TV discussion

TV Rewind… Veronica Mars – 1×13 – ‘Lord of the Bling’

Veronica Mars has been on such a hot streak up to this point that it is only natural for it to stumble just a tad, and while “Lord of the Bling” definitely doesn’t match up to the last several episodes, which have featured a myriad of plot twists and shocking moments, it’s an episode that can’t be discounted out of hand either mainly due to it furthering its characters along and incorporating some wonderful flashbacks that put light on present-day events.

It goes without saying, but Veronica Mars is a very flashback heavy show, the past being almost as much of a recurring theme as that of class and crime. Getting involved in a kidnapping of a rap producer’s daughter, the episode’s case-of-the-week is not the most compelling that the show has given us in terms of plotting, but it does eventually lead to an interesting twist while exploring Veronica’s less friendly past when she was part of the cool kids.

It says something about the inherent heart of Veronica and Kristen Bell’s performance that she actually sells the inner torment and thoughts of her character and her behaviour when Lilly was still alive while demonstrating how far she has come due to the changes that have happened around her personal and social life.

The kidnapping of Yolanda (Jowharah Jones) brings to the fore Veronica’s past behaviour. Our avenging angel may play on the side of good and virtuous now, but  there was a time when she was on the inside level of those who basically controlled the social hierarchy of the school halls and when Veronica witnessed Yolanda kissing Logan, it was goodbye Yolanda, something that would end up happening to Veronica later on when Lilly was murdered and the subsequent fall out that stemmed from her father’s investigation into the murder.

On a side note, let’s just take a moment to appreciate and love how this episode makes reference to the show’s theme song and lyrics within the dialogue immediately before The Dandy Warhols star singing. A really well done move that can’t help but bring a smile to your face.

Given how much class plays a part in the series and how it hasn’t been afraid to broach its way into some daringly tricky subjects up to now, so it stands to reason that race would come up, although the episode touches on subtly and maybe goes for character and storytelling tropes without further exploration in a way that it really should have done.

A lot of television from this period of time, and before, does have the problem of looking all too white, something that has, thankfully, facilitated change today. Veronica Mars always did  its best seemingly to try to not fall into this problem. We have Wallace (the great Percy Daggs III)  as Veronica’s best friend and the series very seldom ever brings up his skin colour; he’s her best friend, he’s African-American and that’s that.

Next season will see the introduction of Tessa Thompson to the series, and various other races and ethnic characters also show up,  so the series has never been as problematic to revisit as, for example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which takes place in Southern California and must surely rank as the whitest depiction of the area ever put to film even though its one of the most diverse areas in the US, so Veronica Mars has always been more reflective of diversity, even if it can possibly fall into certain tropes with regards to race.

“Lord of the Bling” is potentially another example of that, considering that Keith and Veronica’s client this week is Percy “Bone” Hamilton (future Black-ish star Anthony Anderson) who is a rap producer but who also has ties to organised crime. There is an argument to be made that the episode gets away with this portrayal because it is essentially a series that deals with criminal investigations each week, and while the episode doesn’t set out to cause offence, far from it in fact, for a series that deals with class and social structure, it’s disappointing that John Enbom’s teleplay doesn’t deal head-on with the race and class elements and just portrays Hamilton’s background for what it is.

It’s clear by the end of the episode that what we’re watching is a Romeo and Juliet type tale with a happier ending, and to further put icing on the cake, Veronica apologises to Yolanda, who has faked her kidnapping in order to be with the son of her father’s biggest competitor and arch nemesis, who accepts her apology.

As the main plot is going on, we’re treated to a full-on masterclass from Jason Dohring who manages to be his usual psychotic self, albeit in a more sympathetic way, cracking up throughout the episode as he reels from the events last week. It builds up to a superb set up for next week when he asks Veronica for help in finding his mother who he believes is missing, since no body has been recovered from when she allegedly threw herself of a bridge.

The furthering of its story arcs and characters are where the episode  fires on all cylinders, and while far from the worst episode of the show (in fact, it has scarcely put a foot wrong all season), it’s definitely it’s weakest to date, although given how good the series is, if this is at its weakest so far, then it’s still doing something right.

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