After the brilliance of ‘The Wrath of Con’ last week, Veronica Mars refuses to drop the ball with its fifth episode, with an another engrossing tale that ups the ante yet again in terms of drama, throwing in something of an early game changing twist, and an emotional escalation of its story arc.
Opening in Mexico, with a somewhat atypical plot involving teenage boys crossing over the border and a subsequent missing car that ends up dovetailing into a tale involving double crosses and drug smuggling, “You Think You Know Somebody” is a furthering of Veronica Mars getting its claws into the audience. Dawson’s Creek and The OC this ain’t, even though it does manage to throw in various plot lines involving Veronica and her insecurity over her dad’s new romance with school counsellor Rebecca (Paula Marshall, who previously appeared in Rob Thomas’ 90’s romantic comedy series Cupid), that when combined with a gripping narrative such as the one that forms this week’s case, makes for another brilliant slice of teen noir.
After several episodes where we’ve come to like the character of Troy (Aaron Ashmore), Veronica Mars shows us that it really isn’t afraid to pull the rug out from under the audience with twists that show previously well liked characters being not what they appear to be. If this is what it’s going to do with previously liked characters in a case of the week, what could the show potentially do with regards to lead characters when a season-long murder investigation is taking place?
Of course this is a continuation of the series brilliantly utilising noir tropes; characters turning out to not be who they appeared to be is something of a stock in trade in many a noir thriller, and “You Think You Know Somebody” really goes to town with it.
Better yet, it does so by using a character affiliated with our heroine. Over the last few weeks Troy, and by extension Ashmore’s performance, has gradually won us over; constantly hanging out with the 09-ers, but not afraid to be friends with Veronica and Wallace, the outsiders of the school, Troy has been shown to be someone who we have come to like being romantically involved with our Neptune High avenging angel.
Better yet, when a television show or movie throws in a twist where a character is revealed to be someone they aren’t really, it can feel like a cheat, or as if the writers are just pulling twists and turns out of thin air with little regard for logic (see this season of Riverdale for a “brilliant” example of this), but the Troy twist in Veronica Mars works wonders. They don’t turn him into a psycho by any means, it’s basically he’s been a touch manipulative and his nice guy act has been a way to ensure those closest to him, and by extension the television viewing audience, don’t suspecting anything bad about him.
Since he has been lying to Veronica, and in the end emotionally hurt her, then he must be punished, and while our heroine doesn’t do anything to physically hurt him, her “scorched earth” policy comes into play and his plan to get across the border along with the steroids, a brilliant McGuffin that gets the plot rolling, is scuppered in a fine way.
Just as we’re about to see Troy get away with his attempts at smuggling steroids across the border, a plan that almost gets his so-called friend Luke (Sam Huntington) killed during the course of the episode, he discovers that Veronica has discovered his plan to basically escape with the drugs, and has left him a brilliantly worded sarcastic letter, complete with a brilliant voice over delivery of said letter by Bell.
As all this is going on, the series throws in some fantastic teen drama involving Veronica’s insecurity over her dad’s new relationship and then ups the ante with regards to Veronica’s attempts to track down her mother.
At the centre of all this is a superb, definitive performance from Bell. One of the best actresses working today, from being comedic, to gritty, to being able to portray wonderfully complex characters (as we also see her do in The Good Place), by this stage in the show she has fully become Veronica. Where some shows it feels as if it takes a performer several episodes to figure out and settle in, it feels as if Bell truly become the titular heroine right from the “Pilot”,and here, as the series fully embraces the “avenging angel” qualities of her character, there is a sense that we’ve seen character and actress become one magnificently.
It’s a wonderfully entertaining episode, and again it’s indicative of how much the show can get its claws into you at such an early stage in its run; gripping plot lines such as its cases of the week, coupled with further explorations of its ongoing arcs, with this week in particular giving much time to Veronica attempting to find her missing mother.
There’s a brilliant balancing between having its “procedural” element, teen drama, arc and noir tropes. In lesser hands this could really have been a mess, but with the writing staff here, headed up by Rob Thomas, it’s delivering the best teen show of the 2000’s.