My original assessment of the three seasons of VM is as follows:
1. Season one is perfect piece of television from beginning to end, an example to all TV writers of how to structure a season-long mytharc.
2. Season two is extremely enjoyable, has some terrific moments and some of my all-time favorite lines, but has some fundamental structural flaws that make it weaker than the previous season.
3. Season three is a narrative mess in which my favorite characters are jerked around until they're practically unrecognizable.
My opinion hasn't really changed all that much after this recent rewatch. I've softened towards season three somewhat, however. It's still a narrative mess, but it's not all bad. For a while there I was actually kind of enjoying it and wondering why it left me so cold the first time. Sure, Veronica is kind of extra-bitchy Bad Idea Girl and Logan is like WAY too sadsack and Wallace and Mac are barely even there most of the time. And yeah, the choice to move from one big mystery that stretches over the whole season to a series of consecutive mysteries (most of which don't really personally affect Veronica or have the right kind of impact) was, in retrospect, a mistake, but I get why the network might have pushed them to try it out.
And then I got to the final episode. The very last episode of Veronica Mars. Ever. Oh. THIS is why I hated it. This right here. Because "The Bitch is Back" leaves me with such a bad taste in my mouth I want to go back and rewatch the pilot again just to cancel it out.
To start with, it's practically a stand-alone episode. Veronica Mars doesn't DO stand-alone episodes. Except for the last five episodes of season three (or, you know, EVER), apparently, because they tied up the last of the big mysteries back in 3x15, which left them floundering around for the rest of the season. Sure, there was some minor stuff with Keith and Vinnie Van Lowe and the Fitzpatricks but seriously? Who cares? I'll tell you who. NO ONE. We didn't care about the Fitzpatricks when they were a giant red herring in season two, and we still don't care about them here.
Other than that, the only thing we've got driving the drama at the end of the season is the Piz/Veronica/Logan/Parker quadrangle and ... ugh. It may have been on the CW by that point, but Veronica Mars is not One Tree Hill. I'm as big a Veronica/Logan shipper as anyone and their scenes are some of my favorites but I expect more than romantic entanglements from Veronica Mars.
The worst thing, though, is the overall tone of that last episode. Basically, something bad happens to Veronica, she makes some poor choices in her quest for revenge, gets careless and goes too far. The end. No cathartic vanquishing of her enemies for this finale. Nope. Veronica makes a threat that's just enough to keep herself out of jail but not enough to save Keith's career or, you know, show the bad guys that it doesn't pay to be bad. Evil keeps on being evil, Veronica keeps on being mocked and ridiculed by her peers, and Vinnie Van Lowe is gonna be the new sheriff. Awesome.
Not to mention the part where Veronica and Logan have a huge fight and she essentially ejects him from her life for good. And okay, sure, it's kind of implied later that maybe that's not gonna last, but that one little nonverbal moment in the food court is not enough to balance the negative energy of the earlier confrontation. Pretty much everything about this episode is negative. Even the sweetness of Veronica's last scene with her dad is undercut by the subtext of how badly she's messed up. It's like this big black hole of angst and anger and failure and ... that's all they wrote.
I get that they didn't know this would be the last episode. Obviously they were hoping for another season. But they knew it might be. And instead of going out on a high note, instead of trying to give the characters and the audience some closure or a little bit of catharsis, we got this. One of the most emotionally unsatisfying episodes of Veronica Mars ever. Thanks very much.
I actually think I would have been decently happy with season three if it had ended with "Spit and Eggs," which was one of the strongest episodes of the whole season and is basically structured like the two previous season finales. Sure, that would have been only nine episodes, but they were nine not so bad episodes with a compelling mystery that's wrapped up nicely, leaving the characters in a better place than they started. And if the very last scenes of the series had been the sequence with Logan bashing the sheriff's cruiser so he could get into the cell with Mercer and Moe? That actually would have been a pretty awesome way to go out. Even with the cliffhanger setting up the dean's murder, it would have been fine. Sure, we'd always wonder where that was going, but since the answer was a lame Hercule Poirot-style denouement (which is like, so beneath this show) in which the most obvious suspect is revealed as the culprit in a crime we're not really invested in, it turns out we probably would have been better off not knowing.
Anyway, enough bitching. Because what really matters is how much I adore Veronica Mars, terrible finale and all. And the good news about this rewatch is that it's got me itching to commit fic again. Like epic future fics and post-finale fixit fics and season one and two episode tags and everything. In fact, I've actually almost finished one based on one of the prompts from last week, so stay tuned to this space...