Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this blog post. The opinions I share are my own.
I’m a weird Veronica Mars fan. It was a show I always planned to eventually start watching and never did. Then the Veronica Mars movie came out and I thoroughly enjoyed it despite not getting the stream of call-backs and references to the series. It was accessible enough that I was looking forward to Season 4…or Veronica Mars: The First Season on Hulu. And it did not disappoint.
While there’s some confusion about the subtitling here, this is the first season on Hulu and the fourth overall in the series. Thankfully with a new mystery and a more forward-thinking approach that’s not so focused on nostalgia, newcomers can enjoy this season as much as longtime fans.
Free of network UPN and The CW TV restraints, writer/creator Rob Thomas indulges in a little raunchier and risque dialogue. That works for this more mature take at Veronica (Kristen Bell), who’s no longer a plucky would-be investigator teenager. She’s shouldering the load at Mars Investigations while her father Keith (Enrico Colantoni) considers the scary thought that his body is betraying him on a mental level.
Veronica’s longtime boyfriend Logan (the likable Jason Dohring) returns from his latest military assignment just as Spring Break is underway. Neptune is awash with bikini-clad babes and obnoxious bros looking to have some explosive, unforgettable fun. A series of bombings turn the already contentious Spring Break scene — the townies aren’t exactly thrilled with the invasion while the local business depend on them to survive — dangerous.
With a business mogul interested in buying up property alongside his ex-con best friend (J.K. Simmons), a senator (Mido Hamada) trying to keep his secrets in the dark and an amateur detective/pizza delivery guy (Patton Oswalt) with a shady past there’s no shortage of viable suspects. And could Veronica’s new pals Nicole (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and Matty (Izabela Vidovic) know more than they’re letting on?
Thomas writes a very compelling mystery that plays out in a manner that viewers will be circling then scratching off potential suspects. The payoff makes sense and doesn’t feel like it came out of nowhere. Thomas accomplishes the hardest part of making a mystery film/series in providing enough clues to keep viewers in the loop without them being so far ahead of the characters that Veronica and co. look stupid for not solving the case earlier.
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That would really be more than enough for some shows, but what makes Veronica Mars so special is the character interaction and Veronica’s snarky and cynical narration. Bell has been in numerous well received projects (The Good Place, Frozen, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), but it seems like this is her comfort role. The one she can slide in to effortlessly no matter how long she’s away from the character. Bell gives an extra snap to the already punchy dialogue and she never fails to deliver the required emotion for the various scenes.
We can laugh while she’s partying and remembering she’s not in her 20s any more, snarkily responding to a would-be thief, exchanging constant quips with her father and Logan or realizing the shaky state of her life, Bell always hitting the appropriate emotional beat.
The timing of this season’s release is interesting as it comes as the CW is touting Nancy Drew as the new fresh female detective series. Clearly, Veronica Mars was inspired/influenced by Nancy Drew, but Bell makes Veronica Mars easily stand just fine on its own.
The season finale ends in a way that disappointed longtime fans, but sets the series up for various new directions that hopefully will be explored in future seasons to come.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Veronica Mars: The Complete First Season (2019) features:
All hail the bacchanalia that is the glorious tradition of spring break in Neptune, a time for scantily clad beachgoers to get loaded, laid…and murdered. When a series of fatal bomb blasts threatens to decimate the seaside town s tourist industry, Mars Investigations is hired by a wealthy congressman to track down the killer of one of the victims. As Veronica navigates new developments in her longtime relationship with Logan, shes sucked into a dangerously complex mystery that pits anti-spring-break elites against working-class townies and stretches from Neptune s pristine paradise into U.S. politics and a Mexican drug cartel. But never fear, Marshmallows, Veronica’s back and shes still fighting mad!
Eight One-Hour Episodes
- Spring Break Forever
- Chino and the Man
- Keep Calm and Party On
- Heads You Lose
- Losing Streak
- Entering a World of Pain
- Gods of War
- Years, Continents, Bloodshed
The DVD quality is as what you’d expect from a DVD picture in 2019. It’s decent, but definitely not the same level of brilliance of 4K or even Blu-Ray. With its beach backdrop and colorful locations, if you have the option going Blu-Ray is the best way to go. The DVD quality is slightly washed out and lacks the visual pop you’d expect from a modern show.
Veronica Mars at Comic-Con 2019 (26:08)
Unlike some of the other Comic Con features, this one is intercut with clips of the season. It’s a decision that gets a little annoying faster than anticipated for the nearly half-hour presentation. Showing clips over the showrunners and cast speaking would have been fine, but the constant clipping to work in a sound byte makes it tiresome and a challenge to watch in its entirety.
Given the very controversial nature of the season finale, it would have been nice to have a featurette with Thomas explaining his choice for one character’s fate and what he would like to do for a fifth season.
It’s a pretty basic feature package and doesn’t have the obligatory gag reel.
Own Veronica Mars (2019) The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray today from Amazon.
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