Hulu’s Veronica Mars

Everyone’s favourite leather jacket-wearing private investigator is back – but enough about the new Shaft movie, here’s Veronica Mars season 4.

5 years on from the fairly forgettable film, the once-teen noir returns to entertain the Marshmallows (fans) who have grown up but not grown out of watching Kristen Bell putting entitled rich kids in their place then dancing to TLC. The Hulu-enabled sex, drugs and violence feel weird in a show like Veronica Mars, like if they started doing coke on Gilmore Girls (though that would explain the fast talking). There’s a gag about Veronica and her dad (Enrico Colantoni) trying not to swear (a reference to Bell’s other show The Good Place) that makes no sense as we’ve never heard them swear.

Ultimately though these departures are superficial and the heart of the show is the same – the relationship between father and daughter. This is as strong as ever thanks to Keith’s emotional storyline and Colantoni’s ongoing brilliance in the role, while the central mystery (involving a string of bombings in Neptune) is the most compelling the town has seen since season 2 back in 2005 when Hulu was just a posh way of saying hi. Rob Thomas packs a lot into these 8 episodes, focusing on one sprawling whodunnit without the episodic mini-cases of the original run – understandable since Veronica no longer has classmates’ lives to compulsively meddle in.

She’s also cooled off on the slut-shaming and casual racism but remains generally judgemental, character flaws that rather stunt her growth (as in character growth – although the almost 40-year-old Bell still looks about half her age). But the world around her is so well defined, populated by characters whose various threads of history and conflict weave the unpredictable web of any good detective story. Welcome new additions include Patton Oswalt and J. K. Simmons (because Veronica Mars can probably get you some good pictures of Spider-Man), along with old favourites like Wallace (Percy Daggs III), Weevil (Francis Capra) and Cliff (Daran Norris). In fact Mac is the only major character missing. And Tessa Thompson but she’s hanging out with Spider-Man for real.

Despite the strange new style, this series’ ability to still surprise us while continuing to ruin a theme song that was so annoying in the first place is nothing short of impressive.

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