”Veronica Mars”: The big bad guy is revealed
Beaver, Beaver, Beaver, Beaver, Beaver. (Say it with a slow, reproachful shake of the head.)
Beaver: Used and abused and made into something damaged and dirty by a fast-food mogul. Beaver: A scared little boy locked and lost in a very dark closet with some very scary monsters. Beaver: Despairing. Beaver: Desperate. Beaver: Deluded.
Beaver: Unmasked by Veronica Mars as the eeeeevil villain behind the bus crash — not to mention Curly’s death, Veronica’s rape, and that gosh darn bird flu. Okay, maybe not, but as I was watching the riveting confrontation between Veronica and season 2’s Big Bad, I did have this feeling that the show was piling on poor little Beaver, especially when we got to that rape business. VM‘s season finale felt a little like a department store clearance sale: Everything Must Go — old mysteries, loose ends, and secondary characters! In fact, if not for a couple odd cliff-hangers, you might have thought the episode was actually a going-out-of-business sale: With Veronica graduating and the LoVe Boat finally setting sail into the happily-ever-after sunset (that’s Logan/Veronica, for all of you who don’t speak ‘shipper language), it almost felt like a series finale.
I watched the episode twice. That’s a compliment. Friends, I don’t watch an episode of anything twice — not even my embarrassing obsession that is Lost. The first time I watched ”Not Pictured,” my jaw kept dropping lower, and lower, and lower, until it just went plunk! right on my floor. The Leave It (All) to Beaver revelation — which Veronica pieced together with a mix of solid detective work (discovering that Beaver had played on Mayor Woody Goodman’s Little League baseball teams), reasonable deduction (Woody was a child molester + Beaver can’t get it up for Mac = Beaver must have been one of the Gute’s victims), and some massive assumptions (Beaver was victimized by the Gute = Beaver must have killed those who might expose his shameful secret; the Gute had an STD = Beaver raped Veronica) — certainly made sense and had a massive emotional punch. Beaver’s suicide may have been one of the most chilling and poignant scenes I’ve seen on TV this season. The moment when he asked Logan and Veronica what exactly he had to live for, followed by their silence, and then Beaver nonchalantly stepping off the building, followed by the howl of car alarms and the looks of shock, awe, and horror that passed across the faces of Veronica and Logan like dark clouds — unforgettable. I fully suspect that a deep-thinking pop culture analyst will soon write a book that will cite that moment as some kind of profound statement about today’s chew ’em up, spit ’em out youth culture, or at least the dramatic embodiment of overstated adolescent drama. Which is all to say that the events on the hotel rooftop seemed to transpire on an almost mythic level. It was, to use a Logan term, ”epic.”
(And let’s stop for a sec to shower some of these actors with praise. Kristen Bell was simply Emmy perfect last night, while Jason Dohring quietly took Logan to a new level; watching him come to Veronica’s rescue, and then grapple with what Beaver had done, was like watching Logan finally grow up. And with the exception of some cliché bad-guy sneering, I thought Kyle Gallner handled Beaver’s tricky transformation from haunted dork to haunted devil very well; the slouch and the beaten-down-dog vibe reminded me of Tim Robbins in Mystic River.)
Yet watching the episode again, with a more critical eye, left me a little cold. The Beaver solution did seem a little too convenient. Curly’s part in his master plan was one-step-too-far: I didn’t buy the reasoning behind why Beaver wrote VM‘s name on Curly’s palm. Again, I wasn’t crazy about connecting Beaver to Veronica’s rape, and I’m guessing that the reasons that the show made the connection was to (1) tie up a loose end, (2) make the moment in which Veronica threatens to shoot Beaver more suspenseful, and (3) better set up Logan’s ”Put the gun down/You’re not a killer, Veronica” heroics. And in general, while the execution was great, the idea of making a sexually abused/confused kid into some kind of out-of-control criminal mastermind whose victimization has cultivated in him a taste for evil and perversion…well, I have to admit, in retrospect, it felt kinda cheap. I can’t imagine what real-life victims of sexual abuse might have made of seeing, once again, their tragedy being trotted out as motivation for yet another pop-culture psycho.
