This article contains major spoilers for the fourth season of Veronica Mars.
Veronica Mars made her long-awaited return to television on Hulu this summer. After three seasons in the early 2000s and a fan-funded movie in 2014, Kristen Bell is back as our favorite private investigator, solving mysteries in the seedy beach town where she grew up.
Series creator Rob Thomas made the decision to kill off the show’s male lead Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) in the season’s final minutes, mere moments after his wedding to Veronica. Thomas called it a “necessary” decision, to make any potential seasons of Mars more interesting.
“I keep thinking of [this season] as sort of a bridge, taking us from what the show was to what the show will be moving forward. And I want to strip the show of nostalgia,” Thomas told the Hollywood Reporter.
“Stripping the show of its nostalgia” might just be what strips it of an audience. Longtime fans and newcomers alike are frustrated by the story choices and the writers’ defensive response to backlash. “I want it to be about a kick-ass detective solving interesting cases,” Thomas said of future seasons. “Moving forward, we’re going to really build around [the idea that] the case is the thing and less of the soap opera of Veronica’s life.” But Veronica’s life is exactly what made fans care for so long. Veronica Mars gave viewers something more than interesting mysteries to solve—it provided dynamic relationships, compelling characters and commentary on class division and sexual assault.
Season four’s good aspects are left in the debris of the blast that killed Logan, and along with him, any excitement we may have had about going back to Neptune. That brilliant Mars blend of relevant themes and snappy dialogue are cast aside in favor of a shock-value ending that wipes out everything that came before it—which Thomas says was his exact intention.
His careful explanations for the decision only seemed to rub salt in the wound of not only killing such a beloved character, but also the clear desire to separate the show from its origins. Cutting off the past in order to build a different future might make sense to him, but it still left many fans feeling hurt and bewildered at the loss of a TV series they valued and waited for.
Dohring said though he was just as unhappy as fans are about Logan’s demise, he understood the need for Veronica Mars to shed its “teenage drama.” Thomas wants to write “Veronica Mars as a P.I. out in the world, solving mysteries. And doing that with a boyfriend or a husband just felt less interesting, less sexy, less noir.”
This might be a worthy explanation if that “boyfriend or husband” was a character who couldn’t stand alone, or merely served as a foil to Veronica. But the Logan Echolls written into season four had made progress as a fully-developed character. That growth felt wasted, and to hear his place on the show whittled down to “teenage drama” stings. For many viewers, Logan didn’t just represent a happy ending or a plot inconvenience for Veronica. He was a fully-formed character, and Dohring and Bell’s chemistry was rare for a television couple. They’re a huge reason people still care so much about Veronica’s life, not just about the mysteries she solves. Belittling a great past to simple “nostalgia” is doing a disservice to the work Thomas and other writers did.
Dohring told TVLine: “Trust in Rob Thomas. He’s gonna guide the show in a good way, as he has at every turn. I have complete faith in his ability to write great story.” But like Veronica said in the fourth season: “My issue with trust, it’s not hard wiring. It’s experience.”
Veronica Mars has not yet been picked up for a fifth season by Hulu. To drastically alter the narrative of a show without even knowing whether there will be more episodes feels harsh and calculated in a way that a finale hasn’t since How I Met Your Mother. And saving that lethal moment for the end was calculated on Thomas’ behalf. “I…wanted to create a sense of foreboding, because I want the audience to get the sense that something bad [was going to happen],” he told TVLine. “I wanted them to be waiting for that shoe to drop. But I wanted them to feel like they had gotten through the woods and then drop the shoe.”
Dropping the shoe on a devoted fan-base feels strange, and not only unexpected, but unnecessary. “Noir” or not, it just doesn’t seem to fit the tone of a show that used to remind us how people could bounce back, how the good guys could still win—at least once in a while. To bring a show back after so many years only to kill off a great character in the final moments feels uncharacteristic of the world Thomas built. A world that was more than just a “soap opera” for people who tuned in every week and contributed to the 2013 Kickstarter campaign to bring it back.
“I think there’s a reason you don’t see many hard-boiled detective shows where the lead detective has a boyfriend or a girlfriend; it kind of limits your options,” Thomas said. “It was like we were cutting off a limb to save a life…like cutting off an arm so that the body can survive.”
But a body can’t survive without its heart.