I started watching Veronica Mars after hearing good things about it, and after about five episodes had already aired. I watched those episodes out of order, and yet I couldn’t help but be sucked in. The show stands as perhaps the most compelling young drama to emerge since Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and stands as a testament to strong dramatic television. And yet, as is becoming more and more common these days, the show will not be remembered for its pedigree or quality in the annals of television history. Instead of awards and accolades for its stars and creators, Veronica Mars will be remembered as a show that never found an audience even through changes to its cast, its structure, its timeslot and even its network. And that is the real tragedy, because the end of Veronica Mars should be a celebration of its quality, not a lament for its failure.
Veronica Mars was cancelled both justifiably and logically, as much as it pains the show’s fans. The ratings have been poor for months, the show squandered over half of its Gilmore Girls lead-in in past weeks, and even creatively the third season has been an uneven affair. The reality is that the network could no longer justify keeping the show when they were getting better ratings out of repeat airings of America’s Next Top Model on Sundays. This doesn’t make seeing “Farmer Wants a Wife” getting renewed over the show any easier, but I think that I came to terms with the show’s loss quite quickly. It had been brought back to life twice by Dawn Ostroff, and three seasons is more than I believe we ever expected.
I think I wouldn’t have been satisfied if there had only been one season, even though it was such a note-perfect one. Similar to 24, Veronica Mars’ first season was an emotional powerhouse thanks to the trials and tribulations of its star, Veronica Mars. Kristen Bell’s portrayal of the character allowed for her life to seem so real; she was a high school student, a social outcast from a social group she once called her own before her best friend was murdered and her father placed the blame on her boyfriend’s father. When we began season one, she was a broken girl: her mother had fled, her friends shunned her, and she had lost faith in mankind. That first season was a spectacular journey as Veronica tried to solve her friend’s murder and come to terms with her life. If the show had ended after Season One, the lost potential would have been enormous.
And yet, like 24, Veronica Mars suffered from a problem in its second season. Its lead character was cured, of sorts, of the problems revealed in the first season. It was now less personal and more perfunctory: Veronica had to solve the mystery of the bus crash because she solves mysteries, not because it would be something meaningful in her own life. They tried to tack on too many storylines, complicating things in an attempt to overcome the lack of emotional connection for Veronica. It was not bad television, but the fact remained that it lost sight of what had made the first season as dramatic and successful as it was. And yet, despite this, I don’t think I would have been happy to see it end. I think that with a weak 2nd season, we couldn’t help but want to see where else they could take this character, and there was still hope.
I don’t want to say that hope is dead, but Veronica Mars’ 3rd season never lived up to the seasons before it. The middle arc featuring an old-fashioned murder mystery was well-constructed, but the rape mystery seemed forced and overdrawn while the final standalone episodes have been almost unbearable at points. There have been some highlights, and some moments have been just as fantastic as the moments we remember fondly from the first season…but it’s been off. And so, I can’t help but feel a little bit satisfied that the show is ending now. There is life left in its characters, perhaps, but I can’t help but feel that it had its chance: I can say goodbye now knowing that one great and two solid seasons emerged, and I don’t feel it will be haunted by what could have been.
Regardless, I will miss Veronica’s wit and charm, and her rapport with her loving father Keith. Wallace was a best friend she could count on, and one the show should have counted on more. Logan shall be missed for his biting sarcasm and yet also his own charms of sorts. I can imagine futures for even the show’s lesser characters: I figure Veronica ends up at the FBI with Mac as her gadgets guru and Wallace as her informant smoking in parking garages. Keith is retired, spending his time solving cold cases (Like Dexter, without the killing!). In my mind, they have a happy ending the show can’t provide.
I will miss Veronica Mars next year, as I think all of its fans will…but the time for campaigns is gone. As Jericho fans rally behind their show, Veronica fans are solemn, dignified. We made our protests, we kept our show alive, and now we get to say goodbye. While we can all hope that The CW decides to start making TV movies and lets the character live on, and can perhaps lament that it did not get a chance to wrap itself up in a real fashion, I feel as if the end of Veronica Mars is coming at the right time. After its two-hour series finale tonight, Veronica will have solved her last case. And I can only hope that, in the future, people remember this moment as the death of a fantastic TV show as opposed to a ratings-deprived one. Because that’s the only fair assessment.