[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for “Veronica Mars” Season 4.]
The fourth season of Hulu’s “Veronica Mars” dropped in its entirety one week early on July 19 to the surprise of fans – and journalists – everywhere. If you’ve already found the time to binge the season in its entirety, feel free to dig into this review of the full season, which wades deep into spoiler territory to dissect what did and didn’t work about the latest entry into the show’s annals. If you’re not caught up, check out our spoiler-free review.
You’ve been warned.
Season 4 of “Veronica Mars” is consistently entertaining, a welcome return to a fully realized universe that never got the exploration it deserved in its original, three-season run. There’s a full cast of characters that returns and for the most part nothing has changed. And that’s great! Except when it’s not.
So let’s talk about our good buddy Veronica (Kristen Bell).
After the events of the (abysmal) “Veronica Mars” movie, our hero sets her law degree aside and opts to move back home to Neptune, under the auspices of helping the town she claims to hate. It’s a simple return to the show’s original dynamic, except when you realize that instead of a show about a plucky teen girl detective, you’re now watching a series about a 30-something woman who is kneecapping her own future for no discernible reason.
Thank goodness she’s there, though, because Neptune spring break finds itself under siege by a mystery bomber. It’s a series of crimes that seems disproportionately outsized, given that a Mexican crime gang, a United States congressman, and J.K. Simmons all end up as red herrings at one point or another during the investigation.
Crimes aside, what’s really blowing up Veronica’s life is her longtime relationship with Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), who has the audacity to propose to her because he loves her. Veronica is affronted by Logan’s proposal and goes to great lengths to show him.
Let’s be real: Veronica is pretty awful in this season. She treats Logan terribly. She’s awful to Weevil (Francis Capra). She’s okay to her father, Keith (Enrico Colantoni), but often treats him like a child. And it’s not that she needs to be pleasant person. It’s that it’s painful to watch a character we love be terrible to the people she loves.
And in truth, it’s possible that it’s not Veronica’s attitude that’s changed, but rather the circumstances. It turns out it’s amusing to see a smart-mouthed teen giving as good as she gets, but watching a grown-ass woman be shitty to people who care about her isn’t cute.
That’s the real problem of Season 4. The world has changed, both inside “Veronica Mars” and out. The audience has changed. But Veronica hasn’t changed. Veronica is just the same.
But not Logan.
When first we met Logan all those years ago, he was a prototypical bad boy, full of adolescent rage and daddy issues, spoiled and sadistic and gifted with a truly obscene amount of chemistry with one Veronica Mars. The romance that unspooled in the years to follow was tempestuous, tinged with a level of danger that some fans found intoxicating.
Show creator Rob Thomas has always been very outspoken as viewing the series through the lens of the traditional – but gender-flipped – film noir. So that dynamite dynamic was built in to the show, with Veronica serving as the hard-bitten private investigator and Logan the homme fatale.
But in Season 4, Logan is no longer fatale. Logan is fully reformed. He’s a decorated Navy officer and a stand-up guy. He eats healthy and he loves small children. He regularly goes to therapy to work on his anger issues and continue on his journey of self-improvement. He’s dedicated and considerate and wants to make Veronica his wife.
So Logan Echolls had to die.
You don’t have to like it. Hell, I don’t like it. But Logan was a television character, and TV has no patience for characters who exhibit the ability to grow and change.
Characters that grow and change throw off the entire balance of a series. If you think too long about how much Logan has done to make himself a better person, then it throws Veronica’s pig-headed refusal to grow beyond the exact same person she’s been since she was 17 into stark relief.
To a certain extent, that appears to be the show’s aim. Veronica is furious over Logan’s efforts to heal his psychological wounds, often mocking his sessions with his therapist and goading him into behaving badly because that version of him seems more authentic to her. This demonization of therapy is at best, childish, and at worst, abusive behavior towards someone that she purportedly loves.
What Veronica is looking for, what she’s always been looking for on some level, is someone as fucked up as her. If Logan is no longer that, then what use is he? If Veronica refuses to change, how will things ever work out?
They won’t. They don’t. And so Logan gets fridged.
It’s the perfect catalyst to spur Veronica’s eventual “Eat, Pray, Love” journey of self-discovery (or wherever she’s headed off to in the closing moments of the finale), but it all comes too late.
Ultimately, “Veronica Mars” wants to have things both ways. The show wants Veronica to be a champion of the people, fighting injustice and looking out for the little guy, but Season 4 showcases a Veronica that is profoundly out of touch. She excoriates Weevil for working with people trying to price him and his family out of Neptune, while deaf to the reality that Weevil is doing what he has to do to provide for people who depend on him. She chastises disenfranchised people for their own disenfranchisement, suddenly blind to the reality that the system is so rigged in favor of those in power, that the most people are doing their best just to survive.
And if the entire season was about how out of touch Veronica has become, mired in her own fear and ossified by her scar tissue, that would be one thing. But the series also creates a parallel between Veronica and Matty (Izabela Vidovic), a would-be teen detective, that suggests that the grown woman’s oversight is just what her protege needs to get through this difficult time in her life.
But we’ve seen what Veronica’s mindset has done to her ability to cope with trauma and loss. We’ve seen what refusing to learn how to process pain does to a person over an extended period of time. What Madeline needs isn’t the ability to break into houses and plant bugs, it’s a solid therapist and some constructive coping mechanisms.
During the finale’s coda, a message from Logan plays, waxing about how Veronica is the toughest person he knows, that she always gets back up, no matter what knocks her down. And while what Logan is describing is a particular kind of strength, it’s not the only type.
The true strength in Season 4 comes from Logan. Because he was strong enough to know where he was weak and he understood that vulnerability was the key to finding genuine peace.
Maybe that’s what Veronica will find on her drive. Maybe she’ll realize she can’t outrun her darkness. Maybe she’ll realize that cleaning up Neptune won’t clean up her past.
Or maybe she’ll just backslide into the life she’s always lived because being a television character means being trapped in a purgatory of your own making until you’re finally canceled for good.