Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Veronica Mars - "Heads You Lose" (season 4, episode 4)

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Veronica Mars - "Heads You Lose" (season 4, episode 4)


Welcome to my viewing diary for Veronica Mars. Each day, I am covering every episode (and the film) including the brand new Hulu revival. I am watching this series for the first time, so there will be NO spoilers.

Story (premiered on July 19, 2019/written by David Walpert; directed by Rachel Goldberg): Sometimes style can be more effective than scale. If the previous bomb terrified beachgoers for its indiscriminate violence, the latest is chilling in its specificity. Bryce (Ian Bamberg), an obnoxious Comrade Quack's patron tossed out for spiking women's drinks, wakes up on the beach with a device strapped around his neck. Panicking, he races onto the boardwalk, shoving silverware into various slots as passerby scream and run away. And then, poof, with a small pop a headless corpse collapses into the sand. Few shed tears for this particular victim but it's hard to ascribe righteous motives to his murderer. With an apparent serial killer on the loose, Mayor Mark Dobbins (Andrew Friedman) calls the FBI to town. One of the agents, a certain Leo D'Amato, calls on Veronica for professional reasons (and perhaps a dash of old time's sake) - he's uncomfortably greeted by Logan at the door - and the duo end up staking out Clyde after he lingers near nails (for a bomb?) at a hardware store they're looking into. As it turns out, his bag is full of light switch covers and he's more interested in knocking back drinks at Keith's office than knocking off tourists at the beach. More suspiciously, however, several business owners who've decided to flee the town are selling to investors from their own home regions - obviously some kind of front for shadier real estate machinations. Having backed away from his Rep. Maloof theory without learning the larger lessons, Penn (who's been bugging Neptune Investigations) loudly proclaims Dick's and Clyde's guilt at a town meeting before being escorted out. If the Mars - embarrassed and potentially exposed by Penn's outburst - are wishy-washy on that interpretation, they still have their suspicions. Veronica visits Chino for interviews with two men she sent away in her Hearst days. Withstanding the expert needling of both murderous T.A. Tim Foyle and campus rapist Mercer Hayes, she manipulates them into providing information about Clyde and the other prisoners who've popped up in recent overlapping cases. Meanwhile, her re-acquaintance with Weevil is less successful. After saving her from his underlings' assault, he's scolded by her for running a chop shop and youth gang. But Weevil scoffs at her binary judgments as he walks away: "Must be nice to have a choice."

My Response:
With the last episode handling major plot developments, "Heads You Lose" settles in with the characters and as such, it may be the most enjoyable chapter yet. This is particularly true for Veronica Mars completists, as several of the many callbacks onscreen are to season three and the film ("I think Piz may be back there too - hey, Piz, come on out!" got a laugh out of me). If previous entries have been purposefully stingy with old-timers, this one opens the floodgates: promising returns for Leo and Vinnie (whom Mrs. Maloof hires to find that elusive ring), memorable cameos from Tim, Mercer, and Max, and our very first Veronica/Weevil interaction since he fell off the edge of his straight and narrow path in 2014. And while all of these characters are entangled in important investigative questions, Walpert's dialogue offers plenty of breathing room for humor, insight, and reflection. Logan, who as Veronica herself has noted is a bit hemmed in lately, thrives while savoring the awkwardness with Leo as only he can. New characters also get to spread their wings, both with each other and while interacting with the old-timers. Matty meets the off-kilter murderheads (could they be plotting these bombings as a kind of game, behind Penn's back?), while the Carrs, Maloofs, and El Despiadado's enforcers - brought together by the happenstance of whose relatives happened to be where when a bomb went off in a hotel lobby - reach a fatal crossroads. Although as the final shot reveals, with one of the Carr brothers emerging bloody but alive from the desert, that crossroads wasn't fatal enough. Maybe Alonzo should have been more focused on where he was putting those bullets than in the composition of his selfie. In some of these encounters, we get just a trace of potential fireworks - and perhaps that's all we ever will get. But as Alonzo gazes curiously at Veronica across the chop shop parking lot, witness to a bizarre escalating situation that can't appear very coherent out of context, there's a sense that he's peering into the future. His fatalistic view of the universe is telling him that this girl is going to be significant in his destiny, or he in hers, adding an extra punch to Weevil's parting words.

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