If I really wanted to be mean about this, I might even accuse the show’s writers of taking the easy way out of a very big hole they had dug for themselves this season. Because let’s face it: The bus-crash mystery — intertwined with all that Terrence Cook business, plus a half dozen other twisted subplots — was dauntingly complex. Beaver provided them with an explanation that was user-friendly. Among compelling possibilities, it was probably the simplest to explain. But was it simple and compelling, in part, because it conformed to familiar psycho stereotypes? Debate.
In honor on this end-of-the-school-year episode, a quick-hit report card on other story lines:
The ”What Might Have Been” dream sequence with Mama Mars, Lilly Kane, and Duncan Excellent. Bell’s acting was nuanced and tone perfect. Grade: A
The LoVe stuff Okay, I must admit, I’m coming around to seeing Veronica and Logan together. Happy now, ‘shippers? Grade: B+
Weevil getting busted at graduation Heartbreaking. Weevil, in general, had a great year. I hope we see him again, though it certainly looks gloomy. Grade: A-
Aaron Echolls Actually, I was a little bothered by this late-season rehash of the last season’s defining mystery, and I even found myself resenting the show for asking fans to reconsider the idea that Aaron Echolls killed Lilly Kane. The scene in the elevator between Veronica and Aaron was sensational, and it did establish once and for all that Aaron did indeed murder Lilly, but it also struck me as confirmation that revisiting this story line was a big bunch of all-for-nothing, even if it gave us a few more choice Harry Hamlin moments. Grade: C
The Murder of Aaron Echolls Okay, now this was interesting. And learning that Duncan had ordered the shooting (while playing with his daughter on the beach in Australia) was chilling. But the question must be asked: Why? Of course, I have a theory. All of this — the late-season return of Aaron Echolls; Duncan’s Godfatheresque hit — was all a means to an end: writing Duncan out of the show permanently. Because you have to think that after this, there’s just no way Duncan can feel safe in coming back to America. Grade: B
Jackie and Wallace So she’s actually a recovering addict with a kid. Wallace loves her anyway. From the lack of chemistry between the actors in that airport scene, I’m thinking not even they were buying into this. Let’s call it: Jackie was a single-season proposition designed to give Wallace something to do. I think the show lost sight of what makes Wallace so important to this show — his friendship with Veronica. As the Watson to her Holmes, the Willow to her Buffy, I prefer Wallace to Mac. Here’s hoping they get back on track next season. Grade: B. (If that sounds more generous than my assessment, it’s because all things considered, I did like Jackie as a character.)
Daddy Mars’ ”death” Ridiculous. Manipulative. And for a few seconds, I actually fell for it. Burning questions: Was Sheriff Lamb on the plane? If so, then ding-dong, Lamb is gone! (Good job, Beaver!) Grade: B+
Kendall’s briefcase What do you think was inside? My guess: photos of Aaron Echolls’ assassination. What do you think? In general, Charisma Carpenter brought some spice and sass to the show but was otherwise a big bust. So to speak. Grade: B
The cliff-hanger Some might say ending the show with Veronica waiting at the airport was a little anti-climactic. But I like this offbeat twist, and I think it captures exactly where the show is at: stuck in the boarding area, waiting and wondering what happens next. As we all know, VM has struggled in the ratings this season, and the perception is that the show is on the bubble. The rumor is that the execs in charge of the new network VM would air on next season, The CW, really love the show and want to pair it with Gilmore Girls. My fingers are crossed. Talk about a cliff-hanger!
And with that, our Veronica Mars Watch comes to a close for the season. Thank you for hanging in there with me and my erratic posting of this column. Next season — and I believe there will be a next season — we promise you more consistent and dependable coverage. Here’s hoping VM‘s new network can make the same promise, and deliver on it. Until then: Talk back! I want to hear your verdict on the Beaver revelation and VM‘s assorted other sordid subplots.