Veronica Mars Review: Darkness Descends on Neptune in Hulu Revival

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It feels like we're opening the door to old friends at the start of the Veronica Mars revival.

As networks around the world compete to capture lightning in a bottle, many of them are hoping to do it twice (or even more if we include film) with revivals and reboots.

But the longer a show has gestated in our good graces, the more difficult it becomes to burst through with a fresh perspective on well-known characters.

Veronica Gets Comfortable in the Office - Veronica Mars

The Hulu series marks the third time Veronica Mars has defied the odds. 

First, it was one of the series that made the leap from UPN to The CW when it was born laying to waste The WB and UPN. Then through the magic of crowdfunding, Veronica Mars the movie catered to fans everywhere by bringing her ten-year high school reunion to the big screen.

Veronica Mars Kicks Butt in Revival Trailer

Now, in the advent of streaming, even a show that needed crowdfunding for its film can find a new home for voracious viewers.

And let's be clear, to know Veronica Mars is to love Veronica Mars. From the moment Kristen Bell uttered Veronica's first word, she had made her mark, and she took Veronica with her.

Glancing Upward - Veronica Mars

To successfully achieve so much while not a part of major networks or studio funded film is worth celebrating. 

Rob Thomas created Veronica Mars and later her undead doppelganger via The CW's iZombie. Thomas knows how to craft a character and squeezes more life out of relative unknowns than seems possible. 

He has a way with words, and his dialogue blossoms once the right actors take on his material. He has earned the opportunity to carry Veronic Mars forward into the 21st Century.

The latest incarnation of his versatile heroine is all grown up. Veronica got the guy. She graduated from Columbia. She has a law degree, and she's working beside the father she loves.

Veronica and Logan Forever - Veronica Mars

Veronica and Logan (Jason Dohring) found their way together again in the movie, and the latest series picks up five years later. Veronica and Logan are together, without all of the baggage they once towed around with them.

Mars Investigations is a well-respected firm that works together with local law enforcement even if the local officials don't like to admit they great work done by Veronica and her dad, Keith (Enrico Colantoni).

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It never stops the father/daughter team from digging in and passing along what they know to those with the badges.

As one of the spring break capitals of the West, Neptune gets overrun during the summer months. For those who want to reinvigorate the town and see it gentrified, it's a glorified nightmare.

Mars Investigations Crime Scene Tape - Veronica Mars

As always, good investigators need a case, and Veronica and Keith soon find themselves hot on the trail of a serial bomber after a local seaside motel suffers the first attack.

Veronica has always had a feel for troubled souls (see her taste in men, for example), and when she finds the motel owner's daughter in need of some guidance, she makes her move on the disillusioned teen.

Like Veronica before her, Matty Ross (Izabela Vidovic) has a sharp tongue and a nose for investigation. Veronica's connection to Matty feels a little too on the nose. She's supposed to be the embodiment of Veronica as she once was, but Matty doesn't win hearts as easily as Veronica.

Where Veronica had that squishy inside as a teen, Matty is already hardened. She's more like the adult Veronica, who is struggling to accept her place in the world.

Matty Ross Acts Like Mini Veronica Mars

The Veronica we find in the revival has lost some of her softness. She's still cracking wise, but her comments are often more jagged than they were when she was younger.

Because, sure, she got the guy and the good education, but she's still living in Neptune doing the same thing she was doing as a teenager. For a woman who had high aspirations about life, she got sidetracked in her hometown.

Mary McDonnell: Returning to TV!

Veronica runs into old friends in the course of the investigation, and she makes new ones, too. While they've all grown up, it seems as if only Veronica is still hanging onto her youth fighting maturity at every step.

Considering the pounding she took as a young woman, it's not a surprise Veronica would want to cling to the very things she bypassed in high school when ostracized in response to her rape and her best friend's murder.

The Gang Smiles for the Camera - Veronica Mars

Veronica grew up very fast, and now she's kicking and screaming her way into the future.

The ultimate bad boy Logan Echolls is a Naval Intelligence officer, and he's accepted not only the responsibility but the maturity the job requires. His love for Veronica never wavers, but as his emotional intelligence grows, Veronica's remains stunted.

