Lost in the Movies: Veronica Mars - "Happy Go Lucky" (season 2, episode 21)

Veronica Mars - "Happy Go Lucky" (season 2, episode 21)

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 2, 2006/written by Diane Ruggiero; directed by Steve Gomer): If it's truly darkest before dawn, then the next episode better open with a sunrise. This one opens with a school shooting and ends with a gut-punching acquital, and there's hardly a moment of relief or redemption in between, aside from the satisfaction in (probably) solving a big mystery (as long as an abstract answer and not, you know, actual justice is the primary concern). Even our most positive developments - Weevil acing his algebra exam so that his grandma can watch him graduate, and Lobo providing cover so that Terrence's charges will be dropped - are accompanied by offsetting factors, especially in the first case. It's unsurprising that Lobo is now impressing Terrence into indentured servitude to pay off his debt, and we expected Jackie to ditch Wallace as she jetted off to Paris (even if it looked like she was going to hang out in California a little longer than expected). But a couple kids coming out of nowhere to identify Weevil as a murderer? That's a harsh blow. Ultimately, perhaps the only, single, lonesome unqualified positive development of "Happy Go Lucky" is that it looks like Mac and Beaver (sorry, we're all supposed to call him Cassidy now, aren't we?) are back together. ...Yay?

As for the rest? Woody is a child molester who quite possibly bombed the bus to murder two of his former victims and is now on the lam. Lucky, Woody's third victim (and blackmailer) commits said school shooting, terrorizing the heroic Wallace who tackles him when he threatens Jackie, and is shot down by very real bullets; his own gun was loaded with blanks. Perhaps worst of all, though that's a tough call given the competition, the first season's ironclad resolution is miraculously undone. Aaron Echolls's jury registers a verdict of "not guilty" of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, and - just to rub in the absurdity - even statutory rape. Guess Logan shouldn't have destroyed those tapes, huh? (If it wouldn't utterly undercut two full seasons of character development, one would have to wonder if Logan wasn't secretly working to vindicate his dad.) The snide defense attorney (John Prosky) doesn't just get his wealthy, flagrantly guilty client off, he does so by implicating Veronica as the grand conspirator, a jealous girl who blackmailed Aaron, manipulated ex-boyfriends into destroying evidence that would have exonerated him, and lied to everyone about Aaron's attempt to kill her. He even exposes her recent treatment for a symptomless STD, such a seemingly minor plot point in a previous episode that I forgot to mention it! Veronica says early on that she wants to be there in court (she even skips a scholarship-confirming final after receiving a text that the verdict is in) so she can see the jury wipe that smirk off Aaron's face once and for all. Instead, she gets to watch the man who murdered her best friend, and tried to murder her, walk out of court a free man. If her previous episode-ending expression (thanks to a younger Echolls), was pretty devastating, it was just practice for this one.

My Response:
Throughout the season, Veronica Mars has teased the continuation of Aaron Echolls' story but for a long time I just assumed he'd already been convicted. I mean, it was a foregone conclusion, right? Given what we ourselves witnessed in the finale, that verdict seemed inevitable but ten years after the shocking O.J. trial, at the height of the sleazy celebrity-obsessed zeroes, this penultimate episode knows much better. My first instinct was that the upcoming finale will set this right - with a sort of street justice if the judicial variety is now out of the question - but on second thought, I'm not sure the show wants or needs this deliverance, as satisfying as it would be on some level. A legally cleared, socially snubbed, financially secure Aaron Echolls offers a lot more narrative potential going forward. In fact he's only been able to openly play the villain for half an episode, followed by fleeting appearances scattered over a season; if he continues in this capacity through season three, he gets to mix the best of both worlds: the audience's knowledge of his looming threat alongside the constraint of wanting to continue his life with a facade of normalcy. O.J.'s real-world example provides plenty of post-acquittal dramatic fodder and there's even room for some irony overload here. What if Aaron ends up accidentally, or even in a calculated face-saving manner, swooping in to preserve someone's life when shit really goes down in the next episode? I'm not sure I'll complain if the finale does serves Aaron up on his karmic platter but I'll be pretty curious about what it's cooking up if it doesn't.

Besides, it's not as if the series doesn't have much, much more on its plate right now. Let's start with Woody. I was pretty close by guessing he had a sexual scandal in his background but somehow - probably due to Logan being an adult, albeit a young one (and played by an actor probably in his mid-twenties by now) - I began assuming that this secret was of the consensual adult variety. Now in retrospect it looks completely obvious (one wonders if he abused his troubled son too) though the series' implicit intertwining of closeted homosexuality and child abuse is potentially cringeworthy. At any rate, the elder Manning patriarch may be implicated in this sex ring too but if Meg's parents lose any claim to custody of the baby and Duncan thinks he can negotiate a return from Mexico, he'll have to deal with not just lingering charges of kidnapping but probably fresh charges for killing Lilly. Just as the first season spilled into the second, we can probably expect the second (and, by extension, the first) to carry on into the third as well. Meanwhile, we'll likely get a satisfactory answer on the crash (still holding out for ironic accident!) and Weevil too. I think the Fitzpatricks and that they and Kendall will get their comeuppance soon. If they're smart and can afford it, they'll hire Aaron's attorney.

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