This post discusses episodes 15 and 16 of the first season of Veronica Mars.
After a crackerjack pair of episodes in our previous outing in the Veronica Mars Television Club, I thought this week’s were a bit of a downshift, creativity-wise. But that’s okay, given where they got us emotionally. Much of Veronica Mars is about long-standing emotional commitment, whether Veronica is searching for her mother, unable to let go of the question of who killed her friend Lilly, or carrying a torch for Duncan. And these two episodes did a nice job of looking at what it means to sacrifice something for someone you love, or to stand by someone who’s behaved in a way you find reprehensible, but who is still bound to you, or simply to do something you think is silly for someone who means a great deal to you.
First, there’s Veronica’s relationship with Logan. I joked on Twitter earlier today that there’s an extent to which Logan is the Jaime Lannister of Neptune High School, and the more I think about that comparison, the more I think it’s true. Logan is a privileged guy who does enormous damage to the people around him, inspired in part by the treatment he receives from his emotionally detached, image-obsessed father, and who resists efforts to understand him better, even when such efforts might rehabilitate his reputation. And “Ruskie Business” has a lot of emotion parallels with Jaime’s journey on this season of Game of Thrones, with Veronica playing Brienne of Tarth, minus the need to fight an actual bear.
Over the course of this season, we’ve gotten to know Logan primarily through two losses: the death of Lilly Kane, his on-again-off-again girlfriend, and the presumptive suicide of his mother, inspired by his father’s philandering. The lost of Lilly is in the past, and he and Veronica first team up to honor her real memory, rather than the white-washed image Lilly’s parents prefer to present to the community. But the loss of Logan’s mother is fresher and more immediate, and the power of that wound inspires him to seek out Veronica to try to track her down.
It’s a mission that makes Logan particularly vulnerable when it seems like Veronica’s about to succeed, tracking Logan’s mother’s remaining credit card, registered under her maiden name, to an expensive hotel. “I know what it’s like,” Veronica tells Logan when he thanks her for her help, but it isn’t that easy. Once they’ve found the hotel, Logan doesn’t want to leave, and camps out in the lobby under a pile of pillows. Even as he imperiously flashes a credit card at a concierge who tells him the lobby is reserved for guests, Logan’s never looked so young or so fragile. And when it turns out the person using the credit card isn’t Logan’s mother but his half-sister Trina (a remarkably nasty Alyson Hannigan), the actress who cabled their father telling him that she was “Heartbroken. Stop. Can’t make it back from Sydney. Stop. Underwater scene shoot tomorrow. Stop. Entire crew said prayer for Mom. Stop. Love you. Stop,” Logan falls apart. “You’re wearing mom’s clothes? Mom’s hat?” he asks her, before lashing out “If you’re coming home, who will play Dead Hooker 2 on CSI this week?” Later, he shows up drunk at the eighties dance at Neptune High, telling everyone to “Wang Chung or I’ll kick your ass!” And it’s Trina and Veronica who get him home, Veronica by introducing him to Leo, “the friendly officer of the law who is going to overlook your underage public drunkenness,” Trina by promising Logan that he can throw up in her car “like old times.” A reputation as a badass may serve Logan well day-to-day, but when he’s most wounded, it’s the people who know him in all his flawed vulnerability who are actually able to help him.
The other sketches of friendship in these episodes are smaller. Veronica’s been zoning out on Wallace when they hang out, prompting him to try to snap her back into focus. But even if she’s being a bad friend minute-to-minute, Veronica steps up when Wallace really needs the encouragement. First, she helps him with a goat he stole from one of Neptune’s rival schools when a prank war heats up. And then it turns out that she’s been bolstering his rising basketball stardom by taking it on herself to bake him the cookies that are symbols of support from the cheerleading team, even if she hasn’t been making his games. “You obviously haven’t seen us play. I am the basketball team,” Wallace complained to her during their first failed hangout. But he’s pleasantly surprised when it turns out he’s been noshing on Veronica’s snickerdoodles. “You think all this stuff is stupid,” he tells her, really asking why she stepped up. “You don’t,” Veronica tells him simply.
Of course, not all of Veronica’s choices to do the right thing are that simple. She’s obviously pained when it turns out that her ex-boyfriend and maybe-half-brother Duncan has moved on from her, and is courting fellow 09-er Meg. Meg’s a good person, and she’s been decent to Veronica, and it’s certainly not out of bounds for Duncan to pursue her or for Meg to reciprocate. But Veronica can’t find it in her to be generous to her friend at first, making excuses about the larger 09-er social context as an excuse to pull away from Meg. But they’re drawn back together by the mascot mystery, when Veronica gets a reminder that their friendship is a value-add, not a trade-off over boys.
The real trade-off comes in when Veronica finally tracks down her mother through *69 calls to what turns out to be a pay phone outside of a bar, and discovers that the woman she remembers as a loving mom is a wreck of a drunk who chugs coffee to try to hide her withdrawal for her daughter. Ultimately, Veronica decides to check her mother into rehab, even though it’s at the expense of her own future, which she’s known she’ll have to finance herself. “I had enough for four years at San Diego State, a year at Stanford, and a year at the Sorbonne,” Veronica tells us. “There is nothing that 12 weeks can do in here that I can’t do myself,” Mrs. Mars tells her daughter. But she agrees to go, leaving us some hope that Veronica isn’t giving up that future to try to chase a memory of the past that isn’t really recoverable.