Editor’s Note: This story contains spoilers about Season 4 of ‘Veronica Mars’
A long time ago (well, Friday), Hulu released a new season of “Veronica Mars,” creator Rob Thomas’ genre-bending, pop-culture loving drama centered around Kristen Bell’s titular fearless, and reckless, private investigator. The new chapter in the series came with a new version of the theme song (Chrissie Hynde takes over for The Dandy Warhols), some new characters (Patton Oswalt in a particularly meta role) and new heartbreak (this would be a good time to stop reading if you haven’t finished the new episodes and want to avoid spoilers).
That last part particularly had fans moaning, so naturally it’s the first question CNN asked Thomas in an interview last week. The discussion below, which also gets into the show’s legacy in the #MeToo era and plans for a potential fifth season, has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How far in advance did you know you’d be killing Jason Dohring’s character, Logan Echolls, in the season finale?
“I can tell you, absolutely, that it was a part of the pitch when we took it out [to networks]. Jason Dohring knew going in that that was the plan. …But, it did feel like cutting off a limb to save the body. My thinking is that, if we want to do more ‘Veronica Mars,’ I need Veronica as a single woman. It’s tough to do a badass noir private detective show with a hero who has a boyfriend.
I know that I’ve placed a huge bet. I know that there’s a chance that fans of the show may not forgive me. And there’s a possibility that it’s a dumb bet. But, I think, if we get to move forward, it’s going to be a better show because of it.
Have you thought about plot lines for another season?
“I have! Now, I have not zeroed in on what, exactly, they would be. But I have been playing around with ideas that are almost like Agatha Christie, like a murder in a manner house sort of mystery. I really want the next version of the show to lean hard into being a detective show. I think Season 4 was the bridge that took us from being the show that it was, which was the soap of Veronica’s life and a detective show. And I think the next one will be just a detective show.”
What does that mean when you think about which characters from past series will be back?
“I won’t know until I really plot it out. One of the things that was tough about ‘Veronica Mars’ the first three seasons was that I built the Season 1 story and choose the series regulars as the people who are entwined in that murder mystery. And Season 2 comes around and [I have to decide if] I’m going to tie all of these people into the murder mystery again. And with each subsequent mystery, it starts to strain credulity. It becomes very ‘Murder She Wrote’ if the same six people are involved in all of Veronica’s cases.
I wanted to get away from that model. With this one, I wanted the people involved in this murder mystery to be a new set of characters.”
What does that mean for bringing back someone like Tina Majorino’s Mac? She and Veronica are close friends in the first show and in the movie, but she’s not in this installment.
“I am a very big fan of Mac … [But] I’m going to let the plot of the murder mystery determine who is in the show rather than the other way around, which is what I think I’ve in the past seasons.”
Patton Oswalt joins the cast this season as a pizza delivery guy who is also a member of a group that’s obsessed with solving murders. His late wife, Michelle McNamara, was a true-crime author whose work was instrumental in tracking down the Golden State Killer. How do you handle something like that respectfully?
“I sent Patton a very lengthy email saying exactly what we were doing with the show because I was worried about that very thing. And he wrote a note back saying thank you for being so considerate and that [he was OK] as long as some people in the group are not knuckleheads. He said his wife felt like there were people who were really good in that world and people who are less credible. As long as we showed the people who were doing some good work, he was fine with it.”
The original incarnation of the show very carefully and protectively talked about sexual assault and survivor stories. This isn’t a factor as much this season. Was there a reason for this? Was this a commentary on closure?
“Yeah, it only really comes up when Veronica is talking to Nicole [her new friend, played by Kirby Howell-Baptiste] at the gun range.
I do wonder if, in the current environment, I would have been brave enough to write Veronica as a rape victim in the original pilot. It is dangerous territory, particularly for a male writer … You don’t want to get these things wrong … People will be on you if they think the emotional truth is not accurate. It does make you think very hard about what you’re writing today.”
The show was also ahead of its time in discussing gentrification, which it does again this season. Why was that important to keep in the story?
“In the pilot, one of Veronica’s first lines from the [opening] voice over is ‘Welcome to Neptune, California. A town without a middle class.’ That’s a topic I’ve always been interested in. I love keeping Veronica as an underdog … I’ve always enjoyed writing about the class divide in Neptune.”
Veronica is also not always the most likeable person this season. What was the thought process there?
“I’ve always tried to write her that way. That’s the part of Veronica that I really enjoy. She’s far from perfection. She has a ton of noble qualities … but she does overstep. She is still a damaged person. I am not interested in writing the “Veronica perfected” version of the show. The thing that I’ve always told writers on staff is to write her like a porcupine. That is her spirit animal.”
Basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is part of your writers’ room this season. How did that happen?
“Kareem wrote a column a few years ago about the five young adult novels every adult should read and one of them was my second novel, ‘Slave Day’ … my editor [at publisher Simon & Schuster] asked if he would write the forward for the re-release. I said we could always ask. The note that we got back from his manager was that he’ll do it, but that he wants to play a zombie on [my CW show,] ‘iZombie.’
I got to know him through that and he and his writing partner had this idea for a television pilot. They were asking my opinion on it and I said if you really want to write for television, you should come on staff and see what it’s like. It never became normal to me.”
Some folks on Twitter have argued that Logan would vote Republican. Do you have any thoughts on that?
“I’m going to go as far as saying he would not in this current political climate. [But] I’ve always thought that Veronica has very Charles Bronson sense of justice and I don’t think Charles Bronson voted for many Democrats.”