Good day Mars Investigations hive!
As I've mentioned, I really love hearing from folks who read this newsletter! Please drop me a line anytime about anything (preferably related to Veronica Mars but I'm open!) by replying to this email or contacting me at email@example.com.
Also please note: The start and end of any potential spoilers are marked with this emoji: 🤐
🔍 Intro and housekeeping (above, already happened)
🔍 Synopsis of S1E17 "Kanes and Abel's" from veronicamars.fandom.com
🔍 Some thoughts on how art is complicated
🔍 Stray thoughts and observations on cultural references (📝) music (🎼), and tech (🚀)
🔍 Next time in Mars Investigations
🔍 Synopsis of "Kanes and Abel's"
Originally aired April 5, 2005
"In this episode – after finding out about Abel Koontz's daughter, Amelia DeLongpre – Veronica tracks her down and tells her that the Kanes are paying off her father. Meanwhile, Veronica investigates the mysterious harasser of Sabrina Fuller." (source)
🔍 Some thoughts on how art is complicated
You ever play a video game or watch a TV show and think "This would be better if that character didn't get a redemption arc" or "This would be better if those two characters remained enemies instead of falling in love"? Just about every time I watch something I can think of tweaks that would make something more interesting or satisfying to me. Oftentimes this thought exercise ends with me thinking "Ok, but then it would be a different thing. This thing's story is about the redemption arc/enemies falling in love." And then I'm left trying to figure out how the hell I am even supposed to react to something that I overall love even while finding it really annoying or problematic. I think the answer is about getting comfortable in the frustratingly abstruse gray area of "art is complicated."
I have found myself having a version of this conversation with myself after almost every episode this season, including this week's. Specifically, I've been thinking about how great it would be if Veronica was a better hero—a slightly more ethical one with a more rigorous social justice analysis.
For example, I thought that Veronica learned in S1E9 "Drinking the Kool-Aid" that right and wrong is a false binary, and that doing the most ethical thing sometimes means defying the rules as written (which were created by the people in power to benefit them and only them) in order to make a choice that leads to more justice and less harm. In other words, sometimes you should break rules/laws/mores because not doing so, while perhaps the most socially appropriate choice, leads to the most injustice.
In this week's episode, however, Veronica was presented with just such a choice. Once she discovered Mr. Cho was responsible for sabotaging Sabrina, Veronica could've intervened without telling Mrs. Fuller what was up, something she should have known would have shitty consequences for Hamilton. Unfortunately, although Veronica is smart and sassy, and often exhibits a good analysis of inequality and inequity in Neptune, she stays pretty unaware of her privilege and how she wields it. So, she tells the Fullers and Vice-Principal Clemmons what's happening and Hamilton loses a chance at the Kane scholarship.
It would make Veronica a much cooler and better hero if she grappled with the thorny ethical issues that are present in the Mr. Cho/Sabrina foofaraw. And if she bucked convention so that Mrs. Fuller and Sabrina—who we can assume have been on the receiving end of every privilege and advantage the Neptune school system has to offer—didn't actually get to step on Hamilton's neck on the way to winning valedictorian, man, that would make her even cooler.
But that is not this show and Veronica is not that hero. While this series does an admirable (especially for 2005) job of presenting tricky situations where issues of race and class are at the center, it's not really here to examine those issues deeply. Veronica is here to notice the injustice and be annoyed by it, but only sometimes take action that disrupts the machinations of the injustice. So, even though we might want her to be a better hero, a more 2022 hero, we also have to contend not only with the fact that she's just not that hero but also with the fact that the show's central conceit seems to be that Veronica is admirable and totally fine as is.
I don't think that any of this means that we should stop noticing or pointing out when and how Veronica behaves in ways that protect the status quo. For one thing, I'm constitutionally incapable of viewing anything without noticing those kinds of things. But beyond that, being a thoughtful viewer means finding the gray area between "if you don't like it watch a different show" and "accept it fully on its terms, it's fine as is." As I work on this newsletter I'm finding I can view a show on its own terms while also having a scathing analysis of the ways in which it reifies a terrible status quo. (And it's even more important we do that with Veronica Mars because it's a show that thinks it's doing some serious subverting of power and privilege.)
🔍 Stray thoughts and observations
- The most important thing about this episode is that it's the first appearance of Vinnie Van Lowe. Every moment Vinnie is on screen is a delight and also never enough. Give us more Vinnie. We want more Vinnie.
- Changing your name to Amelia DeLongpre? Respect. She definitely could've gone with a Joan Smith or a Susan Greenberg. But she decided to lean all the way into a noir sensibility. Well played, Amelia.
- In fact, this episode has a handful of noir flourishes that are worth mentioning. Clarence Wiedman is seen wearing a black fedora and a long black coat. Vinnie Van Lowe describes Mars Investigations as "working the whole B-movie, back alley vibe." We also get a wife who wants to hire a PI to snoop on her husband. I don't think there's much to make of this beyond the fact that the show is sort of dancing around some of its inspo. And I wish it did this much more often!
