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DVD Review: VERONICA MARS (2019): THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON

Oct 20 Posted by in DVD/Blu-ray, Reviews | Comments

Disclaimer: “Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.”

 

As someone who never really watched the original Veronica Mars series 15 years ago, I can understand why Warner Bros. has decided to refer to this release as “The Complete First Season” despite it recently airing on Hulu as the show’s fourth season. While longtime viewers of the series will most certainly get an additional layer of enjoyment out of this new season, I never found myself lost as I just jumped right into this new series without having seen the original three seasons. I tried but could never get into the original series—I wasn’t a fan of its dark, noir-detective story tone. This revival series didn’t seem to have that same tone (until the very final scene). Maybe the series will revert to its original tone if it returns for another season, but I quite enjoyed this first season of the revival series, which actually worked quite well as a stand-alone 8-episode mystery.

Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) grew up in Neptune, California, working as a teenage P.I. alongside her father, former police chief Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni). It took her 19 years to finally get away from the town, but now, ten years later, Veronica is back and has once again teamed up with her father in the family business. These days Veronica often finds herself working cases helping women catch their cheating husbands and boyfriends. Her father is experiencing some health issues that may be a delayed result of a car accident he had years earlier—he walks around with a cane, and is experiencing some issues with his memory. But that hasn’t dulled his ability to verbally spar with his daughter.

As the series opens, Veronica’s longtime boyfriend, former Navy Pilot turned intelligence officer Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), has returned from some mystery assignment, and he has a question to ask Veronica. However, Veronica is not the marrying type, and is pretty sure that she has made Logan aware of that over the years.

Neptune is a big Spring Break town, and is already being overrun with the annual throngs of frat kids. Meanwhile, crooked real-estate tycoon, Richard “Big Dick” Casablancas (David Starzyk) has been trying to get the town to pass some ordinances that would drive out the small businesses. One of these is a local nightclub owned by the tough Nicole Malloy (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), and another is the local motel. The situation escalates when a bomb goes off at the motel, killing four people—the owner of the motel, a student/Mexican national, a law school student, and the fiancee of the younger brother of wealthy Arab American Congressman Daniel Maloof (Mido Hamada). Was this a random act, or was one of these people the intended target of the bomb?

As Veronica and her father start to investigate, they bump heads with the town’s new police chief (Dawnn Lewis). And things only get worse—what seemed like an isolated incident quickly turns into a serial bomber case. The FBI are called in, with the investigation being led by Veronica’s former boyfriend Leo D’Amato (Max Greenfield). While working on the bombing case, the Mars’ also take on some smaller cases to help pay the bills. And along the way they bump into many old acquaintances as well as some interesting new ones.

The series has a really nice blend of mystery, drama, thriller and humor. One of the highlights is the relationship between Veronica and her father. The two have this fun, quippy, sarcastic way of speaking with one another. It kind of reminded me of Rory and Lorelai in The Gilmore Girls, but a little edgier. Their banter constantly brought a smile to my face.

The series sets up this really rich world of characters. I had initially assumed most of these characters were from the previous three seasons, but I was surprised to discover that many of them were new to this revival. The writers have done an excellent job of blending in these characters and giving them backstory and history with the Mars’, making both the returning and the new characters all feel a part of the this same world. Longtime fans of the series will see the return of characters like Veronica’s best friend Wallace Fennel (Percy Daggs III) who is now a married high school teacher and coach, Pacific Coast Highway biker gang leader Eli ‘Weevil’ Navarro (Francis Capra), and “Big Dick”‘s son Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen), who’s now an actor. Among the many new characters (and possible suspects) are two mysterious hitmen for the Mexican cartel (Clifton Collins Jr., Frank Gallegos); Clyde Pickett (J.K. Simmons), an old acquaintance of Keith’s who spent some time in prison and is now working for Richard Casablancas; Matty Ross (Izabela Vidovic), the daughter of the owner of the motel, who becomes Veronica’s protege; two brutes who are after Matty, looking for their sister’s engagement ring that disappeared in the bombing; nerdy pizza delivery guy Penn Epner (Patton Oswalt)—who runs a club of “Murderheads” who like to swap conspiracy theories—and his fellow Murderhead Don (Clark Duke), who calls into their meetings remotely from D.C.; and numerous badly-behaved frat boys in town for Spring Break.

This eight episode season feels like it was written with a weekly episode release in mind. Each episode ends on some big reveal or cliffhanger, allowing for viewer speculation and discussion about the case, and who might be the bomber. While some folks may slowly make their way through the season, taking time to digest and speculate, the season also works quite well as a binge. This is how I watched it for the first time via these DVDs, and also how Hulu first released the season this past July. There are so many twists and turns to the season that the writers do a great job of keeping you guessing, throwing in some big surprises right up until the very end.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has released this first season of the Veronica Mars revival on both DVD and Blu-ray. However, the Blu-ray is a Warner Archive Blu-ray release that will likely only be available via online retailers. I was sent the DVD version for review, and for the most part, the picture quality looks quite good, but it was still noticeably duller, and sometimes darker and less detailed than the HD programs I am used to watching. However I got used to this very quickly, and it did not detract from my enjoyment while binging through the series. The 5.1 audio track sounds quite good, providing clear dialogue, a great soundtrack, and some immersive moments. That said, for only a few dollars more, it seems like a no-brainer to pick up the Blu-ray release instead of the DVD, and see the series in HD as it was intended.

The DVD release contains all 8 episodes split evenly across two discs. These are housed in a standard-size DVD multi-disc keepcase, which is placed inside a cardboard slipcover. The keepcase also includes an episode guide sheet. The only bonus material is footage from the show’s 2019 San Diego Comic-Con panel.



What’s Included:

Episodes: (6:51:07)

  • All 8 episodes of the first season of the revival series (fourth season of the series overall):
    Disc 1: “Spring Break Forever”, “Chino and the Man”, “Keep Calm and Party On”, “Heads You Lose”
    Disc 2: “Losing Streak”, “Entering a World of Pain”, “Gods of War”, “Years, Continents, Bloodshed”
  • 480i / Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
  • Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH

Extras:

  • Veronica Mars at Comic Con 2019 (26:09)
    Footage from this past July’s San Diego Comic-Con panel for the series. The Q&A is moderated by TVLine’s Michael Ausiello, and the panelists include Francis Capra (“Eli ‘Weevil’ Navarro”), Percy Daggs III (“Wallace Fennel”), Ryan Hansen (“Dick Casablancas”), Kirby Howell-Baptiste (“Nicole Malloy”), Enrico Colantoni (“Keith Mars”), Jason Dohring (“Logan Echolls”), Kristen Bell (“Veronica Mars”), writer/executive producer Diane Ruggiero-Wright, and writer/creator Rob Thomas

 


Final Thoughts:

My Rating
Episodes:
Video:
Audio:
Extras:
Recommended

The Veronica Mars revival series was quite enjoyable to watch, even for this guy who hadn’t seen the original series—it was easy to just jump right in. The story has a lot of humorous moments while also maintaining a twisting mystery across all eight episodes. This release is a must own for fans of the franchise, but also recommended for anyone looking for a fun, interesting self-contained mystery series. The DVD looks and sounds quite good, but at the time of writing this, the Blu-ray release is only a few dollars more, so I suggest picking up that version instead. The only bonus material included on the set is the show’s Comic-Con panel, but it’s an entertaining watch.