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Shandean Postscripts to Politics, Philosophy, & Culture - Goodbye Veronica Mars

About Goodbye Veronica Mars

Previous Entry Goodbye Veronica Mars May. 24th, 2007 @ 05:01 pm Next Entry
A close look at the last moments of "Veronica Mars" and the Song that Closed the Show:

Perhaps it's the pain on her face as she looks up at the pouring rain. The last we see of her she is walking down the sidewalk, walking away from us, the way she should, into a future we will never know. The camera is lifting up and she is walking away huddled in her own body as the rain comes down. She is alone. She is responsible for her own revenge and for her own unwitting betrayal of her love for her father. She is our noir heroine and she is walking away.

So perhaps it is the pain on her face that makes the final scenes of "Veronica Mars" so heartbreaking. There is no resolution to the show, nothing to relieve the pain of guilt and regret we see in her face, and there never will be a resolution to that pain, because "Veronica Mars" has walked out of our lives. bravely with all of her regret and guilt and sense of loss. Her bravery, her smartness and cunning could not save the people she loved from hurt and she knows it.

Last night Keith Mars made Veronica dinner and she told her father she loved him and on her face you could see she was grateful to have such a dad and afraid that her father will know the full truth about her life -- all the bad things she has had to do to protect herself. And so goes "Veronica Mars" one of the few shows where the father-daughter relationship is both strong, yet unsentimental. The relationship between Keith and Veronica is almost unprecedented in modern pop culture. A father-daughter relationship that is fun and yet knowing; each knows that one is vulnerable to the other; each is clear eyed about the faults of the other and yet they remain mutually admiring. The show was structured so that we saw this relationship from Veronica's point-of-view and what we as an audience saw in such a heartbreaking way, is how Veronica recognized for herself the ways in which she hurt her father, and yet, still, her father does everything to help her. The morning after that dinner Veronica opens the door of her bedroom to the sound of an alarm clock, which began its chirp in the previous scene. As she closes the door the familiar guitar chords of a half-remembered song begin to rise in the background and the song will accompany us to the end of the show. Though perhaps we don't recognize it right away, it is Albert Hammond's song from the early 1970s "It Never Rains In Southern California". The guitar is strumming over the bare-bones of sharp-chords of heartbreak and skipping over a chirpy rhythm leading to a sing-song organ before Hammond's own soft-rock whiskey voice takes over.

Veronica walks out of her bedroom wondering where her father is. She calls out "Dad?", and looks into his empty bedroom as she walks toward us. When she reaches for the refrigerator door she sees over her shoulder the headline that tells us, and tells Veronica, that Keith Mars, her father, has destroyed evidence in order to save her, Veronica, his daughter. Perhaps only now do we recognize that that song rising in the background is "It Never Rains In Southern California" because as Veronica looks at the headline Hammond's voice begins to swell underneath the soundtrack. We can still hear the background sounds of the morning filtering from outside into the Mars's apartment, but by this time it doesn't matter. All that matters is the look on Veronica's face and her sharp intake of breath, which twice punctuates her shock and anger. She has been punched in the stomach and we see a series of emotions run across her face as the look of shock turns to confusion and then frustration at the world and finally anger at herself as she crumples the paper and slams it down on the counter. It is anger at herself for she knows that she is responsible, that she has forced her father to save her from prosecution by destroying evidence.

She slams down the paper and the scene cuts to what we soon recognize is a series of voting booths. It is here that the old song takes over the the story with its bitter sweet story of hope and failure. "I didn't think before deciding what to do" the lyric says, as it cuts to the voting place.

And perhaps that is Veronica's coda. She didn't think before deciding what to do. She got sweet revenge -- and none of us in the audience would argue with her that her revenge wasn't deserved, that we dearly loved the revenge that was taken -- but did she think before deciding what to do? She knew how to do it, because she is the smartest young woman on television. She's got skills and she's got creep. She knew she could do it and she did it. But, no, she didn't think before deciding what to do, and it was her father that she dearly loved who was hurt. How else could it have ended? She certainly couldn't show her father what was being sent around on the internet.

