When Kristen Bell announced earlier this year that she’s eyeing a reboot of
Veronica Mars, it broke the internet — at least, the part of the internet that’s obsessed with culty shows that ended way too soon. And for good reason: In three short seasons, Veronica Mars earned a reputation as one of the smartest, funniest, and most exciting shows ever. It’s also probably the best teen show of the 2000s.
In it, Bell plays Veronica, high school student by day, plucky teen detective by night. When we meet her, she’s been dumped and thoroughly rejected by all her former friends in the rich-kid clique. She’s also devastated by the aftermath of being drugged and raped at a party, the disappearance of her mother, and the murder of her best friend, Lilly Kane. The story of how Veronica and her father, private investigator Keith Mars, solve these crimes (plus pretty much every offense to cross Neptune’s police blotter) unfolds with warmth, wit, and plenty of plot twists. It’s some of the best TV you’ll ever see.
When it first aired, you had to endure the whole “next week on
Veronica Mars” thing. But now, praise be, all three seasons are available for your streaming pleasure on go90 — and trust me when I say you’ll have to force yourself not to gobble them up in record time. To get you ready for the reboot, or just to let you know why people are still so damn obsessed with this show, we ranked every single VM episode from (still pretty good) worst to (A+) best. Clear your schedule — the binge starts now!
64. S03 E03 "Wichita Linebacker" There truly are not any bad Veronica Mars episodes, but this one doesn't touch on the season's big story arcs enough for my liking. (Also, it’s about football.) This week, Veronica is enlisted to track down a football player's stolen playbook before he loses his scholarship. What this episode DOES have is the introduction of the delightfully dorky-yet-nefarious Dean of Hearst College, played by Ed Begley, Jr., who immediately makes Veronica's life very complicated. Plus Weevil, the local biker bad boy/criminal/sometimes-friend to Veronica, is briefly employed by Veronica’s dad at Mars Investigations. I knew Veronica would make an honest man out of him!
63. S01 E04 "The Wrath of Con" This is Kristen Bell's favorite episode of the first season, and there’s lots to love. Just not so much the mystery of the week, in which Veronica helps a girl who was conned out of money by a group of shadowy internet denizens known as the Silicon Mafia. But that plotline does let Veronica dress up as a sexy “anime” girl to infiltrate their lair (which they try to make look scary, but we bet smells like Cheetos and Mountain Dew). Also, there’s lots of dopey mid-aughts computer nerd-speak, like “ownage.” The episode’s better when it focuses on Veronica’s relationship with Lilly, her best friend whose murder she spends the season trying to solve. In a hazy flashback sequence, the two get ready for a dance. Veronica picks a boring dress, and Lilly tells her “you are not a yellow cotton dress — you are strapless red satin." Later, Veronica wears a red satin dress to the homecoming dance. Great, now I’m sobbing.
62. S01 E03 "Meet John Smith" Veronica helps a classmate find his father, who’s been missing for 10 years. Veronica can totally relate, since her own mom went missing after Lilly was murdered, and Veronica’s been trying to find her ever since. She finally tracks her mom to Phoenix — but her dad refuses to try to find her, and won’t tell Veronica why. Kinda suspicious, Keith. Meanwhile, we find out that Duncan, Veronica’s ex-boyfriend and Lilly’s brother, is on some kind of medication that he’s been secretly dumping down the sink. He starts having hallucinations in which Lilly tells him that Abel, the man convicted of her murder, isn’t her real killer. Oh, and their billionaire parents who basically run Neptune are absolutely batshit crazy.
61. S01 E09 "Drinking the Kool-Aid" In this episode, Veronica finds out her mom once had a fling with billionaire software mogul Jake Kane. Which is interesting trivia, but also means there’s a possibility that Duncan Kane, her ex-boyfriend and one true love, might actually be her half-brother. Heavy. Meanwhile, Veronica is hired by the parents of a Neptune High student who believe their son has joined a cult. Naturally, Veronica has to go undercover and infiltrate them. She does so by targeting an English teacher who’s also a member (the teacher is super impressed by Veronica’s heartfelt poem, “I Cut Because I Can”). After infiltrating their commune, Veronica finds out they’re basically just a bunch of hippies who love nature and organic farming. The “ultimate cash crop” they all secretly refer to isn’t even marijuana; it’s poinsettias. Frankly, I was hoping for something more Manson-esque.
60. S03 E12 "There's Got to Be a Morning After Pill" Veronica’s in college and is helping Bonnie, the girlfriend of her evil criminology TA Tim Foyle, find out who caused her miscarriage by slipping her RU-486. Is that even a thing? Solving the case means eliminating the baby daddy and Bonnie's crazy televangelist father as suspects — and turns out, that's far from simple. Because she's a born multitasker, Veronica also engages in a little light stalking of Neptune's worst human, an insanely mean rich girl named Madison, who slept with Veronica’s boyfriend. She even pays Weevil to steal Madison’s car so she can watch it get crushed into one of those car-cubes at the junkyard — but a last-minute attack of conscience changes her mind. (Nooo, Veronica, always be petty!)
59. S01 E06 "Return of the Kane" Veronica investigates possible voting fraud in the school election after Duncan wins class president over the clear favorite, a gothy girl named Wanda. Everyone loves her because she gave a fire interview about taking down the elite “09ers,” the rich-kid clique that rules Neptune High. Plus, you know she’s a badass because she wears a black T-shirt with a hot pink tie. Wanda forever! Meanwhile, Logan disgraces his movie-star dad Aaron Echolls (played with a brilliant mix of cluelessness and menace by Harry Hamlin) by being caught running a bum-fighting ring. Neptune is nuts, y’all. And we find out the truth behind Aaron’s affable facade when he punishes Logan via a truly disturbing belt-whipping. Probably the weirdest part of the scene is how Aaron’s wife, played by Harry Hamlin’s real-life spouse Lisa Rinna, sits there placidly sipping something on the rocks while her husband beats their son. It’s all so dizzyingly meta!
