Now I want to talk about Veronica Mars. First of all, does anyone have high-quality copies of "Meet John Smith" and/or "You Think You Know Someone", preferably in SVCD or DVD format? My copies of both are hopelessly screwed up. I don't need the .avis, because I want to burn them to disc. I'm offering DVD-R's of the past four episodes in exchange -- widescreen and with chapters. I burned them last night, and they're gorgeous. Literally box-set DVD quality.
This week I've gone from loving the show to obsessively LOVING the show. And oh, aren't those first days of obsession a heady whirlwind of fun? It's kind of strange, though, to be involved in the fandom from the start -- or, in my case, since before the start.
The other day I went back and read my first impressions of the pilot, which I downloaded back in August (and I'm trying hard not to trumpet how I was a fan before anyone else I knew. Yes, I'm snotty. I'm also amused that ww1614 had nothing to say about it at the time. ;) It's funny how I loved Kevin Hill -- which has proven a disappointment -- and was somewhat lukewarm about VM.
Back then I picked up on the Buffy vibes. Now, though, I don't think the comparison is particularly fair to either show, beyond the surface (lead characters, basic concept, and setting.) I can't really explain why, though, so I'll just say that VM and BTVS have very different goals and execution. Besides, I personally think it's a little too early to compare the two, given that VM is only 2/3 of the way through its first season. Who knows how I might feel about it in seven years? And oh, I hope I have the chance!
So, why do I love Veronica Mars so much?
1. The characters
Oh, the characters are almost all amazing. They often surprise us by doing unexpected things, but in retrospect their actions make perfect sense. Each one of the main characters is truly interesting and fully realized, which is a credit to both the actors and writers.
Veronica is an astonishing creation, full of so many facets and angles. Her best quality is that she's NOT perfect -- quite the opposite. She's stubborn and impatient and has a bit of a superiority complex. Her ethics are often sketchy, and sometimes she's a little too smart to be believable... yet the writers set her up so well that I believe it anyway. She's not always right, but she learns from her mistakes. More than anything, though, she's *human*.
I adore the hell out of Keith. I can't really say more than that, but you'll see why later in this post. :)
Weevil is perhaps the one "stock character", in that he's the bad boy with a heart of gold. But something about his actions and portrayal keep him from becoming a cliche.
Dead!Lilly is, in her words, "fabulous!" God, she could so easily become utterly insufferable, but instead she's hilarious and loveable. Yes, she's very narcissistic, and yet she really makes us believe in her own hype. Though I've been reading spoilers, I want to stay unspoiled for the revelation of who killed her -- that scene should blow me away. The writers have paced Lilly's murder mystery perfectly, giving us just enough to keep us interested without letting it overwhelm the storylines.
Many people see Duncan as one-dimensional, yet he interests me almost in spite of himself. We keep seeing little clues that he's a genuinely *good* person, and I love that bit in "Return of the Kane" where we find out that he's incredibly intelligent (3.98 GPA, National Merit Semifinalist) and a Big Man on Campus type. He also earns his reputation. ;) He's also one of the biggest mysteries, though, not just for his possible epilepsy but also his motivations for breaking up with Veronica and so many other things. I love the idea that he accidentally killed Lilly, but now I worry that it's a red herring.
And then there's Logan. Ah, Logan. I don't think I need to explain why I adore him so much. ;) I really do believe that he completely took the writers by surprise. The first few episodes set him up as Veronica's stock-character foil -- the "obligatory psychotic jackass" of the pilot. But I think the writers didn't expect Dohring to be such an amazing actor, and once they saw what he could do (especially in "Return of the Kane", my favorite episode, as you can tell by how often I mention it *g*), they decided to run wild with the character. He consistently challenges each of our assumptions. The revelation that he is abused doesn't excuse his asshattery, but it definitely explains it, and oh, those scenes are heartbreaking. I never, ever would've expected him to show a softer side and grow closer to Veronica, let alone *deserve* her, but now I'm fully on board. I can't wait to see where this character goes.
2. The writing
I've often said that this is a teen show written for adults. It has a very mature sensibility, both in the darkness of many of the episodes, and in the way the intricate characterization and plot arcs play off each other. The high school setting is a vehicle to tell the stories, rather than the story itself. Everything is so complicated and with an almost breathtaking depth (more on that later.)
The cases-of-the-week have the potential to be the weakest, silliest part of the show, what with the Nancy Drew vibe. But the writers consistently amaze me with their ingenuity and how the twists are both clever and earned. The first example was "Meet John Smith" -- I never expected the boy's father to be a transsexual. Some of the twisty plots are weaker than others, but even the weaker ones are still very smartly-designed. The writers also do an amazing job of bringing everything together to play off each other like an MC Escher print. As elz pointed out several weeks ago, even the random one-off cases almost always have some deeper meaning to the show and characters.
