Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Veronica Mars: Boom goes the dynamite

"Veronica Mars" spoilers coming up just as soon as I ask my RA whether the bathrooms are co-ed...

"Boom goes the dynamite"! They threw in a "boom goes the dynamite" reference! I am inordinately pleased, and if you didn't get the reference, you'll be pleased, too, after watching this. (Don't feel too bad for the kid; he got a Letterman appearance out of the deal.)

As Rob has said, this episode was "Veronica Mars for beginners," with an intentionally light-weight, "Encyclopedia Brown"-ish mystery about Piz's stolen stuff, a scene where Veronica discusses why she does what she does (as much as she's willing to self-analyze, anyway), a couple of Keith-Veronica banter scenes designed to play to the Gilmore fans. And then, in the last five minutes, we're back into the seriously dark world where Keith inadvertently gets Kendall killed and Veronica inadvertently lets Parker be raped.

But with those parameters in mind, I don't know that I would have put Keith and Cormac's "Dude, Where's My Gun?" adventure into the premiere. Yes, they had to explain what Keith was up to when he blew off the start of the NY trip in the finale, but this felt pretty opaque at times to me, and I'm an obsessive fan. I can't imagine what a newbie would make of it. There was also some weird plot logic at the end there, where Cormac decides to leave Keith alone for the night even though he's, like, 20 feet from the house and half that from the car. Yes, the keys were in the house (you saw Keith pat his pockets as he went out to get the paperwork), but would Cormac really risk Keith hot-wiring it because he was too lazy to walk that far?

(BTW, let me make sure I have everything straight: Kendall is having an affair with the eldest Fitzpatrick brother, Cormac. Liam, the brother who caused so much trouble last season, has it out for Kendall and Cormac because he feels they owe him money. Having driven Kendall the hell out of town after she got all the moolah from Cassidy's business, Keith then picks Cormac up on early release from prison and shuttles him to Kendall's desert hide-out. But Vinnie Van Lowe, who's working for Liam, has snuck a tracking device into Keith's briefcase. While Keith and Cormac are waiting for a tow to fix their car, Keith takes a nap and Cormac -- who's just after the money, not Kendall -- swipes Keith's gun out of the glove compartment. Keith finds the tracking device and realizes Liam is coming, then sees the empty holster and realizes he has more immediate problems. And Cormac killed Kendall because... ? My brain hurts.)

Over on the Neptune campus of California University -- or, if you prefer, Hearst College -- I like our two new additions. Piz and Parker both add new colors to the gang, though it's hard to say what Parker will be like post-rape. A July trip to the writers' office spoiled the fact that she would be the first victim, which made Veronica's non-intervention when she went to get the tickets especially creepy to me. For the unspoiled amongst you, did you have any idea that more was going on in that scene than Veronica knew?

And speaking of spoilers, we have an early front-runner for Line of the Season: "I just ignored all the spoiler alerts, which I know is kind of douchebaggy..." Veronica, Veronica, Veronica... you go and say how you don't want to piss anyone off, and then you go and show up the TA in your favorite class. But that's why we love you.

Is it contrived that Dick and Logan got into Hearst, too? Yeah -- and they didn't even bother explaining how Logan got in, just that it was a struggle -- but the writers can't do nearly enough with either one if they're just bumming around Neptune. So I'll deal.

Pretty good start, especially given the objective, and the final scenes felt especially "Veronica Mars"-ish. I am pleased.

Other random thoughts:
  • Poor Mac. Leftover trauma from Cassidy, verbal abuse from Dick, plus a roommate guaranteed to make her feel even more self-conscious about her sexual history (or lack thereof). Still, good to have her around on a more regular basis. (Or, as regular as anyone not named Veronica, Keith or Logan, who remain the only characters who can be in every episode, budget-wise.)
  • So it's two boyfriends in a row to complain about Veronica being too macho, first Duncan with her love of "Lebowski," now Logan being uncomfortable with her Clint Eastwood (not to mention the way she sat on the bench exactly like him). If Piz -- whose crush on Veronica felt painfully real -- wants to have a shot at winning her heart, maybe he needs to embrace Veronica's inner Dude. Start wearing pink lace instead of Duncan's leftover argyle. Ask her to pay for meals. Something. Ah, well; at least 'shippers can stop Zaprudering old episodes to figure out whether Logan and Veronica have done it.
  • Almost as good as "Boom goes the dynamite" was Moe the RA's use of "Frak," and I'm hoping Veronica's swiping of it isn't just a one-shot deal. Fake curse words are awesome.
  • So now the argyle shirt has been worn by Duncan, Logan and Piz. Only a matter of time before Weevil turns up in it, no?
  • Not crazy about the remixed theme song, but the new title sequence is vastly cooler than the old one.
  • What exactly did Dick mean by "I messed up bad"? Is he referring to not realizing his brother was a mass murderer, to getting kicked out of campus housing, or something much worse? We already know he knows Parker; would they really make a Casablancas brother the villain for the second mystery in a row?
  • If you thought Parker's hair looked odd pre-shaving, that's because Julie Gonzalo was wearing a wig; in an episode or two from now, Parker will get a wig that's actually Julie's real hair. And now my brain hurts. Ordinarily, I'd be annoyed that they couldn't just get her to cowboy up and pull a Portman/Weaver/Moore, but given that this show is in real danger of being canceled within a month or two, it's probably not fair to ask her to mess up future auditions when they have a simple, non-appearance-altering solution.
  • Donald Fagen? A Steely Dan reference? Okay. Or is it a Dickens reference?
  • Why did one of the teenage punks have a strong New England accent?
So what did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I love this show so much and I really hope it sticks around.

