”Veronica Mars” is back!
Hello, TV Watchers! Remember Veronica Mars? It’s been eight whole weeks since we last hung out with Neptune’s savviest sleuth. That’s a long time — so long that I was tempted to write a ”What I did during my Veronica Mars vacation” essay here. But then I realized how embarrassingly boring that would be. (Exclusive unpublished excerpt: I came home, fed the cats, cooked dinner, turned on the TV…zzz…oh, sorry, did I lose you?) So I figured I’d just stick with the show.
I can’t say that I had terribly high hopes for last night’s episode. The show has been inconsistent this season, and the decision to turn the remaining eps into contained, open-and-shut cases never struck me as creatively exciting. I understand that the producers are desperate to attract more viewers and save the show. But single, no-arc mysteries just seem to run counter to everything that made VM great. Unfortunately, I have to say my fears were confirmed.
Called ”Un-American Graffiti,” the episode juggled three essential story lines. I’ll start with the one involving the titular vandalism. Someone took it upon himself to spray-paint ”Terrorist” on the door of Babylon Gardens, Neptune’s friendly neighborhood Middle Eastern restaurant. Then a yellow pickup truck cruised by the restaurant and — splat! — shot Veronica and the BG family with paintball guns. (Oh, and the slo-mo shot of Veronica diving out of the line of fire? Kinda lame.) Our gal seemed to think she had her culprit in a dark-skinned videogamer who she assumed was dealing with some serious self-hatred. But wouldn’t you know it, he turned out to be an equal-opportunity paintballer who had nothing to do with the graffiti. And he had proof. Switching on a homemade DVD that showed him and his friends targeting, among others, their teacher, Mr. Clemens, he said, ”Look, white people!”
After some spying, tailing, and another red herring, Veronica eventually found the guilty party: Derrick, a mean-lookin’ redneck in a rundown old van. (Do rednecks come any other way?) Derrick, you see, just hated ”towel heads” (his words, in case you thought I’d temporarily lost my mind), especially since his brother came home from Iraq in a wheelchair. And especially after seeing Nasir — the guy who was supposed to marry the BG owners’ daughter, Amira — pass out anti-American propaganda at the mall. (Yes, the mall. ‘Cause where else would you proselytize if you were an illegal immigrant from the Middle East?) But this very special episode of VM didn’t leave it at that. It went for its own full-fledged Middle Eastern peace talk, with Mr. Babylon Gardens taking it upon himself to explain to Derrick what it means to be American. ”We all came from somewhere else,” he said with utmost earnestness. ”We’re all trying to make it. In America, whatever you stand for, you’re supposed to get a fair shot.” And then the clincher: As the happy couple turned to leave, the wife gazed at her husband and told him how very proud she was of his ”inspirational” words. And would he now please allow their daughter to date her Jewish boyfriend?
Ahhh! Enough! Please! Make it stop! The whole plot was so shallow, built on such thinly drawn characters, that I could barely watch it. We never even learned where the Babylon Gardens family was from. (I guess it was enough for us to hear them rolling their r‘s.) I am all for television attempting to bridge our differences or what have you, but for VM to try to do it in an hour, alongside two other subplots, is just foolish. It’s the kind of topic the show could have dealt with gracefully in the past, dedicating a handful of thoughtful episodes to it.
The underage-drinking subplot hardly helped matters. A drunk college student staggered across the street — right in front of a speeding car! Straight out of a low-grade horror flick, the guy threw up his hands to shield his terror-stricken face. Then the screen went white. (As my husband noted, ”Wow, they can’t even afford to stage a decent car accident anymore.”) The crash ended up paralyzing the poor guy, so Sheriff Mars launched an investigation into fake IDs that eventually led him to fire some of his own officers. And then…oh, who cares? It was all so dull and by the numbers. I mean, underage boozing near a college campus? Really? That’s the best they could come up with?
Thank God, then, for the sparks of greatness that came when Veronica interacted with her pals. I loved seeing her talk boys with Mac and task Wallace and Piz to be her moral-support ”wingmen” at Parker’s birthday shindig. I even would have welcomed a few more minutes of ”the Dickster,” a guy who keeps his fly unzipped as a party ritual. Dude amuses me, especially when quoting The Big Lebowski. (Another awesome movie nod: Veronica’s dual shout-out to Pulp Fiction.) I’m still no fan of Parker’s, but at least the scenes involving the new love triangle made for some compelling dramatic tension. I felt for the lovelorn Piz as Veronica cuddled up to him only to escape the creepy dude at the party. And I loved that they then enjoyed a nice, long smooch in plain view of Logan. Take that, suckah!
So what do you think? Did this episode bite off more than it could chew in a single evening? How does that bode for the rest of the season — and perhaps the series? Is Mac going to dump Bronson for Max? Are Veronica and Piz going to become an item? If so, is Logan going to spaz out in a fit of jealousy over it? And how much do we love that Paul Rudd is coming to Neptune next week?