With series such as The X-Files and Full House getting revived, it was a no-brainer to bring back Veronica Mars, the neo-noir mystery series that originally aired for three seasons from 2004-07 and had a 2014 crowd-funded eponymous movie.
The movie provided a proper ending to the series, which was abruptly cancelled on a cliffhanger in 2007, angering many Marshmallows (the name of Veronica Mars fans). Hulu’s 8-episode mini-series provides another ending as well, but it felt much more permanent (and somber) in nature, not to mention a bit of a letdown.
Occurring five years after the movie, Veronica (Kristen Bell, who’s also an executive producer) and her father Keith (Enrico Colantoni) are still private eyes in the corrupt fictional town of Neptune, CA. A serial bomber is murdering spring breakers, which threatens Neptune’s thriving tourism industry. The first bomb goes off at the Sea Sprite motel, killing four, including the nephew of a Mexican crime-lord who sends two Tarantino-esque hitmen played by Clifton Collins, Jr. (Westworld) and Frank Gallegos (Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life) to Neptune to find the bomber. A congressman (Mido Hamada, American Sniper) hires Mars Investigations after his brother (Paul Karmiryan, In the Vault) is maimed in the blast.
So Veronica and Keith get sleuthing. They get some help from Veronica’s long-time boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), now a Naval intelligence officer. There’s a great scene where Logan beats the hell out of two rednecks who have it coming.
There’s good and bad with this mini-series.
The problem is there’s way too many moving parts, way too many subplots, and way too many characters yet not enough episodes. It feels rushed and should’ve been 10 episodes instead of eight. There’s no balance. Many old characters are crammed in to make cameos. Also, references are made to the original series, which is going on 15 years, making it hard to keep up. You might want to re-watch the original series before seeing this one (and read the two post-movie novels by Rob Thomas, the show’s creator, which are considered canon).
Old favorites like Wallace (Percy Daggs III), Veronica’s BFF, return but he doesn’t have too much screen-time as opposed to Veronica’s biker ally Weevil (Francis Capra), public defender Cliff McCormack (Daran Norris), rival PI and all-around scumbag Vinnie Van Lowe (Ken Marino), frat-boy-turned-actor Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen), and Veronica’s ex-boyfriend/FBI agent Leo D’Amato (Max Greenfield). Dick’s father Richard “Big Dick” Casablancas, Sr. (David Starzyk) – who has “Big Dick” tattooed on his forearm – also returns, playing a strong supporting role.
Some cameos are justified, such as billionaire software mogul Jake Kane (Kyle Secor) and Neptune High principal Van Clemmons (Duane Daniels), but it feels like Veronica’s college friend/Logan’s ex-girlfriend Parker Lee (Julie Gonzalo) is thrown in for the hell of it. Gone is computer hacker Mac (Tina Majorino), who is sorely missed (Veronica says she’s in Istanbul).
The new faces include Oscar winner J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) as Clyde Prickett, an ex-con working for Big Dick; Dawnn Lewis (A Different World) as Neptune’s new police chief Marcia Langdon, who’s not corrupt like her predecessors but is wary of Veronica and Keith; Patton Oswalt (The King of Queens), a pizza guy and true crime nut/amateur sleuth who impedes Veronica’s investigation; Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Nicole Malloy (Bell’s castmate in The Good Place), a bar owner with a dangerous right hook; Oscar nominee Mary McDonnell (Major Crimes) as Jane, a psychotherapist; and Izabela Vidovic (The Fosters) as Matty Ross, a savvy teen whose dad was killed in the first bombing, who becomes Veronica’s protégé.
Again, way too many characters. And way too much Oswalt, whose character is just plain annoying. He definitely wears out his welcome.
When the identity of the bomber’s revealed at the end, it just doesn’t ring true. Not much can be said without spoiling anything. It just felt like the writers were going in one direction with the bomber’s identity then decided to do a 180 at the very last minute and make this particular character the bomber. Instead of it being a cool twist you didn’t see coming, it’s more like “Huh?” There is no way this character is smart enough and cunning enough to have contingency plans that have contingency plans like some criminal mastermind this side of The Usual Suspects’ Keyser Söze. It just doesn’t work.
Then there’s the status of Veronica and Logan’s relationship… you’ll have to see it for yourself to believe it. No spoilers here.
That’s not to say that this mini-series doesn’t have its good points. It has plenty. It’s such a pleasure to see Veronica, Logan, Keith, and the rest of the gang (even for brief moments in Wallace’s case). The chemistry between Bell and Colantoni is just as strong as it ever was. The same thing with Bell and Dohring. Yes, Bell may be known for Frozen and The Good Place, but she’s Veronica first and foremost. She owns this role.
Simmons does his usual good job and steals the show during the scenes he’s in. He has plenty of gravitas and plays well off Colantoni in the scenes Clyde and Keith take each other’s measure. Clyde could easily have been a one-note clichéd role, but not with Simmons playing him; he does a lot with this character.
Since the mini-series is on a streaming service and not a network, it’s much, much edgier. It’s definitely a far cry from the three seasons that ran on UPN and The CW. It really pushes the envelope in terms of content. For instance, there’s a security photo of a serial defecator relieving himself in a motel’s ice machine. One character gets beheaded on-screen in gory detail. Nothing is left to the imagination, that’s for sure. The language is much harsher (although there’s no f-bombs) and the sex scenes are pretty graphic – and steamy.
No way could this have happened on a network.
As mentioned above, while the ending felt like a permanent one, let’s hope this isn’t the last we see of Veronica.
Veronica Mars season 4 premieres on Hulu on July 26, 2019.