Once again, we're tackling another show in TV Blend's weekly series "___'s Best Episode." Each week a different writer will pick out a different episode of a TV show and argue why it is definitively, absolutely the best thing the show ever did. Arguments will be started, tears may be shed, but we're here to start some conversations and make some arguments for really, really good TV. This week Kelly makes a case for Veronica Mars’ “Leave It To Beaver.” Read below, argue with us in the comments.
Veronica Mars’ first season was an excellent demonstration of how a murder mystery can play out over the course of a season in a modern day TV drama. It could be argued that the UPN series peaked too soon, with the first season finale (“Leave it to Beaver”) encompassing the best of what the show had to offer, while also concluding the mystery of the Lily Kane murder, and introducing elements that would be addressed in the series’ second season.
It’s at this point that I’m going to warn people away from this article if they haven’t seen Veronica Mars. Major plot spoilers about the first season lay ahead. With that said, the Rob Thomas created detective series is definitely worth checking out and, after a recent rewatch, I feel confident in saying that - more than half a decade later - it still holds up well.
There are a number of arcs that are introduced and addressed over the course of the series’ first season. Beyond the murder of Lily Kane, we have Veronica’s mother’s absence and inevitable return, the uncertainty of Veronica’s true biological father (is it Jake Kane? Or Keith Mars?), which makes Veronica’s once-boyfriend Duncan her potential half-brother, Veronica’s complicated romantic relationship with Lily’s ex-boyfriend Logan, Veronica’s relationship with her father, Keith’s ruined reputation as the former Neptune sheriff, and in general, Veronica’s trust issues. All of these things are addressed and in some cases, resolved to some extent or another in “Leave it to Beaver,” and yet somehow the episode never feels cluttered. In fact, it finds a way to continue to build suspense and momentum as Veronica finally uncovers the truth about Lily’s death. The cherry on the cake? The murderer wasn’t anywhere near the top of the list of suspects.
Over the course of the first season, we get to know Veronica Mars as the adorable, quick-thinking, once-popular high school student whose life was turned upside down when her best friend Lily was murdered. This incident, added to her father’s fall from grace at work, her mother’s drinking problems and eventual exit, and having been shunned by the popular kids at school, drugged at a party and raped, have turned that once wide-eyed, innocent beauty into a cynical, guarded, wise-beyond-her-years teen with an unfortunate amount of baggage. The fact that she finds herself caught up in the start of a romance with a guy who was among her chief tormenters, and also happens to be Lily Kane’s former boyfriend, not to mention one of the murder suspects, only serves to emphasize the extent of Veronica’s baggage. And I say this as someone who remains firmly on team-LoVe, despite how ill-suited the couple may seem on paper.
Logan possibly being the murderer was something carried through to the finale. And then there was Duncan, Lily’s brother, who due to a brain disorder, has a tendency for violent outbursts and blackouts. “Leave it to Beaver” revealed that the Kanes thought they were covering for Duncan all along by bribing Abel Koontz to take the fall for their daughter’s death. Even Duncan believed he’d done it by then. But it wasn’t Duncan, nor was it Logan. It wasn’t Mr. or Mrs. Kane. And it wasn’t Weevil, either. The murderer was a person who seemed almost completely unrelated to Lily. Aaron Echols, Logan’s father, had proven to have a violent-streak, but we were never given any reason to believe he might have been engaging in an inappropriate relationship with Lily until Veronica discovered the tapes.
The big reveal that Lily was sleeping with her boyfriend’s father was not only shocking and dramatic, but it also explained Lily’s mentioned “secret,” which allowed the mystery’s conclusion to offer a certain sense of satisfaction. It came out of nowhere, and yet it didn’t. We knew Lily had a secret (“A good one...”) and it seemed like that question had been answered when we learned of her relationship with Weevil. But as it turned out, she’d gotten herself mixed up with the wrong man, and it cost her her life.
Another major plot point that was resolved in the episode was the question of whether Keith Mars was Veronica’s biological father. For a large part of the season, we knew that Veronica’s mother had been having an affair with Jake Kane, which called into question whether Veronica was actually Jake’s daughter. As even Jake wasn’t sure, Keith leveraged the situation to make the Kane’s pay him his fee for tracking down Duncan. In exchange, Veronica signed over any claim she may or may not have to the Kane fortune. Veronica’s lack of hesitation in signing the papers demonstrated her love and loyalty to her father. And then we learned that it didn’t matter anyway, as Keith had a DNA test done, which proved he was Veronica’s father. The real proof wasn’t the piece of paper, however. Keith’s love and protectiveness of his daughter was later demonstrated when he literally leaped through fire to save her life, getting burned in the process.
I like to think that, if done right, a series will make a promise to its viewers in the pilot episode. It offers a hint of its potential with the assurance that, if the viewer keeps watching, they will be rewarded with a satisfying conclusion. Many shows fail to live up to that, while some aim but miss the mark, and others lose their way entirely. “Leave it to Beaver” hit the target perfectly, laying to rest the ghost of Lily Kane and offering various other pieces of resolution as a reward to faithful viewers.
Veronica Mars wasn’t a perfect series. In fact, the two seasons that followed never managed to live up to the first season. But the way that first season came together was about as satisfying and entertaining as TV gets.