This post discusses the first two episodes of the second season of Veronica Mars.
“Normal job, just like other people my age. I just wish fewer of my classmates showed up here,” Veronica tells us when we catch up with her at the beginning of the second season of the show that bears her name, working as a hostess at a Neptune restaurant. “Can’t you talk on the phone and paint your nails like other girls?” asks her father Keith, who we last saw him, was saving his daughter after she’d been locked in a refrigerator that was subsequently set on fire, and has since had surgery for his burns and written a book about the Lilly Kane case. But one of the strengths of these first two episodes of the second season of Veronica Mars is that it explores the ways in which there is no such thing as a normal teenaged experience, particularly not in a town where race and class run currents of electricity through the baselines of high school, dating, and relationships with parents.
Wealth may buy Neptune’s 09ers fancy cars, private pools that mean town facilities closures don’t affect them, and enormous houses. But it distorts their lives even more than Veronica’s father’s profession distorts hers. “Okay, just so everyone knows, I don’t always dress like this. I don’t know if you guys were doing relaxed beachy or West Coast-East Coast,” chirps Gia (Krysten Ritter), the daughter of a rich candidate for Mayor in Neptune, after the man buses Veronica’s newspaper class out to the baseball stadium he owns with the express intention of buying her some friends. It’s dreadfully awkward.
At the Neptune Grand, Duncan and Logan have basically been abandoned by their parents, camping out down the hall from like plush versions of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, even though they’re not speaking. Having the money to do has a different effect on them. “It’s been kind of complicated. Parents on trial. Mom and Dad finally had enough,” Duncan tells Veronica, explaining that he didn’t want to switch school districts in his senior year. His stability-seeking comes from a place that has little to do with money, even if that money makes it easier for him to achieve it. Logan, by contrast, is destroyed. “My mom is dead. My girlfriend is dead. My dad is a murderer. And the only person I care about is dumping me!” he rages at Veronica before proceeding to stalk her, and to begin an affair with Dick’s (now hilariously repentant towards Veronica) stepmother, a former cheerleader who parades around the house in a bikini and tells Logan, when he asks her for Rice Krispie Treats as a test the first time they meet, “Go make it yourself, then, kid. Do I look like a cook?” Money, it seems, can buy the inverse of stability, too.
And it certainly can’t buy manners. “I don’t care if you’re the house magician, could you just make me a macchiato?” Jackie, a new resident of Neptune, tells Veronica when they meet at the restaurant where they’re working. Then, she turns to Duncan, who’s come to visit Veronica, to tell him, “You could do so much better, you know that?” When Wallace gets hit by Cupid’s arrow and volunteers to help her find her way around on the first, day, she’s scornful and mistrustful. “I haven’t dated a guy in high school since the eighth grade,” Jackie tells him dismissively, furthering the link on the show between wealth and early expression of sexuality. “Nice. The ultimate panty-dropper.” It’s only after Wallace tracks down the woman who dented Jackie’s car and left without leaving her insurance information that Jackie reassesses Wallace. “I may have to reconsider my stand on nice guys,” she tells him. I only hope she’s not going to break his heart.
Of course, wealth isn’t just a matter of social interaction. The decision to charter a limo back to central Neptune from the baseball stadium quite literally saves the lives of a number of 09ers and Gia after the bus plunges off a cliff. The privilege–and lack of a knife to enter into evidence–that leads the District Attorney to decline to prosecute Logan Echolls for murder after he’s found next to a dead PCHer in the aftermath of a beating on a bridge turns Neptune “into a different place,” a town where there are metal detectors in the schools and the ongoing beefs between kids from different classes have escalated dangerously, to the point where a shot’s fired through the window of Logan’s car while he and Veronica are making out in the back seat.
And ultimately, it pulls Veronica–and her father–back into the game. “I don’t do that kind of work anymore,” Veronica tells Kelvin, an unpleasant football player when he asks her to help him figure out why he failed his drug test even though he’s been clean for ten months. “So who’s supposed to help me, then?” Kelvin wants to know, and it’s a fair question. Poorer residents of Neptune believe that the police and even institutions like school bussing are against them. Veronica and her father can’t provide a social safety net to Kelvin, or to the student last season who lost out on a scholarship that came with the valedictorian slot after his father sabotaged his competition, or to Jessie, who tells Veronica desperately “Your dad drives one bus off a cliff and your days of being under the radar are over. I need proof my father didn’t kill himself. I have a mother and a little brother, and we’ve become accustomed to having food and a place to live. And insurance companies dont’ pay if they decide it’s suicide.” But Veronica and her father can occasionally force the town’s institutions to work correctly.
“Shouldn’t you be running for homecoming queen or something?” Weevil lashes out at Veronica when they run into each other at the gas station where Veronica will be left behind. “Did you like your taste? Your little year of living dangerously?” But the truth is that in Neptune, normal isn’t available to Veronica, nor to Weevil, nor to anyone else.