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The New Veronica Mars

One of the more novel elements of the new season is that Veronica Mars, as much as she’s still a thorn in many characters’ sides, gets a dose of her own medicine. One new character is Matty Ross (Izabela Vidovic), the daughter of the Sea Sprite Motel’s owner. Matty and her dad have a similar vibe as Veronica and Keith once did – though they’re not private investigators by trade, they have a fun chemistry that gets cut cruelly short when the girl’s dad is killed in the motel bombing. She’s understandably heartbroken, but instead of grieving, Matty decides to investigate who killed her dad.

Veronica, in the premiere, only sees Matty at a distance and grows sympathetic to the girl’s plight. But soon, it becomes clear that while Matty is as resourceful as Veronica once was, her sleuthing will cause more problems than they’re worth. She boldly confronts the owner of a local vending-machine company because the motel’s vending machine may well have been the repository of the bomb. (That owner is one of the Fitzpatricks who Veronica once dealt with.) She steals materials from the Mars to figure out what’s going on, to the point where there’s a brief moment or two where you wonder (or at least, I did) if she was involved in the bombings in some capacity.

Instead, Matty’s just a Veronica Mars in training; Vidovic’s enigmatic performance makes Matty a really fascinating addition to the season. It not only makes creative sense to see her serving as the receptionist and side sleuth at Mars Investigations in the final scenes; it’s a sign that season 5 could show the new generation of Neptune’s teenage underbelly.

Two Old Dogs

In the years since Veronica Mars aired, Rob Thomas co-created the painfully underseen but very funny comedy Party Down. One actor who turned in a hilarious recurring performance there was Oscar winner J.K. Simmons. Simmons can do a whole lot as a performer, from being outrageously funny to intense and intimidating. As Clyde, he gets a rangier role than expected; Clyde is an ex-con working as a fixer for Big Dick Casablancas, and he may or may not be the prime suspect in the bombings. (As we eventually learn, he helped orchestrate the first bombing, but even then was not expecting to cause any deaths.)

The majority of Simmons’ time onscreen, though, isn’t in being menacing or terrifying. It’s in hanging out with Veronica’s dad, private investigator Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni). Keith is still struggling with his injuries incurred during the 2014 film, and may even be suffering from dementia – he’s forgetting things more often and can’t even afford to find out what’s wrong. When Clyde shows up, Keith tries to sidle up to him to get close to Big Dick’s inner workings. Clyde, instead of putting the heat on Keith, buddies up with him, even offering him concierge-level health insurance that eventually confirms the health scare is just that – the forgetfulness isn’t a sign of dementia, mercifully.

But really, my high praise is this: if this season had a single bottle episode, as we watch Keith and Clyde in the former’s office, or out on a fishing expedition, I would have loved it. Simmons and Colantoni, both character actors of great esteem, have a laconic, lived-in, relaxed connection that makes it almost heartbreaking that Keith and Clyde can’t really be friends for too long. Keith, as much as he likes the guy, knows that Clyde’s crimes are too much to forgive; Clyde, on the other hand, would love to stay friends, but knows he has to back off by the finale. Simmons, who appears in all but the premiere episode, is arguably the best addition of the new season. If there’s a fifth season, I hope he’s back.

Fan Service

One of the best parts of the new season is how decidedly non-fan-service-y most of it feels. Probably the one returning character who doesn’t need to be there is Leo, the ex-deputy who’s now an FBI agent. Max Greenfield returns as Leo, existing as a possible third wheel to Veronica’s relationship with Logan. And just as before, Greenfield has off-the-charts chemistry with Bell. So yes, on the one hand, I kept wondering why Leo had to be in so much of the middle episodes of the new season. On the other, it made sense when Veronica fantasized a sexual tryst with Leo, because the two performers were generating incredible sparks.

The flip side of not having a lot of fan service is that many returning characters are close to being blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos. Percy Daggs III is back again as Wallace, Veronica’s old friend, even though Veronica barely has time for him. (On a character level, this makes sense – Veronica seems almost repulsed by his domestic life as a teacher and father, simply because it’s the opposite of what she wants – but it’s sad to barely see Daggs.) The same is almost true for Francis Capra as Weevil. The events of the 2014 film impacted Weevil in ways the show barely touches upon; he just doesn’t factor too heavily into the new season, even with an unexpected connection to Alonzo. 

The balance, or imbalance, of fan service is what holds back the fourth season of Veronica Mars from being quite as great as the show’s brilliant first season. It’s an enjoyable eight-episode arc, and Bell is typically delightful to watch as the spiky, feisty private eye who’s fiercer than she looks. Setting Veronica on a path of intense brooding, now that she’s more adrift without Logan, could lead to an intriguing new season. But I would hope that Rob Thomas is the kind of creator who can back away from feedback – not that I’m ever thirsting for artists whose work I write about to read my writing, but I really hope he ignores this. And every other comment. If there’s a fifth season of Veronica Mars, don’t do what you think noir demands, or what fans demand. Do what’s right for Veronica Mars. That’s it.

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