Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Veronica Mars - "Kanes and Abel's" (season 1, episode 17)

Friday, May 25, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Kanes and Abel's" (season 1, episode 17)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on April 5, 2005/written by Carolyn Murray; directed by Nick Marck): Here we have an episode very much devoted to the murder mystery, as will be - I suspect - most of the remaining four before the finale. Almost all plotlines relate to this core concern; even the A-story Veronica high school investigation, a query into who's been harassing academic star Sabrina Fuller (Megan Henning), involves a Kane family scholarship. The case is also only taken because Veronica needs a cash infusion to keep a key witness sequestered away in a motel. That witness is Amelia (Erin Chambers), Abel's daughter, but by lying about a couple key issues (that she's involved with Abel's legal team and that Abel is doing well rather than dying) Veronica eventually loses her trust. Clarence enters directly into the Mars' lives, outwitting them in a game of cat-and-mouse as Keith realizes how deeply his daughter has gotten involved with the Lilly case and commits, by episode's end, to helping her out.

The academic harasser mystery is a very solid story (albeit a bit dismissive of the unlikable Sabrina's nonetheless serious harassment). This plot keys into the series' class concerns by pitting the snotty, insufferable Sabrina against honorable, hard-working Hamilton Cho (Leonard Wu), who turns out to be innocent - but his father Jim (Nelson Mashita) isn't. To make sure that charges aren't pressed against his overeager dad, Hamilton gracefully sacrifices his valedictorian status as well as the scholarship (which he needs, while Sabrina doesn't). The drama also introduces Mars Investigations rival - and hopefully recurring character - Vinnie Van Lowe (Ken Marino), who was hired by Mr. Cho to conduct the academic warfare campaign and is also eager to collaborate with Keith. I love his little speech about Keith entering the P.I. field, which further fleshes out the social dynamics of Neptune. A comically egotistical dick, he provides a lot of potential going forward.

On the more serious side, Veronica is giving serious consideration to which Kane killed Lilly. Experiencing a hallucination just like Duncan in the apparently haunted Kane abode, she's taunted by the dead girl for suspecting her family members, but Veronica nonetheless persists in doing so. We see vision-conjectures of Celeste fatally slapping Lilly around for bringing up Veronica's parentage, Jake shoving her down when she's caught making out with Weevil, and finally a convulsing Duncan, in the throes of his mysterious illness, attacking Lilly in a fit of insane violence. The last is clearly the speculation we're meant to take to heart, especially when Logan sneaks a peek on Veronica's computer and tells her that, while he didn't know about Duncan's condition, he did once witness him attacking his father in a furious, later forgotten, rage.

My Response:
I'm ready to make a pretty firm guess about who the killer is. I think it's Logan. After establishing his sociopathic bona fides early on, Veronica Mars has been cagily fleshing out his humanity, even making him a genuinely sympathetic figure in the wake of his mother's suicide. Veronica's multi-episode investigation into Lynn's death plays as a dead end...unless you consider its place in building Logan as a likable character, so that he doesn't seem too obvious. This plays into the series' emphasis on the corruption and self-absorption of Neptune's upper crust and also serves as an appropriate culmination for the season-long arc of one of the show's most compelling characters. I have some doubts, which I won't get into now, but the idea works well for me. It feels especially well-planted because "Kanes and Abel's" maximizes sympathy for Logan early on, when he shows up at Veronica's office with a check and she tears it up. Another possibility, though the series hasn't done enough to earn it yet, is Logan's sister. Hannigan is a major guest star for such a small role thus far, which in itself is enough to make her a suspect. But I don't think that would be as satisfying as Logan, given the roller coaster ride he's provided all season.

Overall, I quite liked this episode (my one complaint would be the use of the score, which felt overwhelming and overbearing at times). I guess until the finale - which I have to believe will be 100% focused on resolving the Lilly Kane mystery - Veronica Mars will continue to balance self-contained episodic mysteries with the larger mythology. But I hope the balance continues to tilt toward the latter, as I'm really ready to dive deeply into that plot. There's so much more there than the heartbreaking death of a charismatic figure - though of course there's that too (Seyfried is sure to return for some captivating flashbacks and/or hallucinations before her story wraps). The Kane family, especially in the age of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, is a compelling portrait of tech biz venality. Duncan's personal, down-to-earth humility and poignant struggle with mental illness makes him an intriguing suspect, while Logan's possibly wily manipulation of Veronica is a fascinating possibility to consider. And of course Veronica's own complicated relationship to this clan is one of the richest (no pun intended) veins to tap. Plus, will we see Abel or Amelia again? The Mars family may have suffered in the aftermath of the crime, but so far no one is as victimized as the Koontzs/Delongpres. Justice may be in store.

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