It’s hard not to love ‘Debasement Tapes’ and a lot of it isn’t simply down to this episode’s main guest star. Yes, this is the one with Paul Rudd, the seemingly immortal star who never changes the older he gets. At the time of writing, according to IMDB, he had just turned 50 and still looks the way he did when he appeared in Clueless, way back in 1995.
A chameleonic actor who is great at both comedy and drama, but most famous for excelling at comedy, Rudd shows up and turns in a typically funny guest performance as rock star Desmond Fellows. The case of the week involving some missing tapes of Desmond is pretty light stuff, although it once again plays out as the episode’s main storyline, made more of given that the series is no longer focusing on a central story arc.
It’s light-hearted fare for the show, but John Enbom’s teleplay goes along at a lovely pace and it marks the best of the show’s attempts at a stand-alone episode this season to date, although in fairness so far there have only been two and the first was the not very inspired ‘Un-American Graffiti‘.
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Unlike the best of Veronica Mars‘ mystery of the week plotline, the episode essentially takes a straightforward storyline and in a shock move keeps it relatively straightforward. One expects some dark twist to reveal itself, or something to come along that might make us dislike Desmond, in much the same way it did when Adam Scott showed up back in season one, but the lack of shock twists and turns are refreshing for a change and it’s lovely to see the series just kick back essentially and have some fun with Rudd running around as a drunken rock star hanging out with Veronica and Piz.
It’s probably never going to trouble the top spot of a top ten lists of the all-time greatest episodes by any stretch, but for forty-five minutes it’s simply Veronica Mars just having a fun week. There are some intense stretches involving Keith becoming Sheriff again and reinstating Leo (the always welcome Max Greenfield) and for once it appears that rival Vinnie Van Lowe might actually become a legitimate threat as he puts himself in against Keith in the special election to find a new sheriff of Neptune.
Ken Marino has always been a welcome reccurring presence on the series, never quite being a threat as he is always thwarted by the Mars Investigations team – mostly by Veronica – but here one gets a slice of angsty joy at the possibility that he might derail Keith’s attempts to become the sheriff that we all know he should be.
The murder of Lamb a few weeks ago was a genuine shock, but it has led to where we are now, and while it does feel as if the series might have some exciting ongoing avenues to go down while it’s no longer focusing on a central mystery to carry the weight of its storytelling load, one cannot help but feel despondent that it might actually find something to work with just as it’s on the cusp of cancellation.