Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas explains the heartbreaking season 4 finale
Warning: This story contains major spoilers for the finale of the fourth season of Veronica Mars. Read at your own risk!
When Hulu announced that they were reviving the critically-acclaimed UPN-to-CW series Veronica Mars, fans were excited to be reunited with the titular PI and her friends and family in Neptune, Calif.
On Friday during the show’s panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, star Kristen Bell got her birthday wish when it was announced that the eight-episode fourth season would be dropping immediately, a week ahead of the originally scheduled July 26 premiere date. By late Friday night, the reverberations from the shocking finale began rolling across social media from those who had binged it all in one sitting.
EW chatted with creator Rob Thomas about a decision he made that many fans were not prepared for: making Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) the final victim of the bomber who had been terrorizing Neptune. Dubbed “LoVe” by some of the show’s fans, the on/off romance had been referred to as “epic” in the series, so it was the deepest cut imaginable for many. Rubbing salt in the wound, Logan was killed shortly after he and Veronica had tied the knot.
Here’s what Thomas had to say about Logan’s death, other aspects of season 4, and the prospects for a fifth season. (Edited and condensed for clarity and length.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why????
ROB THOMAS: Well, here’s the thing, I want to keep making Veronica Mars. Kristen and I have talked about making them until it’s Murder She Wrote, and I think for the show to work that way it has to work as a noir detective show, and I think there is a reason that you don’t see many badass TV detectives with their boyfriend, or with their girlfriend.
There is something romantic about that solitary P.I. figure out in the world and, also, I think there is a reason that shows tend to end when they get their romantic leads together. It’s hard to come up with interesting ways to make the relationship as vital as it was before they were together.
What was Jason’s reaction?
He was lovely about it. But I will tell you that having that conversation with Jason was as hard as just about any breakup I’ve had in my lifetime. Exactly like a breakup. I had that moment of like choking on the words trying to get them out of my mouth.
Did you tell him before you started shooting?
Oh, yeah. It was part of the pitch when we took it out. This was nothing that hadn’t been decided long before we shot this. It was in the pitch that Hulu heard. I would not have done that to Jason without letting him know.
Some people will undoubtedly note that we didn’t see the explosion and perhaps hold out hope. “Maybe he’s in a coma?”
Yeah. I’ve been surprised, because fully half the people I’ve talked to [who have seen it] have brought up, “We didn’t see the body. He could still be out there.” I’m telling you, we’re not one of those kinds of shows.
Okay, how about flashbacks in the next season?
It has crossed my mind. Trust me, I have been mulling that.
And certainly, it is possible that Jason could pop up in one of your projects going forward?
Yeah. I’m a huge Jason Dohring fan. I’ve proven many times over that when I become a fan of somebody I bring them back into whatever the next thing I’m doing is. I have a certain group of actors who I adore and keep going back to, and Jason would be very high on that list.
Given that Keith’s health issues were a plot point, did you ever flirt with the idea of killing that character? He has already been through so much.
The thing is, [killing] Keith wouldn’t have solved what I viewed as a problem, which would be my badass noir private detective… and her boyfriend. I mean, that was the thing I was concerned about moving forward with each time, but I fear that it would make Veronica’s adventures less interesting. Romance is typically something that you see in a hard-boiled detective show. The possibility of it at least.
Whose decision was it to drop it a week early?
That was something that Hulu marketing brought to us.
And you were comfortable with that?
You know, it’s funny. Yeah. Those two dates mean very little to me. But when they first told me, “We’re going to release them all at once.” My first reaction was, “Oh, cool. I’ve never done that with a show. I like binging shows. That’ll be fun,” and as we drew closer I started thinking, “Well, you do a mystery show, Rob, and there’s social media out there. It’s going to be very hard for people to remain unspoiled on this when there are big cards we’re going to turn over in this.” I mean, clearly, Logan’s death is the big one, but also just the answers to the whodunit.
And did you have that all worked out before you started shooting?