58. S02 E15 "The Quick and the Wed" Veronica is on the hunt for a runaway bride! This was very topical in 2006. The bride in question disappeared after her wild bachelorette party and left her car abandoned on the eve of her wedding. But this is Neptune, so naturally everyone suspects something way shadier than cold feet...and they're right. Meanwhile, plastic surgeon Tom Griffith agrees not to give phony testimony against Logan in a murder trial... if Logan breaks up with Griffith’s daughter, Hannah. Logan's pretty bummed about this, but we are not, because Hannah is totally annoying and also not Veronica. In more meta moments, Veronica and friends watch a shocking Tinseltown Diaries about Aaron Echolls' murder of Lilly, which contains actual pics of real-life couple Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna. We also see Aaron do a sexy Hannibal Lecter impression when stepmom Kendall Casablancas flirts with him in jail, and it's just disturbing on all levels.
57. S03 E11 "Poughkeepsie, Tramps and Thieves" How many times has this happened to you? You meet Chelsea, the woman of your dreams, at Comi-Con, and spend one magical night together, only to find her vanished in the cold light of morning. So, you hire your local teen detective to crack the case! Said detective finds out your true love is actually Wendy, a sex worker your friends hired so your pasty ass could finally lose your virginity. But you only talked! Just when you start to feel like a chump, plot twist: Wendy really is in love with you. Hooray! This is also the episode in which Logan reveals his horrifying secret to Veronica: He slept with Madison, the worst person to ever walk the halls of Neptune High, while they were broken up. Great, now Veronica needs a Silkwood shower.
56. S01 E13 "Lord of the Bling" Picture it: Percy "Bone" Hamilton, the notorious gangster-rap impresario behind Drive By records and, per Papa Mars, the "scariest man alive who's also launching a line of casual wear." His daughter Yolanda has been kidnapped, and he needs Keith’s help to find her. He even provides Mr. Mars with a long list of his enemies to start with — how proactive! After questioning dudes with names like Dime Bag, Keith finds out that Yolanda’s brother faked the kidnapping to try to stop her from eloping with their dad’s former lawyer (who’s one of the guys on his “enemies” list). We see Yolanda on Skype, and she's okay but already married! She just wants the families to get over their feud and be buds. It's a real Montague-Capulet situation.
55. S03 E08 "Lord of the Pi's" VM's penchant for genius cameos in the house! Here, Patty Hearst plays a board member at Hearst College who goes missing just before she casts her vote on whether to dismantle the Greek system in the light of a serial-rape scandal. When they finally find her, the reason she disappeared is a million times more interesting than anyone thought. (Also, she’s chilling in her own sumptuous guest house, surrounded by brocade pillows and a litter of mini dogs.) Best moment: Dean O'Dell says he needs Veronica and Keith's help — not Sherrif Lamb’s — in tracking down Selma because: "I've met smarter sandwiches." Think he watched season 1?
54. S02 E14 "Versatile Toppings" Once again, Neptune's busiest teen detective takes on multiple cases. A mysterious mugger is stun-gunning pizza boys and making off with their cash, and someone is blackmailing gay students (threatening to out them if they don’t pay up). Plot twist: It's the same terrible person! Exciting mid-aughts guest star alert: Pep squad member Kylie, played Kristin Cavallari, is one of the students being blackmailed, but she one-ups that jerk by coming out on the school TV station. Way to own your narrative, KC. But wait, double plot twist: She was the blackmailer all along. But she had good reasons? At least, she needed to save money for college, she wanted her girlfriend to come out, and in her own words, "I'm a horrible crazy bitch." Story checks out!
53. S03 E07 "Of Vice and Men" This one's a heart-pounder. A student named Mercer is in jail for a series of rapes on Hearst College campus, but Veronica suspects they've got the wrong guy. Her boyfriend Logan claims he was with Mercer in Tijuana the night of one of the assaults — but he won't spill the details on what they were doing. So naturally, V suspects a sex-and-drugs bacchanal. Later, Logan reveals they were merely partying — and Mercer set a hotel room on fire. Hey, no big, let that drunken arsonist out of jail already! Later, Veronica eats in a mall food court and realizes she's been drugged. She stumbles out to her car feeling woozy and collapses as a mysterious figure approaches. Luckily, Logan swoops in and interrupts the assailant’s plans, but not before he starts to shave Veronica's head — the calling card of the campus serial rapist.
52. S01 E07 "The Girl Next Door" In the mystery of the week, guest star Jessica Chastain plays a maybe-abused pregnant neighbor who disappears, and Veronica uncovers all kinds of secrets she was hiding. Also, Logan and Weevil are thrown in detention for a fight. The poor little rich boy and the PCH biker-gang leader from the wrong side of the tracks — they couldn’t be more different, yet they end up semi-bonding. Meanwhile, we get some intriguing info about how Duncan ghosted Veronica last year. In a soft-focus flashback, we learn that Veronica asked Lilly to talk to her brother Duncan about the sudden freeze-out. After she does, she suddenly goes from “you two are made for each other” to telling Veronica “you should move on — it's for the best." But she won’t tell Veronica why. What did you learn, Lilly?
51. S02 E13 "Ain't No Magic Mountain High Enough" Veronica is working the snow cone stand at the school's Winter Carnival to raise money for a class trip when Madison, the world's worst human, shows up. She's with Veronica's ex-boyfriend Logan, and as always, she's super mean to Veronica. To top it all off, someone steals the snow cone stand's money! Madison blames Wallace's girlfriend, Jackie, an annoying rich girl who's always bragging about her wealth and the one time she met a celebrity. People like her even less now, because they suspect her dad caused a bus crash that killed multiple students. (He's also a former pro ball player, so hello, what does Jackie need snow cone money for?) Jackie's been super annoying up until now, but she majorly redeems herself this episode by using her pariah status to raise money for the school; she sits in the dunking booth long into the night while a line of resentful Neptune students dunk her. Way to make lemonade, Jackie. While all that's happening, Veronica, as usual, investigates her own crime (get on the stick, Neptune Sheriff!). You know she means business when she makes them dump out the ball pit to search for the cash box. Great V, now the children of Neptune hate you, too.
50. S03 E18 "I Know What You'll Do Next Summer" A Hearst student publishes a book about his experience as a child soldier in Uganda. As she often does, Veronica investigates two separate mysteries: Is he fabricating the whole child-soldier story (presumably for the glamour of...writing memoirs and appearing on campus radio shows)? And is the man who shows up claiming to be his father really him? Spoiler alert: No, and yes. Father and son are reunited, and everyone cries like a damn baby.
