Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ten Statements About....VERONICA MARS SEASON ONE, EPISODE EIGHTTEEN 'Weapons of Class Destruction' (2006)

Yes, yes, this is the one..you can calm down now.
"Dear Seventeen Magazine, how can I tell if the super-cute boy in my class likes me? No, scratch that....Dear Seventeen, how can I tell if the super-cute boy in my class killed his own sister?"

1) This and the next couple of episodes, in keeping with the tying up loose ends before the climax idea, comprise a little mini-arc involving Keith's dating of Wallace's mom (a returning Erica Gimpel), and the return of Lianne Mars. This is the strength of this very, very weak--dare I call it bad--episode.

2) Joey Lauren Adams, she of the lil' girl voice in the early Kevin Smith movies, suddenly makes her only appearance as Geena Stafford, the new faculty advisor of the school newspaper. This is pretty much a clear indication that Sydney Tamiia Portier was not coming back, as her character is never mentioned again. And after this episode, neither is Adams'.

3) I've sung the praises of Duane Daniels' Mr. Clemmons before, and I'm going to again--while he may be an impediment to Veronica in the A plot, the beauty of Jed Seidel's script is that there's a grain of truth in what he's saying...namely, he does have an obligation to protect the student body that Veronica and Ms. Stafford interfered with. Daniels continues to add more and more nuance to what could have been a cardboard character, a process that will culminate in an excellent episode down the line.

"And I learned this trick from watching Jackie Chan movies."
4) What's not excellent is the performance of Jonathan Taylor Thomas. He is thoroughly unconvincing throughout--the man seems to feel the best way to sound sinister is to channel his inner Christian Slater channeling his inner Jack Nicholson--and because the effectiveness of the A Plot rests on him, the A Plot fails.

5) And its doubly aggravating because it takes away from the performance of Theo Rossi as Norris. Rossi manages to create a very three dimensional character from what could have been a stereotypical thug. He allows us to see a bit of his inner life, and his true nature during his interactions with Veronica.

6) There is a scene at roughly the twenty-one minute mark between Veronica and Duncan that acts as a showcase for Teddy Dunn; he goes through a number of emotions, and what's even more amazing is what his body language tells us he's really thinking.

Mr. Taylor Thomas, you're sending this episode down that
7) But you don't want to know about all this stuff...you want to know about The Kiss. Yes, what Rob Thomas and his room of writers have been leading up to finally goes off with Logan and Veronica's first kiss. I remember how shocked I was at seeing this moment when I viewed the episode for the first time, and it continues to have a sort of impulsiveness even now after five years. But then, pulling the trigger on their relationship is vital to getting Veronica in position in the coming episodes to put the pieces together.

8) The one thing that puzzles me about the A Plot--besides why we had to put up with Jonathan Taylor Thomas' cliched performance--is that it's established very clearly that Norris' bullying stopped around Junior High School. We never quite learn why, however, which is doubly puzzling given that the ultimate reason why Norris was set up ties in with his history of bullying. I suspect that Seidel's reference to Norris' father giving him an incentive to keep up his grades with a tour of Japan has something to do with it, but it's only a fleeting reference. Usually I'm not that worried about dangling plot threads, but here it bugs me.

9) I sort of wish the tension between Veronica and Wallace over their parents' romance had extended beyond a couple of act. It just seems like there was a wealth of quipping and interactions that goes to waste after they get all chummy again....

10) As corny as it is, I still rather like how Veronica takes up the just fired Ms. Stafford's mantle in the moments after she exits the journalism room.

Overall...the real good moments in the overarc aside, this is a pretty poor A plot built around an atrocious performance by a failed child actor. Try to suffer through the bull and focus on the few good moments...and try not to realize that an even worse episode is coming up next time.

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