Whenever you talk about the best television parents of all-time, Keith Mars’ name shows up a lot. The father-daughter relationship between him and Veronica has been integral to Veronica Mars’ identity from the very beginning, powerful enough for all of us to find Enrico Colantoni asking Kristen Bell, “Who’s your daddy?” oddly sweet. To imagine a Veronica Mars without this dynamic is, arguably, to imagine a Veronica Mars that doesn’t quite work. Maybe it wouldn’t be a mess, but at best, it would always be like a framed painting that’s just somewhat askew, no matter what you do. There’s a reason two season finales and a movie dangled the possibility of Veronica losing Keith, momentarily showing us all how that would be the moment she finally lost everything. Because while Veronica may be our hero, Keith is her hero. After all, as she says in the pilot: “The hero is the one who stays.”
So it’s been difficult to watch Keith’s scenes this season for several reasons. Every moment where Veronica playfully teases Keith about his old age and not being quite what he used to be stings, which is, of course, what they’re going for. But it’s disheartening to see the typically active and vibrant Keith move around with a cane. It’s depressing to know that he has to take an insane amount of pills just to make it through the day. It’s terrifying to watch him struggle with his memory, to be there and in the moment only to suddenly completely lose track. But it’s been especially upsetting to have him hide that aspect of his condition—his mental health and the fact that he was given dementia medicine in the premiere—from Veronica. With “Losing Streak,” the truth finally comes out. After the initial contrived moment of Matty showing up just as Veronica attempt to ask Keith what’s going on with him, that is.
Because of how short this season is—and the fact it takes place in a month—the secret is at least prevented from being “dragged out” like it would in a 20+ episode season of television. But upon Keith fessing up, the reason behind him keeping things to himself actually makes more sense, especially considering the turn the Veronica/Nicole story takes and the Veronica/Weevil story. Specifically, the reason behind him not telling Veronica after seeing Big Dick’s doctor: Keith knows Veronica and knows that she’d be disappointed in him for accepting something like that from their prime suspect. But Veronica surprises him by saying that all that matters is his health and to accept any and all help from Big Dick and Clyde. Veronica has cut people out of her life for much less, and she’s looked at Keith as something other than a hero before (during the affair storyline in season three). But as she says here: “Screw appearances. I know Keith Mars can’t be bought.”
Veronica: “Big Dick wants to remake the boardwalk on a budget, so he enlists his Chino pal, Clyde, to soften up the market. The harassment campaign isn’t driving local business owners out fast enough, so they commission a bunch of bombs from their other Chino pal, Perry Walsh. We get close to Walsh, they… [*throat slitting motion*] And they still have some bombs, so they just keep going.”
Keith: “I can almost get there. It’s just… the collar bomb. Maybe Big Dick and Clyde would kill to get what they want, but this collar bomb, the person who does that feels like someone just released from Arkham Asylum.”
Big Dick makes the most sense as the one responsible for the bombings, with or without Clyde’s help. But in exhausting all options, Keith’s theory about Nicole as the bomber (after learning she was a rape victim) comes up. It’s a late-game theory that almost falls apart as easily as Penn’s Daniel Maloof theory—especially when Comrade Quacks is blown up, even though the point about Nicole’s family’s being in construction comes up—essentially introduced to give the audience the briefest concern about Veronica’s new, cool girl friend and to eventually blow up said friendship due to Veronica’s patented distrust. The thing is, the way the theory itself is able to fall into place is the perfect concentration of what makes Neptune (or the world, in general) the bad place: The fact that each bombing (even the ones with multiple victims) was able to take the life of a sex offender/sexual harasser just highlights that all of those people were walking around free, not a care in the world. Until they got blown up, that is. Sexual assault and trauma have been a large part of Veronica Mars since the beginning, and while it might seem like a lot—the fact that you apparently can’t drop a bomb in Neptune without blowing up a sex offender is a lot—it speaks to an unpleasant reality. But the reality is also that the show needed a reason to allow Veronica to sabotage a good thing, so here it is.
As Veronica is about to bug Nicole’s office, her voiceover claims that “[Nicole] didn’t care if lower Neptune was buried under a pile of rubble. She was getting the hell out of dodge.” It’s a very Veronica move to jump to that conclusion, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. At least, not the idea that Nicole doesn’t care about what’s happening on the boardwalk or that she wouldn’t try to help out the community in another way. Especially when Veronica also has the backstory to why Nicole owns the nightclub, a backstory that adds a lot more baggage to Nicole’s ownership of and feelings on the business. It’s one thing to have a hard time trusting people, but it’s another to go from 0 to 100 after learning something that doesn’t fit your specific idea of them—because it’s not like Nicole ever lied to Veronica or said anything to imply that she was in Comrade Quacks for the long haul—and using that as an excuse that people you care about will always let you down. But like I said, quoting Veronica herself, Nicole’s choice to sell to Big Dick after the first bombing goes against the (simple, youthful) concept about the hero being the one who stays.
