Veronica Mars: Pilot

Veronica: "You want to know how I lost my virginity? So do I."

Veronica Mars is an adult in teenage clothing. Small and young, she is also smart and emotionally strong. But even though she's tough – and Veronica can be very tough – she is extremely vulnerable.

She has weathered some serious stuff: rape, the death of her best friend, the breakup of her parents, the loss of her home and social status. All of her so-called friends have turned against her. Rejected everywhere, Veronica refuses to be a victim. She won't go away quietly, but she keeps her distance so she won't get hurt again. This distance, along with her exceptional talent for investigation, makes her an astute observer of human nature.

What jumped out at me in the pilot episode was that Veronica has enemies everywhere and constantly experiences threats, a lot of which are sexual. Weevil propositioned her at school by referring to the size of his member; Veronica countered by telling him sarcastically to whip it out, an amazingly courageous tack. Weevil and his gang cornered her outside the Camelot motel; Veronica countered successfully with her taser and her attack dog. Logan made sexual slurs and attacked her car with a tire iron. Sheriff Don Lamb actually made fun of her when she reported her rape. What was amazing was that Veronica stayed strong. She did something about it.

And she has a support system. Her father, the very loveable Keith Mars, is the former sheriff who has also suffered the slings and arrows of Neptune's outrageous fortune. But even he has secrets. Even he lied to Veronica, and she didn't know why.

In this pilot, Veronica, super detective, helped her new friend Wallace, another victim of Neptune High. Wallace is astute and figured Veronica out very quickly: "Underneath that 'angry young woman' shell, there's a slightly less angry young woman who's just dying to bake me something. You're a marshmallow, Veronica Mars. A twinkie." Wallace is probably just what he appears to be, but there's a general theme of people being not what they seem to be.


Weevil, for example, was at first a serious threat. He victimized Wallace, and made nasty sexual threats toward Veronica. But in the end, he rode to Veronica's rescue. In saving Wallace with her clever evidence-switching ploy, Veronica also saved Weevil. Why?

Logan Echolls, son of a movie star, is also a huge contradiction. Veronica described Logan as a "psychotic jackass." Logan, holding that tire iron, appeared very threatening. Would he have hurt Veronica if Weevil and his gang hadn't shown up? Who can tell? Logan isn't just Mr. Violence, though. In a flashback, he appeared deeply upset about his girlfriend Lilly's death. And he showed courage; he didn't fold when Weevil was hurting him.

Duncan, Veronica's former boyfriend and murder victim Lilly's brother, is an enigma. All we learned about him was that he broke up with Veronica, and didn't tell her why.

In the pilot, we also met:

— Vice principal Clemmons, stereotypical authority figure
— Jake Kane, software billionaire, and his wife Celeste, who thinks he's cheating
— Sheriff Don Lamb, Keith's utterly despicable replacement
— John Enbon, whose father owns an airline
— Shelly Pomroy, whose father is ambassador to Belgium
— Felix Toombs, biker
— Billy the fireman, friend of Keith's
— Corny, who helped Veronica frame Logan
— Inga at the Sheriff's Department, whom Veronica mimicked in order to run a plate
— Abel Koontz, software designer fired by Jake Kane and in jail for Lilly's murder
— An as yet unnamed snarky defense attorney

The opening credits show each cast member with a sketch that has something to do with the private eye business. Veronica was shown with the silhouette of a couple in the window, which was what she was watching when the series opened. Appropriate since Veronica is an observer, always on the outside looking in. "I'm never getting married" was the first thing that Veronica told us. Does she long for the romance that she says she doesn't want?

Wallace was shown with the chalk outline of a body. Was this because he was a victim when we first met him? Duncan was with a security camera, which baffles me. Did he see something when his sister was murdered? Logan was shown, interestingly enough, with doodles of flowers and Lilly's name. Weevil was shown with a prisoner's hands hanging outside prison bars. And finally, Keith Mars, private eye and former sheriff, was shown with handcuffs. These last two may be self-explanatory.

Unanswered questions:

Who killed Lilly Kane? Keith didn't think it was Abel Koontz. The last thing Lilly said to Veronica was, "I've got a secret. A good one." What was it?

Who drugged and raped Veronica at Shelly Pomroy's party?

Why did Duncan break up with Veronica?

