TV discussion

TV Rewind… Veronica Mars 2×03 – ‘Cheatty Cheatty Bang Bang’

Private detectives and infidelity investigations go hand in hand all too well sometimes. It’s a cliché that you’re going to get a story involving a private detective investigating infidelity, and somewhat complain about it because that’s all they do and yet when they get their latest case involving an affair it ends up turning into something else, almost to the point that sometimes you can’t help but think to yourself, “jeez, don’t you wish this infidelity case just remained an infidelity case, it would have saved you all the bother?”

Such as it is with “Cheatty Cheatty Bang Bang”; we start of with Beaver (Kyle Gallner, promoted from recurring guest star last season to regular this season) asking Veronica  to investigate his stepmother, Kendall Casablancas (the series is making great use of Charisma Carpenter this season, it’s hard not to love watching her play a version of Cordelia who never went through several seasons of brilliant (and then scuppered) character development) and the possibility of her having an affair, which we all know is true because her “bit on the side” is Logan, it quickly ends up turning into a much more complex tale of tax fraud, eventually ending with a spectacular getaway via helicopter in the episode’s final moments.

It once again shows a wonderful opening up of the series and its world this season; not content with doing a season long mystery, Rob Thomas and his writersroom has decided to throw a lot against the wall and are managing to hold it together brilliantly.

Even more wonderfully, they aren’t afraid to dovetail our heroine into her teen dramas; this week we get to see more of Jackie (Tessa Thompson) and her developing relationship with Wallace (Percy Daggs, III), along with Veronica’s increasing ambivalence to Jackie. There’s so much going on, that it really shouldn’t work at all and instead should be coming across as a mess, but the tightrope walking going on within the series is so compelling, that it’s hard not to get swept away by how engaging and suspenseful the series is getting so early in the season.

Once again, the bus crash feels bigger than Lilly’s murder last season and while a vastly different type of story, it’s every bit as compelling as last year’s murder mystery. Many television series that do a season-long story arc and then have to move onto something else usually struggle; Broadchurch turned into a courtroom thriller which felt like natural way to go, but unfortunately lost momentum for basically using it to just tell us things we either already knew or worked out on our own; Murder One went from one long arc to three shorter ones and none of them was as compelling as the first (it also didn’t help that Anthony LaPaglia, a wonderful actor in his own right, and his character were nowhere near as compelling a central figure as Daniel Benzali and Teddy Hoffman); even the godfather of the series long murder mystery, Twin Peaks, lost all momentum in trying to craft other stories that weren’t centered around the murder of Laura Palmer, and unfortunately didn’t regain its footing until the axe fell.

Throughout “Cheatty Cheatty Bang Bang” there are hints that the bus crash may possibly be linked to last season’s central mystery, not least the discovery of a dead body, seemingly unconnected to the crash, with Veronica’s name written on the dead man’s palm, coupled with a later revelation that the dead guy has previously worked with Logan Echolls. At this stage it’s clear it’s a red herring to further the plot, but when the threads are this entertaining, it’s hard to complain if the series is just leading us down a dead-end at this stage.

With a reminder once again of the venal and corrupt workings of the Neptune Police Department (which makes it a pleasant surprise that in Rob Thomas has since made law enforcement the beacon of all that is good in iZombie), it’s hard not to be hooked hard on where the series is going this season.

As always, all throughout the episode, we have Kristen Bell walking throughout the episode with a confidence and cockiness that in other hands could potentially have been unlikable but which here just helps sell the charm and brilliance of the character. For all her bravado at being able to talk rings around Sheriff Lamb (Michael Muhney does such a great line is antagonism), her ambivalence towards Jackie is realistic, relatable and yet never comes off in such a way that it threatens the likability of the character.

It just further enhances the feeling that everything about Veronica herself and her world is decidedly complex in a way that many teen series seldom are; it means we get to enjoy the stories involving her personal life without being put off by the teen soap of it all. Bell and the writing here is so good that just helps make series all the more enjoyable, and ensures that you’ll simply want to come back to see where it all could possibly go next.

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