The "whip-smart" girl we loved has grown into a semi-bitter woman, and that's the most difficult thing to take in during the revival.

Her friendships are indicative of the juxtaposition in which she finds herself. Wallace (Percy Daggs III) is married with children, throwing housewarming parties and engaging with an assortment of individuals Veronica finds borderline repulsive.

Wallace Greets a New Friend - Veronica Mars

At the same time, Veronica's friendship with Weevil (Francis Capra) disintegrated because she chose a life of law while he and his sort are the subjects of her investigations.

Veronica makes a new friend in bar-owner Nicole (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) with whom she shares a similar, violent past.

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Relationships are put to the test as each new clue about the bombing emerges. Veronica is often at a crossroads between her desire to uphold the law and needing to accept others into her life. The two don't always mesh.

Other characters include Patton Oswalt as a pizza guy named Penn with a yen for murder mysteries. His inclusion in the local murder heads group is a sweet nod to Oswalt's first wife, Michelle McNamara, who was an esteemed crime writer.

Patton Oswalt is Penn Epner the Pizza Guy - Veronica Mars

Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen) is on hand for some of the fun, but it's his father Big Dick (David Starzyk) who takes center stage as one of the looming suspects in the bombings as he hopes for big returns with the gentrification of Neptune.

J.K. Simmons joins the cast as a former prison mate of Big Dick named Clyde. Clyde charms like only Simmons can, and that results in a surprising attachment with Keith. It's a relationship Mr. Mars needs as he explores the possibilities of declining health and continuing his work with Veronica.

Even Deputy Leo (Max Greenfield) returns to Neptune as an FBI agent proving Keith had the goods to train some of the best officers in the business.

The performances are terrific. Every actor has a perfect understanding of their character. The magic between Bell and Colantoni remains, and Bell finds a similar sizzle with newcomer Howell-Baptiste.

Clyde Prickett Hits the Green - Veronica Mars

The mystery is a bit convoluted as any good mystery should be. Veronica and Keith haven't lost their ability to catch a culprit, and it's never really a question that they'll solve the puzzle.

Not everything stays the same, though. Veronica has to find the courage to shake whatever is holding her back from some of life's greatest achievements.

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Because the real darkness of the season doesn't come from the frustrating case or the gore it delivers, but from within Veronica as she tries to overcome the injustice of her youth to become the woman we all know she will be.

Veronica's wit has a caustic bite to it now. It's impossible not to recognize her pain and wonder if she's ever going to break free of her torment to let a little light into her world.

Leo Moved Up in the World - Veronica Mars

There is a culmination at the end of the season that demands of Veronica to step up or get off the plate by throwing at her one of the most significant trials she'll ever face.

And it's then that the season ends, suggesting a journey of a different sort might be on the horizon.

With all of that said, the swing might be a little too big.

How fans accept the new normal will determine whether there will be another season on the horizon. Make no mistake, while this is touted as a limited series, it's also clearly a jumping-off point to what may come.

Spending Time Together - Veronica Mars

There is a saying that you can't go home again.

It's never the same as when you left it, so your life within it is also irreversibly changed. Veronica's journey out of Neptune and back again is about her discovering what that means for her.

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Moments abound in the revival that will make your heart swell. Veronica is still the much-beloved heroine. But her adult relationships with her love, her father, and her friends are as much a cause for inflection as celebration.

Veronica is on a precipice as much as Neptune itself, and how you accept her journey will be as consequential for you as it is for Veronica Mars.

All eight episodes of Veronica Mars drop on Friday, July 26 only on Hulu.


Editor Rating: 3.75 / 5.0
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Veronica Mars Quotes

Girl, you should hear what people say about you.


This is my school. If you go here, your parents are either millionaires or your parents work for millionaires. Neptune, California, a town without a middle class. If you’re in the second group, you get a job; fast food, movie theatres, mini-marts. Or you could be me. My after-school job means tailing philandering spouses or investigating false injury claims.

Veronica Mars