to ruin what came before, but it certainly forms a cloud of doubt around anything that’s to come. The consequences of his loss, the ripple effect on the show and Veronica herself, feel both cheap and unearned. It’s not the first time a show has broken my heart, but it’s only one of a few that have done so in such an egregious way. A way that makes me question if this is the kind of show I want to give my time to, especially given the abundance of amazing TV available at my fingertips every second of the day.
Before I wrap this up, I would like to address the issue of fan service. I know a lot of people with the same opinion as myself have been told they’re incorrect to have it, because what they were hoping for was just some nostalgia fest and not an actual return to the world of Veronica Mars in a realistic, present day. To which I say, kindly fuck off.
On the one hand, I think fan service can be utterly silly and a waste of time. When it’s done right, though – whether completely over the top and in your face, or relatively subtle in a way that works to drive the story, too – it can be really, really great. For the most part, I don’t think showrunners owe us anything in terms of fan service, and I prefer when a writer tells their story without audience influence. The game has kind of changed in this era of reboots and revivals, though. Sometimes, I do wonder what fans should be entitled to since, without fan interest for all the years that span a show’s original run and its comeback, would the return ever even be made possible? If we’re partly responsible for helping to revive a show, what, if anything, are we entitled to? A question worth pondering, but a conversation that’s too big to explore here.
What I do know for sure is that this isn’t the first show to piss me off and break my heart, and it won’t be the last. But this is one of just a few that did so in such an empty fashion.* I don’t mourn the loss of Logan the way I’ve mourned other characters in the past. It’s not something that’s going to sit with me for years to come because of the emotional impact it left. I didn’t even cry when it happened – okay, I cried later, but largely out of frustration.
*Carl Grimes’ death on The Walking Dead and Poussey Washington’s murder on Orange is the New Black belong in this category.
There’s such a hollowness to this whole ordeal, which makes it all that much worse. Logan’s death doesn’t hold the weight it could – which could have been A LOT – because it wasn’t done for any other reason than to service another character’s arc. Which means that, after years of development and character growth, Logan Echolls boiled down to a shitty plot device.
Logan deserved better.
Veronica deserved better.
Veronica Mars deserved better.
Finally, let me leave you with this…
Logan: I thought our story was epic, you know. You and me.
Veronica: Epic how?
Logan: Spanning years and continents. Lives ruined and bloodshed. Epic. But summer’s almost here and we won’t see each other at all. And then you’ll leave town and then it’s over and…
Logan: I’m sorry about last summer. You know, if I could do it over…
Veronica: C’mon, ruined lives, bloodshed? Yout really think a relationship should be that hard?
Logan: NO ONE WRITES ABOUT THE ONES THAT COME EASY.
(Caps lock are my own emphasis, added to make a point.)