Now, she is closing the curtain of the voting booth and looking determined. The song lyric is louder "All that talk of opportunities" Hammond sings, "TV breaks and movies, rang true, sure rang true" as Veronica marks the name of her father Keith Mars, the father she loves, on the ballot for sheriff.

And we too think of all the opportunities and hopes of this young woman, and how she wanted to believe. She fought for them, even through her cynicism, because she needed to know the truth and maybe she thought with the truth all of her hopes and dreams would once again be restored. And those who are listening closely, those who will feel the heartbreak as the show winds down forever, will also hear the doubled regret in the song -- because it is not only Veronica's regret, for all that she has had to do to live her life, but also our regret at the end of the show, that is playing out in the song. And I would argue, also, a regret that is commenting on how these shows are made. This is a song about a young man who moves to Los Angeles, who has hope and is looking for the big break, but the big-break never comes. Los Angeles is a tough place and even when you are the show-runner of a series with great actors and good writers and sometimes great stories, even then, things are not going to go as you hoped. After playing through this scene a half-dozen times I think that this song is not only a comment on Keith and Veronica Mars, but also a meta-comment on Hollywood and how show-runners with great stories like Rob Thomas and Joss Whedon continually get punched in the gut,. They struggle to tell their stories within the confines of commercial television, and still remain true to themselves, but it is never possible to tell all the story you want, and battle with the network at the same time.

Veronica marks the ballot and with determination, and a slight shake of her head, turns and opens the curtain. The song is entering its refrain. As she walks out of the voting booth she walks into the rain. Immediately we cut from the sound of the curtain opening as Veronica walks out of the voting booth, to Veronica opening of the door as she walks out of the voting place. The drummer on the song plays his brief two-beat which signals the refrain of this song just as the door is opening. And then there is the sound of thunder as Hammond begins to sing, Seems it never... .

Veronica Mars is opening the door and she is facing the world. She knows that in saving herself she has betrayed her father, and yet her father still loves her. After the sound of thunder we hear the sound of rain and on the soundtrack the voice sings as Veronica closes the door "Seems it never rains in Southern California". She looks worried a little afraid as she looks, first to her left, and then up into the sky, and then out into the street. She grabs the blouse she is wearing over a camisole and a tee-shirt, and crosses her arms over her chest crouching, and turns right, walking out into the rain as the camera turns with her but does not follow her. Yes, we as an audience want to follow her down that rainy street, but we know we must remain here, for this last look at her. We can only see her from behind as she walks down the sidewalk, beneath the trees and the final clap of thunder. We see her, the lovely Kristen Bell in the persona of Veronica Mars, walk past the "Vote Here" sign, huddling into her own body, walking away from us as the camera pulls slightly back and up into its closing crane shot. As she walks down the street and the scene fades to black, there is a final sound of thunder and the song continues, "Seems I've often heard that kind of talk before. It never rains in California, but girl don't they warn ya. It pours, man it pours."

Goodbye, Veronica Mars.

Jerry Monaco
New York City
24 May 2007


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.



music: It Never Rains In Southern California - Albert Hammond
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From:zaza613
Date:May 25th, 2007 01:41 pm (UTC)
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I am so sad to see Veronica Mars go, but I must say that this is a beautifully written commentary on those last moments.
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From:monacojerry
Date:May 25th, 2007 02:08 pm (UTC)
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Thank you so much. I became obsessed with that ending and I had to write about it. Every time I think of her walking away in the rain, walking out of our lives for ever, I get a little lump in my throat for all of our little and big regrets and for the brave people who fight a little everyday for love and hope.

Jerry
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From:monacojerry
Date:May 25th, 2007 02:58 pm (UTC)
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I see from your profile that you went to the University of Richmond. So did my lover.

I should write about pop culture and tv more often. I should certainly write about Buffy and Veronica, sense these are practically the only shows I watch. Well also BSG and Sopranos....

Jerry
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From:smokinmilkmaid
Date:May 25th, 2007 06:04 pm (UTC)
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Yes, we as an audience want to follow her down that rainy street, but we know we must remain here, for this last look at her. We can only see her from behind as she walks down the sidewalk, beneath the trees and the final clap of thunder.

