Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Veronica Mars: When both Marses failed

Spoilers for "Veronica Mars" just as soon as I pry open this coyote trap...

I'm going to be briefer than usual on this one, since I watched the episode a few weeks ago and wasn't in a position to take notes at the time.

Even though a lot of the Fitzpatrick stuff still makes me feel like I'm trying to figure out who killed the limo driver in "The Big Sleep," Enrico Colantoni really sold Keith's despair at the resolution. (Plus, that was a damned clever use of Vinnie Van Lowe's tracking device, wasn't it?) Veronica frequently screws up, but Keith's biggest blunders prior to this (getting kicked off the force for his handling of the Kane case) took place before the series even began, so when father and daughter both realized how badly they had botched things, it had an extra sting. (Scenes where Veronica and Keith both cry: gold.) My only question: wouldn't an auction house require some kind of proof of ownership to sell paintings as valuable as the ones Keith boosted from the crime scene?

The rape story progresses onward with the reintroduction of some of the frat guys from "The Rapes of Graff," not to mention Veronica's incredibly brief tenure at the school paper. (Would Andrea Zuckerman or Brandon Walsh have treated her and that poor chaperone lady so cruelly? I think not.) Since this story was only a factor in the last few minutes of the premiere, this episode was mainly about putting a bunch of pieces on the board (including the very welcome return of jerkhole Sheriff Lamb); I'm expecting more significant progress (red herrings, unlikely clues, etc.) in the coming weeks.

While I never participated in the prisoner/jailer experiment when I was in college, I'd read about it, and most of the accounts had people acting significantly worse than "Boy Meets World" Boy treated poor Samm Levine. (And why is it that all of the Freaks are gainfully employed, while our three Geeks have to scrape by on small guest appearances like this? Oh, wait, I know: because the Freaks were better-looking.) On the one hand, the fact that things never got that out of hand (and that neither Wallace nor Logan had their behavior altered by the experience) made it feel like a wasted opportunity. On the other hand, in an episode where Veronica and Keith -- and Mac, for that matter -- are dealing with massive doses of guilt, maybe the show needed one story that wasn't so dark.

So what did everybody else think?


velvetcannibal said...

I can see the writers are clearly avoiding past mistakes this time around. Veronica stating her plan to find and crucify the rapist, feeling guilty, and tallying her clues (it's a start) is different from what we've seen in the past, but much less confusing. I was pleased that the MOtW was generated by the bigger arc mystery. Everything felt organic. I'm glad Veronica's diving right into things this time around. So far, so good.

Keith was heartbreaking. I enjoyed seeing what was in the briefcase. I believe he handed the curator an envelope containing the necessary documents of ownership, if that answers that question.

I was pleasantly surprised by the way the social experiment played out. I found it much more interesting that nothing drastic happened with either Logan or Wallace. They stayed in character and Wallace's trick paid off well for me.

It's nice to be reminded why I hate Lamb. Can't say it's good to see him... but, you know.

Anonymous said...

What I love about this show is all the crazy references; Shawn Hunter, Horshack, the Pina Colada song, even a jab at the Stanford Prison Experiment...another great ep.

Anonymous said...

Quick question for you, Alan. In your recent interview with Rob Thomas, you quoted him as saying, "I adored 'Freaks and Geeks,' but I could break those episodes in two days." Was Thomas on the F&G writing staff? According to IMDb, he wasn't, but in your interview he kind of sounds like he was. And coupled with tonight's appearance of Neal, well, it makes me wonder.

As for tonight's VM, any episode that includes Veronica saying "frak," Samm Levine as a guest star, Dan Castellaneta as a guest star (coupled with someone saying "D'oh!" off-camera while Castellantea walks away), AND a set of sorority girls obliviously singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" is A-OK in my book.

Matt said...

Having watched Season 1 in a DVD blitz over the summer, but not having seen any of Season 2, most of the show works fine for me, but the Keith plot these past two weeks is a blur as a result.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

The one thing that annoyed me in the episode was the prison experiment, which would be just about impossible to get Institutional Review Board approval for at just about any university, let alone one as prestigious as we're told Hearst is. And seeing one guy we've never seen take it too far is a lot less challenging and interesting than seeing most of the guards, including the guy we know and like, take it too far. I realize this is not going to bother 99% of the audience, but it threw me out of those parts of the episode quite thoroughly. At least it wasn't the Millgram obedience-to-authority that Professor Homer was re-enacting...

Anonymous said...

More Kristen Bell dancing in a tight skirt.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Velvetcannibal, I'm sure you're right on the paperwork. Like I said, it was a couple of weeks ago and I didn't take notes.

