Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Veronica Mars - "Un-American Graffiti" (season 3, episode 16)

Friday, July 19, 2019

Veronica Mars - "Un-American Graffiti" (season 3, episode 16)


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 May 1, 2007/written by Robert Hull; directed by John Kretchmer): With things settling down at Hearst and in Neptune, Keith and Veronica branch off into two relatively low-key mysteries. Okay, calling Keith's story a "mystery" is a stretch. It's pretty clear how and why underage drinkers are getting into Neptune's bars, and the only moment of very, very mild revelation involves Deputy Gills (K.C. Clyde) openly declaring to bar patrons what he thinks of the "temporary" sheriff and his new-fangled (if also old-fashioned) way of doing business. Veronica, on the other hand, has an actual investigation to conduct albeit one that doesn't (yet) involve physically violent actions. Someone has been marking a local restaurant, run by immigrant family Rashad (Anthony Azizi), Sabirah (Carole Raphaelle Davis), and Amira Krimani (Azita Ghanizada), with anti-Arab graffiti. After a few wrong turns, Veronica finds Derrick Karr (Cole Williams), the right-wing brother of a wounded Iraq War veteran (Eric Ladin) who was enraged to find Nasir Ben Hafayid (Haaz Sleiman) handing out illustrations of U.S. troops entering Iraq and coming out the other side as coffins. Since Nasir works at the restaurant, Derrick targeted the whole family and he refuses to apologize when Rashad confronts him. Although he has a criminal record and could get sent to jail for his crimes, Rashad declines to press charges; in fact Rashad decides to stop protecting Nasir who - without a job or prospective marriage - is arrested and deported by the INS (an anachronism in 2007, showing how little-known ICE was at the time). The episode ends when Logan throws a party for Parker, where Dick tries to proposition two different MySpace acquaintances, Mac hits it off with Max (his tech talk is more her speed than Bronson's long hikes) and Veronica is about to tell Piz they should just be friends when he kisses her, and she decides she'd rather make out with him instead - just as Logan walks off the elevator.

My Response:
It's official: Veronica Mars is now a show without an ongoing mystery. Given the state of the episodic mystery in "Un-American Graffiti," maybe that's a good thing. Easily the weakest case-of-the-week so far, Veronica's Babylon Gardens investigation tries to scold prejudice while celebrating patriotism, and ends up stabbing itself with the needle it's trying to thread. If Rashad declaring his respect for the first amendment while lambasting the content of Nasir's "un-American" dissent looked cringey in 2007, demonstrating said respect by getting the antiwar agitator deported looks...somewhere well beyond cringey in 2019. This is not the show's most sophisticated puzzle either, with the culprit behind the graffiti turning out to be a surly superpatriot we've never seen before (Amira's boyfriend situation at least brings a little bit of a dramatic twist into the mix). To quote Veronica, "That's it?" Indeed it's hard to know which plotline has more of an afterschool special flavor: the "Arabs can be flag-waving Americans too (a bit harsh on their women, though)" morality play or the Sheriff-Mars-takes-on-the-scourge-of-underage-drinking showdown. That said, I still enjoyed much of the episode, answering the question of what the series has going for it if not mystery - it's the characters, stupid. (In Dick's case, literally.) If this was all the show had in its tank for five more seasons, it might start to wear thin. But five episodes? I think I can handle it.

No comments: