Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Veronica Mars - "Look Who's Stalking" (season 2, episode 20)

Monday, July 1, 2019

Veronica Mars - "Look Who's Stalking" (season 2, episode 20)


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 25, 2006/written by John Enbom; directed by Michael Fields): The Goodmans step up their demands on the Mars' attention as Gia hires Veronica to identify a stalker and Woody calls Keith to a motel for the most archetypal scandal one can imagine: the phony family man politician is sitting on the edge of his bed next to a prostitute who overdosed during a tryst. Keith drives her to the hospital and is caught on camera by motel security so Woody tries to throw him under the (metaphorical) bus and Keith strikes back - a war of words unfolding over several days in a newspaper. (Another headline will stir up trouble by episode's end when Terrence's thrown ballgame is exposed and Jackie, who has been visiting him in his hospital room each day to read him the sports page, tries to hide the bad news from her father.) Gia's crisis involves a man waiting outside of her house, and the situation only grows more complicated the deeper they dig. First the culprit appears to be good old ex-Deputy Leo, but he works for private security now and is only trailing Gia at the behest of her dad. When this protective force is called off, another threat emerges: just as Woody received creepy video footage from inside his house, so Gia gets a DVD of her brother's soccer game. Through some clever observation, Veronica tracks down another perspective of the sidelines and identifies the figure: it's Lucky, the veteran, Meg courtier, and school janitor. When encountered, he waves a serrated knife in the girls' faces before Keith leaps in to tackle him...followed rapidly by Lamb whom Woody called to take care of the situation more officially (or, perhaps, more evasively). Keith handcuffs himself to Lucky in a desperate move to extract more information while they share a cell but Meg's dad bails Lucky out just as he's about to explain why he doesn't like Woody.

On the lighter side of Neptune, when school officials call off the prom, Logan and Dick decide to throw an "alterna-prom" in Logan's suite (somehow the hotel doesn't seem to mind a flock of underage drinkers pouring into their facility). Several characters make cracks about the rich wanting to privatize everything these days but their revolutionary instincts - or, more likely, the desire to get drunk, laid, and have fun - lead many to crash to the joint, resulting in a humorous elevator ride, some awkward moments between Butters and his "forced date" Mac, and a super-awkward but also genuinely smoldering reconciliation between Veronica and an apologetic Logan. Their near-kiss is captured quite effectively by Fields, an especially strong moment in a particularly well-directed episode (a number of long takes let us sit with characters in a way that zippy network shows don't always allow). But when Veronica returns to the suite that morning, having run away before getting carried away the night before, she's greeted by a barechestered, hungover Logan. He is obviously mortified that she's ready to give him another chance. Sure enough, Kendall pops up behind him and the episode ends with a heartstricken Veronica staring out at a remorseful Logan as the elevator door closes between them. "Longest elevator ride everrrr," Madison sneered when forced to share the lift with her unwashed classmates - but the one facing Veronica is even longer.

My Response:
"Look Who's Stalking" feels like a fond farewell to our regulars and semi-regulars this season: Terrence finally returns for the poignant payoff to his scandal anxiety after a long absence, Gia is able to motivate a subplot after months of flitting in and out ostentatiously, Mac continues to comically vent over Veronica's shenanigans, and Dick, Madison, Butters, Corny and all the other lovably obnoxious Neptune High goofballs crowd into an elevator for their fitting send-off: a privatized prom in a penthouse that is (despite all intentions) socio-economically diverse. We even get to touch base with Leo for one more sad sack cameo (I strongly suspect he'll get some sort of payoff in the finale). And Jackie and Wallace get their sweet romantic moment; if the season struggled to shape a plot around these character, it at least knows how to give them their due. Glancing around her in the hallway, Veronica expresses an exasperated satisfaction that in a few weeks, senior year will end and all of these students will be out of each other's lives forever (Dick expresses a similar sentiment more crudely) - but even if they won't miss each other, we're going to miss them. At least that's our momentary sentimental reaction. After the coming episodes' reveals (or reminders) we may feel differently.

As for the bus crash? Another episode, another new direction. Kendall has been temporarily demoted from the prime suspect of "Never Mind the Buttocks" to a not-especially-threatening visitor to Keith's office and the woman who prevents Logan's and Veronica's reunion (which is bad enough). It's more clear than ever that Woody is at the center of something in this town, but what? And what, if anything is that something's relationship to the bus crash? An early part of the episode goes out of its way to deflect from our is-Woody-secretly-gay suspicions but maybe that's the point. The whole incident with the passed-out hooker is clearly some sort of set-up but if the goal is to frame Keith, why? Woody still thinks he's on board with the incorporation at that point. Is it some weird sort of cover story, so Woody can hint at scandalous secrets less scandalous than those he does actually harbor? To use Lamb's word for Lucky, and Mac's word for Butters, there's something just, well, profoundly "weird" about all of Woody's actions, his desperate glomming-on to Keith as his own personal fixer, his perpetually unconvincing explanations and demurrals, even his whole oddball mismatched family, and certainly his suggested involvement with myriad random side-stories. Whatever mystery the Mars team is tracing appears to involve everyone *except* for them - which always evokes the even more unsettling sensation among keen-eyed detectives that perhaps they are really the ones being watched.


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