Goodbye Neptune High, hello Hearst College. Like so many other teen series, Veronica Mars faced major difficulty in recapturing the magic of its early years when it made the inevitable move out of High School. It's a time when a lot of the characters have to move on, and others have to change their position in the series entirely. In some ways this show really chickened out, by having all our favourites head off to Hearst together, and not taking a more ambitious route with Veronica actually going to Stanford like she always wanted, but I guess you can’t blame the writers. It was a nice way of keeping most of the dynamics that we had grown accustomed to over the past two years, and it didn’t run the risk of scaring off old viewers entirely.
Sure, there’s something missing from this season premiere, and a lot of that is down to the major shift in the series’ location, but changes like this give the writers a chance to shake things up before they get stale, and add in a bunch of new characters to keep things interesting. The Welcome Wagon was one doozy of a case, but I’m sure the lack of excitement was forgone in exchange for giving the show a chance to adjust to its new surroundings and get acquainted with newbies Piz and Parker, both quite likeable, and both facets of the show’s new personality.
In The Rapes of Graff we were introduced to what any halfway clever person could have deduced as the third season’s first big mystery. I discussed in my review of Not Pictured how happy I was that the show didn’t shy away from dark and twisted stories, like sexual violence, and a serial campus rapist who not only leaves an emotional scar after he’s finished, but a disgusting physical one, too. I think making Parker the first victim of the season spoke volumes about how ambitious the writers were about their characters, and how dedicated they were to exploring the emotional fallout of its darker stories, like this one.
Last season we were left with a somewhat subtle cliffhanger, as Keith was forced to stand-up his daughter in favour of helping out the town floozy, Kendall. I’m glad that the writers dedicated some bit of time to wrapping up last season’s left-overs that never got proper resolution. Kendall’s death is upsetting, since I had grown accustomed to seeing Charisma Carpenter floating around, but her story had run its course and it was nipped in the bud before it got too strained. It’s just a shame her story went out with a whimper, since she got phased out over time.
The consequences of Cassidy’s big confession last season are still affecting the characters, which is nice to see. Mac has been scarred by her strong connection to him, and their sexual encounter the night of his death, while Dick is dealing with losing him in the only way he knows how; being a total douche. That’s something I found quite disappointing about this season. The deconstruction of Dick's character never really got off its feet, and by the time the writers wanted to get started with it, the show was canned.
This premiere doesn’t really scream perfect, but it was a decent attempt at tackling the huge change in location and I appreciated that. The trademark wit and snark is still there, and the script is still leaps and bounds ahead of a lot of series out there, but the show had lost a lot of what made it great in the first place, like the teen class divide which helped to define Veronica’s role in the series so well.