Pete, no, Rob never wrote for Freaks & Geeks. (He worked on "Dawson's Creek," "Cupid," "Snoops" for about five seconds, "The Education of Max Bickford" for not much longer, and now this.) He had a similar comment about guessing that O.C. were easier (or, at least, quicker) to break, but the F&G comment was made more emphatically.

I did petition him to see if Martin Starr and John Daley -- or even the Dungeonmaster with the wispy mustache -- could pop up before the season's over.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was a great episode, in part because it showed Veronica making a lapse in judgement and paying for it. Exposing the sorority before she had all of the facts hurt some nice people and cost her some potential friends, and she clearly felt guilty about it. I like seeing Veronica triumph over the bad guys, but an occasional reminder that she's human is always welcome. I also enjoyed watching Logan match wits with "Boy Meets World" guy, and the payoff of Wallace getting the best of everyone by being clever, not cruel.

The painting storyline didn't quite gel for me either, Alan, although I do remember Keith saying "here are the papers" or something like that, so Kendall must have had some semi-legitimate documentation. (Poor Kendall, by the way -- I held out hope for her survival but it looks like she's really dead. Good vixens are hard to come by.)

R.A. Porter said...

Either Veronica is unduly beating herself up, or the set decorators have an unusual idea about "personal use". That was not the green room of someone suffering from the pain of chemo; it was the green room of someone looking to make some serious, well, green.

I don't think we've seen the last of the "good girls" of the sorority just yet.

I do think it was interesting that in both Hearst storylines Rob showed us that groups and cliques can be healthy - the prisoners confusing Horschach on the address and doing their best to help him - or spiteful - the anti-Greek contingent. It's this sort of nuance that helps keeps "Veronica Mars" so fresh and entertaining.

Anonymous said...

"Poor Kendall, by the way -- I held out hope for her survival but it looks like she's really dead."

There was blood, but no body...

Jennifer R said...

"And seeing one guy we've never seen take it too far is a lot less challenging and interesting than seeing most of the guards, including the guy we know and like, take it too far."

I actually thought it was done well.
(a) Wallace, let's face it, is not going to go be abusive to anyone, even in this situation. We knew that.
(b) Logan would if he was the guard, but as the prisoner, he enjoys fucking around with things a bit.
(c) BUT having someone else as the villain in this episode still gets across the point (though I did think the "He's a good guy, really" was a bit weak), AND it also is a big red herring to let Wallace win the game by using sneakiness and trickery, rather than abuse. Remember, sneakiness and trickery is THE game in Neptune.

I'd like to see Rider Strong's character come back, just because I am curious what else could be done with him.

Matt said...

And in "good" news--ratings were steady for the Marses this week, and the CW was apparently happy last week, though the drop-off in overall viewers from Gilmore was substantial. (Also, depending on if Friday Night Lights stabilizes, Gilmore could start beating it.)

Anonymous said...

What does Thomas mean by "breaking" an F&G ep?

Really enjoyed the ep, though I was surprised the editor would go ahead and print a story when there were facts that still needed verifying. Even freshmen college journalists are held to the same ethical standards as the pros.

Of course, it wasn't the *editor's* name on that story...poor Veronica!

Anonymous said...

"And why is it that all of the Freaks are gainfully employed, while our three Geeks have to scrape by on small guest appearances like this? Oh, wait, I know: because the Freaks were better-looking."

Let's be fair. James Franco's career isn't exactly going gangbusters. And Busy Phillips had to be on "Love, Inc." If John Daley had landed on a successful pilot the score would be about even.

There's no way Zimbardo's experiment could be performed today (and it probably shouldn't have been performed in '71, given how Zimbardo manipulated the participants). But the point, I assume, was to set up a creepy relationship between Rider Strong and Samm Levine -- Remember that the R.A. in Parker/Mac's dorm also participated in the "life-changing" experiment. I assume the Stockholm syndrome hints were this week's red herrings.


Anonymous said...

"What does Thomas mean by 'breaking' an F&G ep?"

Taking the plot and breaking it down into a series of scenes, with a mini-cliffhanger right before each commercial break. This breakdown is followed by whoever writes the final script. Or at least I think that's right; it's been a while since I read whichever article it was about the Buffy writing staff.

"James Franco's career isn't exactly going gangbusters."

Spider-Man 3 is worth at least 10 Flyboys.

Anonymous said...

The quality of the movies may vary, but James Franco's been a very busy actor:


Anonymous said...

Frak! I was out of town for this episode and my housesitter overrode the record command on the dvr. I know the first ep. was available online, does anyone know if this one is out there somewhere? Thanks.