Perhaps I'm 15 years late to watching one of the greatest (and shortest lived) shows of all time, but that doesn't mean I can't gush over it now. Especially when it's movie and Hulu revival are incredibly timely (Season 4 premiered on the streaming service last Friday).
Season 1 of Veronica Mars is a near perfect season of television. It has a season-long mystery that leaves you wondering who killed Veronica's (Kristen Bell) best friend Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried). The show's first season doesn't just focus on this awful tragedy, but dives into the mysteries of high school in general, and the emotional trauma that can come from such a devastating event at such a pivotal time in one's life.
Season 2 certainly took things up a notch, further complicating issues even if Lilly's murder case was solved. If you haven't watched it, this is your firm SPOILER ALERT to not read any further if you don't want to be, you know, spoiled. If you don't plan on watching it but just want to read my lovely writing, that's kind of weird, but I'll allow it. And if you're on the fence about watching Veronica Mars and need a reason to, go ahead and read on as I explain why you must.
For clarity purposes, I’ve divided this episode up into two sections; recap and review.
TRIGGER WARNING: The rest of this article contains a storyline revolving around murder, suicide, child molesting, and rape.
Veronica Mars tackles senior year in Season 2, and after capturing her best friend's murderer seems to be doing pretty well for herself. Except for nearly a week into her last year of high school, a bus that she was supposed to be on crashes and kills 9 students and faculty members. She spends the season searching for who did it and why, but can't seem to put the pieces together. Until this episode, that is.
Mayor Woody Goodman (Steven Guttenburg) is a child molester, targeting the boys on his little league baseball teams over the years. Two of those victims happen to be those who passed along following the crash of the bus earlier this season. Veronica, on the heels of graduation day is on the search for another victim, one whose voice can be heard but is unidentifiable on a tape sent to Goodman in preparation to out him as the abuser he is.
Veronica goes looking at pictures of previous little league teams. Not pictured in one of those photos, our good friend Cassidy ‘Beaver’ Casablancas (Kyle Gallner). And suddenly everything makes sense. Veronica's rape, something explained in season 1 as a roofied-induced consenual encounter with her ex-boyfriend, is now proven to be just that, a rape. The rapist? Beav. How does Veronica know? Let's just say that Vinne VanLowe (Ken Marino), god I love Vinnie Van Lowe, like so much, obtained Woody Goodman's medical records and discovered that he had twice been treating for chlamydia, the STD Veronica was treated for a couple episodes back, something she contracted from her rapist, one of Woody's victims. Everything hits Veronica at once, as she and the audience solve the mystery together.
At the end of season 1, Cassidy's involvement with Veronica on the night she was given GhB and wakes up without her underwear in a guest bedroom is almost dismissed too easily. He claims his older brother Dick (Ryan Hansen) pressured him into sleeping with an unconscious Veronica, but he politely abstained, and a flashback revealed him placing her skirt over her thigh and tucking her into bed. It's too easy. And too odd of a memory to sweep under the rug.
After figuring out exactly what happened, both on the night of Shelley Pomroy's party and the day of the bus crash, Veronica rushes to the Neptune Grand to rescue her friend Mac (Tina Majorino) from sleeping with the Chlamydia given-mass murderer-rapist Beaver, whom she is dating. My only wish here is that Veronica NOT text Mac, "Stay away from Beaver. He's a killer." Because like, what if he sees it? (Spoiler alert: He does). But as far as writing goes, this is fantastic because it's something so true to Veronica's character. She's smart as hell, but only 18, and naive in thinking it'll be easy to reach her friend or that she will even believe her. She is, as presented in the rose-colored fantasy sequence at the beginning of the episode "too trusting", for her own good.
Veronica meets Cassidy on the roof, where she explains the mystery of the entire season to the audience, ehrm, Beaver. I need not explain it here, but basically Cassidy is a jackass. He admits to raping Veronica and crashing the bus in an effort to silence two of Woody's other victims. He then tells her that she has one minute to call her father before he blows up the plane that he and Woody are both on, and then he will shoot and kill her. The whole scene takes place on the rooftop in the dead of night, incredibly eerily as Veronica screams at him, “You RAPED me!”.
