On Friday, Hulu surprised fans at San Diego Comic-Con by releasing the long-anticipated fourth season of Veronica Mars a week ahead of its scheduled date. That meant that fans of the show, created by Texan Rob Thomas, could enjoy the return of the playful banter between Veronica and her dad, Keith, and watch as the teens they knew from the show’s initial three-season run interacted with the world as adults. It also meant fans could watch the show shed its episodic mystery-of-the-week format for a more contemporary, serialized, season-long quest to identify the bomber terrorizing Neptune, the Southern California town Mars and her friends call home. Season four worked hard to give Veronica Mars fans what they wanted—in the first episode, there’s an extended, barely-SFW sex scene between Veronica and her longtime beau, Logan Echolls!—but it also ended on a twist that has left a whole lot of fans upset.
Texas Monthly writer Emily McCullar is one of them, while Dan Solomon, a fellow staff writer, is in the seemingly-small contingent of fans who approves of the explosive final episode. In order to fully explore both sides of this contentious issue, we present to you a dialogue between the two about whether the season was ruined by its final minutes, or if a shake-up of this magnitude was necessary for Veronica Mars to go where it needed to go in the future. (Warning: Spoilers ahead!)
Dan Solomon: So, I want to start by saying that I get why people are having an strong reaction to what happened. Here is the massive spoiler: In the final moments of the episode, right after Veronica finally agrees to elope with Logan after spending the entire season insisting that she doesn’t want to, shortly after the bomber who has left a trail of bodies in his wake throughout the season has finally been caught. Then, one last unexploded bomb goes off—and it’s in Veronica’s car, where Logan has just gone to run an errand. It kills him, and leaves our heroine a freshly-minted widow. I had a strong reaction to it, too—but it was sadness, stemming from the fact that this character I’ve watched for years had died, and not anger at the show for killing him.
I like a show that can make me sad. And Logan’s death, coming in the denouement rather than the climax, felt discordant—I like dissonance in my storytelling, too. But I think it was a necessary way to accomplish a few things: It took Veronica out of the high school bubble that she (and the show!) was somehow stuck in, where she was improbably still with her high school sweetheart; it engaged with the specific nature of a bombing, and what makes that such a terrifying way to hurt people (stopping the person who planted the bombs doesn’t make you or the people you love safe), which was one of the points of the show; and it solved what I’ll call the show’s Logan Problem. Which is that the character, who was perfect in the first season 15 years ago, made less and less sense as soon as his role shifted from Veronica’s high school antagonist to her sweet boyfriend.
Emily McCullar: So, I have experienced the textbook stages of grief surrounding Logan’s (unnecessary) death. At first, I was sure it was a feint, that Logan wasn’t really dead because we weren’t shown the body. When I read that it was an intentional decision to kill off that character to move Veronica’s story forward, I became livid. Yesterday I danced with bargaining a bit, but… naw, I’m still hella pissed. I agree with you that it makes plenty of sense to kill off Veronica’s sweet, hot, boring, peripheral high school boyfriend. This season Logan wasn’t adding much of anything to the series. But it didn’t have to be that way. Not giving Logan a substantial storyline was, in my eyes, a failure on behalf of the storytellers and a disservice to my third favorite character on the show (numbers one and two are Keith and Veronica, in that order.)
A flattened storyline afflicted almost every other familiar Veronica Mars character this season. Not just Logan. Mac was absent (as I understand it, because Tina Majorino declined to participate when she learned the character would have very little to do.) Weevil was whiny. And Wallace might as well have been a cardboard cutout of Percy Daggs III. I love Veronica, but she is not what I love most about the show. I love the ensemble, from Wallace and Weevil to Corny the stoner and that nerdy doe-eyed girl with the missing dog. This season wasn’t an ensemble show. It was an anti-hero prestige drama. That makes me sad. Logan didn’t have to be bland—that was a choice on the part of storytellers who haven’t known what to do with that character since season 2. Killing him off was a solution to a problem of Rob Thomas’s own making.
This season was such a departure from my memories of the original series. A lot of that is because of format. Twenty-two episodes is a lot more than eight, so season four forgivably had to sacrifice some of its trademarks, like the case-of-the-week episodic stuff and emotionally rich b-stories for its side characters. I don’t know who to be mad at about that. Probably myself for needing so much from a television show. I’m a superfan of things but don’t like to be possesive about it, but this is probably the closest I have every come to wanting to start a petition asking Hulu to remake Veronica Mars’s fourth season with a different showrunner. Maybe Rian Johnson?