49. S01 E10 "An Echolls Family Christmas" A poker game at Logan’s house goes very wrong when one of the players makes off with the $5,000 pot (ah, to play poker with rich people). Weevil was the winner, and he is PISSED about not getting paid. After a highly homoerotic scene in which he strip-searches all the dudes, he involves Veronica to find the missing money. Meanwhile, Aaron Echolls’ wife, Lynn, visits Keith for help finding the culprit behind some hilarious yet threatening letters her husband is receiving. "Cheater cheater pumpkin eater, had a wife and couldn't keep her" reads one — is that supposed to be scary? Later, a jack o'lantern carved with Harry Hamlin's face shows up at their door with a knife sticking out of it. Okay, now we’re terrified.
48. S01 E12 "Clash of the Tritons" Veronica is accused of making fake IDs, but it was a frame-up! She’s arrested by corrupt Sheriff Lamb anyway, and he perp-walks her through the hallways of Neptune High just as the bell rings. Like she didn’t have enough problems making friends already, Sheriff Sham. Veronica finds out that the Tritons, a secret society of rich Neptune students, were behind her framing. I love that this show unapologetically depicts the 1% as cartoonish super-villains. Not inaccurate. We also find out Duncan blacked out for three days after Lilly's murder and can't remember anything about it — interesting. And Logan’s mom, Lynn, threatens her husband with divorce. Soon after, her car shows up abandoned on a bridge in a possible suicide.
47. S01 E11 "Silence of the Lambs" Neptune is gripped by a panic after a 20-year-old washes up dead on the beach. Is the famed E-String Strangler (so named because he murders women with guitar strings) back? Keith thinks so — and he follows the clues straight to a guy named "The Worm," whose job is shooting videos for Girls Gone Wild. That almost feels quaint in 2017. The Worm is played by the adorable Aaron Paul...only he’s not so adorable here, because he’s totally the E-String Strangler! Someone send this guy to work at a meth lab. Meanwhile, Veronica continues to investigate Lilly’s death, and she finally tracks down the guy who’s been taking secret surveillance photos of her; it’s the head of security for the Kane Software company. Uh-oh.
46. S02 E08 "Ahoy, Mateys!" Logan is on trial for the murder of a PCH bike gang member, and he needs Veronica's help discrediting Dr. Griffith, the shady plastic surgeon who claims to have witnessed the murder. You know he's a shady plastic surgeon because one of his former patients shows Veronica the blood-stained pool table where Dr. Griffith stitched him up after a bar fight — eww. We're also introduced to the Fighting Fitzpatricks, a heretofore-unmentioned "first family" of crime in Neptune. They're all related, all Irish, all drunk, and all mad as hell. And they play Thin Lizzy at their secret hangout, because Irish pride. While Veronica investigates these ne'er-do-wells, she's attacked by a scary shirtless man, but Logan swoops in to save the day. Later, he's kidnapped by a bike-gang tough guy who makes him play Russian Roulette, but he escapes, nabbing a cell phone as evidence. I love it when Logan’s in superhero mode. This has nothing to do with anything, but Duncan also has a hilarious dream in which Veronica is mocking his ex-girlfriend, Meg, who's in a coma, and Veronica also gives Duncan a wicked backhand, all while wearing a sexy-goth mesh top. LOVE IT. I’d honestly like to see more of evil Veronica.
45. S01 E02 "Credit Where Credit's Due" On plot alone, this episode is somewhat forgettable, but it’s made a hundred times more hilarious thanks to its special guest star Paris Hilton. Paris plays Caitlin Ford, a blonde-extension-having, pink-Juicy-Couture-wearing annoying rich girl who speaks all her lines in a monotone — even the word “Yay.” Way to stretch, Paris! She also rides a baby-pink scooter to school, and the sheer terror visible on Paris Hilton’s face is worth the price of admission. Oh, and we find out that a traffic camera photographed Lilly on the day she died — two hours after her supposed time of death. There goes her whole family’s alibis, basically. Whoo, things are getting good!
44. S01 E19 "Hot Dogs" Holy crap, Veronica told Duncan she suspects him of murdering his sister Lilly, and now he’s disappeared. And dogs are disappearing from Neptune too! Luckily Veronica is on both cases. Is there a scheme afoot to kidnap dogs for their reward money? Of course there is, and V's just the girl to uncover it. Veronica also gets her vamp on in this episode when she kisses Logan while she’s dating Deputy Sheriff Leo D’Amato, who will henceforth be known as Sheriff McSteamy, by the way. Veronica dumps McSteamy, but he STILL agrees to help her track the lost dogs. The girl's good. Best moment: Harry Hamlin sits in his multi-million-dollar mansion reading on a leopard-print couch, telling his daughter, "Phil Jackson gave me this." Amazing.
43. S02 E06 "Rat Saw God" Keith loses the election for Sheriff of Neptune. But Steve Guttenberg wins the election for mayor, and you can just tell his crazy ass is going to be a handful. Luckily, his daughter (played by Krysten Ritter) is awesome. We like her because she calls Keith's opponent, the corrupt Sheriff Lamb, a "total knob" and plans to celebrate her new first-daughter status by being drunk and slutty, "like the Bush Twins." Unfortunately this is a really bad episode for Logan. He's wrongly arrested for the murder of Felix, a PCH gang member, and his house is set on fire. But he still gets his quips in! When told the Sheriff would like to have a word with him, he replies "and I'd like to be the cream filling in an Olsen twins sandwich," which is a very 2005 thing to say. Stay irrepressible, Logan.
42. S03 E06 "Hi, Infidelity" Veronica is hunting hard for the Hearst College rapist — and confronts Claire, a student who was only pretending to be a victim. As cringe-worthy as that plotline is, Veronica admirably decides not to publish her story on Claire in the school paper because it would discredit the other rape victims. Way to maintain your feminist cred, V. Meanwhile, there's mad drama with Veronica's intro to criminology class when evil TA Tim Foyle accuses her of plagiarizing her big paper (HELLO, Veronica Mars doesn't need to plagiarize, she lives this shit!). And she finds out her dreamy professor, Hank, is having an affair with the Dean's wife. Shouldn't he know all too well how these things tend to end?
