Veronica Mars: Heads You Lose

"When you're raped and your best friend is murdered all before your 17th birthday, you don't develop a keen sense of mercy."

A huge sense of nostalgia permeated ‘Heads You Lose’. It wasn’t just the familiarity of several past characters folding into the narrative. It was in the way each of them interacted with Veronica, the shared history they have with her affecting every single line and comeback. It was incredibly well done, though it’s hard not to think that some of it may have been a bit unnecessary.

In the previous episode, Chino was brought up several times. So many of the people involved in the bombings have either served time there, or are tied to people who have in some shape or form. It was inevitable that Veronica would make her way there to get some answers. Do I believe in the idea of her going to two people she sent there to get those answers? Not completely, but the script did a great job of making it seem feasible.

The first “ghost of cases past” was Tim Foyle, the Hearst TA who murdered Dean O’Dell in season three. He’s had a lot of time to think about the girl who put him in prison. Naturally, he’s got quite a bit of distaste for her, so it’s not surprising that he went for the jugular: judging her for returning to the life she was living right after high school. She played ball, though. Tim isn’t in a place to judge someone else’s life. And she knows Tim, so Veronica is more than aware of his prevalent sense of curiosity, using it to pump him for dirt on Clyde and Big Dick’s time on the inside. Kristen Bell and James Jordan had some great moments together back in the day. It’s amazing to see that the dynamic they had still leaps off the screen so many years after the fact.

The second ghost is almost worse than Tim: Mercer Hayes, another season three villain. All that time away hasn’t changed him much. He’s still a total creep, and seems to be more preoccupied with his harsher ruling in comparison with other convicted sex abusers rather than reflecting on the women whose lives he ruined. Boohoo, dirt bag. He’s got a parole hearing coming up, though, a fact Veronica uses to her advantage when he refuses to give over information. She also uses Logan’s moral high ground over Mercer; “Decorated Naval Officer” is an impressive title, especially when it’s being used against a rapist in a prison break room.

A few clues later, and Veronica and Keith are able to cobble together their conspiracy theory about Big Dick and Clyde’s plan to kill spring break. As a library pal of the now deceased suspect Perry Walsh in Chino, Big Dick clearly had ties to someone who could pull the explosions off. Clyde’s manipulation of Big Dick on the inside fits with the narrative of someone using a stupid rich man for money, and orchestrating even more than the bombings. Veronica’s additional theory about the muggings she was almost a victim of in the previous episode ties into all that, but just enough to make the Mars family seem crazy.

Penn didn’t have the same reservations about public perception of his own mental state. He point blank accuses Big Dick of exactly what Veronica and Keith have in front of the whole town. It’s a reckless move on a number of levels, but mostly because it leads Veronica and Keith to figure out he’s had a bug in their office this whole time. Maybe Penn’s not as smart as he thinks he is if he has to rely on other investigators’ hard work.

It’s not surprising that her deep dive into the muggings leads Veronica back to Weevil and the PCH’ers. In their first reunion since Veronica and Keith’s failed plan to sue Balboa County for Weevil’s framing back in 2013, Veronica doesn’t hold her own suspicions back about his role in running the operation to steal money from Spring Breakers. Weevil is obviously guilty of turning his back on Veronica and Keith, but he’s also still dealing with that fact that he doesn’t have much choice. As an ex-con, there’s only so many ways to make money and it’s hard not to feel sorry for him.

Of the many returning faces, it’s Leo’s that got me smiling the most. His return to town as part of the FBI team assigned to the bombings is one of more believable of story machinations in this episode. His job ties in with the structure of Veronica’s noir world quite nicely, and I bought the idea of these two crossing paths yet again; it felt organic and... right.

Unlike her run-in with Weevil, Veronica’s reunion with Leo was full of love. They still have serious chemistry, and the few times they’ve worked together over the years have led to them developing not only a great working relationship, but a keen understanding of each other. Leo was immediately able to see how odd it was that Veronica wouldn’t want to commit to a guy she’s been attached to for years. Even with his own repressed feelings for her, he can see how great a guy Logan is now. Why wouldn’t she be ready to make a grand gesture of her own?

Plus

A third bombing happens during this episode. A creep caught drugging women in Nicole's bar who wakes up on the beach with a bomb attached to his neck loses his head... literally. A horrible way to go, but he was nasty so it was oddly satisfying. Is that bad to say?

Max, better known for running his own cheating business at Hearst College, is now the proud owner of a smoke shop on the boardwalk. He’s among those who will be kicked out if Big Dick’s plans become a reality. It was a very random cameo.

I love that Leo and Veronica still maintain their tradition of bringing each other food.

Alfonso witnessed Veronica’s close call with Juan and the other PCH’ers, so she’s definitely on his radar.

There were more book references in this one. The biggest is probably the mention of the rape case at the Neptune Grand that Veronica covered in the second novel. Fun note for those who didn't read it: the victim was Grace Manning, a.k.a. Meg Manning's youngest sister.

Vinnie is also back! He was hired by the Maloof's mother to track down the missing engagement ring. He was also hired by Daniel Maloof to track down Alfonso and his partner to stop the hit he put out on the Carrs. Unfortunately Daniel was a bit too late to stop it, but one of the Carrs did manage to survive and is on his way back to Neptune. Seems a bit sloppy for Alfonso to leave one alive and not know it?

He Said, She Said

Vinnie: "We're like the Avengers, ya know? I'm Tony Stark, Iron Man obviously and your dad, he's, I don't know, is there a a bald Avenger? And you're Pepper Potts."

Logan: "Two natural loners and a 70-pound dog in a 600-square-foot apartment is its own kind of challenge."

Halfway through this season and I can already see how much the show is benefiting from this new format. The mystery is able to clip along at a nice steady pace, with every single scene contributing in some way to the narrative. As someone writing about a show like that it makes my job harder – there's so much ground to cover – but as a viewer, it's refreshing and exciting.

8 out of 10 M&Ms.

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