“Wichita Linebacker” is one of those television episodes from so a number of years ago that will have current viewers going “hey, it’s him/her” and so it is we take this moment to say hello to future The Social Network and The Lone Ranger star Armie Hammer, whose character, an American footballer named Kurt, enlists Veronica’s help in finding his stolen playbook.
Once again it’s Veronica Mars taking a plotline that feels like typical fodder for a teen detective drama series but unfortunately, instead of wielding anything more complex than one might otherwise expect, it plays its central mystery in pretty much the manner that you would expect. There are twists and turns galore as suspects come and go, before the reveal of the true perpetrator, but it relies predominantly on being a soap opera of jealousies, petty actions and easy to figure out motivations and yields plot developments that are for the most part obvious and somewhat trite.
Phil Klemmer and John Enbom’s teleplay is not one of their finest efforts which is a surprise and a shame given how on fire a lot of their work on the series is. On the plus side we get the introduction of Dean of Hearst College Cyrus O’Dell (a very welcome, as always, Ed Begley, Jr); a lovely little subplot involving Weevil trying his hand at working with Keith that starts well but unfortunately goes wrong very quickly despite the promising start, and newcomer to the season Piz (future Glee star Chris Lowell) scoring a job at the college radio station.
A recurring theme throughout this storyline and this part of the season isn’t just the “rapist on campus” plot thread, but also the subject of blame; feminists on campus are pointing fingers at the local fraternity, but it’s hard to know where the series is actually standing on the story. If it’s deciding to not take a stand and just let Veronica be the one caught in the middle, that’s fine, but there are certain characterisations going on here that makes one wonder what the series and the writing is trying to convey here.
The writing here is complex, that goes without saying, but it’s hard to know if the series is suggesting that blame culture on sexual assault goes both ways, or if it’s conveying that in a crime like this one must take the stance of suspects being guilty before being proven innocent. If the series committed, either way, that would be fine, but alas we’re stuck with somewhat militant feminists that are archly played and in some moments coming across as a borderline stereotypical at best, insulting at worst, while the fraternity have amongst their ranks Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen) who, as we know from season one, has been known to be unscrupulous and toxic when it comes to his treatment of women and his pursuit of sex.
Veronica Mars is a wonderful series and the intentions here I do believe are noble but it just feels as if the series is committing both ways to both explorations and the storytelling is ending up feeling messy and not coming across as well as it should do. Thankfully a lot of the character interactions throughout are more than enough to still make this an enjoyable view, but three episodes in and it feels as if the series isn’t firing on the cylinders it did throughout the first two seasons and given the plot and subject matter here, it’s a shame to see the series lose control and its focus in the way it’s doing here.
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