Dan Solomon: I want to expand on the Logan Problem, because I think that might be our primary sticking point. Shortly before the wedding, Logan—who spends much of the newest season extolling the virtues of therapy—is talking with his therapist, and she describes him as the dog who caught the car, now that Veronica has accepted his proposal. But I think that also applies to fans of the show who loved Logan so much during the show’s perfect first season, and who were thrilled at watching him transform from a cruel bully to a romantic foil for Veronica in such a slow, organic way. So it was only natural that we all wanted to see Veronica and Logan together—their relationship was something we lived along with them!—but once it happened, it got boring fast. Logan made sense when the show was about Veronica trying to solve the murder of her best friend, Lily, who had been Logan’s girlfriend. But he’s not a detective, and doesn’t really have a role in the other mysteries that she solves. The show never really had a plan for Logan besides “self-hating bully who learns to move past his grief and accept himself, and also Veronica.”
I don’t think Logan was actually bland; he was just shoe-horned in. There’s no real reason why Veronica’s high school sweetheart would also be a Jason Bourne-like streetfighter capable of defending a congressman from assassination attempts—none of that is intuitive, based on the person Logan was during the show’s initial run. But without that, he has literally nothing to do. Killing him off resolves the Logan Problem with finality. They made some fans super mad—but in a way that, once you’ve processed Logan’s loss, could leave you ready to embrace Veronica Mars as a show about a grown-up detective unencumbered by the need to deliver on fan-service. I get what you’re saying about loving the ensemble, but as long as Keith and Veronica are there (and Dick Casablancas, everybody loves Dick), it’ll always be Veronica Mars to me. If that short-shrifts Wallace and Weevil, and leaves us in a Logan-less universe, doesn’t that beat the alternative of a show about a clever, ambitious, highly-skilled character whose life is still defined entirely by the people she knew in high school?
Emily McCullar: That is a very good assessment of the Veronica and Logan dynamic of the first season. One thing season four has made me question is whether or not the show was ever really good after those first twenty-two episodes. Logan’s journey in that season is a beautiful thing to behold. It is the only time I have fallen for a man in a puka shell necklace (yes, I know the character was a teen, but Jason Dohring was in his twenties, so he was all man.) Logan’s depth and goodness catch Veronica and the audience by surprise, and I guess it caught the writers by surprise too. As you’ve noted, they clearly didn’t have a plan for what to do with him from that point forward. But, I don’t think Veronica and Logan were doomed to be boring if together, and I don’t think their union had to be fan service-y.
Look at Jane the Virgin. It’s been clear from the beginning of that show that Jane and Rafael are fated to end up together. Since the show makes clear its soapiness, it has never had to justify bringing those characters together and then pulling them apart. They don’t have to show a realistic relationship; they can lean into soapy TV tropes and bring emotional depth and insight into the human condition within those melodramatic twists and turns. It’s what makes it one of the most original shows on television, in my opinion. Since Veronica Mars started as a show about a plucky teen detective, and since the dialogue is so Elmore Leonard-like—i.e. not how real people actually talk to one another—I thought Thomas was down with the tropes. I thought he’d lean into the will-they-or-won’t-they trope, and that Logan and Veronica’s union was a given. And I don’t think wanting that is just me asking for fan-service. As a viewer, I find it compelling when a show can navigate the episodic-serial balance and still play by the “rules” of network television.
This season was such a departure from those of the early-aughts. A lot of that is because of format. There’s much less time in season four for supporting characters to have substantive b-stories. So a flatter Logan, Weevil, Wallace, and (yes even) Dick was inevitable in the Hulu version, I suppose. The ensemble is just one of the many trademarks Veronica Mars sacrificed in season four. Another thing I really, really missed were the cases of the week. I have never been that into the series-long mysteries of seasons one and two. What was so special was the balance between the big mystery and the procedural episodic stuff. I loved how the cases of the week revealed more about the world of Neptune, and were the vehicle through which Veronica was able to solve the serial mystery. The Lily Kane and bus accident whodunits weren’t strong enough to carry the show, and I think Veronica Mars loses a lot of its luster when it becomes what ultimately amounts to an eight-hour movie.
Dan Solomon: I think the unexpected conclusion I’m coming to is that maybe Veronica Mars should have always been a single perfect season, and everything after that has been kind of off in various ways. Like, the cast is still so good, and the Veronica/Keith dynamic is still so fun, that we are okay with it not ever totally working beyond season one. But honestly the attempts to sustain it after a flawless first season are kind of impossible, because this show just peaked right out the gate.
So in that way, it kind of doesn’t matter what they do with Logan. Because season five—if it happens—is going to be kind of a let-down in the same way that season two had letdowns, and season three was often bad, and the movie was fun but pure fan-service, and season four evolved into something that had people crying into their Team Logan t-shirts. We still love it enough to like it, but every choice they make takes us further from the magic of season one. It’s hard to imagine what they could do that would pay off the things that were so good about the show at its best, and that speaks in part to its greatness.