How Does the ‘Veronica Mars’ Movie Compare to the Season 4 That Never Happened?

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Even after Veronica Mars aired its last episode, everyone knew that this wouldn’t be the last we’d see of Veronica. It may have been clear that the show would soon be canceled, but the Season 3 finale was still left open-ended in hopes that Veronica Mars would continue in some form or another. It did, with last week’s long-awaited release of the Kickstarted movie, next week’s release of the Veronica Mars mystery novel The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line, and the upcoming Dick Casablancas-centric web spinoff on The CW. Years before all of this came to fruition, Rob Thomas had another idea for a Veronica Mars continuation: a Season 4 that places Veronica in the FBI. It’s an inspired idea, but how does it compare to the Veronica Mars movie that actually happened?

After Season 3, Rob Thomas created a short pitch to the network that was included in that season’s DVD extras and can be viewed on YouTube. The pitch was a stark departure from the rest of the series. For the first time, Veronica wasn’t in a classroom. This hypothetical season would skip ahead a couple of years and focus on her first year as a rookie agent in the FBI. She is no longer surrounded by her Neptune crew. Her comfortable enemies, her spicy love triangle, and her supportive friends never show up — not even her perfect father, Keith Mars, makes an appearance. Instead, there are a handful of new characters that we know nothing about.

The complete cast shake-up is jarring, because Veronica without Wallace or Keith simply isn’t Veronica (though who knows if Thomas would have eventually brought in some old faces had the season gotten picked up). It is comforting to know that some of the same themes are still there: even within the pitch’s short 12-minute running time, we get the sense that Veronica is even an outcast here, in this new “adult” environment. After all, high school never ends; the location of the cafeteria just changes. Now, the cafeteria is the bar that her FBI colleagues go to — the bar that Veronica doesn’t get an invite to.

The Season 4 trailer actually reminds me more of the show’s first season than the later two. It opens with Veronica donning a teen disguise — an always-funny nod to how Kristen Bell never ages — to pull a Never Been Kissed and go back to high school for an investigation. It’s reminiscent of the fun the show used to have with her silly costumes and endless fake identities.

I could see how this would have worked as a successful season of Veronica Mars, and definitely one that I, and plenty of fans, would watch and enjoy. It was a smart move to reset the setting and characters, because that would make the show more accessible to new viewers — which is exactly what The CW was looking for. The FBI angle turns it into more of a crime drama with a whip-smart lead, rather than a teen drama with a sassy lead (because, unfortunately, teen dramas will always get a bad rep but crime shows will always be popular).

In fact, that’s where the Season 4 pitch wins over the movie: Veronica as an FBI agent makes more sense than Veronica as a lawyer. And sure, the movie addresses the former career option and, yes, Veronica would make a hell of a lawyer (remember the “One Angry Veronica” episode?), but it’s not her. She needs to be constantly on the move, solving cases, and in the mud. Thomas seems to agree; a few months prior to starting the Kickstarter, he was still intent on having the film center on Veronica in the FBI. Once the show graduated from high school, it would naturally become more about the mysteries than the setting.

But the Veronica Mars movie was fan service, and that’s why it worked so well. The fans are the reason it happened, so Thomas had to abandon his original idea because there was no way to do it while bringing back all of the favorites from Neptune. The movie was packed with callbacks and inside jokes — there is even a clever exchange about this pilot pitch, referencing Veronica’s FBI career as something that happened in another life — because, essentially, that’s what fans paid for. The movie wasn’t much more than a long episode of the show, but that’s exactly what I loved about it. Yet I also loved where the show was going to go in the season-that-never-happened. It would have been great to see a longer version of Veronica adjusting to the FBI and generally just kicking ass and shooting bad guys. And maybe we’ll get some stories of her in the law enforcement eventually (there are rumors of a second movie, and Thomas hasn’t been shy about his desire for a Netflix deal) but for now, Veronica’s intriguing alternate life will remain too brief.