There’s no denying that the murder of Dean O’Dell (Ed Begley, Jr) has been the one story arc of Veronica Mars that has been – and I mean no disrespect when I call it this – of the lowest stakes of all the ongoing, multi-episode arcs within the Veronica Mars canon.
The series has always had a brilliant ability to take its ongoing arcs (such as Lilly Kane’s murder and the bus crash) and turn them into quiet little epics with twists and turns that usually reveal them to be part of a bigger story, or one involving characters with a sense of stature, usually socially, taking advantage of their place in society to do terrible things. Even the campus rapist story, for all its faults, played out on a somewhat large canvas that involve the sorority and fraternity system within Hearst College and played, albeit on a college campus setting, with ideas of a corrupt system or systems for our heroine to fight against on top of the unsettling nature of the crime in question.
The murder of Dean O’Dell has undoubtedly been of a smaller scale; and one that could easily have been done simply as a case of the week. Whilst it has come in the midst of Veronica Mars’ weakest, or at the very least its most flawed season, it has been the one storyline of the year that has been the most entertaining and well handled of the three this season. Although it goes without saying that one of those arcs was curtailed by a change in direction.
The story arc in question never quite hits the heights of Lilly’s murder or built up to a conclusion as confrontational or as disturbing as the revelation that Cassidy was the one that caused the bus crash, but it does show that Veronica Mars could do a fun smaller scale story over the course of several episodes. It uses it to kick start its own sense of game-changing twists and turns, as evidenced last week when this more seemingly straight forward story arc went and killed Sheriff Lamb without warning.
Best of all, just when it seems as if the story has come to a natural conclusion, it then goes and throws in an extra twist. After leading the characters and the audience to conclude that Veronica’s professor Landry (Patrick Fabian) has committed the murder, it was, in fact, Tim Foyle, Veronica’s actual foil in the criminology class who killed the Dean.
The scene in question where Veronica connects the dots in front of the rest of the class as Tim’s excuses fall apart is done well. While it’s not quite the revelation that Aaron Echolls killed Lilly, the scene in question sums up the tone and enjoyment factor that the rest of the story arc has had.
It also means that from this point onward Veronica Mars is entering uncharted territory. The character development will continue from episode to episode, but there is no story arc in play after this for the first time in the run of the series, with each episode now being its own mystery of the week to be solved in the space of 45 minutes.
It sets out to be the most interesting and unique part of Veronica Mars‘ three seasons (so far) run, where it will effectively become just like any other show with a procedural element. While the murder of Dean O’Dell was not the most engrossing mystery in television history, it was enjoyable to see the series just do a mystery that relied on an element of fun crime solving. It showed that the series could do it well, and now, going forward, it’s going to be doing in on a week-by-week basis.