TV discussion

TV Rewind… Veronica Mars 1×16 – ‘Betty and Veronica’

Following last week’s cliffhanger, “Betty and Veronica” daringly goes for a business as usual approach, going full steam ahead with a mystery of the week while using flashbacks to explore the immediate aftermath of last week’s mother/daughter reunion which came right as the credits rolled.

Amazingly, this approach taken in Diane Ruggiero’s teleplay works pretty well, managing to throw in a mystery that should be slight and unsubstantial,  but which works charmingly well, while once again furthering its arc and mythology elements that assures that the episode never feels like mere filler, managing to give the audience a fun stand alone while furthering the bigger mysteries and ideas running right through the dark heart of the show.

Taking as its title two of Archie Comics’ most famous characters, there’s a lovely sense of irony to seeing Veronica Mars tip its hat to a comic book world that upon receiving a television series adaptation well over a decade later, would tip its own hat into the well of murder and high school drama.

Using a reference to something like the high school drama of Archie Comics is telling here, because “Betty and Veronica” wonderfully does that thing of combining its high school and teen drama dynamics to that of mystery and film noir. Only this show would make a noir like mystery out of the kidnapping of high school mascots, thus facilitating Veronica to go undercover, all too easily it must be said but when the plotting is as much fun as it is here, it’s very hard to complain.

As always, though, this is an episode of high school set television that isn’t afraid to go dark and big with everything else going on around it. While Veronica pretends to be the new girl at a rival school so as to help Wallace as he rises through the ranks of Neptune High’s basketball team, Lilly’s murder investigation sees a reunion between mother and daughter play out in flashback while Abel Koontz, so far portrayed as a somewhat less cannibalistic Hannibal Lecter, is given a backstory and motivation for his actions.

By rights, none of this should really work, but Veronica Mars has its ability to mix and match genres so well at this point that it would really be a bigger surprise if Diane Ruggiero’s teleplay managed to get it wrong.

The episode also nicely puts Wallace front and centre for a bit too. Where most series’ with teen protagonists try to do “will they/won’t they” plots with characters who are always around each other or portrayed as best friends, it’s actually rather refreshing to have a series that simply portrays Wallace and Veronica as pals, and nothing more. There is more than enough drama going on here, especially with its heroine’s personal life, that it’s simply refreshing to have a teen show do the best friends thing and stick to it.

The real meat of the episode, of course, is Veronica’s reunion with Lianne (Corinne Bohrer). After weeks and weeks of her being missing, the episode finally has the two characters come together for an intense reunion that says so much and so little. It’s a conversation we’ve been waiting all season for, and while it gives the audience what we want with some information, it still dangles bigger mysteries at us tantalizingly. In other words, we’re going to have to wait for any paternal revelations in a future episode.

The final moments hint at more chaos to come, with Veronica knowing full well she’s been bugged and with Koontz’s daughter just waiting to be found. Only on this show could one get a witty, funny story involving mascot kidnapping and sporting sabotage, and then the next an intense ongoing mystery involving murder, alcoholism and surveillance. It once again reiterates how much of a tonal risk taker Veronica Mars is and full credit must be given for how it manages to pull it off.

As always, you can’t help but want more.

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

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