Veronica Mars
Posted by michaelj | TV, What's Free Wednesday

Lots of Fetchland readers already subscribe to services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, or even Marvel Unlimited.

… Which begs the question: When you have access to an almost limitless plethora of entertainment options, which ones should you pick?

“What’s Free Wednesday” is a weekly Fetchland feature spotlighting something great to read or watch available on one or more entertainment services. “Free” once you’ve paid for it, if you grok 🙂

Veronica Mars

Free on:

  • Amazon Prime

Two uniformed police officers sit down across from one another, waiting to order, at a local doughnut shop. Behind them is a window looking out at the parking lot, and, prominently, their defenseless cruiser. Logan Echolls, the show’s admittedly-sometimes-uncontrollably-angry male lead paces up… And then starts bashing the cop car with a baseball bat!

Huh?

The police take a hurried look out the window, basically snap their necks meeting eyes, then dash off screen (presumably into action outside).

… The scene drops.

Does this scene make any sense?

Why did Logan do that?

Before you can finish processing the straightforward-yet-utterly-confusing action that just occurred you realize the truth: Bashing a cop car in doughnut shop parking lot makes plenty of sense if you’re trying to get thrown into jail. Awfully efficient, in fact.

The camera cuts to a local jail cell, where a pair of sexual predators lounge, bruised, waiting for trial. One of their intended victims was Logan’s best girl, the eponymous Veronica Mars. This second mini-scene ends with Logan flexing his fist in the foreground.

Logan Echolls

We’ve seen everything we have to.

These two short scenes — back to back — take maybe a minute; and together kind of sum up everything I like about my all-time favorite television show. The storytelling is super tight… Like I said, it takes maybe a minute. You’re confused, or at least disoriented, for a sec… But then it all makes sense (and no one has to explain anything to you, or even say a word). Most of all, it’s so completely unexpected (but, again, makes perfect sense contextually). It’s Veronica Mars in a single bite.

If you aren’t familiar with Veronica Mars, it’s basically Nancy Drew… If Nancy Drew were an asshole. Veronica is a young female detective (in high school in the first two seasons, college in the third), who solves cases and kicks up trouble. She is nominally the “hero” of the show, but one of the things I love about it is that while she pulls for the underdog… She isn’t all that squeaky clean. Veronica is a master manipulator, often solving her problems via blackmail or somehow getting leverage on her enemies or even allies. She works with a dangerous biker gang, is constantly humiliating the local constabulary, and can’t ever seem to do what her dear old dad asks.

She is a blue collar girl in a wealthy town, so there is a powerful undercurrent of class in the storytelling, about how wealth and privilege can swallow up justice, but also about how wealth and privilege are no guarantee of happiness. If you like Downton Abbey there might be something for you here.

But I think I fell in love that time Veronica infiltrated a video game club dressing up in a Japanese school girl costume, complete with high socks, necktie, and black wig. Her theory? Her mark there — whoever he was (she didn’t know yet) — would be unfamiliar with any girl who wasn’t “Japanimated”. So she got Japanimated! It is a show that clearly takes a mighty swing at girl power… While being able to laugh at these kinds of tropes and use every part of the buffalo.

While Veronica Mars typically treats one episode at a time, undoing a single injustice each week, each season builds slowly against a larger mystery. Witty dialogue and slow burning, sustained, world building are both strengths of this show; it is very much a “writers'” show, with wordsmiths and fiction fabricators among its most vocal fans. Its guest stars span Paris Hilton, a then-undiscovered Jessica Chastain, and even the Bluth kids from Arrested Development in a very different context. If you fancy yourself discerning — but will still appreciate a young Kristen Bell in a plaid miniskirt — you’ll probably like Veronica Mars.

BDM and I talk about television quite often on the Top 8 Magic podcast; one of our listeners — many years ago — suggested I try Veronica Mars after downloading one of those tv chats. Taking him up on his recommendation is one of my favorite things I ever took away from the podcast experience. I can’t recommend any show more highly… Plus, it’s free on Amazon Prime!

What are you waiting for?

LOVE
MIKE

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