I've got a secret. A good one.
I’ve got a secret. A good one.
Veronica Mars is not a show that has a lot of power in the cultural landscape like, say, The Sopranos. I also don’t think it’s got as much weight as Buffy, another cult classic.
But Veronica Mars’s first season is largely considered some of the strongest around. Season two and season three, while not as strong, still have a lot going for them. I think it deserved at least five seasons, and I doubt I’m alone. Why it failed while Supernatural, fellow WB-turned-CW show after it’s sophomore season, succeed while Veronica Mars didn’t is an interesting discussion, but not what I’m interested in talking about right now.
I want to talk about Lilly and Veronica’s relationship. @candyumbrella has dozens upon dozens of posts asserting that the only character that matters in a TV show is the central male character. Everyone else just a prop. The only fully realized person is that male character and the only relationship that matters is his one true love. She insists that, with few exceptions, these are the only TV shows that have cultural impact and staying power. I could just point out the existence of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic or Xena: Warrior Princess or Dragonball Z - and I have - and move on.
But I’ve decided that’s just not enough. Women do have great stories on TV and I don’t want to see them being re-branded as stories about men. So I’m going to attempt to take apart her argument by pointing to a story where a female protagonist and her female best friend mattered. In fact, I’d say Veronica’s relationship with Lilly is the most important one, when it comes to understand who Veronica is as a person.
There’s this moment, in the 2x01, where Veronica thinks she sees Lilly. She runs after her, but she was just a ghost. This moment not only signifies to the audience that Lilly still matters to Veronica, even after Veronica figures out who killed her, it’s also the reason she missed the bus. The bus that crashed and everyone ended up dying in.
In a very real way, Lilly, and Veronica’s love for her saved her life. It was just a passing moment. Thinking you see a dead loved one is normal. It itself, there’s not much to comment on it beyond talking about the nature of grief and love (which, yeah, can be a really important part of fiction). But it served another function: it saved Veronica’s life.
Fiction is artificial. Veronica was never going to die in that moment because she’s the lead. Veronica Mars is about Veronica Mars. But there was no reason that seeing Lilly had to be the reason Veronica missed that bus. Maybe she got held up in line. Maybe she just didn’t want to speak to Meg after Meg blew her off so she called a cab. Maybe her shoe got untied. Maybe a million other things. But, no. Veronica sees Lilly and everything else stops for a minute.
Stopping Veronica was one function of that moment. The other was to remind the audience that Veronica misses Lilly.
Veronica’s life, in the Veronica Mars tv show, can be divided fairly neatly into two categories: before Lilly died and the aftermath of her murder. Veronica was very different when Lilly was alive: well liked by her peers, a little more reserved, more willing to turn away from ugly truths, less driven, maybe even a bit shy here and there. Happy.
Then Lilly was murdered.
Lilly’s murder was covered up. An innocent man took the fall. Keith was pushed out of office before he was able to figure out what really happened and had to become a PI to survive. Lianne was blackmailed into leaving Neptune and ended up breaking her sobriety. Veronica lost all her friends. She was raped. Then law enforcement laughed it off when she reported it.
Before Lilly was murdered, Duncan broke up with her for seemingly no reason. Veronica’s heart was broken. But that didn’t break Veronica.
What broke Veronica was Lilly’s murderer getting away with it.
I’m not going to say it was intended. Amanda Seyfried - a woman, by the way - was cast as Lilly Kane and it was like lightening in a bottle. Amanda took what could have been a character who was mostly a plot device and breathed life into her. Lilly was bright and self assured and filled with joy. Her personal life was far from perfect and she made some shitty choices along the way. The cracks in her psyche made it easy for a serial predator to take advantage of. But I don’t think anyone could ever seriously argue that Lilly Kane didn’t live.
Lilly deserved to live. Her life was cut short by a misogynistic asshole who beat his kid. But deserving to live doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get to.
Lilly’s greatest strength as a person was that she lived in the now. She didn’t let her past define her. She wasn’t overly invested in the future. Life was an adventure and the world was at her feet. Making too many plans mean limiting herself, the only thing she really didn’t want. Her life had meaning because she gave it meaning.
It’s a lesson she imparted on Veronica. She knew that, underneath the long hair and careful personality, was a risk taker who was a force to be reckoned with. She knew Veronica was seduced by the darker and more interesting parts of life. She knew that because Veronica was endlessly fascinated, and not all that judgmental, about Lilly’s personal life.
Veronica was forced by circumstances, more than anything else, to embrace the cynical, cruel, and ruthless parts of herself. After Lilly died, she broke, and she remade herself into someone no one could hurt again. She would eventually open herself up to become vulnerable again - in her platonic friendship with Wallace, not in a romance with Duncan or Logan.
But that’s not all she took from Lilly’s death. When she goes skinny dipping in the ocean, it’s because it’s something that Lilly urged her to do. Skinny dipping wasn’t the point - living without holding back was. It’s easier said than done. But it’s something Veronica attempts to do. And it wasn’t a lesson from her parents or lovers, it was a lesson from her best friend.
If Lilly had lived, Veronica would have been a very different person. She might still have ended up in law enforcement or creation. But I don’t think the singular drive to find the truth, no matter how ugly, would have define her to such a degree. I’m not saying she’s better off, or even that she’s worse off, as she is now. All I’m saying is that Veronica, the woman who chooses to get her hands dirty and demand answers, would not exist. She exists because Lilly Kane loved her and she loved Lilly Kane.