41. S02 E12 "Rashard and Wallace Go to White Castle" Veronica decides to help her best friend Wallace turn in his basketball teammate Rashard Rucker for a hit-and-run he never reported. Does Veronica really need another case? Well, as she says, "My boyfriend just fled the country with his dead ex-girlfriend's baby — I need a project." We get that. Rashard turns around and frames Wallace for his crime, paying off a geeky kid working a drive-thru that night to claim he saw Wallace do it. That's not good sportsmanship, Rashard. Luckily, Wallace's dad makes it right by visiting the home of the drive-thru twerp and convincing him to rescind his testimony, and while we don't usually condone a grown man intimidating a kid, it is a delight to behold.
40. S02 E17 "Plan B" Veronica continues to follow clues in the murder of PCH biker Felix in order to clear Logan's name. Logan remembers seeing a seafood truck on the bridge where the murder happened, so Veronica and Logan track down the driver, who's being forced to stay silent. But he's speaking now — you can't keep a good seafood man down for long! He agrees to testify to what he really saw: that another gang member did the crime. Lobster rolls for all.
39. S01 E17 "Kanes and Abel's" This one’s a shocker. Veronica unravels the truth behind Abel Koontz and his false confession to the murder of Lilly: He’s dying of a terminal illness and needed money to leave his daughter, so Jake Kane bought his confession. But what’s Jake covering up? Keith steps in to reveal some illuminating new information: Apparently, he caught the Kane parents washing Duncan’s soccer uniform on the day of Lilly’s death. Since they’re mega-billionaires who usually have the help do their laundry, it could only mean one thing: They’re hiding something! But what?
38. S02 E07 "Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner" Adventures in babysitting! Veronica finds out her comatose friend Meg Manning was trying to help an abused child — but she doesn't know which one. So, she does the only logical thing: agrees to babysit for all the rugrats of Neptune until she finds the one. What could go wrong? First up? An uppity, over-scheduled rich boy named Edwin. You know he's messed up because his mom makes him wear a sweater vest. Well, that and the fact that he gives V a "gift," and it's a drawing of her being decapitated. Later, we find out the abused child Meg was trying to help is actually her little sister, Grace. Duncan and Veronica go to rescue her — but they have to get through psychotic Daddy Manning and his baseball bat first.
37. S02 E18 "I Am God" Hands-down one of the weirdest VM episodes. If you’re one of those people who hate hearing about dreams, you might want to skip it, because it’s basically one long dream sequence featuring plentiful soft-focus filters, reverb-y voices, and Dutch angles, all taking place on the flaming bus of death that crashed and killed several students at the beginning of season 2. Veronica is confronted by her guilty conscience in the form of the bus-crash victims who blame her for their deaths. Still, there are some important plot-advancing revelations and majorly creepy moments here — like when V realizes she was the intended target of the bus explosion.
36. S02 E05 "Blast From the Past" Wallace’s stuck-up girlfriend Jackie (Tessa Thompson) needs Veronica’s help figuring out who stole and maxed out her credit card. Veronica agrees reluctantly (because at this point, Jackie is kind of the worst), and goes on a TV psychic show to locate that culprit. That seemed rational in 2005. Meanwhile, we meet a man who claims to be Wallace’s biological dad. This is news to poor Wallace, who was told his father had died. Turns out, papa Wallace is, As Veronica puts it, a "Donnie Brasco renegade cop." I knew this kid was cool! Bonus villainy — Jackie hating on the Neptune High homecoming dance, which isn’t nearly as sophisticated as the soirees at her old school: "Let me get this straight: No alcohol, no dimly lit corners, and I'm not allowed to freak, grind, OR mosh — what's the point?" she asks.
35. S03 E16 "Un-American Graffiti" Keith's busy with his new interim-sheriff gig, so Veronica takes the case of an Iraqi woman whose family restaurant is being vandalized with anti-Muslim graffiti. While Keith cracks down on bars serving underage kids, Veronica wades into the muddy waters of anti-Muslim hate crimes, Muslim-Jewish tensions, plus some punk kids with paintball guns who may or may not be involved (don't worry, V retaliates with a little close-range paintball action of her own). It's a solid episode, but not the most urgent in light of the season's overall story arc. Unless you count the part where Logan catches Veronica and slacker hunk Piz (finally!) making out. Does that fling with Madison still seem like a good idea, Logan?
34. S02 E04 "Green-Eyed Monster" In the aftermath of cracking season 1’s big mystery, Keith is now “too famous” to take every case that walks through the door. So, Veronica’s picking up some of his slack on the sly. Keith would not approve, but hey, she needs the money for Stanford! Wallace and Jackie continue their barf-worthy romance, and she has the nerve to act mad jealous toward Veronica. Hello Jackie, Veronica was there for him when Wallace was taped naked to a flagpole — where were you? To investigate a woman’s possibly-cheating spouse, Veronica dresses up like a sorority girl and tries to seduce the guy (uh, isn’t that entrapment?). She does this by asking him for help with a tire change and engaging in some truly hopeless dirty talk ("I tried real hard, but I just can't get the nuts off!”). Oh Veronica, you social misfit. Never change.
33. S03 E10 "Show Me the Monkey" Missing cholesterol monkey alert! Veronica investigates the disappearance of a research animal from a grad-student lab at Hearst College. She thinks a campus animal-rights group is responsible — but she better go undercover and infiltrate them to be sure. The stakes are high; not only was the monkey going to help find a cure for high cholesterol, but he can also play "Chopsticks" on the piano. We gotta see that! As usual, the culprit is not whom you suspect. Also as usual, the big-name celeb cameos just keep coming. This episode’s monkey is played by Katie, also known as Marcel from Friends. The more you know.
32. S02 E20 "Look Who's Stalking" In one of the show’s more surprising kickoffs, we open on Veronica at her doctor’s office and learn she has contracted chlamydia. Logan or Duncan?? Also, prom has been canceled due to a few bad apples drinking on the senior trip. But don't worry, Logan is holding an “Alterna-Prom” at his place, so kids can still get wasted and have their hearts broken. Also, Mayor Steve Guttenberg's daughter, Gia, is being stalked. She thinks it started after she dedicated a sexy karaoke version of Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out of My Head" to a table full of dweeby guys. That’s probably what happened. Veronica is on the case, and her trail leads to…her ex-boyfriend, Sherriff McSteamy? Oh boy.
