Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Veronica Mars - "The Wrath of Con" (season 1, episode 4)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Veronica Mars - "The Wrath of Con" (season 1, episode 4)


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 October 19, 2004/written by Diane Ruggiero; directed by Michael Fields): A homecoming dance provides the central pole of "The Wrath of Con," serving as an upcoming event to solidify Veronica's romance with Troy, a flashback revealing more of Lilly than we've seen before, and a subversion of Lilly memorial's video into which footage has been spliced from that earlier dance (or rather from the night of the dance - Veronica, Duncan, Logan, and Lilly skipped the actual event in order to drunkenly ride around in a limo and party on a beach). The titular investigation shifts our focus elsewhere - Wallace's crush Georgia (Kyla Pratt) has been conned, and Veronica uncovers hotshot young techie college students (Robert Baker and Adam Wylie) who hire unwitting actors to enable a phishing scam. This leads Veronica and Wallace to explore college life as well as the geekier subcultures of Neptune (gaming and anime, or as Wallace calls it in the one dated element of an otherwise prescient topic, "Japanime"). Veronica's dad meets (and intimidates but approves of) Duncan, Georgia kisses Wallace, and with the con artists caught out, all seems to end well. There is, of course, still a reminder of the town's tragedy in the memorial dedication to Lilly but even there a spirit of good cheer prevails. The home movie of a drunken Lilly disrupting the otherwise gauzy montage takes the audience by surprise, but ultimately charms even her uptight parents, bringing a poignant tear to their eyes.

My Response:
One thing I'm curious to look at going forward is how the investigative plots do or don't intersect with the ongoing mystery arc. Here they seem pretty disconnected, but the idea of a "con" does link both - in one case, a selfish, greedy plot to take advantage of generous people, in the other, a rebellious but ultimately harmless violation of parental authority. Veronica herself illustrates this division between good and bad dishonesty; she's more than willing to manipulate and deceive others, but always for a just cause and usually to beat others at their own game. At a certain point she was taught that playing by the rules doesn't necessarily lead to fair outcome. Lilly's death - both as a shocking incident in its own right and the instigator of Sheriff Mars' disgrace - obviously facilitated this lesson, but perhaps Lilly's life did too. In this episode, we get a closer look at her charismatic, flippant rebelliousness, and we also notice how meek Veronica seems in her shadow. Lilly's influence obviously looms large over the series, and episode 4 demonstrates just how large it looms over Veronica as well. Interestingly, the Lilly material also allows us to warm up to Logan a bit - he's never seemed less of a bratty punk than he does here, editing Lilly's video and even chatting somewhat amiably with Veronica when she catches him in a vulnerable moment (the limo footage is her contribution). This relates to another shift in this episode and the last; with the absence of Weevil (who makes a very brief cameo in the final minutes, discreetly wiping away a tear at Lilly's memorial), the class consciousness of the first couple episodes is greatly diminished. Indeed, both the emphasis on the flashback and the present-day romance remove some of Veronica's outsider status, reminding us how intertwined she has been - and in many ways continues to be - with the prestigious Kanes. Will this trend continue over this and upcoming seasons, bringing Veronica Mars closer to so much early 00s teen media focused on the glamorous lives of wealthy youth, or will the series quickly return to its roots?

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