Editor’s Note: TV moves on, but we haven’t. In our feature series It Still Stings, we relive emotional TV moments that we just can’t get over. You know the ones, where months, years, or even decades later, it still provokes a reaction? We’re here for you. We rant because we love. Or, once loved. And obviously, when discussing finales in particular, there will be spoilers:
There was a time when Veronica Mars’ legacy was that of a beloved cult show that was canceled too soon by network executives who didn’t understand it. With the arrival of a crowd-funded feature film in 2014, its legacy evolved as one of the first shows to see the benefits of a revival. Now, it simply brings thoughts of sadness, rage, and betrayal.
When Hulu first announced it was reviving the series for an eight-episode fourth season, the news was met with resounding joy from a vocal and passionate fanbase that had never given up hope it would return after the crowd-funded feature film reunited Kristen Bell’s Veronica, a pint-sized private eye with a sharp mind and even sharper wit, with her one true love, the reformed bad boy Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). But the fire that had burned for more than a decade and twice-revived the show was suddenly extinguished in a single, heartbreaking, and wholly unnecessary moment when Logan was killed by a bomb left in Veronica’s car shortly after the couple exchanged wedding vows.
I can still remember the shock I felt when I reached the end of the screeners Hulu sent. The whole thing felt kind of surreal, like if I didn’t acknowledge what had happened out loud maybe it didn’t actually happen. But it did happen. And I’m still filled with a fiery rage and a deep sadness when I think about it now, nearly two years removed from the episode in question, because needlessly killing Logan was a betrayal of the worst kind. The character’s untimely demise felt engineered for nothing more than shock value, like it existed only to leave Veronica even more isolated and cynical. But the interviews that series creator Rob Thomas gave in the aftermath, in which he tried to defend the decision, revealed something much worse while only driving the knife he’d stuck in fans’ backs deeper.
“In order for us to keep doing these, I think it needs to become a detective show—a noir, mystery, detective show—and those elements of teenage soap need to be behind us,” Thomas told TV Guide of the decision to kill Logan, noting that he also hoped to take Veronica out of Neptune and on the road in potential future seasons. “I sort of viewed these eight episodes as a bridge to what Veronica Mars might be moving forward.”
Instead of being a bridge to the future, it was a bridge to a grave of Thomas’ own making. Not since How I Met Your Mother ignored literal years of character development in order to deliver a half-cooked series finale the creators had come up with several years prior has a show felt so out of touch with its characters, the story it was telling, and its fans. Thomas’ decision to kill Logan is the perfect example of a creator being unable to recognize their own biases to the detriment of their creation. He wrongly believed that Veronica needed to be hardened by years of nonstop torment and trauma in order to prove she was a great detective whose story was worth continuing. In putting her through the emotional wringer (again) after spending the entire season attempting to dig into her flaws and determine the root of her problems, Thomas swiftly undermined his heroine and her trauma with one misguided act of devastating violence.
The fact that Thomas then chose to also skip over Veronica’s grieving process entirely reveals how little he ultimately thought of Logan or Veronica’s relationship with him, which had pushed her to be better and work through her longtime trust issues. It is common knowledge by now that Logan was not intended to be Veronica’s love interest when the show debuted, but the fans took to the character more than they took to Teddy Dunn’s Duncan “He Used to Be My Boyfriend” Kane, so the latter was jettisoned from the show after Season 2. And in the end, Logan turned out to be a much better partner and match for Veronica’s personality. So what’s truly unfortunate about Thomas killing Logan, and killing him so violently, is that his thought process during Season 4 has the potential to color everything that happened in the show up until the moment the bomb went off.
There is also the issue that Thomas apparently believed that Veronica achieving some level of romantic happiness was a one-way ticket to the grave, as if shows like Friday Night Lights hadn’t already soundly debunked the myth that happy couples did not make great TV. Obviously an emotional family drama does not play by the same rules as noir, but Veronica Mars had already proven that you don’t need to play firmly within the sandbox of the genre to excel creatively. So why should the more adult version of the show attempt to put itself back in the box to be confined to something more traditional or stereotypical? Furthermore, love and contentment are not character flaws or weaknesses. They are not an element of “teenage soap,” as Thomas put it. In fact, one could argue that by allowing herself to believe that she and Logan could have a happy future together regardless of everything she’d witnessed in her line of work, Veronica had shown more personal and emotional growth in the show’s fourth season than she had in the entire run of the series.
At the heart of the matter, though, is one simple, glaring truth: Logan’s death was a fundamental misreading of the entire Veronica Mars fandom and what they liked about the show. Storytelling should never be dictated by the fans and their desires—one of the loudest and most common complaints critics had about the movie was that it felt too much like Thomas was just giving the fans what they wanted rather than attempting to tell a good story—but when your fandom has dug their hands into the cold soil of the TV graveyard to raise your show from the dead, you should probably have a grasp on what exactly the fans like about it in the first place. After all, they’re the reason you still exist and will be one of the final arbiters of whether or not you get to continue to exist in the future. And the idea that fans would somehow be interested in watching a version of Veronica Mars in which Veronica was on the road, completely alone, and Logan was blown to bits is just a wild miscalculation.
This isn’t to suggest Veronica Mars could not ever survive without Logan. That would be to undercut the rest of the show and the woman Veronica has become since we first saw her cutting Wallace (Percy Daggs III) off the flagpole in the series’ pilot. But there is a difference in writing Logan out of the show’s ongoing story arc—his secretive Naval career offered the perfect out—and violently killing him in an attempt to shock viewers and show just how resilient your heroine is in the face of trauma. A survivor of rape who had to solve the murder of her best friend (Amanda Seyfried) while still in high school because the sheriff’s department was too inept to do it (or simply did not care to do it), Veronica had already been through more in her young life than anyone should ever have to live through. Although Logan’s death led to her finally seeing a therapist, it seemed to be a one-time thing, so nothing has really changed. Veronica is still the same person she was before the show returned, except now she’s also a widow and Thomas has alienated an entire fanbase to the point that many fans, though likely not all, have no interest in revisiting her story. And they’re not likely to either, since Hulu chose not to move forward with another season. So much for that bridge to the future.
Kaitlin Thomas is an entertainment journalist and TV critic. Her work has appeared in TV Guide, Salon, and TV.com, among other places. You can find her tweets about TV, sports, and Walton Goggins @thekaitling or read more of her work at kaitlinthomas.com.
For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.