31. S03 E02 "My Big Fat Greek Rush Week" Veronica's newspaper editor assigns her to do an exposé of Theta Beta sorority in hopes of uncovering info about a student's rape. You know what that means: costume time! This episode marks the second time we've seen Veronica impersonate a sorority girl, and unlike the previous pigtail situation, this time she goes full-on Legally Blonde debutante. Needless to say, Veronica wants to kill all the Stepford sorority girls with their matching floral dresses and unspiked lemonade. Weird cameo alert: Dan Castellaneta plays a sociology professor who gives students a Stanford prison-experiment-style assignment. It's a little disconcerting hearing Homer Simpson lecture students on the universality of torture throughout history.
30. S03 E09 "Spit & Eggs" A LOT happens in this episode. The Hearst College rapist is getting cocky and publishes a classified ad saying he'll find his next victim at an upcoming Pi Sig party. Doesn't anyone read those things before they're published? Veronica wants to enlist her guy friends for backup, so she convinces them by listing stuff she thinks guys like that will also totally be at the party: "Beer and ladies and music...fast cars, loose slots, electronic gadgetry, televised sports, pornography?" Naturally, Veronica gets her man in the end. In less justice-oriented news, Logan breaks up with Veronica, and she copes via long shower-cries and getting bangs, all of which seems very realistic. And Dean O’Dell catches his wife in flagrante delicto with the criminology prof and later ends up dead via an unknown assailant. I had a feeling that would end badly.
29. S02 E01 "Normal Is the Watchword" It's the triumphant return of Veronica Mars, plucky girl detective! In the start of season 2, she's just trying to live a normal life, hostessing in a coffee bar and starting senior year, but it’s hard to be normal when there are so many mysteries that need a-solving! Oh, and she’s also more visible than ever since her dad became a demi-celebrity for his role in solving the Kane murder case. The really big mystery this season is set up when a school bus taking Neptune High students on a field trip crashes dramatically into the sea, killing everyone onboard except Meg. The bananas thing is, Veronica was on the bus, but Meg purposely left her behind at a rest stop just before the bus crashed. For her unintentional good deed, Meg gets to cling to life in a coma. Meanwhile, Veronica’s spidey senses are tingling that this crash was no accident, and she sets out to prove it. Season 1 also ended on a cliffhanger when an unseen man came to V’s door, and she said “I was hoping it was you.” But who? She dated like seven dudes! Turns out it was Logan, but his visit wasn’t all kisses and Russell Stovers — he got his ass kicked by the PCH biker gang, who believe he was guilty of the murder of one of their members. Looks like Veronica’s back on all the cases.
28. S02 E11 "Donut Run" Duncan's last stand! Veronica finds sexy stepmom Kendall Casablancas in Duncan's apartment, and he dumps her. No one is upset about this, because Duncan is a big boring hunk, and V has a million times more chemistry with Logan. Veronica’s upset, though. In her heartbreak, she listens endlessly to Al Green and the Virgin Suicides soundtrack and eats huge bowls of cereal (which is what I always do, too), while Duncan flips out and kidnaps Sheriff Lamb's daughter and steals a boat (that, I don’t do so much). A million more things happen before we find out that the whole breakup/freak-out was orchestrated by Duncan and Veronica so he can steal his and Meg’s baby; she made Veronica promise that Duncan would get the baby, not her parents. Duncan and Coma Baby abscond to Mexico, and he's written off the show forever. Which is fine, because he's kinda boring for a dude who once thought he was in love with his sister.
27. S01 E05 "You Think You Know Somebody" This week, Logan, Luke, and Troy are in Tijuana, drunk and buying piñatas! It’s all fun and games until Troy's dad’s car is stolen. Luckily, it’s Veronica to the rescue, as she pulls up on the stranded party boys and asks the hottest question of 2004, “Dude, where's your car?” When tracking down the stolen car, Veronica discovers that the piñata was actually full of steroids; her boyfriend, Troy, was planning to sell them. Also, he’s two-timing her. Veronica has no time for an unfaithful ‘roid dealer, so she pulls one of the series’ more delightful switcheroos and swaps the steroids for candy while breaking up with Troy via a deliciously worded note. Ah, sweet revenge. Veronica also receives a call from her missing mother. She says that she misses Veronica, but that Veronica cannot come find her. Wanna bet?
26. S01 E16 "Betty and Veronica" Every high school show needs an episode about a stolen mascot, and here’s VM’s. Principal Clemmons enlists Veronica’s services searching for Neptune High's beloved Polly the Parrot, in exchange for a letter of recommendation, a new locker, and two excused absences. She drives a hard bargain. To find the missing bird, Veronica goes undercover at a rival school and devises a phony backstory on the fly: She’s a new girl, “Betty,” who just transferred from “Riverdale High.” Great improvisation, V! After Veronica tracks down her missing mom, Lianne, Lianne reveals that her former flame, Jake Kane, is innocent of murdering his daughter Lilly — and she knows this because she was with Jake at the Neptune Grand hotel at the time of the murder. She also threatened Jake, telling him she would take a paternity test to determine Veronica’s true parentage, and "take him for millions." DAMN. Veronica isn't the only Mars who drives a hard bargain!!
25. S02 E19 "Never Mind the Buttocks" Veronica investigates the mystery of a hit-and-run (no, not the one Wallace was involved in — Neptune has a lot of hit-and-runs, okay?) that killed a poor pup named Apache. Veronica quickly learns it has ties to the bus crash. DUN DUN DUNNN. Veronica yet again sneaks into Principal Clemmons' office (seriously, how has she not been expelled a thousand times?) and finds a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook from Weevil’s locker, which leads her to accuse him of blowing up the bus. Gauntlet thrown! Jeez, a guy can't even do a little light reading about bomb-building these days. Former guest star shade alert! Keith says to Veronica: “Did you watch House Of Wax again? You know that Hilton girl gives you nightmares.” Shade on 100.
