Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Veronica Mars - "Lord of the Bling" (season 1, episode 13)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Veronica Mars - "Lord of the Bling" (season 1, episode 13)


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 February 8, 2005/written by John Enbom; directed by Steve Gomer): Suge Kni - er, Percey "Bone" Hamilton (Black-ish's Anthony Anderson), a rap producer with a reputation for violence, discovers his daughter is missing. When he visits Keith ("I don't like police, and the feeling is mutual," he tells the private eye, "I think you'd understand"), Veronica is inclined to help out for a few reasons. For one, she always like to involve herself with her dad's sleuthing; for another, his back problems mean that he needs assistance...most importantly, however, she palled around with Yolanda Hamilton (Jowharah Jones) a year ago, and feels guilty for abandoning her. As we learn through flashbacks, Yolanda briefly kissed Logan at a party and was cast out from her new social group by a jealous Lilly. Veronica and Keith get to the bottom of the kidnapping when they discover it wasn't a kidnapping at all. In a Romeo and Juliet scenario, Yolanda ran off with Benjamin Bloom (actor unlisted), son of wheelchair-bound attorney Sam Bloom (Bruce Nozick), who was nearly killed in a drive-by attributed to Bone. In a Big Lebowski-esque move, the "kidnapping" cover story was concocted by Yolanda's nerdy brother Bryce (Jermaine Williams), who resented Bone's constant refrain that he was too "soft."

Elsewhere, Logan and Aaron stumble through Lynn's funeral, Aaron a mess of self-pitying nostalgia and Logan a bitter cynic mocking the whole affair. As it turns out, though, Logan isn't simply infuriated that his mother has died. In fact, he believes she hasn't. Logan reveals to Duncan that she left a lighter - engraved by her Korea POW father with the words "Free at Last" - on her dresser, an indication that she was running away, not killing herself. And at episode's end, Logan, the person Veronica least expects to see, shows up on the young detective's doorstep, asking her to find his mom.

My Response:
This is a brilliant move. Logan and Veronica are among the most opposed of any major characters, yet they've been inching toward each other all season. Logan's quest to find his missing parent reminds us of Veronica's own similar mission, and as his arrogant power diminishes episode by episode (even as we learn that he's a fairly shrewd player), it makes perfect sense for him to slither up to an enemy that he nonetheless respects. I have to confess that Logan is looking increasingly likely as a prime suspect to me. His very down-to-earth jealousy, plus the fact that Veronica Mars is counterintuitively building him up as sympathetic after establishing his smug sociopathic bona fides, prepare him for a fall which could be poignant rather than merely vindictive. For now, at least, he and Veronica will be on the same side. The next episode is titled "Mars vs. Mars"...will Aaron hire Keith to prove Lynn is dead? There's a lot of potential in this new direction.

Meanwhile, Bone's storyline offers a few opportunities for the series. As it deals extensively with class on an almost weekly basis the show has mostly skirted issues of race, relying on Weevil to carry that burden by himself - supplemented by occasional throwaway lines from Wallace. Starting with the pre-credits sequence (with Wallace's cheeky reference to "the urban demographic") "Lord of the Bling" allows Veronica Mars to engage with black characters and pop culture motifs, albeit in fairly stereotypical fashion. This storyline also provides yet another opportunity for the series to link up with the zeitgeist, embracing a flashy hip-hop aesthetic not just in subject but form (the low angles and wide lenses evoke Hype Willims videos and Spike Lee joints). And Veronica's relationship to Yolanda paints a complex, nuanced portrait of our protagonist, indicating that she could be conformist and cowardly - and that Lilly's charisma had an egotistical (and hypocritical) dark side. Plus, if Logan is eventually implicated in Lilly's death, even just as a suspect, the tumultuous nature of his relationship as displayed here will certainly have contributed to our sense of suspicion.

By the way, I saw Bryce's culpability coming a mile away! I'm not sure if this means I'm finally tuning in to Veronica Mars' narrative frequency, or just that this particular "twist" was an unusually obvious development.

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