Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Veronica Mars - "One Angry Veronica" (season 2, episode 10)

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Veronica Mars - "One Angry Veronica" (season 2, episode 10)


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 December 7, 2005/written by Russell Smith; directed by John Kretchmer): Although it feels like there's a lot going on this episode (I mean, there is), most of the action is contained within three clear storylines. First, someone has stolen the Lilly Kane/Aaron Echolls surveillance footage (called either evidence or a sex tape, depending who's asking) from the police vault, compromising - albeit not fatally - the prosecution's case and dangling the prospect of a deep public humiliation for the long-suffering Logan. "Mayor" Woody hires Keith to investigate his old department and he eventually concludes three things: despite Lamb's pompous protestations, the sheriff's security sucks; Leo is the one who stole the tapes, hoping to fund the education of his little sister who has Down's syndrome; and ultimately the guilty Leo sold them to Logan for a pittance, resulting in the tapes' strategic erasure just before Keith comes knocking (he knows, but can't prove a thing). As Keith haunts his old job, Veronica finds a new - albeit temporary - gig: jury duty. Elected foreman to preside over what should be an open/shut case in which two young 09ers were accused of attempted rape by a Latina woman whom they allege and can seemingly prove was a hooker trying to rob them. Doubts emerge alongside communal divisions with a particularly loutish "Captain of Industry" (Robert Curtis Brown) pitted against a skeptical, perpetually-knitting older woman (Ivonne Coll). And Veronica is harassed by both the PCH gang and the 09er contingent (depending which way the wind is currently blowing) who've taken sides in yet another front of the Neptune class war.

Perhaps the most momentous events, however, consume little screentime - occurring near the end of the episode and involving a return and a departure. Or, in one of the cases, a return followed quickly by a departure. Meg awakens from her coma just as Veronica and Duncan are grappling with the implications of her pregnancy (which neither knew about before her hospitalization). They sneak into her room and get to say, as it turns out, goodbye. Meg dies suddenly when a blood clot shuts off oxygen to her brain but her daughter is delivered and now Veronica must fulfill the promise she made to the forgiving Meg. Terrified that her parents will send the child off to a strict, disciplinarian religious orphanage that she calls a "license for abuse," Meg is even worried by another prospect: that her folks will take their granddaughter themselves. We've already seen what that means. She asks Veronica to make sure this doesn't happen. And then, on a much more uplifting note, Veronica opens the door to her apartment expecting to see a pizza man, and finds Wallace instead. The friends cuddle on the couch and watch the ball drop, ushering out a dark 2005 and (hopefully) a more promising 2006.

My Response: Veronica Mars loves its cultural references, but this may be the first time it's pursued a straight-up remake strategy. Many of the characters and story beats in the jury duty scenes are *exact* matches for Twelve Angry Men (although the case itself differs), and of course the episode's title is itself a direct nod. While this is a fun way for the show to both incorporate a B mystery and offer some class/race social commentary without losing its stride on the increasingly crowded "multiepisode arc" front, it's also probably the weakest section of "One Angry Veronica." The performances are often quite broad in a way that clashes with the series' usual arch but down-to-earth approach; Veronica herself is mostly a passive figure in the drama; and it's difficult to keep track of all the information in the compressed little nuggets we're given amidst everything else going on. Still, one has to enjoy Veronica Mars' ambition, attempting to squeeze a courtroom thriller alongside a dozen other threads in a single episode. Plus, the denouement offers what is probably our first glimpse into season three and the pressing question that faces all high school-set dramas: how will this hold together after graduation? Although she'd love to flee Neptune for a further-out orbit, Veronica is tempted by the invitation of a kindly professor (Michael Hyatt) at a local college who is impressed by her conduct as forewoman. Hometown status aside, the institution is apparently quite prestigious and so Veronica is also enticed by the mention of a scholarship.

Of course, she's got plenty to deal with before she makes a decision like that. Meg's awakening came as a surprise to me although unfortunately her death did not; I do my best, but one of my trips to Wikipedia for cast/episode details accidentally revealed her ultimate fate a few episodes ago. I was relieved, at least, that the always engaging Tal received an opportunity to (essentially) say goodbye to viewers and other characters alike instead of simply fading away with a chip on her shoulder. I also feel increasingly confident that her parents had something to do with the bus crash. As in, they did it. This would work in so many different ways: avoiding the straight-up repetition of the "Aaron Echolls did it again" thread while echoing the troubled parents/children relationship theme of season 1, providing a compelling note of ambiguous heroism for the otherwise despicable sheriff (whom we see hilariously working on his physique in episode 10), and adding a new social dynamic (religious extremism and child abuse) to the already rich, complicated tapestry of Neptune. On the other hand, if they are hardcore Christian fundamentalists (I don't think the series has been totally clear yet on the specifics of their theology) they might have more regard for the grandfetus if not for their daughter or her classmates - would they really take such a step purely to preserve social status and/or punish sin?

Regardless, my guess is that the tragic bus may prove less important than the angry Mannings even if they weren't behind the crash. We'll certainly have the opportunity to examine them more closely at Meg's (presumably) upcoming funeral, and that's not all we can anticipate. Wallace better have quite a tale to tell, to justify the show's "Hey look we're promoting the sidekick to his own major story haha just kidding the actor has to go off and shoot a movie or something so we're exiling him to Chicago" gambit. And poor Tessa Thompson, triumphantly debuting in the opening credits only to disappear completely for half the run so far, may finally have an opportunity to re-enter the story.

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