Not even going to mess around with this one. "Veronica Mars" finale spoilers after the jump.
Now, bearing in mind that I watched the episode on Friday, and that my memory may be a bit fuzzier than some of yours on the big details, I was very, very pleased with how things turned out.
The reveal of Beaver as the killer wasn't a complete shock (my old buddy Devin pretty much nailed all the details with his guess here), but then, I'm sure there were people guessing Aaron at this time last year. And Rob didn't cheat here, didn't introduce a killer who didn't fit with all the established evidence, didn't pick someone who fit the evidence but was a non-entity (i.e., the "Murder One" season one approach). There had been enough hints about Beaver having something wrong with him -- and also that he was much smarter and tougher than his brother or his friends gave him credit for -- that this fit. And as I had said many times before, Rob is smarter than me: I was so worked up about Woody being the obvious suspect and Veronica and Keith somehow missing it that I didn't pay any attention to the Beav.
After watching the finale, I asked Rob how long he'd been planning to make Cassidy a mass-murderer, and he wrote back, "We knew that Beaver was the killer of Season 2 when we introduced him in Season 1. We knew his motivation, so playing him as the picked-upon, less-manly Casablancas boy was all by design." When I then asked whether they knew he had raped Veronica when they wrote "A Trip to the Dentist," he said, "No. I wish I could claim that we were that clever." (They realized that Diane's script for "ATttD" left a gap where Beaver could have raped her about a month after she wrote it.) I suspect some people will think making Beaver into Veronica's rapist is just piling on, but it worked for me. Much as I loved "Dentist," it always felt like a little bit of a cop-out that Veronica and Duncan (under the GHB's influence) both thought they were having consensual sex. Now there's no way to make the memory of that night seem okay for Veronica.
What did feel like piling on, however, was Beaver "killing" Keith. Kristen Bell tried her best to sell it, but I wasn't buying. First, I know how much Rob loves Enrico and couldn't imagine the show continuing without him. ("Buffy" could get away with killing her mom because Joyce was never as integral to that show as Keith is here.) Second, if they really wanted us to believe Keith was dead, they would have cut from Veronica begging him to answer the phone to a shot of Keith on the plane, blissfully reading a magazine or listening to an iPod and not noticing his cell phone ringing. When they didn't show us that, I knew Keith wasn't on the plane, so some of the emotion for the rest of the episode felt forced. Isn't it enough that Cassidy raped Veronica, murdered a bunch of innocent kids and Curly Moran, and almost killed Veronica in the process?
I was worried at first that this would be a replay of the season one finale (titled, presciently enough, "Leave It To Beaver"), where Veronica finally comes up against a foe she can't outsmart and has to rely on one of the men in her life to save her. But while Logan did come running to the rescue, Veronica was the one who signaled him, and after a bunch of tussling, she was the one who wound up with the drop on Beaver. (Loved Logan's inability to give Cassidy a single reason not to jump off the roof.) And speaking of Logan, even though I'm not a 'shipper, those were some big hunks and hunks of burning love going on between Veronica and Logan in the last 10 minutes, and they felt well-earned.
A day or two after the Duncan goes to Mexico episode aired, I asked Rob if this was the last we'd see of young Mr. Kane, and he said they had Teddy Dunn under contract for one more episode, "And we're saving him for something important." I'll say. While I would have enjoyed a "Let's get Stringer Bell"-type season three arc where Veronica is trying to send Aaron back to prison, Duncan reaching out and using Clarence Wiedman as the instrument of his brotherly vengeance was pretty damn awesome.
And I loved the dream sequence, which accomplished two things: 1)It reminded us how much better Veronica's life might have been save for Aaron Echolls, 2)It pointed out that not every part of her life would have been better if Lily had lived (she would still be a naive young girl, and she would never have met her best friend). I had been thinking Rob would have to contrive some reason for Veronica to choose Hearst over Stanford -- losing out on the Kane Scholarship and having to rely on the goodwill of her new friend from "One Angry Veronica" -- but he came up with a much simpler, more believable explanation: Veronica would miss Wallace too much to go somewhere else. (Not that we know for sure she's going to Hearst, but I think it's a safe assumption.)
I'm nearing Dostoyevsky length here, so some quick bullet-points to wrap up:
- Alas, poor Weevil. Not that he didn't deserve what Lamb did to him: though he didn't tie up Thumper or press the plunger himself, he set events in motion that he knew would get Thumper killed. I've said that I don't think he'd be essential to a post-high school version of the show, but I hope this isn't the last we've seen of Francis Capra, whether it's a guest spot from prison next year or some work on another show or movie.
- Speaking of non-essential personnel, I grew to accept Jackie's presence in the second half of the season, but I'm not exactly going to miss her. Plus, I'm not sure if I can reconcile the truth about her background with the bitchy rich girl who talked smack to Veronica back at Java the Hut.
- My friend Ellen Gray pointed out another "Veronica"/"Buffy" connection I might have missed: the wild applause for Veronica at commencement subtly echoing the senior class' salute to Buffy at the prom.
- I'm fine with the cliffhanger, no matter what happens with the CW's schedule next week. If the show continues, we already have a head-start on the first mystery arc (something involving Kendall and the Fitzpatricks), and I felt like the show was just starting to take advantage of Charisma for more than her figure (not that there's anything wrong with it) as the season was wrapping up. And if the show is over, it's not one of those endings like Michael Wiseman on the run at the end of "Now And Again" where I'll always be irked at not getting a resolution. Rob and company wrapped up most of the big plot threads from the first two seasons. The last five minutes were a teaser for next season, and if it doesn't happen, I won't be left with any huge unanswered questions.