However, i was really put off by the the TA being played by the same guy who played the dearly departed Lucky last season. Also I felt sure that Parker would be the first rape victim as soon as I saw she was wearing a really bad wig.

Matt said...

Another dumb call? The massive changing of the titles sequence. Obviously, due to the extensive number of new regulars, they needed to redo the titles, but why go with this turgid Dandy Warhols remix?

Anonymous said...

Parker being the next victim was incredibly obvious. I think everyone saw it coming.

Anonymous said...

I really hope they don't try and redeem Dick ala Season 1 Logan. At least with Logan we knew the guy had issues because Daddy was whipping his tail every night at home. Logan also occasionally showed signs of enlightenment. Whereas with Dick, I think he is just a born asshat.

Anonymous said...

I'm intrigued by Logan's melancholy and very pleased that Rob & co. have stayed true to Veronica's character with this pairing: she is a little distant, reluctant to be vulnerable. Much better than her bland Stepfording with the Donut.

velvetcannibal said...

Am I the only one who loves the new credits? The title sequence is beautiful. I think the mix of the song is much better for the tone of the show. Slower, darker, etc. I think the credits are unlike anything else out there right now, and in a very good way.

I was unspoiled for Parker, but had suspicions that it would happen. It was cemented for me when Veronica went in the room to get the keys, because it was also such an obvious way to connect her personally to the mystery.

The Kendall/Keith storyline was too inaccessible. But other than that, I liked it a lot. I hope there are good retention numbers waiting for us tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

For the unspoiled amongst you, did you have any idea that more was going on in that scene than Veronica knew?

Not the specifics, cause I'm stupid, but the lack of some kind of blurry shot of Parker in the dark alerted me that something was up. (Always a good rule - if we didn't see something that we should have, we're being played.)

My major objection is to the whole opening classroom scene. If this ep is designed as an into to VM for newbies, why does the first scene establish that Veronica not only cheats, but acts like it's not? And then mocks the TA for not being smart enough to essentially look up the answer in the back of the book, like she did? Eff you, Veronica Mars.

PS: Kirk cheated on the Kobayashi Maru, too.

PPS: The problem with the title remix is that with it, you can't end the pre-titles on a strong line, and then slam into the music...it just kind of burbles into it.

Anonymous said...

Loved the Saturn, Mars, Nepture followed by your Uranus bit.
Call me stoopid but I thought for a second, Veronica was gonna walk in on Logan w/Parker.
Man, did I miss Mac! Hope the show is around longer than a month or two...ouch.

Anonymous said...

I think this episode shows why the mystery arc is actually the weakest part of Veronica Mars. I really appreciate all the effort Rob Thomas puts into the mystery element, pace your Ledger piece earlier this week, but this show pretty much lives or dies on the chemistry of the characters -- The same was true for Cupid, whose great premise would have come to nothing without Piven.

The hacky sack gag, the late night phone call from Keith, the tasering, Piz futzing with his hair...None of these things had to do with either the large or the small mystery, but they were all nice character moments. I would much prefer a mystery arc that percolates along at a leisurely pace and allows for these moments to occur, rather than the expositional, plot heavy episodes of last season. I'm not saying the mysteries aren't important, but really, I wouldn't have felt "cheated" if the bad guy had turned out to be the Gute last season, if it meant I could have had more Wallace Fennel.

I'm hoping that the three mysteries a season approach will encourage the writing staff to keep it simple. I'm even alright with keeping it creepy -- and I knew exactly what Veronica was walking in on when she went to get those tickets. I just don't want to have to draw a flowchart to understand what's going on.

I think Dick's comment is the first red herring of the season.

I think you're right about the Keith storyline, which could easily have waited until next week. I, too, could not understand why Cormac thought Keith couldn't hot wire a car. Or why Keith wouldn't have a backup gun somewhere. Or why he didn't kill Keith and Kendall when they were both still in the house.

I didn't see the point of the Donald Fagen/Fagin thing, and the Boston punks confused the heck out of me. Maybe tomorrow the internet will explain everything.