In a show where the audience is so attached to its characters (even the smallest of supporting characters, like Corny), it’s not easy to just come in and make yourself at home. As good as they are here, both J.K. Simmons and Patton Oswalt (and even Clifton Collins Jr.) are still somewhat distracting. Because they’re J.K. Simmons and Patton Oswalt in Veronica Mars. It’s difficult to not be aware of that fact, even though they succeed at drawing you into their characters. But even though Nicole is also a new character, Kirby Howell-Baptiste feels like she’s been around Veronica and the gang for years. She fits in seamlessly, despite providing a dynamic that’s completely new to Veronica (and thus, to Veronica Mars), as Nicole allows Veronica to have the teenage experience she never got to have. (And Matty allows Veronica to guide an actual teen from making the same mistakes she did.) As vocal as the audience has always been about new (regular) characters entering the inner circle, Veronica Mars has historically not always done right by those characters. Piz, Parker, and, of course, Jackie. Nicole has seemed like the exception. But Veronica just can’t let things work out...
“My issue with trust—it’s not hardwiring. It’s experience. And in my experience, the people you care about let you down. But only if you let them.”
As a teenager who had to build up walls to stay safe from the mountains of shit hurled at her, that rationale worked. As a 30-something who shouldn’t see the world in such black-and-white absolutes? It’s just an excuse for the way Veronica sabotages her relationships with people before they have the chance to do so with her. Just like the bug is an excuse to prove to herself that she’s been let down.
Speaking of excuses, let’s not forget Weevil. “Losing Streak” confirms what Veronica approached Weevil about (and he refused to admit) in the previous episode: Big Dick and Clyde recruited the PCHers to up the crime and harassment on the boardwalk, in order to drive business down and get those properties for cheap. Veronica’s favorite 19-year-old PCHer Juan Diego tells her this (calling Clyde “the money man”), in exchange for her not sending him to prison (where a “sins of the brother” death sentence awaits him) and giving him back his wallet (and those “six crisp $100 bills”). Weevil is actually a good example of someone who’s let Veronica down; their conversation at Mars Investigation is the peak “We Used To Be Friends” moment of the season. This episode fills in the blanks for those who didn’t read Mr. Kiss And Tell: Weevil eventually got off from the bogus criminal charges (placed on him in the movie), and after that, Keith and Cliff convinced him to sue the sheriff’s department for corruption. Keith was working on uncovering all of the dirt he could and Weevil was on board… until he considered how much time, money, and resources it would take. That’s when he went behind their back and settled out of court—and even went on the news to say that he saw no corruption in the sheriff’s department—defending his choice because he had a family to provide for. But as we learn here, Weevil’s wife left him—because the settlement didn’t change his decision to rejoin the PCHers—and took their daughter with her. It’s low for Veronica to bring that up, but hey, she fills in the blanks, and she does so while proving that his “doing it for his family” excuse is just that, an excuse.
As usual, Weevil brings up their past and the idea that there might be an inkling of sympathy left, but Veronica shuts it down quickly. Veronica Mars lets the facade of Veronica’s hardness eventually break when she’s alone, and the way Kristen Bell reacts once Weevil’s gone is like it took Veronica literally all that she had to treat Weevil the way that she did. So imagine what being this way all the time must do to Veronica.
And then there’s the letter from the bomber, which is an… interesting change of tone in the aftermath of the collar bomb and in the midst of things like Keith’s issues, Nicole’s backstory, and Weevil vs. Veronica. It’s still up in the air as to if it’s a prank or if Penn and Carol’s Big Dick theory (“Prostitute yourself.”) is correct, but if it is the former, it at least makes sense when you consider how Neptune is the perfect place for some goof to make a joke out of the tragedies occurring in town. If it’s the latter, then I suppose it’s just Big Dick’s frat boy energy at play—but it doesn’t exactly do anything for his ultimate goals. Other than to embarrass the mayor and to perhaps break up the downer aspects of this episode, the reason for this plot, in the long run, is difficult to see. It could also be someone else entirely (especially if the bomber is someone else entirely), but it’s ultimately a petty attempt at embarrassing the mayor when there are much bigger fish to fry. It would also make more sense if Mayor Dobbins were portrayed as ineffectual or glib, but: He’s the one who pushed for Langdon to involve the FBI, and he has no problem calling out how absurd Big Dick’s speeches are during city council meetings. Veronica Mars and making authority figures look like buffoons go hand in hand, but the ultimate point here is unclear.
