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Charisma Carpenter

Charisma Carpenter - "Veronica Mars" Tv Series - Season 2 DVD - Ign.com Review

Eric Goldman

Saturday 12 August 2006, by Webmaster

Veronica’s back for another fun year, but the one mystery she can’t solve is why there aren’t better extras on her DVD.

August 10, 2006 - It’s senior year for TV’s smartest, most compelling teen character, and this being Veronica Mars, murder is in the air. Season 2 of the wonderful teen detective series had some lingering plot threads to deal with from the end of season 1, notably the big, "Who was at the door?!" cliffhanger question that had fans debating all summer. The premiere answers that question, while creator/writer Rob Thomas has some fun playing a bit of bait and switch with the audience over certain aspects of Veronica’s personal life.

The main storyline of season 2 involves a fatal bus crash that several of Veronica’s classmates were on, and the question of who was behind this tragedy is the main mystery for Veronica to solve throughout the year, which has some further personal complications for Veronica thanks to the involvement of Duncan’s (Teddy Dunn) former girlfriend Meg (Alona Tal). But there’s plenty else going on: Logan (Jason Dohring) finds himself accused of murdering one of Weevil’s (Francis Capra) gang, which leads to some major issues for the two hot-headed characters. In the meantime, Wallace (Percy Daggs III) begins a romance with snobby new girl Jackie (Tessa Thompson), the daughter of a baseball star who may have a connection to the crash.

And then there’s local politician Woody Goodman (Steve Guttenberg), who’s got big plans for Veronica’s dad Keith (Enrico Colantoni). The second season also features an expanded role for brothers Dick (Ryan Hansen) and Cassidy (Kyle Gallner), whose young, manipulative stepmom (Angel’s Charisma Carpenter) has an agenda of her own.

Coming off its terrific first season, Veronica Mars had a lot to live up to. Did it do so? Well, to be truthful, not 100%. The driving mystery of season 1, the murder of Veronica’s best friend Lilly, had a huge personal connection and investment for our hero that the bus crash can’t replicate. Despite some attempts via the Meg storyline, the mystery of season 2 doesn’t have that same personal touchstone for Veronica or for the audience. It’s a tricky thing, because on one hand, it would be a bit too much to have the second season be about another close friend or family member of Veronica’s being murdered or such, but on the other hand, the season-long mystery we’re given here doesn’t quite have the intended impact.

Part of the problem is that Veronica herself seems very detached from the mystery for much of the season, particularly during the middle episodes. She’s not particularly invested in the bus crash it seems, and she’s very much separated from the parallel mystery involving Logan and Weevil, and it gives the show a bit more of a meandering feeling than it ever had in season 1.

But things pick up considerably in the final episodes, as the clues come fast and furious and Veronica once again proves to be an extremely adept and resourceful young lady, who is brought to life so wonderfully by the Emmy-worthy performance of Kristen Bell. Bell again is called upon to show an amazing amount of different emotions throughout the season, while maintaining Veronica’s trademark wit and cleverness, and she does so with incredible ease.

The issues with the overall story arc aside, the second season of Veronica Mars is entertaining start to finish (okay, we’ll forget about the atypically poor episode, One Angry Veronica). There are many funny and fun cases for Veronica throughout the year, in which she is able to prove her mettle time and again. Thomas has created a wonderful, highly populated world for his protagonist, and great characters like Sheriff Lamb (Michael Muhney), rival private detective Vinnie Van Lowe (Ken Marino), slimy lawyer Cliff McCormack (Daran Norris) and computer expert Mac (Tina Majorino) all get more screen time in season 2.

The show also features a wonderful array of guest stars, including Lucy Lawless, Arrested Development kids Alia Shawkat & Michael Cera, and cameos from two different cult favorite writer/directors, Kevin Smith and Joss Whedon, both of whom prove to be very funny in their respective scenes.

Their was some complaints that the season finale was a bit too rushed, with a lot of information offered all at once. Yet while that’s a bit valid, it’s also an exciting and surprising finale, that actually offers some bigger shocks than season 1. But even setting aside the mystery elements, Veronica Mars could exist as a strong show at this point thanks to the characters alone... not that I’m not looking forward to Veronica solving more cases next year.

Score: 8 out of 10

The Video

As great a show as Veronica Mars is, it’s not always among the best looking shows on TV. The creators are going for a specific feel which is Southern California high school meets film noir, and the show is appropriately given a dark and shadowy style. That aside, the show sometimes shows the strain of its relatively low budget in its visuals from time to time. However, the widescreen 1:78:1 presentation of the DVDs is a treat, and certainly make the show (which is full screen during its network broadcasts) look better than ever. There is some notable grain and occasional distortion here and there, but with writing this good, it’s excusable.

Score: 6 out of 10

The Audio Presentation

Veronica Mars features a Dolby Digital 2.0 track. This is a well done track that’s nicely balanced and shows off the show’s quick and clever dialogue to good effect. There’s also a lot of music used on the show, which never overwhelms the other soundtrack elements and sounds crisp and clear.

