By Amanda Festa
Veronica Mars brings to the table all of the important life lessons: Don’t sacrifice who you are for money, power, or success. And, above all, don’t sacrifice passion for comfort.
When Veronica Mars was abruptly cancelled in 2007, fans were not happy. Sure, it was a great show, and it had a ton of untapped potential (Dick Casablancas and Eli Navarro were characters just scraping the surface in the third season). But, fans are more likely to swallow the bitter pill of a prematurely cancelled show if they are at least satisfied with the ending.
For Veronica Mars fans, this was a problem. In the final episode (clearly not originally conceived as a series finale), Veronica is dating likeable (but ironically disliked by fans) Piz (Chris Lowell), while she is on a slow build to reconciling with her ex-boyfriend (and runaway fan favorite) Logan (Jason Dohring). As a longtime Logan fan, I will offer this disclaimer: It’s not that we necessarily needed Logan and Veronica to end up together, but we needed something more than them ending on terrible terms, with only the vague implication that maybe someday they will be able to be in the same room together – a notion we are only given as they exchange a fleeting glance, imbued after the fact with meaning to placate the throngs of torch-carrying shippers.
Veronica and Logan are one of those rare TV pairings that seem to write themselves, and that makes them more lifelike. Their interactions don’t appear staged, and it doesn’t feel like a pre-packaged marketing strategy playing on the emotions of teenage girls with Twitter accounts (#LoVe). And there is a reason for that — when Veronica Mars was in the planning stages, Logan was not even on the radar as a love interest for the titular character. It has been said before, and was reiterated by Rob Thomas during the 2014 PaleyFest panel, Logan was originally written as the stereotypical, high school rich kid, sarcasm-wielding bad boy. As Veronica says in the pilot: “Every school has an obligatory psychotic jackass. He’s ours.” He was initially intended as a two-dimensional antagonistic force for Veronica to combat, and combat she did. Although Veronica is known for her banter with everyone from her dad to the head of the local biker gang, something different happened when she shared screen time with Logan.
In the initial conception of the show, Veronica’s main love interest was always suppose to be Duncan Kane (Pitch meeting: Is he her brother?! No, whew!). But if the star-crossed (nearly) incest storyline wasn’t enough to put the kibosh on that one, the final nail in Duncan’s coffin was when writers got a glimpse of the dailies featuring Logan and Veronica. With that, Logan was bumped up to a central character and Duncan was sent on the lamb with another woman’s love child, never to be seen again (even for the film, which brought back nearly every original living character who had a speaking role). It seems impossible now to picture a Veronica Mars franchise sans Logan. And given that the main baddie of the first season is revealed to be (Spoiler Alert!) Logan’s dad (a plan Rob Thomas had from the beginning), it seems strange to picture this scenario with Logan as a less prominent character.
The appeal of this hot-headed ‘bad boy’ who treats Veronica pretty poorly at times is one that is often debated by even the most zealous members of Team Logan. After all, he was quite a Dick (Casablancas) in the first season. It is an easy sell to slap the ‘bad boy’ label on him and call it a day. Could there be a more perfect antagonist to first love Duncan (seasons 1 and 2) and college puppy dog Piz (season 3)? But is Logan really a bad boy? He was raised by a distant movie star father who abused him — and slept with his girlfriend. His mom committed suicide. His girlfriend was murdered (by his abusive father, no less). A bit messed up, sure, but bad boy? Apparently you can’t drive a yellow Hummer and organize a few bum fights without everyone trying to label you.
The appeal of Logan and Veronica is a combination of things. Sure, they are both damaged people (during PaleyFest, Kristen Bell referred to their connection by saying that “wounded birds recognize other wounded birds”), and there is a clichéd satisfaction in that. But, more importantly, Logan challenges her in ways that Piz and Duncan never did. And at the end of the day, like a lot of people, Veronica needs to be challenged. She can’t be happy taking it easy. And that’s why the ending of the television show didn’t sit well. We didn’t need her to be with Logan, but we needed her to be happy. And we just didn’t believe that she would be happy with someone like Piz.
Of course, there is an argument to be made for Piz. He’s been the stable choice all along, a running joke brought into the Veronica Mars movie when Wallace reminds her, “in case it slipped your mind, Piz is the one without the baggage.” And it’s true, there is really not a bad word to be said for the character. In the film, as Piz waits for her on a NYC street corner with his parents in tow, you can’t help feeling a little bad. But, let’s be honest, Piz has aged extremely welll; he will find someone better suited, and he will be fine.
So, sure, Piz is the “better” choice – just like high-powered corporate lawyering is clearly the smarter career path for financial security. But, as we watch Veronica in the boardroom at the start of the film, all power suit and steely resolve, it seems like a game of make believe. A corporate lawyer, Veronica Mars is not. And, while people can change (Logan did after all grow up, join the military, and use his powers for good), this new career path is in direct opposition to the things that make Veronica who she is. Veronica using her above average skill set to make corporate clients’ problems disappear is an affront to the character, whose justice-seeking, hands-dirty approach is what worked. And her dating Piz is like the relationship equivalent of this sterilized boardroom make believe.
The fact is: Veronica Mars (the television show and the film) brings to the table all of the important life lessons: Don’t sacrifice who you are for money, power, or success. And, above all, don’t sacrifice passion for comfort.
It’s a lesson we let slide as we get older. Chemistry is often sacrificed for stability and making “smart” decisions – but if these choices are based solely on security, in the back of our heads, there will always be that voice, wondering if, despite how good, kind, stable a partner may be on paper, did you settle? Despite how amazing Piz is as a fictional person, if Veronica ended up with him, let’s be honest, she was settling. And Veronica Mars – one of the best female role models of recent years (and, I would argue, all time) – was not meant to settle.
In the end, it goes back the corny slash amazing drunk speech Logan makes to Veronica before high school graduation (VMars fans know the one, for sure): “I thought our story was epic, you know?… Spanning years and continents. Lives ruined and blood shed. Epic.” Faced with Veronica’s skepticism over willingly exposing herself to the mental gymnastics involved in their relationship, he argues: “No one writes songs about the ones that come easy.” No one writes TV shows about the ones that come easy, certainly.
So, if you’re trying to come up with a hook for your breakout Piz ballad, just stop. And remember, like most everyone else, Logan is not who he was in high school. He grew up, joined the Navy, and probably has a 401(k). Before we slap a label on him, we should remember that sometimes epic can be stable too.