- The Ocean Beach Hotel costs $70/day and has very cool seashell wallpaper. I love a seaside-themed motel, I'd stay there.
- Damn, Veronica really is using Amelia DeLongpre as the anchor of her entire plan to reveal the truth about Abel Koontz and she's keeping all of this information from her, including that her father is dying. Very unethical stuff here!
- Logan's affection for his mom has hinted that she was good people, unlike her shitbird husband Aaron. In this episode we get another tiny reveal about Lynn Echolls being a good egg: She was always nice to Veronica.
- Even though Hamilton points this out that Sabrina's mom is the school board chairman, it took me a few viewings to understand that she is school board chairman Jessica Fuller who we first met in "Mars vs. Mars" (S1E14).
- I put in some time with Google Translate to look into what Sabrina was studying in her little study hole. The phrase "Renato dice che sua mogile ha una piccola pensione qui vicino" (which can be seen on one of Sabrina's two laptops), means "Renato says his wife has a small guesthouse nearby."
- When Veronica shows up at the Fuller's house, Sabrina tells her mom that Veronica is there for tutoring. Mrs. Fuller replies, "Just don't forget about your own studies." And then Mrs. Fuller and Sabrina have a Real Weird conversation in Italian. Sabrina says, "Se mi trattiene la chiudo nella la cantina" which means "If she stays too long I will lock her in the basement." Her mom replies "Ma potrebbe stappare il buon vino. Meglio tentare per la soffita" which translates to "But she could open the good wine. It better be the attic." This is already a very weird exchange but if you think about how gleefully they have this exchange, it's even creepier!
- Sabrina's whole study set-up is deranged. No child should ever study that much or that hard. I'm putting my foot down!
- Sabrina got an 86 on the AP Bio test but Advanced Placement tests are scored on a scale of 1 to 5. For the record, I took one AP test (English) and got a 3 which did not allow me to enroll in advanced placement English classes in college. But I stress-tested the pre-requisite system by enrolling in one anyway my freshman year. 😎
- The address of Mars Investigations, as seen on the pen Veronica gives Vinnie, is 1721 Harper Blvd., Neptune, CA 98081. Phone: 555-0121.
- So far this season we've been along for the ride as Veronica has gathered clues and kicked around theories about who could've murdered Lilly. At this point, she's figured out that there are several people who had a motive as well as an opportunity. And other than Logan, who we learn in this episode has an airtight alibi, there isn't really anyone who can be ruled out. This episode takes some of the possibilities even further by showing us Veronica imagining how it could've gone down if Jake, Celeste, or Duncan was responsible for her death. I really like these waking-dream sequences! First of all, each one seems pretty plausible which means that with five episodes left in this season, we're still trying to figure out wtf happened to Lilly. These sequences also have a drama to them—the camera movement is jerky and jarring and the color is desaturated besides the greens of Lilly's pep squad uniform, the grass, and the palm trees. Just a nice, eerie little departure from the usual.
- A new clue! Keith tells Veronica that Jake Kane called Clarence Wiedman before be called to report Lilly's murder. And furthermore! While Keith was at the Kane house responding to the call, the dryer buzzed. Inside was Duncan's soccer uniform. It now seems possible that Duncan killed Lilly, perhaps during one of his blackouts, and his parents are helping him cover it up....?
📝 Cultural references
- Cain and Abel are from the Bible
- A "K-car" is any model of Chrysler using their K-platform which debuted in 1978 with the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant. Cars made with the K-platform were inexpensive to produce which meant that those cars were more affordable for the consumer. From what I've now read (this article was informative!), the K-platform saved Chrysler from certain financial ruin.
- Loyola Marymount University is a university in Los Angeles.
- Amelia and her roommate have a PJ Harvey poster on their wall
- The 1981 Harry Hamlin movie Clash of the Titans is playing on the TV in Amelia's hotel room
- Veronica says to Caz, "Hello, Truman" in a very "Hello, Newman" (from the TV show Seinfeld) tone of voice
- Hostess Snoballs
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch was a TV show (1996-2003) starring Melissa Joan Hart and was rebooted in 2018 for Netflix as Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Both are based on Archie comic books of the same names.
- Josh Hartnett, heartthrob. Check him out in The Faculty (1998) which is one of my favorite movies of the era.
- Whew, Aladdin on Ice is a real thing from 1992
- Proust, a French novelist I've never read (again, I got a 3 on the AP test)
Two things worth mentioning here:
- Vinnie Van Lowe singing Hall and Oates' "Private Eyes"
- The sweet, sad, dreamy song "Dragonfly" by M.Craft plays when Veronica follows a ghostly version of Lilly out to the Kane's pool.
- There's a rotary phone on the wall in Mars Investigations. I guess it's decorative?
- We see a couple of Dell laptops in Sabrina's study set-up
- Veronica's surveillance and GPS software
🔍 Next time in Mars Investigations
Next up is "Weapons of Class Destruction." 🤐🤐🤐🤐 I will leave it at that!
Tech support by Jen DeMarco