• I sure don't know what's gotten into me recently, considering I posted all of once during the first two seasons of "Veronica Mars" and have suddenly begun spouting off at length about it. Believe me, I'm more than aware that gallons of digital ink are being spilled daily about every show on TV, and that sometimes it feels like the whole blogging community is, in the words of Agent Bedhead, a case of "too many people writing, and virtually no one reading." But I am unable to stay quiet about the movies and music and TV shows that move me, to shut that fire up in my bones, if you will. What's more, I know that these are dark times for "Veronica Mars," with the show's renewal for next year looking slightly better than before but with the possibility that the show will be rebooted drastically, forever altering the show's universe. So maybe that's why I keep writing about it: I want to spend as much time with it as possible while I have it. And I can live with that.
• That said, this week's episode, "Debasement Tapes," was one of the most visually captivating in a long time, a solid hour of beautiful compositions, dependable camera work and gorgeous lighting that helped smooth over the bumpier moments of the plot. There was almost no non-diegetic sound: I could be wrong, but I don't remember a single voice-over from Veronica, and there were also fewer emotional music cues than usual. The voice-over is a key ingredient to the show, and to noirish P.I. material in general, and without it the series slides a little from being told through Veronica's eyes to simply being about a girl named Veronica. It's a minor but essential difference, and I think the show hurts without it. Still, the cinematography was as stunning as ever: Look at the interplay of the blue and yellow signs behind Veronica's head, the golden light on her jaw. The shots here aren't just functional; each one is composed with regard to the series' unique sense of color and style. The same goes for the reverses on Veronica and Wallace while they talk about Piz and relationships:
The scenes are deceptively simple, but wonderfully balanced and artfully executed, with the blue and green fighting for attention with the splash of red from Wallace's shirt. The world of Neptune has always been candy-colored but never extreme; the blasts of color are meant to recall neon signs reflecting in puddles on streets that this girl should be avoiding.
• The mystery of the week centered on the disappearance of backing tapes belonging to Desmond Fellows, an aging pop-rocker played by Paul Rudd in low-key braggart mode. It's something like 19 times more entertaining than the mystery last week, wherein Veronica attempted to broker peace in the Middle East, because this one focuses on good music and heartbreak, two staples of dependable storytelling. When Desmond took the stage at the end to sing some "solo stuff" he'd been writing since the band's demise, he sang Cotton Mather's "My Before and After," a pop single from a dysfunctional band whose rocky history was surely a blueprint for that of My Pretty Pony, Desmond's fictional group. Cotton Mather also appeared on the "Veronica Mars" soundtrack, in an awesome branding tie-in and a sure sign that somebody on set, maybe writer John Enbom, is a big fan of the pop group from Austin.
• But even better than the serviceable plot was the way it looked playing out onscreen:
Come on, that's just nice to look at. It doesn't matter that it makes absolutely no sense for a desk lamp in a police station to have a blue bulb, and that's the whole point. "Veronica Mars" has always played around with these joyous pastels, crashing pink and purple and green against each other in the most unlikely of places, like the stained-glass window in the lobby of Keith's P.I. office (which I'm starting to really miss, but that's another headache). Look at the way these shots balance the blues and oranges so well. To me, it's more than just aesthetically beautiful: It's pleasing on an emotional level I can barely understand, much less express. Something about the balance of contrasting colors, the light, the framing that serves as its very own character. It's just gorgeous:
I can't get over the way the blue light glances off her hair, and how it plays against that shock of orange light behind her. Man:
• The scene at the nightclub was amazing, too, in that it united the episode's emotional arc — Veronica realizing she might like-like Piz, you know, like a boyfriend — with its commitment to reflecting those emotions with the light around the characters. Things are dark in this scene because of its location, with red and yellow spilling across the stage, but the smaller lanterns hanging nearby lend it a necessary intimacy. Veronica looks at Piz and says, "Piznarski, you're a good guy." This is a crucial moment in their developing whatever it is: Piz knows he's a good guy, which is why he's not with Veronica. (Desmond earlier in the episode looks at Piz and says, "You're single and you're very nice. There's a correlation." Piz has just been handed the Bible and the Tao of Steve rolled into one.) So when Veronica says that to him, he just looks back at the stage with the kind of detached confidence no 19-year-old should possess.
And that's when Veronica takes his hand.
• Sure, I gasped a little, but not out of shock that Veronica has developed the warm fuzzies for yet another guy whose heart she will eventually shred like Kleenex (I assume Duncan and his baby are still fine in Australia, but at least she could mention him once in a while). No, it was just the skill of the moment, the combination of earnest acoustic pop and good editing and the fact that I'd been pulled deeper into a trance for 45 minutes by the show's consistent visual beauty. "Veronica Mars" is special for that consistency. Many other great dramas, if not all, take time to find their footing when it comes to lighting and camera work, either starting out rockily before discovering what works or slowly evolving (or devolving) into a look that's often directly at odds with the show's roots. For instance, "Buffy" got a little brighter and sharper over the years, to its betterment, while "The West Wing" went from soft lighting, stationary cameras, and formal compositions to murky non-illuminations, self-consciously jittery photography and film-student trick shots. But "Veronica Mars" has always known aesthically where it wants to go, and that confidence in part fuels its storytelling. I know that Veronica and Piz will never last; Chris Lowell, who plays Piz, is set to recur on the "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff. And even if he wasn't, the show thrives on pain and breakups, as I've written many times before and will inevitably mention again. But still, for one moment, as the camera pulled away and they stood there, hands gently clasped and bathed in sweet incandescence, I believed anything was possible.