3. This is a show that is willing to take risks.
When I saw the pilot, I thought it was a pretty good show until the reveal that Veronica was date-raped. That blew me away. Very few shows are willing to go that route, especially one that's ostensibly a "teen drama". Since then, Veronica Mars hasn't let me down. Take Logan, for example. He's a victim of child abuse, and while that doesn't excuse him being a jackass, it explains it. His mother commits suicide -- and the show doesn't take the easy route of her faking her death. Though Veronica means well, she often skirts both ethics and the law in her investigations, such as stealing confidential medical records, listening in on private counseling sessions, and setting a fire in the sherriff's department in order to switch a videotape. In fact, I think this will come back to haunt her in a huge way later on, but in such a way that she'll still have our sympathy.
The writers aren't afraid of anything, including showing their characters as less-than-perfect. Teens have active sex lives without being condemned for it. They have their own sets of prejudices, and even when those are proven wrong, they don't necessarily bounce back as open-minded free thinkers. Bad things happen, and those things have ramifications.
4. The relationships
Keith and Veronica have such a lovely relationship. How often do you see a father and daughter who truly love, respect, and enjoy each other's company? Their banter is also just plain *fun* to watch. I love that he's not simply there to be her foil -- so often, the adult is used to play off the kids, but Keith is just as smart as Veronica, and they take turns being the one to figure out the mystery. We saw that beautifully in "Mars vs. Mars", with Keith's maturity and street smarts solving the case. I also love that he so willingly gives up his wants and needs for her, even if he's not always right to do so. And Veronica respects that even if they disagree, he is her *father*, and she'll always support him. They are the most important person in each other's lives, and that's beautiful.
Lianne Mars's absence could've been both a cliche and an easy plot contrivance, but it has turned out to be quite the opposite. We're only seeing the tip of the iceberg where she's concerned, and I like that she's not made out to be the villain or scapegoat for all the Mars' problems. I also don't think that she was carrying on a huge affair with Jake Kane, though I do believe that they had something going on that will directly relate to the bigger mystery.
The Kane family, on the other hand, is as twisted and complicated as the Mars family is lovely and healthy. They go beyond simple terms like "dysfunctional", especially Celeste's (possibly homicidal) bitterness toward her daughter. On the other hand, I really like the dynamic between Jake and Duncan. The first few episodes set up the family as being a huge mess, but Jake has been an almost pleasant surprise (and please, give us more of Kyle Secor!) since he originally appeared to be the villain. I love their scenes together in "Return of the Kane", where we see that Jake genuinely loves his son and only wants the best for him -- especially the great scene in which he tells Duncan that if he wants to be a basket weaver, then he should be the best basket weaver he can be... so long as he gets his law degree from Stanford first. ;) And I'm craving more of the Duncan-Lilly relationship -- I feel like there's so much we haven't seen yet.
And then we have the Echolls family. Whoa, they are seriously fucked up, to say the least. The stunt casting of Hamlin and Rinna could've been cheesy, but they've turned out *perfect*. Aaron Echolls is truly one of the creepiest characters I've seen in ages, and not just because he abuses his son. I'm still not thrilled by Alyson Hannigan showing up (and that's an entirely personal thing unrelated to the show), but I really want to see more of how she fits into this very, very sad family.
Wallace and Veronica are such a delight to watch. They're genuinely friends, and I like the lack of any sexual tension whatsoever. ;) I do think, though, that her taking advantage of him will come back to haunt her.
Some people complain that Veronica and Duncan run too hot and cold, but their interaction seems realistic to me, especially given all the complications in their lives. I used to be convinced that they'd end up together, but now I'm not so sure. If anything, they've moved toward a dynamic in which they might someday become friends again, but they'll never be lovers.
After "Ruskie Business", I'm now a full-fledged Veronica/Logan shipper, as much as I tried to resist. ;) I love the way they interact with each other, and the sexual tension is amazing. Like I said above, I do think that Logan took the writers by surprise, and V/L never even occurred to them until they saw how well the actors play off each other. Him gradually opening up to and accepting her has been fascinating to watch, and I think they could have a really amazing romantic relationship. BUT I think it's still a long ways off. The sexual component is definitely there now, but the emotional part still has a way to go. They have too many issues -- both with each other and separately -- to make a healthy go of it now, but I like seeing them slowly work their way toward that, despite themselves. :)
5. And it's gorgeous.
The cinematography is incredible, full of off-kilter hues that lend the scenes - especially flashbacks - a dreamy, disturbing quality. Look at a few screencaps sometime to see what I mean. Veronica Mars also uses music really well. I can't get enough of that gorgeous scene in "Return of the Kane" in which Aaron and Logan drive to the homeless shelter and back, accompanied by "Ventura Highway" by America. God, the whole thing is just... I have no words except to say that it's stunning.
So, there are some of my reasons for being passionately in love with this show. I can't wait to start ficcing it! I'd love to hear back from you (though you probably know how bad I am about replying. ;) But please don't turn this into a VM vs. another show thing. I'm not really here to compare it to anything else. I just want to talk about how great *it* is!