As Cassidy talks her ear off about bombs and how she has nothing to live for now that he’s killed her father, Veronica sneaks a text to Logan (Jason Dohring) urging him to meet her on the rooftop of the Neptune Grand.
Logan, who doesn't have Veronica's number saved in his phone for some reason (?) goes to the rooftop and tackles Cassidy with the gun pointed at his ex-girlfriend. Cassidy shoots at Logan, and misses, and Veronica lunges back and escapes with the gun in her possession. In quite possibly the most heartbreaking and raw acting I've ever seen on television, Veronica points the gun at Cassidy, with Logan standing nearby, and yells, "HE KILLED MY FATHER. HE CRASHED THE BUS. HE RAPED ME." Goosebumps. Silence. Logan in true prince-charming epic LoVe (that's their ship name, obviously) fashion, assures Veronica that she is not a killer, and to hand the gun over to him. For a brief moment I thought he might shoot Cassidy himself, and prayed that he wouldn't, adding more damage to his resume.
But Logan doesn't shoot. Instead, he pulls Veronica in close and consoles her as Beaver makes his way to the edge of the building. As LoVe embraces, Logan watches as the season’s antagonist gets ready to fall. “Beaver, don’t!” He screams, stepping toward him.
“My name is Cassidy!” He cries. Logan takes another step and pleads, “Cassidy, don’t!”
But he does. He asks Veronica and Logan, “Why shouldn’t I?” And when neither of them offer up an answer, the silence is deafening. He falls to his death, and Veronica cries into Logan’s arms. The pair run to check on Mac, who has been stripped of everything but a shower curtain. Cassidy took her clothes and everything in the room, leaving her alone and scared.
Veronica wakes up the next morning surprised that her father (Enrico Colantoni) is alive and wasn’t on the plane that killed Woody Goodman. Whew. What a relief. The two embrace and she explains to him everything that happened.
Obviously, this is the main plot of the episode, but other things that happen and will be discussed include: Wallace (Percy Daggs III) and Jackie’s (Tessa Thompson) whirlwind romance coming to an end, the death of Aaron Echolls (Harry Hamlin) orchestrated by Duncan (Teddy Dunn), the arrest of Weevil (Francis Capra), and the return of Kendall Casablancas (Charisma Carpenter).
The beauty of Veronica Mars is the complexity and simplicity. Season 2, at its beginning, seemed to bite off more than it could chew. Lilly’s killer was in custody and awaiting trial, Logan was accused of murdering a PCHer, Veronica was in a love triangle, Wallace had a troubled love interest, the bus crashed, and probably like 5 other things I’m failing to mention. But by the end of the season, I’m forgiving of the complicated twists and turns because just like life, Veronica Mars is messy, and the cleanup is difficult but rewarding.
What I love most about the events in this season finale is the fact that while all the loose ends to tie up, it's not an easy road to get there, nor is it a comfortable one. Now, I'm not saying it's obvious upon a rewatch that Cassidy "Beaver" Casablancas is this psychotic villain, but the way the shows explains itself sure does make a lot of sense.
I've read a lot that people don't love the retcon of Veronica's rape here, painting Cassidy to be an even eviler sack of shit than already established once you realize he killed nine innocent people in an effort to stop two of the victims from dragging him into the assination of Goodman's character. However, I think it's brilliant. Veronica’s GhB consenual sex with Duncan was too simple (ha, I know that sentence is ridiculous and not simple at all). But in a series filled with trauma and terrible people in a terrible town, it seems as though the only explanation for that night was rape. It’s uncomfortable to watch Veronica confront her rapist, more uncomfortable to watch him confess and then most uncomfortable to watch her point a gun at him.
It’s for our entertainment value, sure, but there’s something so heartbreakingly real about Veronica’s realization that she was assaulted and that she has finally captured the man who did it. For the past year she has been healing, for lack of a better word, from the wounds she suffered her sophomore and junior years of high school. As she uncovers the truth (something she does so well), she is stripped down and proved to be only human. She is unforgiving and out for revenge, but Logan is right, she is not a killer. She cannot kill Cassidy Casablancas.