24. S01 E18 "Weapons of Class Destruction" It's a weird week at Neptune High, with constant fire drills, police K-9 units roaming the halls, and the appearance of a mysterious sign that reads "KillemAll.net." After a little light phone scamming, Veronica discovers the school is receiving bomb threats. That's terrifying, but not nearly as terrifying as the development of her romance with Logan Echolls, whom she kisses after a tense moment in a hotel room with a bombing suspect — and just after she'd been kissing her boyfriend, Sherriff McSteamy. LOVE IT. The best part of this episode is ‘90s teen dreamboat Jonathan Taylor Thomas guest-starring as bombing suspect Ben. You know he’s a potential threat because he wears a large black hoodie, draws black flames in his notebook, and tells his English teacher he didn't read The Brothers Karamazov because "in the end we all end up six feet under." Too nihilistic for Dostoyevsky — impressive, JTT!
23. S01 E15 "Ruskie Business" Veronica helps her friend Meg find the secret admirer who's been sending her flowers. Turns out it's Veronica's ex, Duncan. Sad face. Veronica watches the two get together at "Total Eclipse of the Heart," Neptune High’s '80s-themed dance, and says, "J. Geils was right — love stinks." Say it, sister. But, she gets a consolation prize in the form of the adorable Sheriff McSteamy, who shows up with flowers before she can sink too far into an ‘80s funk. Also, Logan crashes the dance in a Risky Business-style white shirt and boxers and screams at everyone, "come on everybody, Wang Chung tonight or I'll kick your ass!" So there’s that. Veronica also finally tracks down her missing mom, Lianne — she’s slumped on a bar in Phoenix, drinking her fifth whiskey. And she freaks out on Veronica: "They can't see me with you; they're gonna hurt you." Who’s they?!
22. S01 E01 "Pilot" VM season openers and finales are always killer, and this pilot episode proves the show was on fire from the start. We meet Veronica, who introduces us to Neptune, CA, "a town without a middle class" that’s ruled by a rich-kid clique called the 09ers. We learn Veronica used to be part of that crowd when she dated Duncan Kane, son of billionaire software mogul Jake Kane, but Duncan ghosted for mysterious reasons. We also learn about the three big mysteries around which the season will revolve. Veronica’s best friend, (also Duncan’s sister), Lilly Kane, was murdered — and the wrong guy is in jail for it. Veronica was also drugged and raped at an 09er party. And, her mother Lianne went missing soon after the murder. It’s a lot for one girl to deal with, but with her dad Keith at her side, she’s determined to get to the bottom of it all. Legit one of the best debuts of any series ever, this episode gives you enough intrigue to keep you riveted all season.
21. S01 E20 "M.A.D." Revenge porn comes to Neptune. Veronica is helping her classmate Carmen prevent her ex-boyfriend from posting a dirty video of her, uh, being really into the popsicle she was eating. In the harsh light of 2017, it doesn’t look so bad (I’ve seen more risqué stuff in my Instagram feed), but the girl is understandably devastated when he releases it. In retaliation, Veronica develops a plan of "mutually assured destruction," which involves framing him for, uh, supposedly being gay, and also reporting him to the Naval Academy (this was during the dark days of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell”). In the end, Carmen calls off the plan and tells Veronica, “I guess revenge just isn't my thing.” Way to stay classy, Carmen. 2005 alert: Keith Mars is trying to track down Duncan Kane and fantasizes about winning the $50,000 reward his family has posted. He tells Veronica the money would pay for her "first two years at an Ivy League college." Ah, the good old days.
20. S02 E02 "Driver Ed" In the aftermath of the tragic bus crash, Neptune High is overrun with reporters and the sobbing students who sell their stories to them. Sheriff Lamb thinks bus driver Ed Doyle crashed on purpose, but his daughter asks for Veronica's help proving otherwise so she can collect insurance benefits. Doesn't Neptune have any other resourceful teen detectives to hit up? Actually, now it does, because V's bestie Wallace decides to take a case of his own. It’s the very important case of who dented his cute classmate Jackie's car. But we don't like Jackie or care about her car, because she was super mean to Veronica at her hostessing job. 2005 Alert: Veronica visits a convenience store and looks with disgust at a rack of trucker hats featuring the crashed bus with angel wings and a halo. Ashton Kutcher totally would have worn that on a very special episode of Punk’d.
19. S02 E09 "My Mother, the Fiend" Holy abandoned prom baby, this episode is bananas! Here, we learn that Mama Mars wasn't quite the piece of work everyone thought she was. It all starts when Principal Clemmons gives Veronica detention for snooping around in his filing cabinet. As punishment, he makes her organize old school records — hello, it's practically an invitation to snoop more! Veronica digs into her mother's Neptune High permanent record, and it’s a treasure trove of suspensions and disciplinary hearings that Veronica could surely use to blackmail her mom...if her mom weren't an alcoholic deadbeat who ran off six months prior, stealing V's college fund in the process. Classy lady, that Lianne. But it turns out, Lianne’s offenses were related to covering up a friend’s pregnancy, which resulted in a newborn baby being abandoned in the bathroom at the Neptune High prom in 1980. Who is this mysterious Prom Baby? Stay tuned, and all will be revealed.
18. S03 E15 "Papa's Cabin" Veronica's dad, Keith, is now acting Sheriff, and he arrests her fave professor, Hank, for murdering the Dean of the school, right in the middle of her class. Good luck with that "A" you were pulling for, Veronica. That also means that evil TA Tim takes over the criminology class. Him and that big ol' vendetta he has against star-student Veronica. But joke's on him, because Veronica figures out that Tim was the real killer all along — and he framed Professor Hank in order to take his spot. Man, getting a job is academia is murder.
17. S02 E10 "One Angry Veronica" Meg, one of the bus crash victims, has been clinging to life in a coma, but now she’s awake — and she’s pregnant with Duncan’s baby! Her crazy parents want her to give the coma baby up for adoption to a creepy group of culty Christians, and they’re digging up dirt on Duncan so he doesn't have a say. Later, Keith tells Veronica that Meg has died, but her baby daughter has survived, and her dying wish is for Veronica to help Duncan keep her baby. Veronica helps him, even though her boyfriend got another girl pregnant, and she’s super bummed all around. On New Years’ Eve, Veronica hears a knock on the door, and her missing-for-months best friend, Wallace, appears. They spend New Years’ Eve together, and it is adorable. I am shipping these two so hard. Wallace would never have a coma baby with another girl.
