TV reviews

TV Rewind… Veronica Mars 1×04 – ‘The Wrath of Con’ – Review

The first script of the series to come from Diane Ruggiero-Wright, “The Wrath of Con” is a superb episode of Veronica Mars that mixes a superb case-of-the-week with some wonderful furthering emotionally of its story arc surrounding the Lilly Kane murder.

Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer before it, the thing that Veronica Mars does so well is how it has the ability to mix genre tropes (in this case film noir, as opposed to the horror genre) and genuinely entertaining teen drama. There is a balancing act to such a thing that can be hard to do, but what makes Veronica Mars such a compulsively brilliant series that can get its claws into you pretty quickly (and by this stage this is where the series will get its hooks into you if you let it work its magic) is that it works beautifully, mixing mystery drama and teen drama into a wonderful concoction.

During the final moments of the episode, a potential revelation is revealed that, if the Lilly Kane murder mystery has worked its dark magic over you, will leave you clamouring for more information, but we’ll get to that shortly.

What is even more clear is that the show isn’t just throwing in film noir storylines and surrounding it with a teen protagonist, it’s actually taking the teen drama, such as the stories and tropes that come within that genre, and throwing them into the realm of noir itself. Ruggiero-Wright’s brilliant teleplay throws in a blackmail plot, a trip to San Diego State University, and a team of blackmailers called the Silicon Mafia, while developing its characters further; we’re given glimpses into Logan and Weevil that expand them further and show us layers to them that we hadn’t known existed.

The case of the week is brilliantly entertaining, and pretty much sums up the lead character wonderfully. There is a real sense of an avenging angel quality to Veronica. Butter may look like it wouldn’t melt in Kristen Bell’s mouth, with her petite demeanour and cute looks, and she could easily fall into the trap of being cast as the love interest in a run of the mill romantic comedy or teen comedy, but there is a brilliant and subtle sense of grit under the surface, that she operates under a policy of scorched earth and to hell with anyone who tries to screw her or anyone she cares about over.

It’s a characteristic that the series would play with brilliantly over the course of three seasons and one movie, but none of this would play well if she wasn’t also sympathetic company to keep over the course of the series and each of its episodes, and “The Wrath of Con” is a case in point. In lesser hands, she could be an obnoxious, bitter persona, and given the things the series has put her through, that would be understandable, but there is a real fighting above your weight quality to her, but the series never lets us forget what she has lost, and as is par of the course with the series, flashbacks play a big part in this episode.

We’ve been given glimpses here and there of Lilly over the past few weeks, and its clear that Rob Thomas and his writers and producers have realised they ran into massive luck casting Seyfried in the role, and have utilised flashbacks featuring her more and more. “The Wrath of Con” brilliantly displays, once again, happier times for Veronica before the darker period she is now in. Ruggiero’s teleplay reminds us eloquently of what Veronica has lost prior to where we find her, which gives her character development a sting of poignancy.

With Homecoming around the corner, another brilliant use of a high school drama trope which has appeared in so many teen dramas and is there as a means to build up to some glorious use of the current trend in popular music and some bitchin’ choreography (I think I might be thinking of She’s All That too much here), the episode brilliantly never gets to the dance.

The flashbacks involving Veronica, Lilly, Logan and Duncan show they never actually going to the dance, instead partying it up in a limousine and spending time at the beach. Even in the present day, with Veronica accompanying Wallace, his new girlfriend Georgia (Kyla Pratt) and Todd (a returning Aaron Ashmore), we never actually get to the dance, the important part coming from Veronica skinny dipping into the ocean as a means of paying tribute to her friendship with Lilly.

In fact, Lilly is a spectre that haunts throughout the episode, with her family trying to put on a memorial service in her honour, and the impact such a service has on certain characters that we’ve come to view in darker strokes; we see Logan struggle with how to put the video together, giving Jason Dohring a chance to show layers other than being the handsome school psycho.

We also see Jake Kane (Kyle Secor) breaking down as he sees the video and, in the biggest “what the hell?” moment of the episode that will ensure you’ll come back to see more, is when we catch a brief glimpse of Weevil (Francis Capra) weeping subtly in the sidelines. It’s a small detail that done and dusted within the space of a few seconds, but it’s a brilliant moment that makes the mystery even more compulsive.

The case of the week as always, great fun, while also showing how flexible the series is in tone and style. Last week’s case built to an emotional climax, this week is Veronica basically getting one over on a bunch of toxic males who deserve all sorts of shade throwing at them. Her encounters and eventual taking down of the Silicon Mafia is brilliant fun simply because the entire forty five minutes amounts to her gaining vengenace on behalf of Georgia. Scorched Earth indeed.

It’s wonderfully great fun and thoroughly entertaining, as always. Four episodes in and there’s a clear feeling that the show has really found its footing.

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