TV Discussion

TV Rewind… Veronica Mars 1×11 – ‘Silence of the Lamb’

Given the title of the episode and its play on one of the greatest horror/thrillers ever produced by Hollywood, it’s no surprise that one of the main storylines going on in this episode is a serial killer thriller.

Given how dark Veronica Mars is frequently unafraid to go, a narrative about serial killer is not really a surprise here, and it gives the series some ample room to play with the world of Neptune and its characters, with the town’s Mayor and Sheriff Lamb calling on Keith to help with the case as the town falls further and further into a panic, while reminding us on how the town was so quick to get rid of Keith in light of public hatred but in fact the community was so much better with him running the Sheriff’s Department compared to the idiot that is Don Lamb.

Credit must be given to Muhney’s performance as Lamb, though. At this stage of the series the character is not a regular, but Muhney has recurring throughout and is so antagonistic and horrible that every time he’s on-screen he has the effect of making one want to punch a hole through their television, and it really says something when an actor and a performance can genuinely have that effect on you.

It’s not often that Keith and Veronica have something to lord over the town of Neptune, but Keith’s happiness at having to be called upon by the higher up of the town’s social infrastructure is a satisfying one.

The story strand involving the hunt for E-String Strangler is one half of the show’s two storyline structure and credit where credit is due to Jed Seidel and Dayna Lynne North’s teleplay because both this and the episode’s other story strand are wonderfully well done, with both complimenting each other and managing not to trip over the other to the effect that you wish one would go away so the other can get more of the focus, while also throwing in a pre-Breaking Bad guest appearance from Aaron Paul.

While “Silence of the Lamb” was filmed before “An Echolls Family Christmas”, it was ultimately held over by UPN in fear of it actually being far too dark for an episode of television broadcast around the holiday period. I guess infidelity, stalking, and attempted murder, as they appeared in the actual Christmas episode, are the cornerstone of every Yuletide holiday, then?

A result of the switch meant that audiences had to wait several weeks for a return appearance from Tina Majorino as Mac who, once again, walks into the show with an air of dignified cool that marked her debut two episodes ago, an instant star-making performance on the show every bit the equal of star Kristen Bell, so it’s wonderful that the series knew they had someone potentially special with both the actress and character and that we’re set to see more of her throughout.

Despite the switch, thankfully continuity isn’t too muddled, and if anything, “Silence of the Lamb” was a brilliant way to bring the series back after a short hiatus. On top of bringing back Mac, and with it a storyline that ends up delivering one of the series’ most devastating moments, it also features the debut of Deputy Leo, performed by pre-New Girl Max Greenfield, a charmingly mumbly performance that is a million miles away from the entertainingly and charmingly douchebag behaviour of Schmidt.

As Keith and Sherrif Lamb team up for their buddy cop episode, Veronica’s strand of the episode features her helping students to find their birth parents, a side business that brings her to the attention once again of Mac, which in turn leads to the revelation that Mac’s parents received a million dollars from the local Neptune Hospital.

This, in turn, leads to a switched at birth plot twist which, for the life of me, always makes me think of a million Lifetime television movies, even though there probably aren’t that many, it’s usually, or seems to be, the cornerstone for many a US television movie.

Here it leads to one of the show’s most emotionally quiet and devastating moments. It was only a few weeks ago in “Return of the Kane” that Veronica Mars introduced us to Madison Sinclair (Amanda Noret), the resident mean girl of the school and a character who will prove to be an antagonistic presence throughout much of Veronica Mars in its high school era.

The twist that both Mac and Madison were switched at birth and have remained so is a superbly ironic twist, given how different these two characters are, both to each other and the family that each has remained with. When Mac visits the Sinclair’s it’s clear right away who Mac’s real family is, and given what we’ve seen of the Mackenzie’s, even though the family that has raised Mac are inherently decent compared to their biological daughter, it’s clear which girl is the progeny of who.

It then builds up to what is without a doubt one of Veronica Mars most devastating moments, and that goes for the entire three season and one movie duration of the series. Gearing up for a camping trip with the family who have raised her, Mac sees a car parked across the way. Walking over to it she sees her birth mother, Ellen (Brigid Hoffman) and, silently, both Mac and her mother each put their hands to the window, and then go their separate ways, knowing that each belongs to the other but can never truly be mother and daughter.

It is as powerful as anything ever shown on television and ends the episode is a quietly devastating way. If you make it to the “Executive Producer Rob Thomas” credit dry-eyed, then you are made of stronger stuff than I was.

Are you a fan of Veronica Mars? Let us know what you thought of this episode. 

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