16. S03 E04 "Charlie Don't Surf" Keith investigates an old friend's possibly-cheating husband — and if I didn't know any better, I'd say the lady low-key wants Keith to replace him. Do paunchy, balding, middle-aged men actually get this much play IRL? Don't answer that. But turns out, the guy isn't a cheater, so Keith does the right thing and tells her the truth, because a real man doesn't need nookie when he has justice, damnit. Meanwhile in B-story-land, Logan has a secret half brother! Veronica infiltrates a frat house to find the Hearst College rapist! It's 2007 and everyone is wearing wraparound shades and tattoo T-shirts!
15. S03 E05 "President Evil" In one of the more adorable scenes in the series' run, Veronica does a case study of Weevil for her criminology course. The students in the class, most of whom are not cool teen detectives, are totally riveted by their presentation, which is mostly just Weevil standing there looking badass and sharing all his fun crime stories. But all the love is soon lost when two armed robbers hold up a Halloween party Veronica's attending and steal the treasured necklace Lilly gave her. The robbers wear Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter masks and speak in truly terrible Pacino-in- Scarface accents. Despite that being the least cool thing ever, Veronica still accuses Weevil of doing it. Crappy way to treat a guy who just helped you with your homework, V.
14. S03 E13 "Postgame Mortem" Okay, this episode just rules. Logan's being a mopey mopeface after Veronica dumps him, even though he totally deserved it. And the best cure for his broken heart? Playing Mario Kart with Heather, the preteen sister of the girl his buddy's sleeping with, of course. Heather has not one bit of time for Logan's self-pity, or his low-effort bid to win V back ("I poured my heart out to her on voicemail!"). Heather pulls out all the stops to save their love. She makes Logan call Veronica again, dedicates Nick Lachey's "What's Left of Me" to her on the radio, and finally forces Logan to tell V how he feels about her. She also tells Logan that, in his post-breakup funk, he smells. Heather is the hero scorned girlfriends of slackers need but don't deserve.
13. S03 E17 "Debasement Tapes" Oh my god, this episode rules too. Paul Rudd plays sleazy rock star Desmond Fellows of erstwhile band My Pretty Pony. He spends his days holed up in a hotel room growing stubble, drinking mini liquor bottles stolen from the housekeeping cart — oh, and having his irreplaceable master tapes stolen, possibly by a groupie he rejected for not meeting his high rock-star standards. After Veronica gets involved with the case of the missing masters, Fellows also spends lots of time creeping on her ("Does anyone ever tell you you look like a feisty young Barbara Eden?"), despite her protests ("I'm eleven"). Best-quote-of-the-series contender comes when Veronica asks him: "What are you taking pills for?" Desmond: "Eh, you know...life."
12. S01 E08 "Like a Virgin" In this episode, all hell breaks loose at Neptune High when the results of an online purity test are leaked. Cyberbullying alert! An unknown person writes the results of girls’ tests all over their lockers, leading to harassment and slut-shaming, so Veronica offers to find out who posted the tests "and make somebody pay." Feminist avenger over here! Veronica also visits Abel Koontz, the man she suspects is wrongly convicted of Lilly’s murder, in jail. He again states his guilt. But he also calls into question Veronica’s paternity, heavily implying she’s the daughter of Jake Kane, not Keith. Veronica breaks down sobbing. Somebody call Maury.
11. S02 E16 "The Rapes of Graff" This is not actually an Arrested Development crossover episode, but it does star Michael Cera and Alia Shawkat as Les Cousins Dangereux — kidding, they play students at Hearst, the college Veronica is touring. Also a student at that school? Troy Vandegraff, Veronica's ex-boyfriend. Heis wrongly suspected of the rape of Shawkat's character, Stacy — and he needs Veronica to clear his name. You'll basically spend the whole episode nervously hoping that the adorable Cera isn't revealed as the rapist. Spoiler: He's not, and neither is Troy — but Veronica never finds the culprit. Think she'll return next fall to pick up this mystery?
10. S03 E01 "Welcome Wagon" It's the first episode of season three, and Veronica is off to college! But not Stanford, like they wanted you to think all last season. She's at fictional Hearst College with Logan, Wallace, and Mac, and naturally, there are mysteries to be solved! Veronica wastes no time picking up the trail of the campus rapist she investigated last season. She also takes an Intro to Criminology course — couldn't she, like, test out? It's there that she meets douchey TA Tim Foyle. He's smarmy and terrible to Veronica from the moment she solves a mock murder case in class in a record time of six minutes. Jealous much? He even has the nerve to tell Veronica she should be in early childhood education — dude, I think her babysitting stint from last season proved she should NOT. It's totally okay to hate this guy, because not only is he trying to keep a good lady detective down, but he turns out to be an actual murderer.
9. S03 E14 "Mars, Bars" This is one of those episodes that fires on every cylinder. As we open, Sherriff Lamb has thrown Veronica in the slammer on suspicion of helping Josh Barry escape from prison. That's a bad thing because Josh has been accused of murdering his dad, the school basketball coach. Veronica being in jail is a damn farce and everyone knows it, but it's cool — she awaits her release while drawing some pretty choice prison tats on herself, plus it gives Keith time to look into the coach's death. Turns out, Coach had a rare disease and had a friend kill him to avoid a long, drawn-out illness — and so his family could get life insurance money. How brutally thoughtful of him.
8. S01 E14 "Mars vs. Mars" It’s father against daughter as Veronica and Keith face off over a possibly-pervy history teacher. Adam Scott plays a teacher accused of sleeping with one of his students, who is played by the inimitable Leighton Meester. Veronica doesn’t think he can possibly be guilty, because he’s really cute and his class is super fun. Get your head out of the clouds, V; he’s totally guilty! But not in the way you think. Veronica’s also looking into the disappearance of Logan’s mom — he doesn’t believe for a second she killed herself, because “you don't jump off a bridge with your platinum card." Besides, "if she were going to...it'd be chardonnay and sleeping pills.” Solid reasoning, Logan. Veronica also investigates Duncan's mysterious illness, for which he's taking pills. That makes three investigations in one episode (four if you count the season arc of Lilly's death). Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear camo mini skirts.