Oh, and forget about Julie Gonzalo's wig. What the heck was on the Teaching Assistant's head? Was that just so we wouldn't recognize "Tim Foyle" the T.A. = "Lucky" the crazy janitor? Is poor James Jordan going to have to wear that thing all season?


Anonymous said...

This actually follows a long unintentional tradition I have of always being let down by the theme music to Rob Thomas shows (Cupid should have used "Cupid" - either version, VM season 1 should have used "Veronica" by Elvis Costello, VM season 2 should have used Kristen's version of "One Way or Another", and now they should have at least stuck with the old mix.) The actual credit sequence, though, was an improvement.

I was pretty sure what was going on with Parker, but it was fairly obvious she was going to be a victim at some point. Veronica's already been there, and I think the fans would have formed a lynch mob if it happened to Mac.

So all that Kendall had in the briefcase was a bunch of money? Letdown. Honestly, I could never keep the whole Fitzpatrick thing straight, but I was able to follow what was going on.

Overall, not the most exciting episode, but it worked pretty well. There were some great lines, and it's just so nice to have it back.

Anonymous said...

I really, really hate the new credits.

I know this is an introductory episode, but it felt a little off to me - no narration, almost no music. Logan didn't seem right, either - I know this is the "nice" Logan, but even nice Logan isn't all that nice.

I didn't think Parker was going to get raped, but the scene where Veronica goes to get the tickets was certainly odd enough that I could tell something had to be up.

Dick may have raped Parker (although I doubt it), but even if he did he's not the rapist, since that guy had raped multiple women last year also. Well, I guess Dick could have gone over to Hearst those times, but that seems really unlikely.

Add me to the list of people who can't keep the Fitzpatrick plots straight. And I agree with whoever said more Wallace Fennel - Wallace is fantastic.

Matt said...

Given that the CW had an AWFUL pilot season and only has like one or two things on the bench (one of which is obviously going to Mondays at 9 in the near future), they're going to be forced to be patient. Do they have anything besides "Hidden Palms," "Reba," "Beauty and the Geek," and "Pussycat Doll Search?"

K J Gillenwater said...

Like the new credits visuals; hate the new version of the song. Boring. The other version was much more disturbing to me, set a good tone for the show.

Bummed that the Logan/Veronica thing is already established...I would rather have seen their relationship develop. To just dump them in a post-sex scene at one point was a real let-down for me. Last season we were given the impression that Duncan was sort of dull in the sack (at least according to Logan's teasing/biting remarks last season). I wanted to see Veronica and Logan have an intensity between them that Duncan and Veronica never had. But they robbed us of that by just plunking us into the middle of their now-established relationship.

Was anyone else annoyed that they didn't explain why Veronica didn't go to Stanford or another school? She was so adamant last year that she would *not* be going to the local college...and then there she is. Did I miss something? Was there an explanation in there that made sense? If there was, I don't remember it.

LOVE Piz (except for his name, which is terrible). Already see the angst in finding out Veronica is dating Logan...love it!!!!

I am guessing already that Dick will be the red herring rapist, and that it will turn out to be the criminology professor. Veronica and the other women in class think he's cute, there is a chance Veronica will get close to the professor at some point since she seems to be the new 'star' pupil, and he will likely come on to her...which she will find flattering...and then she will end up being an almost victim.

Just my prediction....

Anonymous said...

I don't think the audience is meant to suspect Dick, but my guess is that he will come under suspicion from others at the college.

I didn't think of the criminology prof as a suspect ... but from now on I'll keep my eye on him! My own pet theory is that the victims are having their heads shaved by someone other than the guy they take back to their rooms -- someone who's either jealous of the guy, or wants punish the women for some reason.

Anonymous said...

Ok, let's run down the suspects so far. Let's assume that the rapist is a)male, b)is either a student or works at Hearst College, and c)is not a freshman. From this episode we have:

-The Professor
-The TA
-The Guy Who Stole Piz's Stuff (seems unlikely)

and that's it, right? From last year's episode we have:

-All Those Frat Guys
-George Michael Bluth

Or it's somebody we haven't met yet. Which is certainly possible - Aaron Echolls didn't show up until Episode like 6 or 7 in Season 1, right?

So far, my money's on Lucky the TA. He seems kinda weird, they brought back the actor from last season (so therefore they probably want him for a reason, not just two scenes), and maybe his really bad wig is actually going to become a plot point - maybe that's why he shaves their heads or something.

Vance said...

I was never a huge fan of the original title sequence but Im still undecided on this one. I like the darker tone but wish there was something snappier to it to end it off.

Mac said...

I think Dick is going to be set up as the Prime Suspect Who Obviously Didn't Do It, just like Duncan the first season and Woody last year. If the rapist is in this episode, it has to be either the professor or the TA, because there isn't anyone else.

