Rob Thomas talks to ET about why he felt the series needed to sacrifice one of its most beloved characters and reveals season 5 plans.
Warning: If you have not watched all eight episodes of Veronica Mars season four on Hulu, this story contains massive spoilers. If you have, read our take on the game-changing finale and hear what star Jason Dohring had to say about Logan's fate.
Why did Veronica Mars make that heartbreaking move in the season four finale?
It's a question that's been asked by those who have binged the entire season after Hulu surprise dropped all eight episodes on Friday -- an entire week early: Why did Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) have to die? And in such an unexpectedly violent way via a detonated car bomb? Right after he and Veronica (Kristen Bell) said their "I do's"? There was barely any time for fans to grieve the loss of Logan; before you knew it, a time jump one year later jolted everyone to a new Logan-less reality with Veronica channeling her inner cynic. Veronica Mars fans took to Twitter to voice their passionate reactions over the divisive finale.
"It's like cutting off a limb to save the body," creator Rob Thomas tells ET of killing off Veronica's beau, Logan, in the final minutes of season four. And you don't have to tell him just how big of a swing it is to fridge Logan; he admits he's "terrified." "It is a gamble and I am incredibly aware with that sort of gamble. If we never get to do Veronica Mars again because the fans turned on the show because I killed off Logan, then I placed a large bet and lost it."
"The thing that gives me some hope is that I feel like fans of the show have liked Veronica the most when she's the furthest down. This certainly takes her to a point, like after Lily Kane was killed [in season one]," he adds. "There's something about Veronica being like a wronged nerd, that I think it's appealing to people. But I'm sure going to find out how they're going to react."
So, Marshmallows, buckle up because ET spoke with Thomas before the entire season dropped for a candid conversation about the risky decision to kill off Logan in the finale, how he will handle the reception from fans, why he hopes Logan's death doesn't serve as the death knell for Veronica Mars and his plans for a potential fifth season.
ET: Let's talk about the Logan of it all. For fans of Veronica Mars, he is one of the key ingredients that has made the franchise tick. Why, in your approach to these eight episodes, did you feel it was important for Logan to die at the end of the season?
Rob Thomas: It has nothing to do with my love of Jason Dohring or of Logan Echolls because I love both of those people. It has everything to do with what I want the show to be if we get to move forward with it. These eight episodes were meant to be a bridge of sorts. Veronica Mars was originally conceived as half high school soap opera, half noir detective show. My feeling is that if we move forward, it has to move forward as a noir detective show. And it's hard to do that when your kick-ass noir detective has a boyfriend back home. It becomes increasingly difficult to work. What's Logan doing in these eight episodes? It isn't easy. We may strain credulity a bit with how we work him into the episodes.
So, it's like cutting off a limb to save the body. It is a gamble and I am incredibly aware with that sort of gamble. If we never get to do Veronica Mars again because the fans turned on the show because I killed off Logan, then I placed a large bet and lost it. If we did this and moved forward, I'm more excited about doing the show with Veronica as a single person than Veronica married or Veronica with boyfriend.
How much back and forth did you have about Logan's fate?
It was decided long before we even pitched the series. It was part of the pitch. The studio knew it going in, the network knew it going in and I had a conversation with Jason about it before he ever signed aboard. That was one of the harder conversations I've had in the last few years of my life. I mean, it was as tough as breaking up with a girlfriend, that queasiness of, "Oh my god, I can't believe I have to say these words out loud to this person who I care about." And it was very much, "It's not you, it's me." So, I didn't surprise anyone with it. Kristen knew that that was the plan. [Executive producer] Diane Ruggiero-Wright, who I've worked with on the show since episode two, knew it was the plan. So, honestly, it had been going around in my head for years that that should be the course. For writing a badass noir detective, it just feels funny to then write that with the boyfriend or a husband.
So creatively speaking, you felt like Logan had kind of served his purpose in the grander scheme of Veronica Mars?
I'm not sure if I would say that it is that he served his purpose, though he did serve a huge purpose for us. I think there's a reason that television shows tend to end when the main two love interests get together. It's that it's less interesting drama moving forward. And so, if we wanted to keep doing Veronica Mars episodes and Kristen has said she will do this show until it's Murder, She Wrote, I wanted to do it with Veronica as a single woman.
I'm a cynic when it comes to major character deaths on TV shows. Because we don't see a body, naturally fans will talk and speculate even though Logan is very clearly dead, right?
Yes, he is dead. The funny thing... and I will tell you one thing that I would do if I had to do it all over again is to show the body or have a shot of the funeral because half the reporters who have talked to me have said, "Now, just to be clear, he is dead, right?" So yeah, I thought it was clear but on television, if you don't see a body now, there is -- thanks to Jon Snow -- there's always hope.
You did give Veronica and Logan at brief moment of happiness in the finale, where they're getting married, discussing their honeymoon and talking about their future. Was that a benchmark moment that you wanted those two to reach at the end of the season? That they even got there, I feel, is a big deal in itself.
Yeah, and Logan had clearly gotten there a little sooner than Veronica. Typically -- I shouldn't say typically -- but it seems like we get all sorts of stories about men in their 30s or even men in their 40s who have this fear of commitment. Are they willing to take on a spouse, a mortgage, kids? Will they settle down and have a life of monogamy? I wanted to turn the tables on that sort of story and give that to Veronica because here is a girl who's been taking pictures of unfaithful spouses since she was 16 years old. The marriages that she's seen up close have not tended to go well. And she is a bit of an adrenaline junkie. So would Veronica be able to say "yes" felt like a big moment to me. It felt better than options like Veronica cheats on Logan and self-sabotages the relationship or Logan bails and doesn't show up to the wedding. I did want to give that sort of nice happy moment even though it was just a moment.
