Thursday, January 20, 2011

'Veronica Mars' Season Two (2005)

Starring Kristen Bell, Enrico Colantani and Jason Dohring
Created by Rob Thomas

Veronica Mars: The Complete Second SeasonThe sassy teen detective Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) returns for senior year of high school in the second season of the CW's only good teen drama.  After the events of Season One, movie star Aaron Echolls (Harry Hamlin) is in jail awaiting trial for the murder of Veronica's best friend, Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried).  Veronica's father Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) has been redeemed in the eyes of the public and has written a successful book about Lilly's murder.  And Veronica is once again dating Duncan Kane (Teddy Dunn).

Veronica no longer works as a private detective at school, nor as her father's assistant at Mars Investigations.  Instead, she has a hostess job at a local coffee spot, trying to live her life in peace.  But trouble is stirring once again in Neptune.  No longer outcast by the town's elite, Veronica is now shunned by those she'd championed the year before who believe she's betrayed them for status.  When a bus full of school students drives off a cliff, killing everyone on board, a bus she would have been on if not for being left behind by Duncan's vindictive ex Meg (Alona Tal), Veronica is pulled back into the detective biz to figure out who did it.

Meanwhile, Aaron's son Logan (Jason Dohring) is also awaiting trial for the murder of a biker named Felix.  PCH gang leader Eli "Weevil" Navarro (Francis Capra) discovers that Logan may not be guilty after all, and the two decide to work together to discover who killed Felix, and why the PCHers are suddenly dealing drugs for an Fitzpatrick Irish crime family.

Tensions in town are rising thanks to Neptune's new mayor, Woody Goodman (Steve Guttenberg), the owner of a major league baseball team who wants to create a new Neptune just for the rich.  As the class struggle gets worse, Keith and Veronica discover that Goodman has a dark past, one that may have something to do with the bus crash.  But what does it have to do with a famous ballplayer named Terrence Cook (Jeffrey Sams), whose daughter Jackie (Tessa Thompson) is now dating Veronica's best friend Wallace (Percy Daggs III)?

Y'know, with all of this going on, it's a sheer wonder that the second season of "Veronica Mars" doesn't collapse under its own weight.  I was having trouble right there writing a coherent synopsis without trying to give too much away.  The season is absolutely jam-packed with material, and that doesn't even cover the standalone mysteries that Veronica tackles each week, either.  It might be missing dogs, falsified drug tests, missing fiances, and so on. 

The cast expands considerably as well, to support the expanded storylines.  Dick and Cassidy "Beaver" Casablancas (Ryan Hansen and Kyle Gallner) are elevated from guest stars to major players.  Charisma Carpenter also appears as their slutty step-mother, Kendall Casablancas.  Cindy "Mac" Mackenzie (Tina Majorino) becomes Veronica's go-to ally for tech support and computer espionage.  Alyson Hannigan appears as Logan's half-sister Trina (and gets a great scene where she gets to out-bitch Charisma Carpenter, which is great fun for "Buffy" fans). 

The show seems to teeter on being simply too much, but thankfully manages to keep it all in check.  The last batch of episodes is a flurry of revelations and twists, which can feel a little overwhelming, but the season finale, "Not Pictured," is probably one of the series' best episodes.  The cast is once again able to carry the complex storylines, and has no problem with the show's razor-sharp dialogue.  Kristen Bell is definitely the star of the show, with an electric presence that's just impossible to deny.  There's a spark to this character, the way she barrels through bureaucracy and bullshit, as well as true cleverness.  Veronica is intelligent beyond her years, and yet remains believable as a high school student, for which the credit must go almost entirely to Bell. 

Jason Dohring gets a lot more work to do this year as Logan, creating a more complex character than the sarcastic, angry rich kid he was in Season One.  His manipulative nature shines through a bit more, but he also shows more of a vulnerable side, and real humanity.  Teddy Dunn, on the other hand, finds his Duncan Kane character somewhat marginalized, and even entirely disposed of halfway through the season.  Apparently, fans had responded so much more positively to the Logan/Veronica pairing that the producers decided to write Duncan out.  They do so by constructing an elaborate plot involving an illegitimate child by Meg, the only survivor of the bus crash.  It's a little ridiculous when you think about it, but the actual episode involving the escape is extremely clever and entertaining, so I'll give it a pass.

Season Two features a show that's firing on all cylinders, but almost too intensely so.  Jam-packed with storylines, a massive cast, and more celebrity cameos than you can shake a stick at (Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith, Michael Cera, etc) it's almost overwhelming.  But it's also whip-smart and wildly entertaining. 

See also:
Season One