Veronica Mars’ return to Hulu after 12 years is a true feat. The season — which surprise dropped on Friday, a week ahead of schedule — reunites the majority of the main cast and its showrunner Rob Thomas, and still maintains the cheeky writing it was always known for. Even with the more adult-themed choices, season 4 captured much of the same joy as the original three seasons.
Until the final five minutes.
[Ed. note: The following contains spoilers for all of Veronica Mars season 4.]
After Veronica and Keith Mars manage to thwart the Neptune Bomber’s final act, we get what amounts to the other big payout of the season: Logan and Veronica go to the courthouse to tie the knot. Even if you had never been a fan of the Logan/Veronica pairing, this season did a fantastic job of illustrating their collective growth. Logan, finally attending therapy, was becoming a more even-keeled person, something Veronica seemed repulsed by — she missed the raw passion of “Old Logan.” Veronica still struggled with trust, but a harrowing near-death experience reminded her who she wanted in her life. Seeing the two tie the knot after a season of “will they or won’t they?” was earned.
But the couple wasn’t an hour into their wedded bliss before Logan was blown up in a car bomb clearly meant for Veronica and/or Keith, left by Patton Oswalt’s true-crime obsessed pizza deliveryman, Penn Epner. It’s a horrific act that only occurs with a couple minutes left on the show’s run time, and is followed with an immediate “one year later” flash forward, where Veronica leaves town to drive into the sunset.
This all the more infuriating by the number of false starts and actual fake-outs between their proposal and the courthouse wedding. Veronica rejects Logan at the start of the season, and the couple works through their separate anxieties through its eight episode run. The final episode has three moments alone where it teases the audience into believing Logan might get cold feet. He runs into his ex, Parker; he frets to his therapist about finally getting married;. and finally the most egregious: He’s running late to the ceremony and just sends Veronica a text that says “Sorry” (with a period at the end!), leading her, Wallace and Keith to believe he’s ghosted her. Of course, he shows up a few seconds later, and the wedding proceeds as planned.
To play the charade of these fake-outs, and then rip away the couple’s happiness in the last act, doesn’t feel in line with any decisions the show has ever made, even in its darkest moments. The choice to pair it with a seemingly dramatic storyline about Keith’s health — he walks with a cane after a 2013 car accident and starts the season exhibiting memory problems — feels even more disingenuous. After the whole season of stress about Keith’s future practicing as a private eye with his daughter, we learn in the show’s final moments (just as Veronica and Logan are about to wed) that he was simply on the wrong combination of meds, causing memory issues. And since the duo received a $250,000 reward for cracking the case, he can finally get the hip replacement he desperately needs. So basically, he’s fine, and our angst as he cried at in an earlier episode about having to quit working was for not. Meanwhile, Logan gets obliterated into a cloud.
Show creator Rob Thomas told TVLine that killing Logan was the only way he could move the show forward to future seasons, if he had the opportunity to do them.
“Kristen [Bell] and I really want to keep doing more of these [limited, self-contained seasons], like the Sherlock and even Fargo templates. Something where, when we both have windows of availability, we can come back and do it. The thinking is that we need to survive as a noir detective show. And if we kept doing a show that was half teenage soap and half mystery show, the fear is it would start feeling like nostalgia. Going full mystery show gives us our best chance to survive. I think there’s a reason you don’t see many hard-boiled detective shows where the lead detective has a boyfriend or a girlfriend; it kind of limits your options. It was like we were cutting off a limb to save a life… I love Jason Dohring. And I love the character of Logan. But I feel as though we are going to have a better shot of doing more and more Veronica Mars if our heroine does not have a boyfriend or a husband back home.”
This response seems to forget that “teenage soap opera” is much of what kept fans coming back to the show. The interpersonal relationships, the ride-or-die friendships and Veronica’s love life were sometimes far more compelling than the mystery of Lilly Kane’s death, or the bus crash. Thomas is missing what the fans — and I — fell in love with
Veronica Mars has never been a show about happy endings. Veronica’s life hasn’t been a happy one, and she sometimes uses her resourcefulness to enact revenge on all slights big and small. It’s easy to fall hard for her revenge-fantasy life, but I’ve always appreciated how the show portrayed consequences to her hard edges.
But literally blowing up a relationship after our prickly heroine had shown real growth feels particularly cruel; Kristen Bell and Jason Dohring’s chemistry has carried the show, and seeing how they moved themselves forward as people — still with scars and fights, but in the process of growing older together — was one of the most gratifying pieces of season 4. (Logan in particular, as he struggled to get his legendary temper in check with therapy, and be more of a rock for others.) To tear that to shreds in the final minutes of such a strong season, and set Veronica on an even darker path, might be memorable television, but it’s a slap in the face to the legions of fans who supported the show enough to bring it back in the first place.
Veronica Mars season 4 is currently streaming on Hulu, along with its previous three seasons.