A more direct follow-up to “An Echolls Family Christmas” given that “Silence of the Lamb” was filmed before the Yuletide episode, but left over to make way for the more holiday-themed episode going out before Christmas, “Clash of the Tritons” sees Veronica Mars return to the nightmarish world of the Echolls with even more drama awaiting the seemingly scandal-prone family.
Although there is nothing here remotely devastating or emotional in the manner of Mac’s encounter with her birth mother at the end of the last week’s episode (or should that be two weeks ago, really), there is still a feeling that Veronica Mars is on an incredibly sure footing with its story telling, pushing forward with its ongoing plot threads with wonderful effect, while, once again, throwing in a wonderfully plotted mystery of the week that puts Veronica front and centre as she finds herself framed for handing out fake IDs, one of which fell into the hands of a student who is comatose due to excessive drinking.
Usually teen dramas from the US are very quick to point out the dangers of drinking. A recent rewatch this reviewer took of Dawson’s Creek saw one particular episode of the show pretty much throw in a narrative-driven lecture on the dangers of alcohol consumption that saw drippy lead character Dawson Leery get drunk and basically truth bomb everyone until he was throwing up.
Veronica Mars isn’t really throwing in a lecture, which is a relief, and instead the episode uses the fake ID storyline to throw in a wonderful little conspiracy thriller that takes in secret societies and our lead character doing a karaoke performance of Blondie’s One Way or Another, a brilliant song choice if there ever was one, and one that pretty much plays out as a mission manifesto for the show’s lead character who functions as much as an avenging angel for the little person in her school as much as private detective solving mysteries.
The eventual revelation that a secret society in the school is the rationale would be enough to serve as the eventual resolution to the story going on here, but in fact it’s just part of a larger puzzle that indicates once again that Veronica Mars is not a show afraid to double down on more complex plotting and characterisation.
A different writers room dealing with these characters and plots would probably be happy enough to leave it there, but instead Phil Klemmer and Aura Wallington’s teleplay muddies the waters further by having Rick (J.D Pardo), the student who pointed the finger at Veronica in the first place in the episode’s teaser, a gesture that seemingly looks to be Rick trying to gain admittance to a secret society within Neptune High called the Tritons, in fact be the one who set her up in revenge for one of Keith’s investigations being responsible for his parent’s divorce, while also embittered at The Tritons for not allowing him to join, while making money from a fake ID scam.
Fake IDs are frequently a prop used throughout so much in the way to teen movies and television shows, that to use them here as this episode does, but doing so without throwing in some sort of lecture on the dangerous nature of drinking and rather as a means for a well-written, entertaining mystery is wonderful. The mystery is wonderful, the twists pack a punch and the characterization of everyone makes it even better.
As all of this is going on, the season’s dominant story arcs come further to the fore. We get a return appearance from school counselor Rebecca (Paula Marshall) interviewing those affected by Lilly’s murder, with a well-placed bug by Veronica within Rebecca’s office leading our heroine to discover the link between Lilly and Weevil.
The main crux of this week’s events that are set to have a major impact going forward rests, once again, with the escapades within the Echoll’s residence. Not enough to have had Aaron (Harry Hamlin, coming on with an effortlessly classy air and yet acting as a complete and utter monster at the same time) nearly murdered two episodes ago, further scandal and drama engulfs the family by the time the episode ends when it’s revealed that Logan’s mother Lynn (Lisa Rinna, Hamlin’s real-life wife) has supposedly committed suicide by throwing herself off a bridge.
The final image of the car park crookedly on the bridge carries a punch, and ups the show’s drama up another notch. It once again reiterates the show’s point that being upper class may get you prestige and power, but personal happiness is in a short supply. Once again, Neptune is as dark as any fictional town in a US show that we’ve encountered before, and given its themes of class and money, it still carries a powerful punch fourteen years after these episodes first aired.
Are you a fan of Veronica Mars? Let us know what you thought of this episode.