”Veronica Mars”: Solving a college sex crime
Allow me to make a prediction: This time next year, all of us will look back at last night’s episode of Veronica Mars and praise it for being one of the most important stories the show has ever told. My reasons are twofold:
1. ”The Rapes of Graff” was clearly designed to be an elaborate setup for next season’s ”Veronica’s First Year at Hearst College” mega-arc. Yes, kids, I am going on record as saying that our intrepid high school heroine will be attending Neptune’s ”little slice of liberal-arts heaven” next year with best bud Wallace, despite her stated ambition of attending some far, far away university. After all, somebody has to catch Hearst’s serial date rapist, plus bring down the school’s crooked den of frat-boy iniquity, plus investigate the student-schtupping shenanigans of that mentioned-in-passing wife of Hearst’s president or dean of students or some such authority figure (didn’t quite catch that detail, and I don’t rewind to catch possible plot points for next season when I’m still trying to make sense of this year’s plot points), plus play matchmaker to George Michael and Maeby — errr, I mean, nerd RA Dean and date-rape victim Stacy, played by Arrested Development’s Michael Cera and Alia Shawkat. I watched the episode burdened by the news of the previous day, delivered by my good friend and EW colleague Dan ”King of Stupid Questions” Snierson, that in all likelihood we will never again see a new episode of one of the greatest sitcoms produced in my lifetime. To see those dearly departed almost kissing cousins flicker across my screen like friendly ghosts and share space in the same frame filled me with a teary-eyed mixture of joy and sadness and longing. Come back to us, George Michael and Maeby! Thrill me again with your risqué and uncomfortable quasi-incestuous humor and your culturally loaded and oddly spelled names and…uh…what show am I writing about again? Sorry.
2. The other reason ”Graff” will be remembered as very important is that it was able to exhaust this season all the boring college-set TV show clichés that I hope never to see next season when Veronica actually does go to college. Dastardly frat boys, heady blah-blah-blah about Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and Jane Austen (VM dropped more conspicuous egghead references last night than you get in an entire season of Lost), and Very Special Episodes about date rape — now that VM has gotten all that old Felicity crap out of its system, it can concentrate on plotting fresh and provocative stories that will revitalize the college-set coming-of-age drama, just as it has done for the high-school-set coming-of-age drama.
It’s not that I thought ”Graff” was a bad Veronica Mars outing. It was entertaining enough, though I didn’t think the return of fleeting former upperclassman flame Troy Vandergraff — accused (falsely, as it turned out) of Stacy’s rape — carried the mythic weight that the show obviously thought it would. Still, he provided the opportunity for one of my favorite Veronica lines of the night: ”You’re just water under the bridge — duplicitous, evil water.” I also enjoyed learning that Veronica is worth 210 points on the Frat Boy Hot Chick Scale (though Veronica herself thought she was being cheated out of 30 points because they underestimated the value of ”sassy.”) And Veronica’s attempt to go undercover to get some information out of the wig-shop clerk — ”time to clinch that Emmy nomination” — made for a winky laugh.
But I thought the date-rape mystery itself wasn’t up to VM-mystery snuff, and worse, I thought Veronica got a little too much help from the writers; I didn’t quite understand how she deduced from the box of hair that Stacy wasn’t an isolated instance of date rape but instead the victim of a serial rapist quietly terrorizing the campus. (Or did I miss something?) Nonetheless, the story served its purpose: Season 3 has been effectively set up — and I’m suitably if not enthusiastically intrigued.
On other fronts, Daddy Mars provided some amusing diversion by undertaking a ”puzzling errand,” as he put it in a witty note to Veronica. Resident smarmy lawyer Cliff was caught with his pants down — and his hands handcuffed to a hotel bed — having been deceived by a hooker (sorry — ”escort”) named Sugar, who stole his briefcase. Cliff hired Keith to get it back, and during the course of the investigation, Papa PI learned that (new slow-burning-subplot alert!) Sheriff Lamb has been diddling 18-year-old Neptune High beauty Madison Sinclair. Ultimately, in a sting operation at the Mars apartment (classic: ”Dad, your hooker’s here”), Keith learned that (new slow-burning-subplot alert!) a Mystery Man hired the hooker (sorry — ”escort”) to swipe the briefcase. I wasn’t surprised that we didn’t learn the name of the Mystery Man. But I was shocked that a smart PI like Keith Mars didn’t even ask the hooker (sorry! ”escort”) what the Mystery Man looked like. Clearly, the show didn’t want the question asked because the answer is probably too revealing — which leads me to believe the Mystery Man has something to do with the Schoolbus Crash Mystery or the Who Shanked Felix? Mystery. It’s one thing to withhold info from the audience, another thing to make a character do things (or not do things) he wouldn’t otherwise do. Bad form, VM! Bad form!
Finally, a major development on the Logan front: After Logan successfully manipulated Dr. Griffith into dropping the (allegedly) false claim that he saw Logan knife Felix on the bridge last season, the charges against Logan were dropped. This bit of news was so abruptly and off-handedly delivered in the opening moments of the episode that I had to make sure that I actually hadn’t missed an episode in which this pivotal moment was actually dramatized with a scene of its own. (Nope: it was merely an extremely economical bit of storytelling on VM’s part.) True to his word, Logan made good on his end of the deal by breaking up with Dr. Griffith’s daughter, Hannah. ”You’re a totally sweet girl…but I’m really not a sweet guy,” he said in his angst-ridden kiss-off. Logan’s integrity lasted for all of…one episode. After a night of feigning single-guy debauchery (beer and violent video games) with Dick (loved his ”Screw With My Head” T-shirt), Logan managed to engineer a reconciliation with his freshman girlfriend. But just as he and she were about to engage in some underage hanky-panky in Logan’s penthouse suite, Dr. Griffith busted in, dragged his daughter away, and threatened dire consequences. Sure enough, they came the next day: Hannah had been deported to a boarding school in Vermont.
Will our rascally Romeo ever see his frosh Juliet ever again? Do you think Veronica is really Hearst-bound, or will Wallace be cracking the case of the Hearst College rapist by his lonesome next year? And are you with me in thinking that Sheriff Lamb might have something to do with either the Schoolbus Crash or the Felix Shanking? Let me hear it, kids. And please: no Kierkegaard references. I get enough of those on cliché TV.