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What We Need from the ‘Veronica Mars’ Revival

The show deserves to be brought back, but we have some conditions.

by Shailee Koranne
Sep 24 2018, 7:59pm

Image courtesy Warner Bros

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

Hulu recently confirmed that they’re picking up Veronica Mars for an eight-episode revival which will be released in summer 2019. This isn’t the first time the show, which ran from 2004 to 2006, has been brought back—fans succeeded in bringing it back for a movie in 2014 by crowdfunding its $2 million budget in 11 hours. While nostalgia felt like enough to carry the movie, its main mystery didn’t have the same appeal as the show’s plots because it revolved around the murder of an unimportant character.

We know that the arc of these new episodes is going to be about a serial killer terrorizing Veronica’s hometown of Neptune, California, during spring break, decimating its tourism industry, creating a war between the very divided classes in the town. The original showrunners—creator Rob Thomas and executive producers Diane Ruggiero and Dan Etheridge—are signed on to work on the revival, and Kristen Bell is returning as Veronica, the only cast member who is officially signed on right now, though most of the cast will probably return because of the enthusiasm they’ve voiced about a reunion.

There hasn’t been a teen drama as good as Veronica Mars in years. Recent ones have tried to be dark and mysterious, but quickly turned boring or silly, like Pretty Little Liars and Riverdale. If Veronica Mars is going to come back as the detective drama Rob Thomas is envisioning, there are three things we hope it gets right: a really good main mystery, a focus on its fantastic characters, and some of the social commentary that made it succeed during its original run.

“Who killed Lilly Kane?” was the question on every audience member’s mind in season one, and the payoff was so worth it. Even though the answer to the season two question “who caused the bus crash?” was also a rewarding (and somewhat overdramatic) conclusion, we were sometimes distracted by the other mystery of “who killed Felix?” Season three of Veronica Mars was split equally into two mysteries—in the first half of the season, Veronica tracked down a violent serial rapist who was attacking girls who lived in her college’s residences, and in the second half, she solved the murder of the dean.

The third season felt like a significant departure from the good storytelling of the show’s first two seasons. Instead of one particularly captivating mystery unraveling slowly over a whole season that allowed time for building strong characters and relationships, we watched Veronica Mars forego what made it good as it tried to be darker. The problem is that it was never not dark—Lilly Kane’s murder was gruesome, and the motive behind the bus crash was heartbreaking. Even though it was regarded as a ‘teen drama,’ Veronica Mars often transcended the erratic immaturity expected from the genre because it played out its soapy plots of melodramatic comas, torrid affairs, and shocking murders with a willingness to take things slowly. Where so many teen dramas introduced dramatic new plots only to almost immediately abandon them in favor of another dramatic plot, Veronica Mars took its time drawing out its stories, commentary, and characters’ personalities and relationships. So, having to watch Veronica get attacked and almost sexually assaulted twice in season three felt gratuitous—especially because the show switched gears and moved onto a new mystery, with little to no reflection on the trauma Veronica experienced in the earlier half of season three.

While the third season failed at writing a captivating mystery, we did get to see lots of the rich supporting cast of Veronica Mars, which is where the movie revival failed. The Veronica Mars movie did not make good use of Veronica’s supports, which was a waste of the heartwarming relationships the show built up over its three seasons. Keith and Veronica’s father-daughter relationship is one of the most authentic ones on television—if you didn’t cry when Keith rescued her from the freezer in the season one finale, you’re a monster—and Veronica and Wallace’s friendship was continually loving, without a trace of that annoying “they’re gonna bang eventually” subtext in boy/girl TV friendships. Most importantly, Keith and Wallace always helped Veronica solve crimes, and their help was integral to the mysteries of the episode and the season being resolved. Veronica is one of the most magnetic leading girls TV has ever given us, and she was always most outstanding when across characters like Keith, Wallace, Logan, and Mac, who brought out her best self and helped her solve crimes. The more the revival focuses on telling us how these relationships have evolved since Veronica was in high school, the better it will be.

From what we know about the plot so far, the Veronica Mars reboot is also going to focus on some of the same social commentary from its original run. Namely, the show often focused on the class differences between Neptune’s small group of uber-rich elites and everyone else in town, and this is going to be an important tension point in the revival. This commentary only feels more necessary now that wealth gaps are worse than ever, but it’s easy to screw up these serious topics. For example, the Veronica Mars movie showed Weevil returning to crime as the leader of the PCH bike gang after living a ‘normal’ life with a wife and daughter for years. While it’s true that it’s exceedingly difficult to escape a cycle of crime and incarceration if you’re marginalized along race and class lines like Weevil was, our cultural landscape is full of traumatic stories that never end in happiness for people of color, and watching Weevil wobble and go down felt like an unfairly difficult ending for him. Part of Veronica Mars’ original genius was its ability to show us the corruption in Neptune without its commentary ever feeling grim or self-serving. We hope that the revival talks about these things in the nuanced way that the original series managed to do, and that we see some kind of redemption for the Veronica Mars characters who are failed by Neptune again and again.

Too many shows get unnecessary spin-offs or reboots to capitalize on nostalgia even if they got a healthy amount of seasons in their original runs (think Full House, Pretty Little Liars, Dynasty, and Beverly Hills 90210, among others). That’s why it sucked when the show was cancelled—the third season ended abruptly after poorly told stories and at a crucial point in Veronica’s personal life, so at the very least, she deserves a real conclusion, and so do we.

Veronica Mars wasn’t 100 percent perfect. It had some ill-conceived side plots like Logan and Kendall Casablancas’ relationship, which glorified statutory rape, and sometimes, the way it tried to talk about serious topics felt self-serving, but when the show was in full form, it was fantastic. Now that Veronica Mars is coming back as a detective drama, not a teen drama, and is trying to establish a darker tone for itself, we hope it doesn’t forget its characters, storytelling prowess, and ability to connect to real-world issues—three things that made it so good in the first place. Here’s hoping that these new episodes gives die-hard Marshmallows the twisted, compelling, emotional Veronica Mars story—and closure—we’re looking for.

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