R.A. Porter said...

My money is, and always has been, on George Michael.

I'm also taking episode three as the first breakup for Veronica and Logan, all due to Dick. (That really shouldn't read that dirty, I swear.)

Anonymous said...

My take on Veronica going to Hearst was that she failed that final she left and thus lost the Kane scholarship... and went to Hearst because they gave her money.

And count me in on the Piz love... Usually I resist new characters we're meant to like (see Jackie), but Piz is his own quirky self, and it'll be nice if Wallace maybe has an actual friend who's a guy...

Alan Sepinwall said...

The other thing about Piz is that he helps fill a role that Wallace was originally supposed to play, as Veronica's socially-awkward, quasi-geeky male friend. Wallace was briefly written that way until Rob realized he was misusing Percy Daggs and began tweaking the character to be more like the actor (confident, an athlete, etc.).

Anonymous said...

Which is great, except it seems like we get a lot fewer scenes between Veronica and Wallace these days. In those early episodes, he was pretty much the only friend she had, and vice-versa, and he was her sidekick on a lot of cases. Nowadays Mac seems to have filled the sidekick role.

Anonymous said...

"The other thing about Piz is that he helps fill a role that Wallace was originally supposed to play, as Veronica's socially-awkward, quasi-geeky male friend."

But is that role really necessary? I like Piz and I'm fine with Piz being a developing love interest, but does television really need another quasi-geeky male friend to a strong female lead -- Let's call him a Xander?

I prefer Percy Daggs' Wallace, a character who recognizes Veronica's smart but who doesn't just defer to her at all times. Wallace and Veronica's...Platonic chemistry is one of the strongest elements of the show. I mean, who wasn't excited when Wallace magically returned from his Chicago exile late last season?


Anonymous said...

I had a feeling Parker was going to be a rape victim, but it didn't occur to me that she was being raped when Veronica walked in the room.

I wish they had explained why Veronica is going to Hearst. Yeah, she lost the Kane Scholarship, but Keith got a pile of money from Kendell. Why not use it to pay for Stanford instead of a new car?

dark tyler said...

Only 63% retain of the Gilmore Girls numbers, but something like the 3rd or 4th highest rated episode of the series so far.

Should we be worried? Is The CW going to be pleased to have another show above the 3 mil. mark (that's a made-up mark :P) or is the retain percentage deemed too low?

Alan Sepinwall said...

My sources over there say that the CW has much bigger problems to worry about right now: Sunday and Monday. Two-thirds retention in the demo and almost no drop-off in the second half-hour isn't a fabulous, automatically order the back 9 kinda start, but considering some other problems at the network and the fact that "Hidden Palms" is the only midseason drama available and it'll almost certainly have to replace "Runaway," I'd say VM fans can breathe easy for a little while. Maybe only first story arc easy, but if it grows a little each week, maybe much better than that. It's always better to start small and build than start big and slowly leak viewers.

Matt said...

The question on Sundays for the CW is if the shows are finding their audience. ABC's lineup probably skews HUGELY white, so there's room in the demo that CW is going after there. That said, they're probably kicking themselves for canning "Everwood," which really was a perfect fit with 7th Heaven, if about 10x better.

Anonymous said...

Wallace = Onyxander

Anonymous said...

Actually Veronica Mars retained 69% of Gilmore Girls audience, but more importantly, they retained 83% of the 18-34 demographic, which is the demographic the CW is going for. So even though the numbers aren't great, they certainly aren't terrible, either.

Greg said...

If Hearst is in Neptune, then shouldn't the criminology prof be the least bit aware that the former sheriff vindicated in cracking the local crime of the century has a daughter?

Anonymous said...

First off, I want to thank you for deconstructing the Fitzies and Kendall thingy. Screw hurting -- my brain is bleeding!

Anyway, I'm going to print this out on actual paper and then I'm going to read that part over and over till it makes sense to me (VM made perfect sense to me till the Fitzwhosits appeared and the PCHers developed their own storyline. I guess I can't tell people apart, even if they are *Irish* (and hint: I'm more than 50% Irish myself, so I think I've ducked the stereotype/they all look alike thing.)

Anyway... off to read this again and see if I can actually sort it all out (you did so well).

In my house, we're not allowed to watch Veronica if I'm tired... I just can't keep up anymore.


Anonymous said...

Loved the episode, which I saw only thanks to the link to the MSN preview. Keep those links to episodes online coming, because my market doesn't have a CW, thus I have no network access to Veronica Mars. I'm freaking out!

Andy Hutchins said...

Because no one else mentioned it: Fagen/Fagin is definitely Dickens. Fagin, of course, had a gang of kids helping him with thievery in Oliver Twist.

I post this in the hopes that anyone else discovering the show—I've run through the first two seasons in five days—will have that minor plot point answered.

Oh, and the new credits blow.