But the best part of this plot comes from the two characters whose story is all over the place, in terms of the very existence in this world: Alonzo and Dodie. At this point, they’ve finally managed to blend in and they’re smitten with the town. Perhaps because they’re jasmine lattes in a place where it’s impossible not to be smitten, Stars Hollow. The scene very much takes place on the WB lot, but considering the context, charm, and quirk associated with Gilmore Girls, it actually works for this scene. As usual, their scene feels like a non-sequitur within the episode, but this time, it’s literally just the one scene. And now, Alonzo’s flair for introspection is focused on this new (to them) world. As they sip their lattes and talk about how safe the town with a serial bomber on the loose is, it still feels nothing like Veronica Mars, but the juxtaposition works. As does a streaking Dobbins (and his streaking followers) right before Alonzo calls Neptune “So normal.”
- I was surprised when I first watched this episode that Penn had bugged Mars Investigations and not just used the information he’d gotten from Matty. Of course, his compulsive need to continue his 15 minutes of fame—which, like the classic Sugar Ray album, was just at about 14:59—tipped his hand immediately. (The end result being a pissed off Clyde leaving a dead duck in his bed.)
- Keith: “He’s the pizza boy who cried wolf. And if I’ve learned anything from hip hop, you don’t punch down.”
Clyde: “I— You listen to hip hop?”
Keith: “No. But Veronica dragged me to Straight Outta Compton. I feel I’m up to speed.”
- Veronica: “I thought your therapist had driven all these dark thoughts out of your head.”
Logan: “Well, what do you know—there are a few left.”
Veronica: “You gonna talk about this with her?”
Logan: “I don’t like to go in with a set playlist. I like to keep it improvisational, like jazz.”
Veronica: “Another ding on therapy. It’s like jazz.” She has a point there. Also, “I just want to remember what it looked like before it got shrunk.” is “a solid bit.”
- I appreciate how they acknowledge the obvious fact that Jason Dohring is carved out of marble and make it part of his character. Whether it’s knowing Veronica wants a favor because she’s cooking for him (chicken breasts and eggs white) or Dick’s comments about his body (he offered to be Dick’s personal trainer) or him biking everywhere to save the environment. Yes, the guy who had the intentionally obnoxious yellow Xterra in high school got really into health and fitness.
- If anyone on this show deserves a happy, normal life, it’s Wallace. It does prevent Veronica/Wallace time (and teaming up), but that’s at least something the series can handle in adulthood. Even though Veronica’s still in Wallace’s life and she’s “Auntie Veronica,” she’s in a state of arrested development in a way. It’s okay to an extent because she was already an old soul or whatever, but he’s moved on to a different stage of his life, one where he can’t really be her sidekick in dangerous cases. At least Wallace totally gets where Veronica is coming from when one of his housewarming guests tries to say private investigating is the same as Charlie Chan movies.
- If you’re looking for another Spondoolieverse connection, Mather Zickel—who plays Bryce’s scumbag father, Calvin Linden, and offers a $250,000 reward to whoever finds his murderer—appeared in episodes of both the 2009 Cupid reboot and Party Down. He was also recast with Ryan Hansen in the Kate Walsh series Bad Judge, despite how much Zickel committed to his obsession with Walsh in Childrens Hospital’s Newsreaders episodes.
- Langdon’s issues as chief of police are different from past Neptune sheriffs’ because while all evidence suggests she’s on the up and up, she’s still driven by pride and the fact that it’s her way ‘til payday. Yes, she’s a foil to Mars Investigations, but from the looks of it, her frustration comes from having a mountain of shit to deal with in a comparative molehill of a town. But watching her let Calvin have it—after he thinks he can just steamroll her the way he does—is a highlight. It’s also great to watch her be immune to and annoyed by Vinnie Van Lowe’s entire shtick, as he keeps trying so hard to trick her into divulging any sort information to him.
- Veronica: “Beaver.”
Matty: “I don’t know what that means. But Phoenix Land Trust was owned by a Cassidy—get this—Casablancas.”
Matty: “Until his death in 2006, at which point ownership transferred to...”
Veronica: “Big Dick Casablancas.” I imagine it transferred over to Kendall Casablancas, whose name was on everything… but then she also died. Also, surprise: the “Mom-and-Pop” outfits making offers to boardwalk merchants were Big Dick committing fraud, once again.