We hadn’t written it all, but we had outlined it enough that Patton [Oswalt] knew coming in that he was the killer.
I’m just glad it wasn’t Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s character.
I’m so happy that you were worried. The thing is, if you’re doing a 22-episode season there could be a lot of red herrings out on the chessboard. When you’re doing eight episodes there are only, like, five people it could be. Unless you’re going to make it like the waiter who crossed through a scene which, everyone would feel cheated. You do your best to have there be some competing theories, so I’m glad that you were concerned that it could be Kirby.
The one thing that we decide when we start [a] season is we know who did it, how they did it, and why they did it, and then everything else that we’re doing is just obfuscation, trying to then make it possible that other people did it. And in Veronica Mars, we have always tried to write it as a play at home game. You the viewer see the same clues that Veronica sees. There isn’t some bit of knowledge that’s going to fly in offscreen.
Everyone talked about how great it was to get back together and the desire to do more. Do you feel like Hulu would be interested in a fifth season if schedules align?
I’m feeling reasonably confident. Everything that needs to happen to get to see the show again has happened so far, but there is one remaining data point that Hulu is waiting to see. I mean, we had a great working relationship with Hulu. They were proud of the episodes. They were happy with the reviews. They’re happy with the viewership of the first three seasons. If people show up to watch season 4 of Veronica Mars, then I believe we are going to get to make more of them with Hulu.
Have you already started thinking about what the mystery might be? And if characters we didn’t see like Mac (Tina Majorino) might make an appearance?
I have thought about it in general terms. I thought about in this way: I want it to be heavy duty mystery. If we started off as a show that was half teen soap, and half mystery, by this point I want us to be fully mystery. Like that’s our bread and butter. I’m not saying we’re not going to see her high school friends, but it’s not the romantic and social lives of her friends and a mystery. It’s a mystery and those people will still be in her life.
So you viewed season 4 as transitional?
Yeah. We kept referring to it as the bridge to what we’re going to become, which hopefully, assuming we get to make more, and I’m pretty confident we will, then it’s going to exist much more as a straight mystery show.
And given how many familiar faces we saw this time — Leo, Big Dick Casablancas, the prisoners Veronica visited, Jake Kane, Logan’s ex-girlfriend Parker, Principal Clemmons, Clarence Wiedman, even– it would seem that you wouldn’t need to do as much of that Easter egg-type stuff going forward?
Yeah. I mean, I think in the movie we Easter-egged away. That’s part of the reason we’re here. We’re not sure if we’ll ever get to see these characters again. Let’s have Corny pop through and say how he’s doing! Things like that. This time if we were going to have somebody from the past pop up we wanted to make it organic and fit in with the story. I will admit that two of my favorite scenes were the back-to-back Chino prison scenes with [criminals Veronica helped put away]. Those were both talented actors and they were really good in those scenes.
You made an interesting choice to have Logan’s actual last moment be Veronica listening to the voicemail to his therapist. It felt a bit like a callback to the outgoing his voicemail messages from the original show. Was that an epiphany you had early on?
Yeah. A thing that was different about this season was that Veronica’s voiceover was in the past tense. In every other season, it’s been in the present tense and she’s commenting on the thing that is happening now. In this one, we give her this very sort of maudlin, sad-sounding voiceover. Right at the beginning, she says something to the effect of, “If I had known then, we wouldn’t have taken this case.” I wanted to hint that there was tragedy ahead. I wanted that to be in the audience’s mind. I wanted the audience to think, “Is she going to cheat on Logan with Leo?” I wanted them to bite on that [dream sequence]. I really wanted them to bite on Keith: His mind is going. His body is going and Keith is going to have that last heroic moment. I wanted people to bite on the idea of, “Wait a minute, Logan runs into an ex-girlfriend. Wait a minute, he’s not going to show up for the wedding.” That was just one last thing. I wanted them to think some shoe is going to drop. And then they get married, and I was hoping I could catch the audience right as they were breathing a sigh of relief.
Well, you did, and it was gutting.