They gave me a choice. I could stand by my dad, or stand by Duncan and my dead best friend’s family. I chose Dad. It’s a decision I live with every day. And you want to know the kicker? I don’t even know what’s true anymore.
Though the murder of her best friend Lilly has apparently been solved, Veronica Mars and her private eye father aren’t convinced that the right man is behind bars. This isn’t the only unsolved mystery in Neptune, California, of course; in a town like this, where the rich are corrupt and the poor resentful, where the gap between the two couldn’t be more extreme, there’s no shortage of sensational secrets to be uncovered or customers willing to drop a few bills for some skillful sleuthing. Whether doing legwork for Dad or taking cases of her own on the side, it all makes for quite the after-school job for Veronica … especially when you throw a bunch of PG-13 teenage drama into the mix.
I realize that in concept Veronica Mars (2004-2007) sounds something like “Nancy Drew: 90210,” but in its execution it doesn’t come off nearly so ridiculously. Veronica’s world, populated by movie stars and biker gangs, troubled by frequent criminal misdeeds and dramatic deceptions, is clearly sensational beyond the bounds of reality. It’s a universe that is maintained so consistently, though, that it’s almost impossible not to buy into. This cohesiveness is sustained, in part, by a solid supporting cast of “usual suspects” that fill what could have just been empty space. It’s not uncommon, for example, for a guest star from the previous season to still be turning up in a scene now and again, as if there is a real community of people out there, living their lives beyond the edges of Veronica’s story.
Despite the contributions of the larger cast, though, Kristen Bell is the undisputed star of the show. Appearing in just about every scene, Bell plays a character that is ceaselessly charismatic and witty, rattling off classic film noir PI lingo and other obscure references without batting a single long-lashed eye (her lines generally run along the lines of “I’d like a boy, a bottle of hooch, and you can fast-track me to the dirty room so I can get the frak out of here”; Episode 3:02, “My Big Fat Greek Rush Week”). And yes, she does happen to very easy on the eyes. Overall, Bell’s Veronica comes across as one of those all-too-rare individuals who are so much cooler than everyone else by not being too cool for anyone.
The show’s three seasons take Veronica from high school to her first year of college, through a gauntlet of episode-by-episode cases layered with several longer-term mysteries. While many argue that the quality was waning in later episodes, I thoroughly enjoyed Veronica Mars right up till the end, and could have done with another season or two at least.
My grade: A