Well, this episode certainly explains what Veronica meant in her season premiere voiceover about this particular spring break being “the beginning of the end.” Veronica Mars’ fourth season finale is the end of Neptune as we know it, the end of Veronica Mars in Neptune, and—as you can probably also tell from people’s responses—the end of Veronica Mars as we know it. That last part has more than one meaning though, which has ended up being the biggest takeaway from this episode. So I’m just going to start at the end… which itself leads the way for another beginning.
Early in the season, I called the cartel aspect of the season Rob Thomas’ attempt at a Fargo-esque story on Veronica Mars and even noted that Veronica Mars in its current form/style/approach could very easily fit in on FX. (In my notes, I also compared the series to Justified.) The problem at the beginning of the season was that the Alonzo/Dodie scenes—in all their non-sequitur glory—didn’t mesh as well with the rest of the series in general. But once they did, they were a highlight of each episode, and the attempted Fargo approach actually worked in the long run, especially in their conclusion here. (The same could not be said for the Maloofs, unfortunately. Or the Carrs, but no one was actually rooting for them.) Then things officially clicked with the “one year later” epilogue: This entire season was building to Veronica Mars living on as a Fargo-esque series, and the cartel and the Maloofs especially were part of the test run.
(I wrote most of the rough ideas for this review before reading Rob Thomas’ post-mortem about the season in Rolling Stone. So I suppose I’m at least happy that I was on the right track about his intention for the season and the series moving forward.)
While technically a series with as many lives as a cat, Veronica Mars has never had consistent assurance that it will continue to live on. What the end of this season suggests though, is that there is a way for Veronica Mars to live on without having to be tied down to Neptune or all the baggage that comes with Neptune. I know that the baggage is something fans of Veronica Mars come for, but as I also noted at the beginning of this season, this season had to function as both a proper continuation of the series and a suitable entry point for new audiences. Veronica Mars is a television property with three original seasons (from two different networks, and it shows) from over a decade ago, a feature film, two canonical novels, and even a supplemental “spin-off.” I’ve discussed with others how dense this season of Veronica Mars has been, but Veronica Mars is a dense series in general. This season suitably serves both longterm fans and newcomers, but because of that density, it simply couldn’t have been an easy undertaking for the writers. But a version of the series that continues with Veronica Mars doing her thing with clients from all over, in worlds she’s unfamiliar with and the writers can build from scratch? That audiences can jump into with minimal effort? That’s certainly something to think about. Of course, the series is called Veronica Mars, not Neptune, CA, and while the series has always been great at world-building, this world still revolves around Veronica.
Logan dying and the series flashing to a year later is essentially version 2.0 of Lilly Kane’s murder from the first season. Only, in this instance, Veronica knows who the killer is. And she doesn’t need to get hard. As this season argues, she needs to move far from that. The only option she really has is to finally leave Neptune (coming back every once in a while before leaving again). We already know she wasn’t going to do it as long as Logan was alive, as much as she would ever want to. This tragedy, this trauma is the fuel for Veronica Mars moving forward. It actually reminds me of the fact that Matty was unfamiliar with the Lilly Kane murder. Because it was 15 years ago, and people have either moved on or are just too young or uninformed to know. With Veronica Mars, the reason it’s still alive is because people haven’t moved on; and that’s something that can be intimidating for anyone who’s interested in this world and this series but still only on the outside.
Now, other things actually happened in this episode before Rob Thomas officially started a new chapter of Veronica Mars. Whether you agree or disagree with the choices at the end of the episode, it’s hard to deny that they overshadowed what were actually solid conclusions to the season’s mysteries and a decent—it served the mysteries and the potential future well, but that was it—season finale.
This majority of this episode is actually dedicated to closing up the bomber plots. There are no booze-soaked montages, there are no sex scenes or dreams, there is no Dick. And Mac is, of course, in Istanbul. But while Big Dick was the less interesting Big Bad over the season—as the motive was clear, though J.K. Simmons was phenomenal and remains so in this episode—with this finale, it’s actually his side of things that are the more interesting of the two. Especially in the way everything comes together to bring forth his downfall. And in how it proves that an adult version of Veronica Mars was able to feature a teenager in a prominent role without losing any edge or falling into the Dawn from Buffy The Vampire Slayer dilemma. Because the Big Dick half of the episode is Matty’s story.
