Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Veronica Mars - "Nevermind the Buttocks" (season 2, episode 19)

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Veronica Mars - "Nevermind the Buttocks" (season 2, episode 19)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. I will cover each TV episode (and eventually the film), several days a week; this will conclude just as the revival (which I will also cover) premieres on Hulu. I have never seen this series before so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on April 18, 2006/written by Phil Klemmer; directed by Jason Bloom): Harry Greene (Tommy Snider) just wants to find the green Barracuda that ran over his dog. A hulking, brutish but exacting high schooler who shoots arrows with pinpoint precision in his backyard, the bloody vengeance-minded Harry liked his dog a lot - indeed, he likes all animals aside from plastic deer - but does he like people? Veronica has to wonder when Harry's brother Billy (Matt Bush) greets her at the Greene door with a black eye, but eventually we - and finally she - learn the real source of his injury and, as it happens, the family pet's no-so-random slaying. Billy is in the PCH gang and the Fitzpatricks have been beating, torturing, threatening, and otherwise tormenting the young dealers for late or insufficient payments. For their part, Hector (Patrick Wolff) begs Weevil to come back and lead them, but Weevil only returns for one final stand: confronting Liam with Thumper's license-plates-on-wooden-plank client list and threatening to expose all of their elite customers if they don't release the PCHers from their grasp. Billy is horrified when he realizes why Harry hired Veronica, and he begs her not to reveal the truth: not to save his own skin, and not even because he's worried for his brother's safety, but because he's certain Harry will successfully exterminate Liam and spend the rest of his life in prison. Veronica complies with Billy's wish but it's hard to resist her professionl duty, and not just for abstract reasons of justice. If Harry took care of Liam, he would also be eliminating a threat to Veronica and her father, not to mention the likely orchestrator of the bus accident - well, one of them.

Keith's discovery of the Casablancas insurance policy leads to an, um, explosive discovery (sorry). Long before she was a Casablancas, Kendall wasn't even a Kendall - she assumed a dead classmate's identity after a prison stint served alongside Liam's brother and now they're working together. It turns out the car that killed Harry's dog, seemingy a very smallscale mystery, passed Gia and the 09er limo (with someone inside mooning them) just minutes before the bus went over the cliff. So Kendall and Liam could have worked together to kill several birds with one detonator: collecting a hundred million dollars from the tax shelter disguised as insurance policy for which Kendall was the benificiary while, on a much more minor note, punishing the loudmouth Cervando (whom Weevil was worried about, hence his tailing of the bus). Keith finds Kendall's secret second home (no doubt tied in with her and her husband's real estate scams) only for Liam to threaten him inside, but fortunately Veronica already removed the bullets from his gun so her father escapes in classic action film fashion through a giant plate-glass window.

Oh, and also Wallace and Jackie get back together (despite her impending overseas departure), Veronica gets Jackie a job at Java the Hut, and Veronica sets Mac up on an unwanted prom date. Not every initially quiet story ends up in million-dollar heist/gang warfare territory! On the other hand, we find out why Kendall retrieved one of Duncan's hairs from the hotel room. A new murder weapon has been dug up at the burnt-out Echolls estate and this time it implicates Duncan rather than Aaron.

My Response:
With three episodes to go, have we basically been given our answer? A Fitzpatrick/Kendall nexus effectively ties together several different aspects of the sprawling story, but there's no real political/civic element at play (except, more indirectly, the 09ers' ability to escape in a way the other kids can't). So many possibilities have been thrown out there that the solution seems to call out for a grand, sprawling conspiracy touching on even more elements or, conversely, an "it was all an illusion" wink, revealing that no crime was actually committed even if the search for an answer to the big question answered so many smaller ones (and perhaps some even bigger ones too). I'm still leaning toward that latter reading, but ironically either one - a grand conspiracy or a false alarm - would leave all the different elements equal in the end. Many viewers might find that disappointing but I think it would be an effective meta-gesture that could still deliver on many fronts.

Like Aaron in season one, the Kendall reveal should have been obvious for much longer, but snuck up on me. Veronica Mars has a wonderful ability to methodically build a character up, scene by scene, episode by episode without raising suspicion. Both Aaron and Kendall have surprising amounts of screentime for a supporting character who aren't supposed to be directly connected to any of the main storylines, yet both are effectively passed off as peripheral - until they're not. Knowing Kendall's involvement in a Duncan frame-up, we can also wonder if Aaron and Kendall are connected by more than just parallel narrative strategies. Maybe he hired her and Liam to kill Veronica after all? In fact, here's one more ridiculous idea for the road...what if Kendall went around town pitching a blow-up to everyone who had a student to kill on that bus, collecting a separate fee from each to arrange the "accident" and maybe squeezing more out of them after the fact too?

Elsewhere in the episode, the Harry dynamic is compelling - the series is quite skilled at carving out the identities of these unique loner students every few episodes - and Weevil's comeback is a cheer-out-loud moment. Plus there's always a bit of a thrill when we return to the original mystery of Lilly Kane; re-opening the most closed investigation of all feels like an effective touch in a season determined to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks (although do we really have time for this?!). By the way, are we ever going to see Alicia Fennel again - Wallace's mother and Keith's girlfriend (last we checked, unless I missed something)? If the Mars family can take a breather from everything else they're dealing with, maybe they should open up a "missing persons" file on her...


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