That made me well up a little for the first time since watching the final ep. Beautiful.
I miss the show already.
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From:monacojerry
Date:May 25th, 2007 07:00 pm (UTC)
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I know I didn't get tears in my eyes when I first saw the scene but in many ways it was heart-breaking. Thank you for the comment.
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From:rianessa
Date:May 25th, 2007 06:17 pm (UTC)
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Bravo.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 25th, 2007 06:50 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for this. I finally cried, which I've wanted to do since I heard the news that the best show on tv was cancelled, but I couldn't quite let myself before.
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From:monacojerry
Date:May 25th, 2007 07:04 pm (UTC)
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I hate to say, being a grown man and all, but I wrote this hoping that I could share my tears with others. Partially because Veronica and her dad were such a great t.v. relationship, and Logan was such a bad-boy and Veronica was so smart and angry, I will miss this show very much. I only wish that Rob could have pushed his people a lot harder for the third season and given us every show as good as the last two.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 25th, 2007 06:51 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for this. I finally cried, which I've wanted to do since I heard the news that the best show on tv was canceled, but I couldn't quite let myself before.
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From:monacojerry
Date:June 1st, 2007 04:33 am (UTC)
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Thank you so much!
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From:cosmicviolet
Date:May 25th, 2007 08:04 pm (UTC)
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This is a lovely post. :) Except...it looked to me like she voted for Vinnie. I don't know, I'll have to watch that again.
From:alonewestand
Date:May 25th, 2007 08:05 pm (UTC)
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No, she definitely voted for Keith.
From:alonewestand
Date:May 25th, 2007 08:04 pm (UTC)
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Beautifully written!!!
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From:monacojerry
Date:May 25th, 2007 08:39 pm (UTC)
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Thank you.

And I've been eating dessert first, when I have dessert, since I turned 16 and went off to college.
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From:misscatastrophe
Date:May 25th, 2007 10:07 pm (UTC)
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very nicely written. It's nice to see someone embrace the end of the show for its ambiguity and noir-like qualities, instead of bitching about a lack of resolution. I agree with your words entirely and was happy with this Chinatown-like closing scene.
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From:monacojerry
Date:May 25th, 2007 10:12 pm (UTC)

Chinatown!

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Yes! and I don't think I even mentioned Chinatown in my post... I did mention it to my girlfriend.

One of my favorite movies, and nice to see someone mention it in this context.

Thanks.
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From:monacojerry
Date:May 25th, 2007 11:35 pm (UTC)

Just an addendum on the use of Music in VM

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spacecitymarc: Do you look for lyrics that fit the scene or do you look for music that sort of fits emotionally what's going on, or do you try and make sure to get both at once?

Rob: That's a really good question. I think a problem that I've had with placing music is that I get too literal about lyrics and I think about the lyrics too much and I try to get a lyric that really works for a moment. And I've tried to break myself of that. I think The Sopranos really made me think about breaking myself of that habit because they do such a great job on that show of placing music that it's just the music that is the mood. It's not trying to tell you what to think or what to feel or to underline the emotion of the scene with the lines as much as the feel. I really admire how that show does that. But to answer your question – well, I guess I did – but I think I think about the lyrics too much sometimes, and I've tried to get better about just going with the mood of the song and hoping that the lyric doesn't conflict.

And the other thing I want to do that I like doing, and there's some Tarantinoism in this, but it is to place the wrong song in a moment. We did that a few times, particularly with the Aaron Echolls character. One of my favorite placements this year was putting "Ventura Highway" as the song that plays as he's beating Logan. You know, that sort of breezy, sunny southern California song. I love that use. I also loved the use of "That's Amore" as he's beating the guy. Those were a couple of my favorite weird selections.

http://www.marsinvestigations.net/interviews/robthomas2.php?notes=
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From:shyspotlight06
Date:May 26th, 2007 05:05 am (UTC)
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Pretty.
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From:evrybdysdarling
Date:May 26th, 2007 07:04 pm (UTC)
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This is such a beautifully written piece. I teared up here almost as much as I did actually watching the ending.
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From:monacojerry
Date:May 26th, 2007 07:57 pm (UTC)
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Thank you so much! It is because I cried at the end, of the season that I wanted to write the piece in the first place.