The first thing I ever saw Izabela Vidovic in—other than standard one-off guest roles—was NBC’s About A Boy adaptation. She’s since made the rounds on The CW, from The 100 to Supergirl, landing herself in the Spondoolieverse with the past season of iZombie. I said before that if there were ever a true reboot of Veronica Mars, Vidovic would be the obvious choice. (I’d assume Kane High School would be the setting because otherwise, there is no reason why this plot point was dropped into this season in the last two episodes.) Rob Thomas clearly realizes how good she is—as he must have realized on iZombie—simply based on the way in which Matty gets to exist in this season, as a non-Mars character. Not only does she get a fully-realized arc like Veronica and Keith, she remains a part of their lives in the epilogue, holding down the reception desk like Veronica did as a teen.
There’s a particular familial plot point introduced in The Thousand Dollar Tan Line that this season—thankfully—seems to have put in the 2% of non-canonical aspects of the book, opting instead to give Veronica this protege. (Matty and Wallace both tell Veronica this season not to have children, and honestly, a fully-grown human that Veronica can shape is a better option for Veronica, especially given Logan’s fate.) Veronica’s voiceovers state that she doesn’t want Matty to become like her (in the hardened, toxic, unhealthy way), and she does all that she can to give Matty the tools to survive in this world and to treat her like an equal, never patronizing her. But even if she could have predicted that Matty would pull a very Veronica move and sneak into Big Dick Casablancas’ house for evidence, she probably wouldn’t have imagined that Matty would witness Big Dick getting stabbed in the back by a samurai sword and then decapitated. Or that Matty would be able to look into Big Dick’s eyes seconds before the blade went through his neck.
This is really a big day for Matty: breaking and entering, evading a murderer, watching said murderer be murdered, performing with her school band for a different school, and watching her mentor’s father defuse a bomb. With Big Dick’s murder, Matty gets the realization that Veronica got a long time ago: The bad guy finally going down for his crimes doesn’t mean that’s everything’s going to be alright. Big Dick’s death isn’t going to bring back her father, and as we learn, it doesn’t stop the NUTTs from getting their way. When she gets back to Mars Investigations, it actually starts to hit her for real what she just witnessed, which is why she even repeats the “charge my phone and whatnot” from before. The Sea Sprite explosion was a life-altering experience for Matty, but she ends the season with another one that essentially means there’s no turning back for her in this world.
Penn giving Keith and Veronica the runaround the whole time, on the other hand, when there’s already no question to the audience that he did it—is just filling time until we get to Kane High School (where the Mars family, yet again, messes with Jake Kane’s life). The Don reveal and twist would’ve been better if Don came across as anything more than an asshole tryhard the entire season. While it definitely checked out that he was faking his D.C. gig—something that could have easily been looked into, as he was pretending to be a hotshot political consultant—it was hard to believe that he would actively do much of anything, when his entire vibe was passively undercutting Penn. The casting of Clark Duke worked for that and for the fakery but not for the part where we were supposed to have even a second of thought that he could be the bomber.
To say that Patton Oswalt is able to turn on the crazy when Penn officially reveals that he’s the Mad Bomber of Neptune is to ignore that Penn is a weird guy already and continues to be throughout this episode. The only real shift in his behavior—as even his bad guy speech at the end is still on the level of what we’ve grown accustomed to—is when he does the villain laugh at the end. And considering he packed his bomb with nails based on a false assumption that he didn’t even look into at any point, he’s really just mirroring what a villain is supposed to do. While Penn could function as a villain because he was unassuming and no one took him seriously, it doesn’t negate the fact that he was still a bad detective. After the third bomb, he was only working with the narrative and planting the “clues” about Big Dick/Clyde because he found out that Mars Investigations believed them to be the pairing. Remember, he was all in on the weak Daniel Maloof theory. Penn may have had a “beginner’s mind” for bombing—not for murder, because he’d already been there, done that—but he simply didn’t have the ability for detective work. He got a head start at attempting to cover his tracks with his first spring break murder because Veronica came to him with the names of the Pi Sig brothers, but every attempt he tried to throw them off his scent only brought them closer to him.