And so cruel! The thing that killed me was they didn't even have half a day to bask in their marital bliss.
Yeah. (Laughs.) The plot sort of locked us into it a little bit in that it didn't make sense to us for Penn Epner (guest star Patton Oswalt) to set a bomb to go up a week later. The whole idea was the bomb had to go up that day. I couldn't quite give them a honeymoon of happiness before it happened.
Were Veronica and Logan always headed toward a tragic ending? It's no secret that this relationship came as a surprise when the series first debuted.
No. Well, we never know whether we're going to get to do more episodes. And so, if we had not done these eight episodes for Hulu, then the show would have been over with Veronica and Logan back together [in the 2014 fan-funded movie], and Veronica sitting at her dad's desk [at Mars Investigations] and that would have been the ending.
I think this decision that I made stems from this idea that we think there's a shot, by no means a guarantee, that we can keep making episodes, sort of like a Sherlock, every once in a while when Kristen has a hole in her schedule and I have a hole in my schedule. We can get together and knock out eight episodes of Veronica Mars and make them very mystery-oriented. So, stripping the show of a lot of its high school soap opera roots and making Veronica a kick-ass detective that we can go back to from time to time and tell mystery stories.
Clearly, you have an idea of how you may want to continue Veronica's journey post-Logan. Is this going to be a wholly different show should it continue? Where can it potentially go from here?
Not wholly different. I think so much of what people enjoy about the show is the character Veronica Mars and the tone of the show -- the sort of bantery, fast-paced sort of dramedy that it is. And all that will stay intact. I certainly don't want to suggest that we'll never see any of these characters other than Veronica again. I think we will.
In the final shot, we see Veronica drive off and leave Neptune behind, essentially closing the book on this chapter of her life. If there's another season potentially, is this something where the show can kind of be set anywhere Veronica goes?
Yes. I do think that this next version of Veronica is going to lean very hard into being a mystery. My fear about continuing to do the show as its constructed, is that it relies on nostalgia. That it would start feeling like a show of diminishing returns if it was still Veronica hanging out with her high school buddies from season to season. The idea that I'm noodling with for a potential fifth season, if we are so lucky -- I am knocking on wood -- have been these Agatha Christie sort of Murder in the Country Manor drawing room mysteries, even though I would update that concept a bit.
One of the difficult things with doing the show in season two and three is that I built season one with the exact characters I needed to tell that big 22-episode mystery, and then I fall in love with those characters and fans fall in love with those characters. And then in season two, when I'm trying to do a big mystery, how do I work in those fan-favorite characters? It starts to feel like Murder, She Wrote. And even this time in season four when I talked to some of our former series regulars, I had to say to them, "Look, you're not going to get your own storylines. it's a mystery with a new cast of characters. You're going to be Veronica's friend or on the periphery." But I decided that I can't keep turning the show in on those same six, seven characters each time. So, my prediction if we get to do more is we will still see some of Veronica's friends, they're just going to be less baked into the DNA of the show.
The one absence that really reverberated throughout the eight episodes was Veronica's friend, Mac. How hard did you fight to get Tina Majorino back for a brief cameo?
Oh, probably a couple of phone calls and 10 emails. I wanted [her]; I love Tina Majorino. I am an enormous fan, and I am bummed that she wasn't with us on this one. And by the way, I would not hesitate to go back to her. I missed her as well.
Were there any other actors that you wanted to bring back but couldn't for whatever reason?
There were some that were just scheduling issues that couldn't be worked around. Like, CBS would only let Max Greenfield do three episodes [as Leo D'Amato]. I really needed him for a fourth episode. Ryan Hansen had a movie booked in Romania, so there's no reaction to his father [Big Dick]'s death. I probably would have liked to have had another scene between Nicole and Veronica. And that wasn't because we couldn't get Kirby [Howell-Baptiste], but that was just because we ran out of space in the show. There were a number of things that would've been great.
People have asked me, "Would you have liked to have more time in the wake of Logan's death?" It's hard to keep making a show that's built around a murder mystery going after the murder mystery is solved. It's just to keep playing acts after that to continue on Veronica's romantic life would have felt very odd to me, so I felt like whatever happens after Penn Epner goes to jail, we've got about 10 pages to tell the rest of the story.
Because Logan has been a part of the DNA of the show since the beginning, the response to his death will probably be passionate. What do you hope people take away from Logan's death?
I don't know is the answer to that question and it was sort of the black comedy in the writers' room. I had just returned from a couple of weeks in Europe and we've been joking that I should have taken those couple of weeks in Europe the day the show was released. I am going to be... I know that it's a gamble. I hope that people love Veronica enough to want to keep watching her move forward because I do think there's a good shot we will get to do more moving forward. I know some people are going to be incredibly upset. I just think it's going to be a better show moving forward with Veronica as a single character. It is hard to keep a show interesting and alive when the two romantic leads are now married and are supposed to be living a happily ever after. It's been done. I don't want to make the case that it's never been done, but it is difficult.
And since Kristen and I would like to keep doing these episodes, it felt necessary to me. I don't know what the reaction is going to be and it does terrify me. My cousin's wife texted me two or three weeks ago and she's a huge fan of the show. In fact, you can see her in a scene in the movie. She's sitting behind Wallace in the teachers' cafeteria right in the movie; she loves the show and just texted me to say, "Hey Rob, I sure hope everyone's getting a big happy ending, I really need that right now, so just tell me it's going to end happy." And I'm like, "Ohh, uhh." (Laughs.) I can't remember how I answered the question but I'm afraid I'm going to lose my cousin, my own family members over this. So, I am, yes, absolutely nervous about how this is going to play out.
All eight episodes of Veronica Mars season four are now streaming on Hulu.
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