VERONICA MARS Season 4 Review: Growth Is Scary

She's still angry.

Hope you didn’t have plans this weekend, Marshmallows, because Veronica Mars season four released a whole week early! On the one hand, heck yeah to getting more of LoVe a little sooner than anticipated! On the other, it’s hard not to wonder how this will affect their streaming numbers, what with it being SDCC and all. There’s also the inconvenience to those who had planned their weekend around watching the show. Due to the early arrival, we’re going to do this review a little differently. We’re going to avoid spoilers for the first part, then you’ll get a warning to read further at your own risk.

The new season of Veronica Mars hooks you right from the first episode. A bomber is wreaking havoc on Neptune, trying to jeopardize its ranking in the Spring Break Destination hierarchy. The town we return to is different from the one we first saw when the show resided on the CW Network, but going back to Neptune is still just like going home. Despite the changes, it’s just as seedy as we remembered, and Veronica’s just as embittered.

Nearly all of your old favorites come back to play in season four. Some have small cameos, while others find themselves more involved in the overall story. A few new players join the game this year, with Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s Nicole and JK Simmons’ Clyde rocking it as a couple of the season’s MVPs. While this chapter spends a lot of time focusing on its characters (which absolutely plays out in its favor), the mystery’s nothing to shake a stick at.

As is customary to Veronica Mars fare, Mars Investigations finds itself barking up several wrong trees before it finally sorts out its bomber situation. Neptune may be too far gone to rescue by the time they do finally find their perp, and the death toll doesn’t stop when they finally have them behind bars.

The fourth season’s plot isn’t solely wrapped up in the mass-murder situation. The story deals with themes like gentrification and privilege, while also tackling the very panic-inducing idea of settling down, having a family, and maybe allowing just a little bit of personal growth. Everyone around Veronica has grown up, but she finds herself in the same old broken patterns. She laughs at the idea of therapy and mocks the progress of those she loves most. By the time she finally realizes how damaging this is to herself and those around her, it might just be too late.

Alright, sleuths. We’re going to spoiler town. Don’t hop this train if you don’t want to know what happens in this season!

Veronica Mars’ return to the small screen is filled with themes that will punch you right in the gut. Watching people deal with dementia is heart-wrenching, and watching a beloved fatherly figure like Keith battle with what he believes are the early stages is almost too much to bear. His story ultimately has a happy ending as he comes to the realization that it’s just a poor mix of meds from a careless physician causing the lapses in memory, but it fits in perfectly with Veronica’s struggle to deal with the passage of time and hurdles one’s expected to take on as they come.

Stubborn, determined, smart girls have gotten the opportunity to see themselves in Veronica for well over a decade now. That glimpse in the mirror isn’t always a pretty one, either. Dealing with trauma and endlessly trying to prove yourself has some negative side effects. One of which: getting stuck in your ways. The Veronica we meet in season four is just as clever as she ever was. She is also hella toxic. Rather than leaving the season at some kind of “I am what I am” crossroads, Veronica is forced to grapple with both her mortality and her own toxicity as the story unfolds.

Her growth thankfully isn’t solely tied to Logan (Jason Dohring), who has almost completely evolved from the raging dude bro of yore. This year, Veronica finds herself a protégé in one Matty Ross (Izabela Vidovic), and a new bestie in the aforementioned Nicole Malloy. Each woman challenges her in a new way, with Matty showing her exactly what her father went through when she was young, and Nicole challenging her unwavering “guilty until proven innocent” narrative. As is customary in stories like these, neither of Veronica’s new friends find themselves with happy endings.

All three women find themselves hardened by their stories in this season. Matty finds herself lost in her need to find her father’s killer (sound familiar?), while Nicole’s story ends in utter betrayal. After sharing the story of her rape with Veronica, someone who should have empathy for subsequent walls and fierce need to defend other women and ones self, Nicole finds herself labelled as a suspect. Thing is, she doesn’t find out until weeks after Veronica’s been listening in on a bug planted in her office.

Rightfully, Nicole both stands up for herself and immediately ends her relationship with Veronica. Meanwhile, Matty buries herself deeper after Big Dick (David Starzyk) is beheaded before her eyes. Like the Veronica of old, Matty shares this information with no one, and instead loses herself in her work. The teen reopens the previously bombed Sea Sprite Motel, and stays at Mars Investigations to help and newly healthy Keith take down the scum of Neptune. Veronica, on the other hand, finds herself with a dire need to get out of town by the time the season comes to a close.

After vehemently declining Logan’s proposal in the season premiere, Veronica finally decides that it’s time to let herself open up to the idea that not everything ends in catastrophe. Sometimes you catch the bad guy in time, and your dad doesn’t have dementia after all. Sometimes you give the girl you’re helping a new lot on life, and losing a friend and boning an ex in a dream gives you new perspective. She's had a couple brushes with death, but overall finds herself happy. Veronica Mars is ready to take the leap.

The girl with all the answers opens herself up to happiness and the two get married in a very cute civil ceremony outside of the courthouse with Keith and Wallace (the criminally underused Percy Daggs III) in attendance. Veronica and Logan let themselves breath for once in their complicated, messy, broken lives, and plan their honeymoon together now that the whole bombing mess has been sorted out. Thing is, said mess isn't exactly sorted yet.

While Big Dick didn’t have a chance to find himself behind bars again (I think you have to have a head on your shoulders to be incarcerated), Penn Epner (Patton Oswalt) is eventually caught by the team at Mars Investigation. Unfortunately, Epner manages to ultimately win the day by taking away the one thing our hero loves the most: Logan.

I have some complicated feelings on Logan’s death. I know it’s my job to say whether I thought it was narratively a good decision or not, but I honestly just don’t know. Sleeping on it didn’t help, either. Season four closes out with Veronica finally seeking help, which means his death might be what she needed to finally grow, but I'm not usually one for using an established character's death solely to progress someone else's story. This chapter closes out with their therapist sending Veronica the voicemail Logan had left her right before their wedding. In it, Logan says he’s sure he wants to marry her because of how inspired he is by her every day. He’s so madly in love with her because of the fact that she picks herself back up, even when hit by the most devastating of blows.

I suspect that’s true. Veronica Mars always will pick herself back up. We’ve seen both the character and the series dealt death blows time and time again, and each time they phoenix themselves out of the situation.

It’s unclear as to whether or not we’ll see a fifth chapter in Veronica’s story. If we do, it’s my sincere hope that we continue to see her work through her trauma rather than keep it buried deep as she always has. If not, season four feels like an honorable close. I missed Mac, loved the surprisingly interesting Clyde, and kinda hate the beloved Patton Oswalt right now, but I can’t think of another way I would have told this year’s story, even with the issues in mind. It’s a beautifully broken who-dunnit filled with character complexity, love, and heartbreak. And Veronica finally got her Pony.

That’s a wrap, Marshmallows. Shout out your thoughts on season four in the comments so we can talk about all of the things that still got left out of what might be my longest review yet!