This is what makes me of two minds about the fact that Penn’s backpack bomb killed Logan. On the one hand, despite the end speech, Penn wasn’t smarter than Veronica. He wasn’t clever. He was a true crime buff whose obsession fueled him to be able to do certain things, but he wasn’t a genius. He’s not Veronica’s Moriarity. (The plan was to kill Veronica anyway, and that failed. It’s also not like he would’ve known Veronica and Logan had the loudest shower ever or street cleaning day.) On the other, the one thing that Penn did have as an advantage over everyone was that they all also treated him like the spacy pizza boy he was. Because people—especially Veronica and Keith—thought so little of him, he was able to get away with as much as he did. That’s how they wouldn’t think to check that his backpack was still in the car. Penn is delusional, and while he may think he’s always a step ahead of Veronica—and unfortunately, he does understand how the world works when it comes to true crime and Murderheads like himself—that’s never actually the case. In that sense, it’s really frustrating that he ended up killing Logan, but again, it was through the only skill he had: being unremarkable and forgettable. But as his final rant suggests, he’ll live on in infamy, getting what he strived for all season.
When it comes to Veronica and Logan, this episode gets them where this season has wanted them to be this whole time. Where Kristen Bell and Jason Dohring have brought them this whole season. There are hiccups like Veronica not telling everyone about her engagement and Logan’s “Sorry” text, but both are excused—Veronica is waiting until the case so as not to burden Keith, and Logan’s was a case of a dictated text gone wrong. They have Keith and Wallace at their small wedding, and they’re happy. And they’re in a good place. And that, quite frankly, is how this chapter of Veronica Mars ends.
I said at the beginning of this season that its approach to fan service would play a part in determining if it was successful overall. I’d argue that it was, but this specific ending proves that Rob Thomas is thinking about what it needs to be successful in the future. It’s not my place to say if this is for the best for Veronica Mars as a whole or as a fan. To be honest, I haven’t taken a chance to process the situation or this season as a fan yet, having only watched it with professional goggles. But I will say, this ending is for the best for Rob Thomas’ intended version of the series. Even though I’d very much argue with his belief that “It’s just hard to imagine a detective show with a 35-year-old woman with a boyfriend.” The “years” and “continents” parts of the episode title’s quote are the exact argument against that. In case anyone wants a refresher course:
- Penn: “Vanity Fair called you ‘whip-smart’. ‘The preternaturally-gifted Veronica Mars,’ they said. Want to get this one right too, don’t you?” 1. This is 100% how a psychopath speaks, so I don’t see how he was trying to make them doubt he was the bomber for a second. 2. Clyde brought up Vanity Fair in “Chino & The Man,” and I didn’t note it, but since it’s come up again: As mentioned in Mr. Kiss And Tell, after solving Carrie Bishop’s murder, Veronica got some media coverage (since Carrie was a pop star). But the publicity from the article didn’t do as much to bring in business as this case did, obviously. 3. Veronica does always have to be right, which is also true during her last conversation with Logan, even though it’s playful.
- Dodie: “Let’s go home.”
Alonzo: “You think?”
Dodie: “We got a choice?”
Alonzo: “I guess not.” These two.
- Veronica: “‘Looks like a hobbit. Kind of a dipshit.’ Hey, that rhymes. You love that crap.”
Penn: “So now you’re just flat-out insulting me.” To be fair, everyone was flat-out insulting him the entire season.
- Veronica/Penn: “Don?!”
Keith: “We know a Don?” It’s for the best Keith never experienced one of those Murderhead meetings. Don accused Veronica of killing Lilly, so I can only imagine how they’d act around the former Neptune sheriff.
- Dick’s little brother was a rapist, mass murderer, and threw himself off the roof of the Neptune Grand. Dick’s father just got decapitated but not before killing off spring break in Neptune for good. Dick’s best friend—whose wedding he didn’t attend, which I think was because he was filming in Romania—was killed by a bomb the next day. Shouldn’t the show have, I don’t know, given us at least a little insight on his state in that epilogue? I’m not going to dock the episode points for that, as the epilogue was specifically about Veronica and the series moving forward. But now I’m choosing to believe he’s turned to heroin.
