TV Discussion

TV Rewind… Veronica Mars 1×17 – ‘Kane and Abel’s’

You have to hand it to Veronica Mars, no other show could possibly get away with doing as much as it does with a single episode; what we have here is a mystery drama, a thriller, a high school drama and a teen coming of age story. None of these things should come together, and yet, walking on the precipice that this series does every week, it does it so damn well.

Even better, it’s tangled mythology and ongoing story arcs are starting to really, really heat up. After several weeks of keeping Kane Technology security specialist Clarence Wiedman (Christopher B.Duncan) as a mysterious menace on the sidelines, “Kane and Abel’s” goes and throws him front and centre, making him an engaging antagonist and a worthy adversary for Veronica and Keith.

Amazingly, at this stage, it’s clear that the series is not only adept at keeping its ongoing arcs and threads going in a compulsive manner, but it also manages to make its mysteries of the week every bit as engaging; not for one moment does the audience want the show to cut back to the other bigger threads of the week when Veronica  is helping out another student, instead every episode feels like it’s been stitched together wonderfully and near perfectly, with compulsive mysteries interwoven with a bigger picture that gets more and more compulsive as each week goes on. With only five episodes to go, there’s a pleasing sense of things heating up as the series builds to its eventual revelation.

As for this week’s stand-alone mystery, we get stalking, harassment, another reminder of the insidious nature of the class struggles going on within Neptune and we get to say a big hello to Vinnie Van Lowe, portrayed by Ken Marino, who walks in and instantly makes himself at home with a sleazy, antagonistic portrayal that is also deeply funny to the point that it’s no surprise that the series would bring him back several times again and again. Clearly a good working relationship with Rob Thomas, he would also appear in the Thomas co-created Party Down and later on would recur, along with several other Veronica Mars alumni, in iZombie.

In lesser hands. Vinnie could have been an incredibly unbearable figure. In many respects he’s meant to be, but with Marino playing the role, he stays the right side of genuinely funny and any time he’s on-screen is wonderful, an antagonistic foil who goes up against our heroine, usually bests her, only for it to be revealed that he, in fact, hasn’t at all. A key moment involving him boasting of besting her by singing Hall and Oates from his office window is an undeniable highlight of the episode and is incredibly funny, even more so when it’s revealed that Veronica always had one over on him and isn’t afraid to let Vinnie think otherwise.

For a series that has always subverted expectations when it comes to its portrayal of private detectives, by making Veronica and Keith someone who genuinely care and do the right thing, it’s interesting to see the series’ take on an almost stereotypical figure in that regard; slimy, in it for the money, taking on cases involving infidelity. It really shouldn’t work, and maybe it’s wrong to like him just a little, but with Marino, you can’t help but just be won over with such a funny comedic portrayal.

It’s an interesting counterpoint to what goes on when Wiedman is on-screen. Another antagonistic figure, the difference being Wiedman isn’t incompetent, but in fact formidable and dangerous. Christopher B Duncan’s performance is effortless, classy and a genuinely villainous figure worth of recurring status of the show, from his cool, manner vocal delivery to the way he rocks a fedora.

It’s an interesting dichotomy going on in “Kane and Abel’s” run time; in both story strands Veronica finds herself up against an antagonistic male figure who is trying to get one over on her, the difference between Clarence and Vinnie is that while Vinnie is a figure of fun and Veronica can best him without breaking a sweat, Wiedman, on the other hand, is dangerous and represents the dark, beating heart of Neptune and the Kane family, and by episode’s end, the means by which Veronica has to prove that Abel Koontz never killed Lilly, Abel’s daughter Emilia (Erin Chambers), has been bought and paid for with nothing but a smug Clarence standing in front of Veronica and Keith, only this time it’s someone who Veronica cannot best.

Figures of authority and money are, as always, the biggest obstacles to justice in Neptune. For an episode of television that features Ken Marino being as funny as he is, it shows the flexibility of the series that it’s not afraid to hit you with its bigger truths come the end credits.

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