classic episode
veronica mars: "versatile toppings"

2.14 / Original air date 15 March, 2006

Written by: Phil Klemmer
Directed by: Sarah Anderson

NO-SPOILER DISCLAIMER: While this review does contain spoilers for this episode, I'm not into revealing the big Veronica Mars mysteries in this review. You will not find anything about who killed Lilly Kane, or who blew up the bus, or who was the college rapist. That just wouldn't be right. Those not in the know on the big issues are safe here.

No words can describe how happy I am that the writers on Veronica Mars decided to use some lesbians in an episode so I have a legitimate excuse to rave about this show. For those of you who are non-believers, or who just never got around to it (which seems to be most of the world), please email me and I'd be happy to give you an essay-long treatise about why you missed out on the best thing in television for a long, long time. So here I am, doing my part to trumpet the Veronica Mars joy. Trust me, you WANT to be on this bandwagon, even if only belatedly now the series has ended.

Veronica (played by Kristin Bell, who moved on to Heroes) is no ordinary schoolgirl, but not because she has any super powers. She's just a smart girl with drive, ambition and an incredible capacity for logic. She also happens to work part-time in her dad's detective agency. That came in handy during season one when among many other things she helped solve the murder of her best friend Lilly Kane.

The show is all about outcasts and alienation. It's about power and how people abuse it, from high schoolers up to politicians and millionaires. Then on a smaller level it's about families, the ones we're born with and the ones we create. In the pilot Veronica and Wallace quote from The Outsiders, which is probably the best film analogy I can draw. Take The Outsiders, cross it with the some hard-boiled detective fiction , chuck in some Beverly Hills 90210, add a streak of dark, dark humour and you pretty much have Veronica Mars. Don't be mistaken, this is not a kids show and this is not Buffy, despite being shown on the WB/CW and being set in a high school.

In the course of the show, Veronica deals with many versions of the have and have nots in the upper-class city of Neptune where she lives. In this episode from season two, the outcast and downtrodden are the school's gay population. During what seems like a random mugging, a guy from Neptune High has his wallet stolen. Far more important than money though, the wallet contained a list of real and screen names for the Neptune High gay and lesbian posting board, and now he thinks someone is using the list to blackmail the gay and lesbian students of Neptune High to the tune of $5000 each. To stay in the closet, they need to pay.

That's where Veronica comes in. She's hired by a few of the students to find out who's blackmailing them before its too late. With the help of her computer-savvy pal Mac (Tina Majorino), Veronica figures out that the mugging really had nothing to do with the blackmailings at all, it was just a weird coincidence. The culprit is one of the girls on the posting board who, besides trying to make some extra money for college, was basically trying to force her girlfriend to out herself so that they didn't need to hide any more. Amusingly enough, the lesbian couple turn out to be cheerleaders.

Veronica tends to solve a small mystery like this every episode, plus deal with the ongoing dramas of her on again, off again love life with bad boy Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) and picking up all the clues she can to solve the season-wide mystery. In season two this mystery is a bus crash which killed nine Neptune High students and from which Veronica herself barely escaped.

So lesbians get to be the outsider-of-the-week. Veronica can't resist helping the students who've been hard done by. That in this case the culprit turns out to have motives that are not all that horrible is the real surprise. In the world Veronica lives in she battles every day of her life with people who want to take her down, and sometimes she's forced to use less-than-honest methods of her own just to stay ahead.

But despite some dubious choices, she does have limits. You can't get the bad guy by becoming the bad guy. That's what's so great about this character. She'll do almost anything to solve a case or bring someone to justice, but there are lines she won't cross. They usually have nothing to do with what is or isn't legal, but she has an unswerving morality of her own that's intriguing to watch as it develops.

Veronica Mars is not a show where you can really jump in for an episode and jump out again, but the mystery-per-episode format does help a little, and every small mystery has its purpose. This story is about how difficult it is to keep secrets in a place like Neptune. It's also about secrets that are worth keeping, and ones that just get you in trouble for no good reason. At the end of the episode the two outed lesbians have to deal with the consequences. No more hiding, that's the message.

This is a sensational show, ready-made for anyone who thought they'd never obsess about another TV show ever again. Even Buffy didn't rate well to start with, but it went on to become a pop culture phenomenon. Unfortunately the rest of the world refused to wake up to Veronica Mars before the Fox executives wielded the axe. We got three seasons though, which is a lot more than the Firefly fans got. Now I'm off to read some Veronica/Mac fanfiction.

Got a comment? Write to me at nancyamazon@gmail.com

 

 
Veronica in "Versatile Toppings"
Jason Dohring as bad boy Logan
Kristen Bell Season Two Promo
Tina Majorino as Cindy "Mac" Mackenzie

Last updated: 23 May 2009