All is right with the world because Cliff is here. In reviewing Veronica Mars, it’s easy to get so swept up in everything obviously great about it: Kristen Bell, Enrico Colantoni, the storytelling, the mystery, the world building and the way it manages to combine so many genres into one melting pool of brilliance.
If one had to list what is so great about the series, you could say all those things and be done with it, but let us not forget Daran Norris as lawyer Cliff McCormack; a good friend of creator Rob Thomas, it seems as if they use every excuse to get him back into the series and has even gone on to similarly steal many a scene and episode in iZombie.
Every time he shows up is a joy and a barrel of laughs, and it’s a good thing too because “Rat Saw God”, named after a novel by creator Rob Thomas no less, is not exactly rolling in laughs, and it maybe says something about myself and my own ability to enjoy darker episodes of my favourite television shows when I say that it is probably the best episode of the second season of Veronica Mars so far.
It almost makes one feel bad for thinking that because as great as season two is, and the bus crash investigation has been building wonderfully around everything else going on, “Rat Saw God” sees the series look back towards season one; we get return guest appearances from Abel Koontz, Clarence Wiedman and, finally, Aaron Echolls (Harry Hamlin, now relishing turning up the dark charm now that we all know his actions from last season, a level of darkness that will only get more apparent and disturbing as the season goes on).
Dark is the operative word here. Not only do we get reminders of last season’s tale of murder, statutory rape and sex tapes, but the returning Koontz is in the throes of succumbing to cancer and his last wish is to be reunited with his daughter, Amelia (who centred around last season’s “Kanes and Abel’s“), a reunion that ends up not happening for equally dark reasons, leaving Veronica with no choice but to essentially lie to a dying man to spare his feelings before he passes away.
It is wonderful stuff, but thankfully never becomes overbearingly so; on top of another appearance from Cliff, we get Joss Whedon making a humorous cameo after having praised the series in an interview during its first season. It’s a moment that feels like the passing of the guard in terms of quality teen genre series, and it says something about how little-watched but impactful the series has been when this is the second high profile guest star of the season, coming off the back of Kevin Smith’s earlier in the season.
High profile cameos aside, the level of writing and drama here is superb, and while this season has been doing such a good job on its own merits, its wonderful to see the series to have the story telling confidence to look back and resolve much of its own little threads left dangling by last season’s events. Where did Amelia DeLongpre go to? What happened to Abel? Where is Clarence Wiedman nowadays?
It’s all answered here and it is wonderful stuff that cannot help but draw the viewer in so irrevocably. There is so much going on here that once again it almost feels impossible to sometimes keep up, but keep up you shall because the series has once again become an intoxicatingly brilliant blend of mystery and angst, of both the teen and adult variety. It says something about how great the writing is and the central daughter/father relationship that when the episode is cutting back between Veronica trying to find Amelia and Keith’s election woes, rat discovery on the bus wreckage and gripping confrontation with Aaron in prison that one only watches it as a great drama and not just a teen genre or even just plain genre one.
It is without a doubt one of the brilliantly quiet creative success stories of the 2000’s and with episodes as great as this and brilliant constructed seasons such as this and its first, it’s shocking that Amazon or Netflix haven’t tried to bring it to a larger audience that would positively pounce on a series like it in this day and age.