- Honestly, we don’t know how Dick or Weevil ended up, because Veronica presumably cut ties and retreated into herself before officially leaving. The point of it all is to leave this behind, just like she did Hearst post-season three.
- The abundance of Leo sort of makes up for the lack of Dick in the second half of this season, as both men fill the dancing requirements for the whole season. However, if you need your fill of Dick and Big Dick just doesn’t cut it, I highly recommend the supplemental “spin-off” series, Play It Again, Dick. (Unfortunately, it’s no longer on CW Seed for free, but you can buy it on iTunes/Amazon/Google Play.) Not only does it bring Spondoolieverse members together (Robert Buckley’s so good it makes it even more frustrating his character isn’t allowed to have fun on iZombie), it’s a good appetizer for Ryan Hansen’s two-season YouTube Red/YouTube Premium/YouTube series, Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes On Television*, which was so great that no one but me watched it.
- Watching Veronica wrestle a microphone out of a 60-year-old Jake Kane’s hands made me laugh so hard, despite her doing it for very serious reasons. The Kane family resentment of Veronica Mars will never die.
- Penn’s comment about documentary reenactments continues Veronica Mars’ long-running joke about egregious casting choices. Tara Reid doesn’t play Veronica in the reenactment, but whoever does, they have her lookin’ like Liv Moore.
- Veronica: “Of course I’m taking your name after we get married! I’m nothing if not old-fashioned.”
Logan: “Veronica Echolls? I’m not seeing it.”
Veronica: “I think the Echolls is radioactive. I was gonna take your first name.”
Logan: “Veronica Logan.”
Veronica: “Mmmhmm. Or, you know what we could do?”
Logan: “I could change my last name to Mars!”
Veronica: “Is it unconventional? Yes. is it crazy? Who’s to say? ‘Logan Mars’. That sounds like a guy who plays by his own rules.” I mean, I actually like “Veronica Logan”...
- Principal Clemmons is still kicking around, now working for Kane High School. Also still around Neptune is Parker, which is actually kind of a treat since we always see Veronica’s exes bopping around but not Logan’s. (Am I saying Paris Hilton should’ve shown up in this season? Maybe.) She’s been through a divorce and it seems like she makes him think twice about getting married to Veronica. Little did she know that there’s something worse than getting married and divorced. (It’s getting married and then blown up.)
- When Veronica gets the “Sorry” text, Wallace is about four or five seconds from going off on Logan Echolls the next time he sees him. It’s… amazing.
- Veronica: “Move you dumb f—”
Band Drummer: *rimshot* 1. Looks like Veronica lost the bet. 2. The reason Wallace doesn’t answer when Veronica calls him at the ceremony is because he is seriously grooving out to the school band.
- This season did a good job of making it look like Keith would be the one killed off instead. And not just because they’ve teased killing Keith off multiple times before; this episode really plays up the idea that Keith only has “one day until retirement.” Luckily, the test results—which reveal his memory issues are the result of a bad medicine combination, as Rob Thomas apparently wanted to sneak in an indictment of the U.S. healthcare system before he made everyone mad—actually reverse that. That and a hip replacement (and a special lady friend) and one year later, Keith Mars is good to go again.
- Oh, I almost forgot: Matty stole the Maloof ring and sold it to keep the Sea Sprite open. Honestly, I want to hate it because of all the Maloof/Carr stuff in this season, but I support Matty scamming both families. And wow, this means Vinnie Van Lowe was right. Because unlike Penn, Vinnie actually is an expert in his field. He’s a cartoon character but still an expert.
- The fact that Mary McDonell plays Jane the therapist now makes me question all of season three’s Battlestar Galactica love. Does this mean Laura Roslin doesn’t exist in Veronica Mars’ version of the show? Is she played by someone else? Or do they just look alike?
- Jane: “What do you think Logan would think about you coming to see me?”
Veronica: “I think he’d be pissed it took me this long.”
Jane: “I think he’d be impressed. Reaching out shows me that you are on your way.”
Veronica: “To what?”
Jane: “To well-being.” We’ll see.