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Veronica Mars “Pilot” Review (1×01)

16 Aug

vm-pilot

“Veronica Mars, she’s a marshmallow.”

This marshmallow has been through a lot. She was raped, her best friend died, and her parents split up, and gone is her former high status at Neptune High, her reputation as a hot and popular girl in a town without a middle class. We see and hear this explicitly, but the stylistic touches are also abundant: between the present day and flashback narratives, there are differences in color tone, in clothes, in hairstyle–the long, flowing hair more in line with the stereotypical pretty blonde–and it all creates a more surreal quality through the flashbacks.

And well, that makes perfect sense, because Veronica has no interest in living her former life. She’s an observer now, someone with a knack for investigation, but someone whose life experiences have hardened her. She’s emotionally resolute in situations that others would normally wilt under. She keeps at a distance because of a reluctance to venture into the world that hurt her and spat her out, but also because she has an innate curiosity and stubbornness that allow her to watch and note and solve for hours on end. Those traits also shine through in her father, Keith Mars, and their relationship is one of the aspects of the show that catches your eye early on.

In the pilot, the dynamic is framed by two instances in which Keith poses the question “Who’s your daddy?” to his daughter. The first time brings with it an answer of “I hate it when you say that”, while the second time brings with it an adorable smile and a “You are”; the interesting thing here is that the second instance occurs right after Veronica realizes that her father’s been keeping things from her. This is a stable, playful, and loving relationship, but like with most other dynamics in the show, the past has played and will continue to play an essential role in how people interact.

Veronica, on the other hand, does meet someone new at the beginning of the episode: Wallace, whose position on the flagpole is analogous to Veronica’s position in the social scene at school following her dad’s investigation. The two complement each other nicely without it turning romantic, and Wallace is very perceptive when it comes to analyzing his friend’s character; he is, after all, the one who comes up with the marshmallow line.

It’s true; she is a marshmallow. The first scene sets up the cynical, sarcastic narration, and the various film noir cues, all the while subverting gender expectations; she’s the strong, confident detective looking to rain justice down upon those responsible for her friend’s murder, and she’s not going to back down to the biker gang that pulls up alongside her (Backup’s helping, too). On the other hand, the final scene–which leads into the marshmallow line–also brings out the family side to her; toughness and vulnerability are both consistently present. This is a story about the Lilly Kane murder, but also one about family, about relationships, about power, about class, and most importantly, about what it means to be Veronica Mars.

GRADE: A-

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Kristen Bell is perfect, I must say.

-This is a pretty awesome fan site, and the “last episode I have seen is” drop down is really cool. The entire site will change according to the last episode you watched–so that you can avoid spoilers–and this is easily the most in depth I’ve seen a site go in terms of characters:

http://www.marsinvestigations.net/index.php

-Lamb tells both Wallace and Veronica to “go see the wizard”. Just one example of a way to delineate who’s on what side, even amidst the ambiguity present in characters like Weevil and Logan (at the end of the pilot, they’re not exactly what they seemed at the beginning; they don’t fall into the typical masculine roles you expect when you first see them).

-Calculus of a Single Variable. Nice touch there, show. In the first minute, we already get a sense of who Veronica is.

-I haven’t seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so I can’t really compare Veronica and Buffy. I look forward to doing that when I get around to the show; anyway,  look for Buffy coverage sometime in the future.

-Short pilot (~39 minutes, and it’s called “extended” on DVD?). Evidently, there are multiple versions, and the original opens not with the scene outside the motel, but with the one at Neptune High. Catering to the UPN/CW viewers, evidently.

– “Tonight, we eat like the lower middle class we aspire to be!” Okay, Keith Mars. You have three seasons to convince me you’re better than Coach Taylor. Good start, although let me tell you somethin’: it’ll be tough.

-The voiceovers and flashbacks take up a significant portion of the pilot; it’s all mostly exposition, and although it’s a bit too much, it’s certainly understandable. What’s impressive about the pilot is how many storylines it juggles while it provides the exposition, and we get to see Veronica do what she does best.

-I find nothing wrong with the theme song. Maybe a little awkwardly edited, but that’s it. It’s catchy and “We used to be friends” applies perfectly.

-Hi. This is Veronica Mars coverage. Enjoy.

Photo credit: Veronica Mars, The CW

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One Response to “Veronica Mars “Pilot” Review (1×01)”

  1. Matthew Thompson August 18, 2014 at 4:32 am #

    Another one of my favorite shows. Looking forward to your coverage here.

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