Good news, fellow citizens of Neptune. The fourth season of mid-aughts teen-noir Veronica Mars just dropped on Hulu on July 19, and it’s already joined the rarefied ranks of Will & Grace and Queer Eye: That is, it's a reboot that’s just as good as the original. Fans of the franchise (which included two fantastic seasons, a mediocre third, and a misfire of a movie) won’t be disappointed, and newcomers…well, newcomers should go back and watch season one.
But if you’re just tuning in, here's a quick recap: Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) is the daughter of private investigator Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni). Keith was the sheriff of the seaside hamlet of Neptune, California, until he “botched” the investigation of the murder of Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried). Veronica and Lilly had been best friends, but her dad's investigation essentially leads to her becoming a friendless outcast at the start of the series. What follows is a season that revolves around Veronica's discovering who done it, finding love along the way, and solving the equally pressing (and not unrelated) mystery of who raped her at a high school party. Veronica Mars handled a complicated and compelling case with witty dialogue and genuine emotion, establishing itself as one of the smartest teen dramas around.
But Veronica’s work is always about more than just the hunt for justice, though it was definitely also about that. Veronica Mars is about race and sex and class, friendship and love, entering the adult world before you’re ready. Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it was the teen girl experience heightened to the thousandth degree. By the end fans found themselves not just rooting for Veronica but positively screaming for her. The show inspired a fierce fanbase, which is why now, years later, Hulu has blessed us with a reboot. All caught up? Good. Mild spoilers ahead.
From the get-go this new season assures us that the more things change, the more they, you know, don’t. Veronica’s first case of the season is helping a wealthy divorcée named Carson (Eliza Coupe) debug her smart home after her ex hacked into it. In other words, this season has all the major themes—sex, revenge, manipulation, harassment, and class conflict—fans of the series have come to expect. As for Veronica herself, she’s living (and having hot, hot sex) with boyfriend Logan (Jason Dohring), working (and bantering) with father Keith, and, naturally, solving murders. She’s a 2019 girl with a smartphone and an updated version of her school-age messenger bag, but she’s basically the same Veronica: She picks locks, she loves dogs, she rejects Logan’s marriage proposal because the wounds of her adolescence have left too much scar tissue.
Her sameness becomes a source of underlying tension. Why, Keith asks, hasn’t she put that canonical law degree to any use? The original series presents Veronica as a whip-smart dynamo hell-bent on getting out of Neptune—so how come, all these years later, she's still working at Mars Investigations? As great as it is to see sassy Veronica back in action, there’s a sense that she’s stuck, unwilling, or unable to move forward…but just as when she was a teen, time is dragging her on. Keith’s memory is degenerating, and Logan’s itching to start a family. To reconcile the old and the new, perhaps, Veronica becomes invested in Matty Ross, a strong-willed, free-spirited teen girl, a child of divorce caught between lack and privileg, who is trying to solve a murder that’s more than it seems. Sound familiar? Perhaps in helping Matty, Veronica can help herself. But that’s later in the season—for now, the murder.
A bomb blows up the office of a local motel, killing four people and pointing to a number of possible culprits, from a local group trying to Make Neptune Great Again to a Mexican drug cartel to a congressman under fire from racists who dislike his Middle Eastern heritage. Really, it could be anyone in Neptune. In 2019 we’re all too accustomed to mass panic at big events, and the chaos the bomb causes certainly feels more current than, say, another friend of Veronica’s being murdered would have.
But without a personal connection between Veronica and the victims, this season’s central mystery feels somehow less meaningful for the detective. Besides her being by far the best sleuth in the city, why is she the one who has to solve this case? And what’s at stake for her if she doesn’t? In a sense she’s fighting for Neptune’s future, for her own sense of right and wrong and order in the universe, perhaps for her soul. But in another sense, I kind of want her to quit the detective game, pack up her dad and Logan and the dog, and leave Neptune forever. She could decamp to Monterey and set up a legal/investigative service catering to the wealthy women of Big Little Lies.
Then again, in the face of extreme danger, says psychology, humans have a fight-or-flight response. Veronica chooses fight because she always does. And as always, she puts up a good one.
Originally Appeared on Glamour