This seems as good a place as any to gripe about the horribly cheesy music used on the menu screens for the DVD. Veronica Mars features lots of cool modern music on the show, on top of the great Dandy Warhols song played during the opening credits, any of which would have been better than the bad 90210 type music used on the menus.

French and Spanish subtitle options are available on the disc.

Score: 7 out of 10

Packaging and Extras

Veronica Mars: The Complete Second Season comes packaged in a digipack, foldout case. Following the same pattern as other recent Warner Bros TV show sets, the discs are presented with two discs on each "page", with one disc overlapping the other. I really hate this packaging method; it requires you to often have to take out one disc to get to the one behind it, and seems extremely clunky and awkward. There is also a booklet insert with episode descriptions for the season.

This six-disc release features the following extras:

* Deleted Scenes
* "A Day on the Set With Veronica Mars"
* "Veronica Mars: Not Your Average Teen Detective"
* Gag Reel

Okay... Seriously, what’s the deal here? Veronica Mars is not a big hit show, but it’s a beloved show with an extremely loyal fanbase. In short, the kind of audience that is going to buy the DVD and devour any and all extras. When the season 1 DVD set came out, there were almost no extras on it, and the reason given was the rushed production of the DVD, so it could be released during the summer, before season 2 premiered, as a way to introduce people to the show (never mind that the release date was then delayed until fall). But that excuse really doesn’t fly here; Plenty of other DVDs of series that ended their season the same time as Veronica are being released this month, with plenty of extras, and certainly much more than this box set offers.

The Deleted Scenes are split between discs, to match the episodes they come from. They can be accessed with by clicking on a scissors icon next to the episode title, or from the Special Features menu. Combined, they make about 28 minutes of material; the scenes are a combination of completely deleted material, or in some cases extended scenes of footage that did make it into the show. Some of it is amusing, but extraneous, but other scenes are pretty interesting, such as a deleted scene between Gia Goodman and Keith Mars in an early episode that introduced a plot point about the bus crash that in the final version would not be brought up until a much later episode.

Also of note are some of the scenes involving Duncan, who wasn’t exactly a fan favorite in season 2; his character wasn’t nearly as intriguing as he was in season 1, where he was a big part of the mystery, and to be honest, Teddy Dunn is simply not as strong an actor as the rest of the great ensemble. That being said, it was interesting to see that several of the deleted scenes featured some endearing Duncan moments that might have at least slightly helped offset some of the negatives regarding his character.

"A Day on the Set With Veronica Mars" is a nice spotlight on Kristen Bell, as she takes a video camera with her for a day on the set, explaining what’s going on and what part of the schedule is occurring. If you love Bell (and it’s hard not to), you’ll adore her even more after some of the cute moments she has here. At just under 8 minutes though, it’s hard not to wish this was a longer piece. Obviously Bell had a lot of actual work to do through the day too, but it would have been nice to perhaps split this up into a piece following more than one participant, to get a bigger look at the different things going on around the set.

"Veronica Mars: Not Your Average Teen Detective" is a frustrating piece. Yes, it’s nice to finally have something on the DVD where Rob Thomas talks about the show, but the fact is, at around 5 minutes, this is a pretty standard behind the scenes piece that only offers a broad look at the show, and brief discussion of the storyline in season 2. Yes, it’s cool to learn that Thomas had thought up all the major aspects of the bus crash storyline (including the culprit) at the end of season 1, but there are a ton of other storylines and characters of significance left undiscussed. Bell also has some interview footage here, along with Ryan Hansen and Teddy Dunn, but it seems like we’re just seeing an introduction to what could be such a better, more informative piece.

The gag reel is a pretty fun collection of clips from the first two seasons. Highlights include Veronica’s beloved dog Backup failing to cooperate in a scene, Kristen Bell repeatedly accidentally substituting the word cheerleader for cheeseburger and a montage of Joss Whedon clearly adlibbing some dialogue as his car rental agent chastises a coworker. The gag reel is just over 8 minutes of funny material, but it’s a bit sad when the gag reel is longer then either of the pieces that are meant to actually inform viewers about the show’s production.

All of this would be forgivable if there were just some commentaries!! It’s confounding why none are included; Thomas and the cast have done a lot to promote the show and by all accounts are a friendly and open group of people, so it seems unbelievable that none of them would want to do a commentary on an episode. And what about any of the other writers? It would be great to hear information on individual episodes, and choices made about characters and storylines, but none of that is offered here. Yes, this is a step up from the even more meager offerings on season 1, but Veronica Mars still falls far behind other TV shows when it comes to offering a satisfying box set collection.

There’s also a 1 minute promo for season 3, which will be part of the new CW channel. Sorry Veronica fans; no new footage is included, as the promo incorporates season 2 material.

Score: 4 out of 10

The Bottom Line

Veronica Mars is a great show. Season 2 was not as completely satisfying as season 1, but was still a tremendously entertaining year, anchored by Bell and the rest of the cast. This is a show well worth your time.

That being said, this DVD set is another disappointment. It’s still worth getting for the show alone, but pretty please Warner Bros, can we get better extras next time out?

Score: 7 out of 10