7. S02 E03 "Cheatty Cheatty Bang Bang" Cassidy Casablancas puts Veronica on the case of his step-mother cheating on his dad. Veronica is questioned by Sheriff Lamb about a dead man who was found with V's name written on his palm. Something about the dead man looks familiar...and Veronica remembers meeting him at the roadside memorial for the bus crash. Plot, thickened. Because she doesn’t have enough on her plate, Veronica wingmans for her BFF, Wallace, in his quest to win Jackie’s heart. You know Jackie’s a sophisticated bitch because when they’re assigned to read Pride and Prejudice she’s all "why can't we read Burroughs or something?" She also tells everyone how she met the star of the Pride and Prejudice miniseries one time and calls Duncan's fight "pointless fisticuffs." Lol.
6. S03 E19 "Weevils Wobble But They Don't Go Down" Veronica is shipping off to her summer internship soon, at some little place, you may have heard of it — the FBI?! (Take that, Piz and your piddling Pitchfork internship.) But first, she's got to prove that her old rival/sometimes-pal Weevil is innocent of making fake student IDs. She finds out, not for the first or last time, that a bunch of evil rich kids were actually behind the crime and framed Weevil. Man, the haves really have it out for the have-nots in Neptune. Meanwhile, Logan finds out that there's a sex tape of Piz and Veronica going around. Logan may not be with Veronica anymore, but he is still a staunch defender of her honor. So staunch that he immediately jumps to the unfounded conclusion that Piz circulated the video, and delivers a truly brutal beatdown. Gee, where do you think this guy's anger problem comes from? The last scene, where Logan comes to Veronica's door all covered in blood and says "Veronica, there's something you should know," is one of the most badass moments in the show's run and will make you SO happy you can binge straight to the next episode, which picks up right where this one leaves off.
5. S02 E21 "Happy Go Lucky" Aaron Echolls is finally on trial for killing Lilly, and he manages to mention on the witness stand that he was People's Sexiest Man Alive in 1987 (which Harry Hamlin actually was, which is too meta). Veronica and Logan are the key witnesses, but Echolls' nasty attorney tries to discredit Veronica by bringing up the fact that she apparently had the clap. A murderer and STI-shamer! Keith naturally attacks the attorney, because no one talks to his daughter that way. Meanwhile, a crazed Neptune High janitor named Lucky storms the cafeteria and "shoots" Wallace with blanks. Now everyone suspects him of being tied to the bus crash. Aaron is cleared of all murder charges against Lilly and walks free. NOOOOO!
4. S02 E22 "Not Pictured" Veronica Mars season finales are always great, but the plot twists in this episode! We learn that the resolution Veronica reached about her rape last season (that it was actually consensual, and with her boyfriend Duncan), was all wrong. She was actually violated by the soft-spoken Cassidy Casablancas. He's also the person who blew up the school bus that crashed in the beginning of the episode, killing several Neptune High students. Man, how evil can one angry twerp get? He also blows up a plane in this episode's thrilling conclusion, and Veronica goes ham on him, because she thinks her dad is on board. Thankfully, he wasn't, but let's just say things do not go well for the Casablancas boy. It's not all darkness, though. Veronica graduates from Neptune High in this episode, too, and we're sure she'll be super sorry to leave behind all her precious memories of Purity Test slut-shaming and crazed janitors with guns. When accepting her diploma, she leaves Principal Clemmons with words of wisdom that illuminate how she was constantly able to breach his security: "Don't leave all your passwords taped to the bottom of your stapler." Good advice, right up there with "don't forget to wear sunscreen."
3. S01 E21 "A Trip to the Dentist" In the second-to-last episode of season 1, we finally wrap up the mystery of who drugged and raped Veronica at an 09er party the year before. Veronica is never more thrilling and badass than when she’s hunting down the person who assaulted her. She tells her on-and-off boyfriend, Logan, "I'm going to find out who did this to me and make them pay — even if it was you." Veronica Mars savagery level: 10/10. As Veronica reconstructs the events of the night and speaks to multiple witnesses, we’re treated to a Rashomon-like retelling of the evening through the eyes of various characters, where everyone seems to remember the story differently, and Veronica’s left to piece together the truth. And when she does, the answer is somehow simultaneously far less and far more twisted than you could possibly imagine. This is Veronica Mars at its best — smart, morally ambiguous, thrillingly paced, and completely satisfying to watch.
2. S01 E22 "Leave It To Beaver" Veronica Mars earns its rep for having some of the best season finales ever with this episode. In it, Veronica finally solves the mystery of her best friend Lilly’s death. She goes undercover as a cater-waiter at a gala the Kanes are throwing, and through a series of genius deductions, discovers videotapes that prove Lilly had an affair with Logan's movie-star father Aaron Echolls — and that they were together on the day she died. I knew I hated that guy for reasons other than whipping his son for bum fights. Keith has also been giving Veronica’s mom a second chance — but when Veronica discovers she skipped out early on rehab and is still drinking, Veronica makes the hard decision to tell her to leave: "I bet on you my whole life, and I lost." It’s honestly heartbreaking. And even more so when Lianne steals Veronica’s settlement check, which was supposed to be her college money, on her way out. Luckily, Keith is the best dad ever. Speaking of which, we finally find out that Keith is Veronica’s biological dad — meaning her relationship with Duncan was not incestuous after all. Thank god for small mercies.
1. S03 E20 "The Bitch Is Back" Yes, I realize that to many VM diehards, choosing the series finale as best episode is controversial. The show was cancelled early, so a lot of plotlines didn't get wrapped up: Will the Kane family finally take Veronica down for stealing Jake's hard drive full of evil rich-guy secrets? Will Veronica ever accept Logan's apology? Is Hearst College secretly run by a cabal of nefarious 09ers? We'll never know. But thanks to this episode, we do know that Logan, that hot-headed lug, will never not beat down a dude who dares to offend V's honor. We know Wallace and Weevil are the best friend and frenemy a girl could ever have. We know Keith loves his daughter more than anything when he endangers his own career — and veers from the straight-and-narrow for the first and only time in the whole series — to protect Veronica from prosecution. And we know Veronica forever stands by her dad, who unlike most other people, has never let her down. In the final scene, Veronica casts her ballot for Keith Mars for Sheriff of Neptune, despite knowing he'll almost certainly lose. Then she walks into the rain and out of our lives forever (or at least until the movie). It's a beautiful episode, and just enough resolution to make us feel like things are gonna be okay in Neptune. Great, now it's raining in my eyeballs.