But I also got the idea from Rob Thomas himself. I knew that he used music in a very deliberate way, and that for this episode he would use the music to tell us something about Veronica and the world. No matter how the 3rd season went the character Veronica Mars, especially as played by Ms. Bell, was deep, contradictory, strong and beautiful.

jerry
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From:_touched
Date:May 26th, 2007 11:03 pm (UTC)
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As beautiful and poignant as this piece was and as much as it moved me to tears, I cannot help but disagree with one poriton of it:

How else could it have ended? She certainly couldn't show her father what was being sent around on the internet.

I do, believe that everything Keith and Veronica had been through from the start of this show to the ending of it, that if she would have just thought a little bit more before she decided to do what she initially did, that she could have very well shown that tape to Keith. I do believe that he would not have held that against her and that he would have done everything in his power to help her, with that.

I also believe, that she should have at least trusted him more. One of my biggest peeves with this particular season, was the lack of respect that Veronica seemed to be giving Keith. I saw it that, as I know that other's felt similar to myself. With everything the two of them have been through, I was half-way upset that she couldn't just be honest with him and trust him with what was going on.

I got a surge of pride when Keith blew up at her and responded to by calling her a, "spoiled brat", because in all honesty it was about time. I was hoping there would be something like that said and I realize that it was said mostly in jest, but I was thoroughly pleased with it, none the less.

Anyway, I don't want to downlplay Veronica Mars or anything, but I just had to add my two cents.
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From:monacojerry
Date:May 26th, 2007 11:38 pm (UTC)
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Let me begin by saying that you are correct.

Perhaps I was being a bit over rhetorical. I was trying to assume Veronica's point of view when I wrote "She certainly couldn't show her father what was being sent around on the internet." From Keith's point of view I think you are totally right about Veronica being able to show him the illicit video, with out fear, and about Veronica's "spoiled brat-ness" during the whole season.

I tried to express this in other forums, but what made Veronica a great character for the audience was also what made her a flawed character morally. We want Veronica to be vengeful truth-finder, and we want her to be strong enough to "get it done." And yet these very qualities is what alienates her and isolates her from the people around her.

If the last two episodes were good it was because there was a return to some of the first season motivations. Veronica needed to save a friend in S3-Ep19 and needed to find revenge for herself in S3-Ep20. At the same time she "needed" to get her revenge on by seeing herself as "against the whole world"... Even when others could help her, and wanted to help her and did help her, she still saw herself as "alone against the world", the only truth teller to slay the monsters of the rich and the famous. This was precisely her character flaw from the beginning, and if Rob Thomas is to be faulted it is that he did not plot the show, make the show cohere, around the strengths of our hero, which were also the arrogant moral failings of our hero. (Easier said than done... of course.)

Thank you for providing your comment, because you expressed something that I left out of my post, and provided a way for me to pin down some of the flaws of season three... And why I think the last two episodes worked much better than the rest of season three. I think in these last two episodes, and especially in the commentary between acting (Kristen Bell's obvious anger at herself), music-lyrics ("I didn't think before deciding what to do"), scene (the final pouring rain to substitute for tears), and camera work (the final aloneness of Veronica in the rain), the audience sees that no matter how much we wanted Veronica to "win" in these episodes, she (and we) might have been wrong in not thinking before deciding what to do. In other words for once in Season 3 the show began to grapple with the character issues and the moral complexities of Veronica's actions, by showing us the people Veronica hurts through getting her revenge on.

Veronica was supposed to be a brat and a bitch and also a hero and a brilliant young woman. But the show needed to deal with these contradictions more as it did in the first season and the last two episodes.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 6th, 2011 07:21 am (UTC)

WOW!!

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Just found this, is amazing!!! you really captured all the feelings of that last episode, that last goodbye!! I´ve always been a fan of the show....still watch it since I have all the seasons, but I really miss it. It´s sad that a good show like that was cancelled, I haven´t seen any show like that and I don´t think we will.

Thank you for sharing that beautiful post, I know I´m four years late but I just found it and LOVED it!!
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From:monacojerry
Date:August 6th, 2011 07:53 am (UTC)

Re: WOW!!

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Thank you for saying so.

Jerry
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