“Veronica Mars” giveth, and “Veronica Mars” taketh away.
The fourth season of the Kristen Bell-starrer featured her titular character still in a relationship with her high school boyfriend Logan (Jason Dohring), committed enough that they were finally ready to get married. But moments after they said their vows, their romance came to a definitive end when he was blown up in a car bomb that had been meant for her.
“We want there to be more ‘Veronica Mars’ adventures,” series creator Rob Thomas tells Variety, “and you want your lead detective in your noir show to have opportunities for romance — you don’t want to play this soap opera of the boy back home. It felt like cutting off a limb to save the [rest].”
Thomas admits that killing off such an important person in Veronica’s life was not an easy decision, but ultimately he felt the “emotional wallup” the audience would feel — especially after the couple had celebrated such a joyous occasion — was necessary in raising the stakes of the show. “I’m not trying to be tricky, I’m just trying to make it land with as much weight. It should pain them,” he says.
Telling Dohring he would no longer be a part of the show, should it come back for future seasons, was also difficult for Thomas, who shares he will forever love Dohring “as a person, as an actor” and be grateful for “what he’s done for the show.” He compares the conversation with the actor about his death scene to a breakup: “It’s not you, it’s me,'” Thomas says. “Intellectually, Jason got it — he’s told me that several times — but it still stings.”
When the series first debuted on UPN in 2004, it was centered on a teenage detective who was investigating the death of her friend. Set in the fictional Neptune High, the titular character experienced all the melodrama of those adolescent years, including love triangles. As the years went on, and the show moved to the CW and then also became a fan-funded feature film, the characters matured but still felt the pulls of their youth, which included early relationships. The audience often remained more focused on those relationships than the issues the show dove into. Now, Thomas is eager to move the show into a different space — one that focuses on season-specific mysteries — and he feels that “if they’re all tied to Neptune and tied to her high school boyfriend, it’s hard to sell people on the idea of coming to this show for the mystery of it.”
Still, Thomas didn’t want to completely blindside his audience with something bad happening, so it was important to him to see the fourth season with a “sense of foreboding.” This started with Veronica’s voiceover being in past tense but continued through pieces of the story that included Leo’s (Max Greenfield) return and Keith’s (Enrico Colantoni) health scare. Such storylines both served to set the audience up to expect something looming, but at the same time, provided a sense of misdirection from what that ultimate big, bad event would be.
Ultimately, the pizza delivery guy Penn (Patton Oswalt) was the Neptune bomber, which Veronica and Keith proved. But although they caught him, he still got the “last laugh,” Thomas notes, because they missed the bomb he had left in her car, which killed Logan.
“When we talked about motive, it was a little man wanting a moment to feel big, and in outwitting Veronica Mars, he gets that moment,” Thomas says of Penn. “One of the things that I feel about the three [prior] years on the air was that the further down Veronica was — the more underdog she was — the more people liked her. Knocking her down a bit gives us an interesting launch point if we get to do more episodes.”
Thomas admits that he did not want to spend time exploring Veronica’s immediate grieving period on-screen this season, nor would he want to return to that period in the future. “In the aftermath, we couldn’t write a joke in the show,” he explains. “And the kind of snappy, quick-witted stuff is our bread and butter.” But should the show go forward, “she’s still feeling the impact of Logan’s death.” Similarly, Thomas would want to keep “an element” of the show’s signature class commentary theme in future seasons, though, currently he says he is most “intrigued by the idea of putting Veronica in an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery.”
Of course, Thomas admits he is nervous to hear the audience’s reaction but stands by ending the season with Logan’s murder and Veronica leaving Neptune a year later “the right move.”
“Time may prove me wrong,” he admits. “But I feel like Veronica’s a great character. I’m hoping it can give the show longevity if we strip it of its teen soap elements and just make her bad-ass private detective.”