Why did Keith and Lianne Mars break up? Where is Lianne? Why did she meet Jake Kane at a hotel?

Why did Keith lie to Veronica about Lianne's license plate? And why is a photo of it in Keith's Lilly Kane murder file?

Bits and pieces:

— Kristen Bell does a phenomenal job with this character, both as the star and as the narrator. I know Bell isn't really a teen, but she looks fifteen and acts thirty. How old is Veronica? Having her own car implies that she is at least sixteen.

— The action is set in the fictional Neptune, California, "A town without a middle class." (At least, I hope it's fictional.) Veronica and her father live like the stereotypical private eye, in a shabby apartment. Keith's office even has a glass door with "Mars Investigations" painted on it.

— Keith told Veronica to "take Backup." This appears to be the name of their vicious-looking dog.

— Switching evidence in a police locker, causing a false fire alarm... pretty deeply illegal. Just saying.

— At Shelly Pomroy's party, Veronica was wearing a white dress, symbolizing purity. Note that they showed us that Duncan and Logan were both at the party, along with dozens of other guys.

— Logan broke Veronica's headlights. Symbolically, we could say that there was something he didn't want her to see. I could be reaching, though. He was probably just super pissed and had a tire iron handy. Logan appears to have rage issues.

— Lianne left Veronica a unicorn music box, a symbol of fantasy. The music box also represented Lianne herself. Veronica threw out the music box, and then retrieved it; she wants her mother back. Is Veronica's desire to get her parents back together a fantasy?

— Veronica's hobby is photography.

South Park is Veronica's favorite movie. Unless she was kidding.

— There were three Wizard of Oz references. The current Sheriff, Don Lamb, told victims Wallace and Veronica to go see the wizard and ask for guts and a backbone. And Weevil did the famous Wicked Witch line, "And your little dog, too."

Quotes:

Keith: "Who's your daddy?"
Veronica: "I hate it when you say that."

Logan: "That's right. My daddy took my T-bird away. And you know what I won't be having? Fun, fun, fun." This was just marvelous. A nasty parody of the Beach Boys, much like Neptune itself.

Wallace: "I suddenly feel like I'm in a scene from The Outsiders."
Veronica: "Be cool, Sodapop."

I don't usually rate pilots, but this one was excellent. Four out of four stars,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Started my rewatch last night and wow, I really missed my Veronica. Awesome pilot and Kirsten Bell just rocks!

Tom L said...

What an excellent show! I've just watched the pilot and wow!

The directing is a bit odd at times, but, man, I loved the storytelling style. And Veronica is such a likeable character. She completely won me over at the random locker search. "Wow. This is a little embarrassing." Great line delivery from Kirsten Bell. The Backup reveal cracked me up too.

It's easy to see why this show got positively compared to Buffy. It has a strong female lead, it's about the outsiders and the dialog is a must. It's a shame it didn't last longer.

I can't wait to watch the next one.

=D

ChrisB said...

Finally! Being too poor to purchase the DVDs, I've been waiting patiently (sort of) for one of the myriad of streaming sites to play this. Thank you, Amazon Prime.

This pilot was good. It did everything a pilot should do -- introduced us to some interesting characters and told the first chapter of a story that makes me want to see the next.

What struck me watching this was the idea that Veronica is Nancy Drew for a new generation. A pretty blond who lives with her dad because the mother is absent, helps her father run his business, drives a convertible, and is astute about the people around her.

Of course, Nancy has not had the life issues that Veronica has had. It is precisely these issues that make Veronica a character I want to spend more time with. Like you say, this young woman is not a victim. I respect that.

My favorite secondary character right now is the attorney. I loved the fact that he has figured out that Veronica is doing the investigating as well. Great character beat for what could have been a stock smarmy character.

Scott Riggan said...

I watched the entire series as it aired, but with the movie coming out soon it felt like a good idea to revisit Neptune. And, wow, I'd forgotten how good VM was, right from the beginning! It seems like most of the the shows I love take some time to find their groove, but this pilot had everything in place.

shruti said...

Thought I would give it a go as you guys rave about it and till now I have loved everything you strongly suggest.

Liked the pilot a lot. Lets see where it goes :)

Shruti

Mikey Heinrich said...

Finally getting around to watching this show.

How did I miss this show???

Loved this pilot. Love the way the relationship with Weevil turned out to not be what I was expecting. Just loved this.