- Matty: “I just wanna be able to help.”
Veronica: “How are your hacking skills?”
- Keith didn’t hear about everyone in Neptune High getting straight A’s last year... but Veronica did, and she was clearly impressed.
- When Keith is listing the creeps who ended up dying in the bombs, the one that makes me feel like I missed something is “the margarita slinger on the beach” who apparently harassed Veronica. Since we don’t know who the victims during the beach bombing were, I assume the margarita slinger was one of them. But this shows how thrown together this theory is to get to Veronica pushing the self-destruct button on her friendship: A character and exchange we know nothing about is mentioned all of a sudden to make it work.
- Wallace: “It’s a slippery slope, Owen.” First of all, Wallace knows exactly what he’s talking about, and him seeing Matty get her mini-Veronica on is a joy. Secondly, Wallace is still very much into his first love: planes.
- The scene between Matty and Owen (Nick Alvarez) is also the biggest instance (and there have been a few) of Veronica Mars clearly having to make do with Tina Majorino not signing on. While it was easier in past seasons not to have Mac around, in 2019—when everything is computers—Mac’s absence is glaring.
- Veronica: “See, that’s what I’ve been saying. Taking a knee is patriotic.” After his “veterans fly free” defense of his client, Cliff McCormack is a legal genius. He’s also a pet owner genius—as he has a new puppy named “The Missus”—and a Mars family genius—as his excitement to see Veronica immediately turns into the realization that she’s about to ask for something.
- Veronica is just like the rest of us: No, she doesn’t want to see footage of the mayor streaking… until Cliff tells her he’s “a human tripod.” By the way, the fact that Mayor Dobbins’ wife was as supportive as she was? An unexpectedly sweet scene. Of course, she was also working with the knowledge that her husband is a human tripod.
- Who do you think is Veronica’s favorite fake child? Hakeem or Olajuwon? (And how much fanfic do you think there is already of Veronica and Nicole setting down and naming their children that?) Also, while the Kristen/Kirby connection from The Good Place was obvious, I’d actually forgotten they’d first worked together on House Of Lies (which is Spondoolieverse adjacent because of the number of Veronica Mars actors Bell’s character hooked up with on the show).
- Logan: “Are you high?”
Veronica: “Yeah, on life. And weed. Nicole brought it.” Well, we’ve always known Veronica was a snitch. Also, look at Responsible Logan making sure Veronica and Nicole promise not to drive in this state.
- Veronica spends Logan’s entire Crucible story looking around, doing everything she can not to listen. It’s not a good look for Veronica, but Kristen Bell captures the feeling of not wanting to be in a conversation and just barely sucking it up.
- Logan: “You’re not happy. And you act like you don’t have the power to change your circumstances. I love you. I do. But if I’m not what you want, say so. You want to stay in Neptune, you want to leave Neptune, it’s also your call. It’s your life. You get to do what you want.”
Veronica: “Are you serious right now? I do what I want.”
Logan: “[...] If I wasn’t around and your father wasn’t around, what would you be doing?”
Veronica: “I would be sticking my head in the oven because the two most important people in my life would be gone.” When I reviewed Riverdale, I’d often write about how much Archie and Betty needed therapy. That’s now my main thought about Veronica in this season of Veronica Mars. I wasn’t expecting a season of Logan telling Veronica her genuine issues and her pushing back against that.
- Vinnie: “Congrats, Veronica. You found a friend.”
Veronica: “Is that a woman’s jacket, Vinnie?”
Vinnie: “It was free.”
Veronica: “I should hope so.” Unfortunately, Vinnie was not able to find the Maloof ring in the Comrade Quacks lost and found.
- Veronica: “Point, set, match. My new friend is not a mass murderer. Yours? Probably is.”
Keith: “We’ll see.” Such a Mars family issue to have.
- Keith suggests retirement and closing down the agency altogether after they close the bomber case. He’s afraid he’s going to make a mistake, one that either costs them a case or something much worse.
- Carol: “It’s so sexy that you were right.” Penn has clearly been into Carol this whole time, and now she wants him too… because he was right. Now that is an unhealthy relationship
- Despite Tyler Carr coming back from the dead at the end of the previous episode, there’s no follow-up to that and no Maloof plot in this episode. The Maloofs would most likely fill the spot the mayor’s plot takes, which makes the mayor’s plot the better alternative. It’s unfortunate, but the show loses absolutely nothing by having the Maloofs offscreen.
- Maybe the way Weevil fights for Juan Diego would be more admirable if there were any sign that he was a good kid. But he tried to mug Veronica, then decided to attack her again with his boys.