Don’t be fooled by the somewhat silly title of “Ahoy, Mateys!”; the eighth episode of Veronica Mars‘ second season continues to go down the dark path with only occasional bursts of one-liners to lighten the load. This continues to be one teen television’s darker dramas and unafraid to tread paths that many shows of the same ilk and genre would want to avoid.
Being a season of television produced in 2005, Veronica Mars is symbolic of a time when television was making great inroads when it came to dealing with subject matter that television and film either failed with in the past or maybe didn’t even deal with at all. This being 2018, we’re now in a time when even shows like this and their attitudes towards LGBTQ themes may seem quaint and maybe nowhere near as acceptable as they should be.
One of the biggest criticisms of season one’s “M.A.D” was how wrong it felt, effectively using being gay as a means to embarrass a student into putting a stop to a vindictive blackmail attempt, but thankfully “Ahoy, Mateys!” gets is mostly right and is better with its portrayal… for the most part.
There is still a criminal element going on here, but the rationale and reasoning for it are understandable in a lot of ways and given recent stories of “conversion therapy” for teenagers who are so-called “confused”, something given a lot more exposure in the film world thanks to the recent release of The Miseducation of Cameron Post, like “M.A.D” and its portrayal of revenge porn and toxic masculinity, “Ahoy Mateys!” may start of as a story with direct links to this season’s arc of the bus crash, but it reveals itself to be a story even more relevant to today’s climate, especially in light of the rise of the current high level of American politicians and their own ignorant beliefs (which makes the series’ constant referencing to Donald Trump something of a dark joke in itself).
With their latest clients being the grieving parents of one of the victims of the bus crash who are finding themselves being harassed and stalked over their son’s death, what starts off as if it’s going to be a very emotive story involving vindictive actions taken upon a couple who don’t deserve it, turns into something else entirely. The eventual revelation of their stalker and his motivation for his actions could be problematic in their own right for sure, but the episode never judges, nor is the audience asked to. In fact, given the actions of the parents here, there is a part of the episode that almost asks you to accept what was happening to them which is a pretty daring moral stance to take.
As all of this is going on, “Ahoy, Mateys!” proves once again how wonderfully busy a season Veronica Mars is this year. On top of an emotive case of the week, we get more of Logan’s investigations into why he was set up for the murder of Felix on the bridge, as well as the introduction of the Fitzpatrick clan, a gang of Irish criminals that, although far from being the worst representation of being an Irish criminal on television (for that, check out the second season of Heroes), still relies on American actors doing somewhat problematic Irish brogues while hanging out in a bar filled with LED shamrocks on the walls.
Of course, being the geeky television fan that I am and having practically grown up watching The X-Files and anything related to that series, it’s always great to see alumni from that world show up and it’s here we say a big hello to Rodney Rowland who was also a regular on Space: Above and Beyond.
Despite the potential for stereotyping and unintentional humour, the scene where Veronica finds herself in the bar and potential danger feels more frightening and real in a way the series rarely does and places our heroine in danger that genuinely feels inescapable, with Rowland, who has a real knack for playing a dangerous level of darkness in many of his characters, feeling like someone who is genuinely going to hurt Veronica.
While it does, in a rare case it should be said, rely on Veronica being saved by a boy, in this case Logan (don’t we just love how the series is just practically throwing these two at each other at every opportunity even though she’s meant to be with Duncan at this stage), it doesn’t erase the fact that the Fitzpatrick clan feel genuinely dangerous and is another wonderful little wrinkle to add the show’s brilliant ability to world build.
Add to this some Russian Roulette, the results of which sees Logan and Weevil now finding themselves at an even more dangerous level of loggerheads than ever, and the episode giving Veronica a chance to team up with Mac once again (Tina Majorino really should have been a regular at this stage of the show), not to mention how wonderful it is every time Principal Clemmons shows up with his weary demeanor when it comes to Veronica, it’s the cap on another wonderful episode of a season that continues to get better and better, and more confident with every passing moment.
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