This post discusses the final two episodes of the first season of Veronica Mars.
The last two episodes of the first season of Veronica Mars center on the two central mysteries that have threaded their way throughout the year: who raped Veronica at that party? And who killed Lilly Kane? But though those questions have very different answers, they center on a similar problem. How do you be a decent person when up against social pressure, fear of losing your class status, addiction, or even rotten parenting?
There are a few good people in Neptune. Weevil may not be able to resist baiting Logan, when he chases after Veronica, who’s become convinced that Logan was responsible for her getting roofied at that fateful party, even if he didn’t actually dose her himself. “When they run away like that, it’s kind of a hint they’re not interested,” Weevil taunts the more privileged boy. “I”m just looking out for Veronica. So if you think you’re going to lay a hand on her the way you did Lilly…” And when Logan falls back on class to try to assert his dominance in the conversation, Weevil has an answer for that, too. “What’s worse?” he asks Logan. “Thinking Lilly had feelings for me, or that she was using me for sex?” Weevil may be stuck in an ugly and unproductive war of words with Logan, with whom he’s feuded since the first episode, but it’s remarkable to see how consistent Weevil’s support for Veronica has been. He’s one of the only boys her age who appears to want remarkably little from her, who doesn’t ask for anything in return, whether he’s trashing Logan’s car back at the beginning of the show, or only wanting to know “You okay?” when he picks her up from the Ecchols’ house after she discovers the camera in the guest house.
He’s not the only person who is decent out of proportion to public perception. As Veronica uncovers the story of what happened to her at the party, an unexpected voice of conscience shows up in the form of Beaver. “She’s actually kind of hot, when she’s quiet,” the odious Dick declares of Veronica, who is passed out in bed after a GHB-laced drink. “She’s not willing, Dick,” Beaver tells his friend, who is encouraging him to have sex for the first time with a woman who can’t possibly consent. “She’s unconscious.” That he knows the difference, that he, like Weevil, asks “Veronica, you okay?” marks Beaver as one of the boys in Neptune who appears to have picked up a rudimentary moral education, even if he leaves her there passed out in bed and ends up vomiting outside, rather than ensuring her safety.
But so many other people in Scranton appear to have been so deeply failed by everyone who should have taught them how to behave. The implications of those failures are clear in Veronica’s agonized confrontation with Duncan. “Carrie said she walked into the guest bedroom and you were naked and on top of me. You were the one who raped me,” Veronica tells him. “You were there too, you know,” Duncan tells her, complicating the narrative Veronica thinks she’s assembled of that terrible evening. “I thought we had some unspoken rule, like we were never going to talk about it, but now I raped you?” It turns out that he was also drugged and believed what happened between them to be consensual, but that Duncan left because he panicked: “You’re my sister! And I knew it!” The Kanes have been more concerned with making sure that Veronica doesn’t stake a claim to the Kane estate than with finding out whether or not their suspicions about her parentage are true, so they can find out the truth for Duncan, as well as for themselves. And when Jake tells Duncan that “You did it, son. You had a fit. You killed your sister,” it turns out they’ve been more concerned with protecting Duncan’s reputation than–if they really believed he killed Lilly–in helping him face the consequences of his actions, deal properly with his grief, and make amends in his community. Their desire to protect him has ended up causing him great injury.
If the Kanes have almost drowned their son in privilege, Aaron Ecchols turns out to be a monster who wants to use his son to put on displays of decency when it suits him. He cooks crab cakes without having any idea that Logan is allergic, forgets his son’s birthday, and, oh yes, turns out to be having an affair with said son’s girlfriend, Lilly Kane, and willing to use violence against her when it suits him. We’ve seen a lot of kinds of privilege this season on Veronica Mars, but it’s hard to think of something more disconnected and vain than Aaron’s belief that it’s fine for him to literally lock Veronica in a refrigerator and set it on fire because “I’m not going to let a 17-year-old piece of ass ruin my life.”
After all that’s happened between Aaron and Logan this season, the belts, the beatings, the idiot posing at the front gate, the death of Logan’s mother, it’s hard to believe that anything could be sadder. But then, we get to the way the show illustrates all the little ways in which the father failed the son, and the son fails other people as a result. Logan’s not incapable of being decent, but his sense of what’s the right thing to do, and whether or not he can be the person to do it, is often misguided. “What can I do? What can I do to make it better?” Logan wants to know when Veronica tells him she was raped and that she believes that he obtained the GHB that drugged her, but he doesn’t seem to understand that he’s not in a position at that moment to act on her behalf. There’s something awfully stunted about the idea that Logan gave the drugs to Duncan because he wanted to pep his friend up, and Veronica quickly shoots that idea down. “Fun, like sex with unconscious people fun?” she wants to know. When he ultimately confesses that “I just wanted Duncan to have some fun. He barely even smiled since Lilly died. I’m the one that’s responsible for what happened to you. And I can’t take that I hurt you like that,” it’s an admission that’s more about him and his feelings than Veronica, but at least he understands that he did something wrong on at least one level.
Even then, though, Logan isn’t operating in an environment that allows him to do the right thing on a consistent basis. When Aaron throws him a belated surprise birthday party that’s meant to make up for years of neglect, but that ends up outing Veronica and Logan as a couple to people, like Dick, who has been a consistent tormenter of Veronica’s, and who Dick isn’t sure he even wants to be friends with anymore, Logan does the stand-up thing. “Please tell me this is some new reality show called ‘My Skank,'” Dick wants to know. “Bye, Dick. Get out of my house,” Logan tells him. “If you have a problem with Veronica, you have a problem with me. Actually, if you have a problem with Veronica, you’re pretty much dead to me.” But when Veronica discovers that she’s being taped, courtesy Aaron’s screwed-up proclivities, rather than Logan’s, she flees the house. Privilege, if you’re a teenager, doesn’t mean you can escape your parents’ influence entirely, and Logan is more ensnared by Aaron’s twisted morality than he knows.
That’s true for Veronica, too, though she’s lucky enough to have one decent parent. Keith’s willing to trust her and to test her with the Kane’s offer to pay him the reward as long a she gives up any claim to their fortune, but there’s such joy and relief in his voice when he tells her “You didn’t sign away a thing. Veronica, I am, without a doubt, your father.” Given the material harm Veronica’s mother is willing to do their family, stealing not just Veronica’s college fund, but Keith’s reward check, Veronica is particularly fortunate to have a father who performs the actual functions of an adult in a child’s life, including protecting her, loving her, and requiring her to be responsible for her actions.
Given how well Veronica Mars deals with the living people in its frame, there’s an interesting ambiguity to Veronica’s reverie, in which she dreams a permanent reunion with Lilly. “This is how it’s supposed to be,” Veronica tells her dead friend. “And this is how it’s going to be from now on.” But Lilly knows herself better, it seems, than Veronica does, and tries to prepare her living friend for their inevitable separation. “You know how things are going to be from now on, don’t you?” her shade asks “Don’t forget about me, Veronica.” “I could never,” Veronica promises, but what will she remember? The beautiful, wild girl from the memorial video that brought Veronica and Logan together? The secretive, intriguing ingenue from the car wash, who created an air of complicity with Veronica, but concealed so much from her? The spoiled young woman who was willing to hurt her boyfriend by sleeping not just with a poor Mexican-American, but with Logan’s own father? In the world of Veronica Mars, the living can be held responsible, but the dead belong to those who remember them, as the keepers of their memories want to remember them.