The show never makes light of Veronica’s sexual assault, nor does it make light of Cassidy’s molestation. Is Cassidy ultimately a sympathetic villain? I don’t know. I can’t forgive him for the deaths of nine innocent people or for raping our titular character. But the pain in his eyes as he decides to fall off the building is somehow heartbreaking. Is it hard to believe that sweet little Beaver raped Veronica after all he has been through himself? Yes and then no. Cassidy proved himself to be the opposite of Veronica this season. While she took her trauma and turned around and helped others, he let it manifest and inflicted it onto others.
Veronica’s trauma is too much for one person to handle, I’ve concluded. As she takes the elevator to meet Cassidy on the roof she encounters Aaron Echolls, the man who bashed her best friend’s head in with an ashtray and last season, trapped her in a burning refrigerator. I was shocked in the last episode when he was found not guilty, but I was even more shocked to see him side by side with Veronica, and the absolutely mortified look on her face as she realizes she’s stuck in an elevator with him, unable to escape, once again.
It’s all good, though, because in the episode’s final moments he is shot dead by Clarence Wiedman (Christopher B. Duncan). It’s one of my only real complaints about the episode, because it’s super anticlimactic. Basically, he sleeps with Kendall following his release from prison, and then while she goes to the bathroom Clarence sneaks in and shoots the back of his head. The show’s (previous) biggest, baddest villain is dead in two seconds with no follow-up.
Which brings me to another poorly tied loose-end, Wallace and Jackie. Jackie goes back to New York to live with her mom who is not an Upper West Side model, but instead a waitress at a diner. She confesses to Wallace that she must stay in New York to raise her son so that she doesn’t turn into the man her father is. I get that Tessa Thomspon’s time on the show had to come to an end, (I really disliked her for most of the season), but this just felt like such a cop-out. They didn’t need to give Jackie a kid to prove that she needed to stay in New York. They simply could’ve written her off, but instead I have to watch my sweet baby Wallace Fennel struggle as he learns the truth about his first true love.
Despite its few flaws, “Not Pictured” does a great job at keeping viewers on the edge of their seats and enticing them to keep watching. We never get to know what happened to Weevil following his arrest at graduation (I love that the ceremony continued as he got cuffed because that’s just the kind of town Neptune is) and we have no idea what kind of proposition Kendall Casablancas is trying to make Keith as he tries to leave for his New York trip with Veronica. We don’t know how Dick will react to his brother’s suicide, and how Mac will cope with learning that her (now ex) boyfriend was a murderer and rapist.
This episode also marks the last appearance of Teddy Dunn as Duncan Kane and Amanda Seyfried as Lilly Kane. In Veronica’s rose-colored dream about her graduation day, her mother has not left, she’s dating Logan (epic), she doesn’t know Wallace, and most importantly Lilly is still alive. Veronica approaches her best friend as she questions the Lilly Kane Memorial on the side of the school building. It’s a sideways world where everything is seemingly perfect (except Veronica not being BFFs with Wallace! We can’t have that!) but it also proves in order for Veronica to be the person and private investigator she is, Lilly had to die and her mom had to leave. It’s heartbreaking in many ways but reassuring in some.
Veronica has far from a great life. But she has a wonderful father, an epic LoVe story, and great friends. She’s been through Hell and back, and arguably shouldn’t be put through any more (it’s really a wonder she’s still standing, seriously Rob Thomas give the girl a break). She gets knocked down a lot, but “Not Pictured” proves that she has the ability to get back up, turn on the charming wit, and march forward.
It’s hard to create the perfect season finale of a television show, but “Not Pictured” is so freaking close. It's the most gut-wrenching season finale I've ever seen. The way the stories all connect and make more sense than I ever could’ve thought is unbelievable, and I’m thankful to be able to watch it, even all these years after it aired.
You got thoughts? Give them to me! Comment your thoughts on the season finale of Veronica Mars or the fact that you're impressed with yourself for making it through this horrendously lengthly blog post.