There’s always a part of me that worries every time a storyline involving LGBTQ characters appears in a television series filmed, let’s say, prior to five years ago or so. Veronica Mars is a series that made some mistakes in that regards, or at least mistakes that may not have looked problematic back when it aired but which might very much do so now.
“Versatile Toppings”, for the most part, doesn’t prove problematic until the final moments. In fact, its storyline involving gay and lesbian students at the school being blackmailed or their sexual orientation will be revealed fits superbly into not only the noir feel of the series, but also vividly portrays the horrible nature and behaviour of those that live in the town that someone would find it okay to blackmail those who are not ready to reveal who they are.
It’s a set up for a very emotive and powerful story that runs itself into the ground in a bad way by the time we reach the climax of the episode, when it turns out that the student doing the blackmailing is herself a lesbian. I’m not sure what type of message that is trying to convey, or if the series is trying to make a powerful point that even those within the LGBTQ community can have their bad seeds who are not above blackmailing someone within their community, but it’s just a shame that the episode seems as if it’s going to tell a powerful story but sacrifices a bit of decency just to drive home a twist.
It’s a double shame as well because Phil Klemmer’s teleplay is for the most part incredibly engaging, mixing case-of-the-week with the plethora of story arcs going on to an incredibly entertaining effect, but in revealing that the blackmailer is herself a lesbian, the episode feels as if it manages to take some massive strides forward until that reveal and then goes back further than when it started.
As for the arc elements, we get another added wrinkle with Terrence Cook’s (Jeffrey D Sams) involvement, which goes in some very entertaining roundabouts, while Logan’s relationship with Hannah means that the Felix story strand continues to feel less like filler and something more emotionally substantial.
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The Terrence stuff is great; it involves the bus crash, we’re not sure if he’s innocent or not, it turns out he is and he has an alibi, but then we get that humdinger of a cliffhanger when Veronica finds the explosives in his garage which casts a whole new light on him. A powerful incentive to keep watching.
As always with this series, it manages to turn what could have been a crutch (a twenty-two episode run) into sheer gold that makes it wonderful to binge. While any other mystery-driven series could have been getting incredibly frustrating at this equivalent stage, Veronica Mars once again ensures that we come back for more.
While the Logan/Hannah stuff could have been filler, the series is even turning that into something entertaining with Jason Dohring’s performance making the audience question whether or not his motives in dating Hannah are pure or not. In lesser hands, Hannah could have been a damp squib of a character, but as last week’s wonderful bottle episode proved, Jessy Schram’s performance sells it, while she and Dohring have surprisingly good chemistry.
The level of drama going on, where we can see her fall for him but we’re never quite sure if he’s just being manipulative or actually genuine, makes for some darkly entertaining television, the likes of which this show does pretty damn well, and shows how great Dohring is at this type charming, possibly borderline psychotic, behaviour. Even his motivations for telling Hannah about her father’s darker behaviour leaves the audience in an emotional tangle: is he doing it for the right reasons, or just trying to push a wedge between her and her father for vengeful purposes? With Dohring’s performance, it feels as if he’s falling for her, but there’s always that little glint behind the eyes that for one moment makes you question him and it’s brilliant.
For the most part it all adds up to help “Versatile Toppings” be a really entertaining episode, but alas, it does lose points for the eventual twist at the end of the case-of-the-week which feels like it’s trying to do something interesting but just feels strangely ignorant and ill-conceived.
It’s a shame really.