There are several things you should know about "Veronica Mars."

First, you should know that it's great.

While I think the full run of the show, seasons one through three, is uneven at times,  particularly towards the end, the high points are so high, and the basic heart and soul of the show is so durable, that I am completely puzzled as to why it was ever anything less than a ratings gargantuan.

Second, you should know that the new film leans heavily on the relationships of the characters in the series, and at least in script form, it never felt like it was slowed down or over-explained for newcomers. It's very much a next chapter of "Veronica Mars," and that should have fans very excited.

The film's arriving in theaters tomorrow, and unfortunately, Netflix Instant doesn't currently have the show in its library. You can find it at iTunes and Amazon Prime, though, so we wanted to offer you a primer to pick up with the show and to help narrow things down for you so you can take a crash course.

Best case scenario? Buy season one and watch it. If you like it as much as I suspect you will, get yourself to the theater, support the film as soon as you can since openings count, so we get more "Veronica Mars." Then watch season two and, if you feel like it, use season three as the slow drip you chip away at afterwards.

Honestly, I feel like the film is a sequel to Season One, but with some threads from Season Two that carry over, and one particular Season Three element that might feel like a dagger in the hearts of some fans until they see how Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggerio handled it.


The first thing you need to know is where "Veronica Mars" takes place. I'm not sure, even with the show so clearly exploring notions of class privilege and corruption, that I ever really understood what a cool accomplishment the creation of Neptune was for show runner and creator Rob Thomas. He wanted to create a noir landscape full of truly horrible people with truly upsetting secrets, and for the most part, he did over the course of all three seasons. In the film, it is Veronica's return to Neptune that triggers her identity crisis. She sees it again in all its seedy glory, and one of the things that was very clear over the run of the series is that Veronica's righteous anger comes from the way the system works in Neptune. She can't help but right the wrongs she sees, and Neptune just keeps giving her opportunities thanks to the sheer volume of wrongdoing.

VERONICA MARS (Kristen Bell)

So who is this Veronica?

Believe it or not, she's a high school junior when the show begins, and while she looks like a perky little cheerleader type, she's anything but. She is, in fact, a whip-smart, broken hearted girl who works for her father KEITH MARS, who owns a private investigation firm. Technically, she isn't old enough to get her own PI license, but she has picked up everything she needs to in order to effectively work a case, and the week to week business of the series in the first year involved her solving cases for students at Neptune High School.

Veronica had much larger things on her mind, though, because her best friend LILLY KANE had been murdered the year before, and her life had been changed in the process. Veronica spent the entire first season of the show working to solve the murder of her friend, and in the process, she discovered that she had been date raped at a high school party while drugged, she managed to track down her missing mother LIANNE MARS, and she managed to shake up the entire rotten power structure of her hometown. She can be single-minded when she is determined to do something, and she has a knack for finding pressure points and exploiting them. The last thing you want to do is make Veronica mad at you or stand between her and some information she needs, because she has a real gift for punishing people who are jerks, and she has a savage sarcastic wit.

She is also a very sweet soul deep down at heart, and she believes in love, something that is admirable considering how deeply bruised she's been by it so far.

KEITH MARS (Enrico Colantoni)

Veronica's father was the sheriff of Neptune when Lilly Kane was murdered, and he worked hard to solve the case, his investigation leading him to suspect that JAKE and CELESTE KANE, Lilly's parents, were somehow involved. When DON LAMB proved that the murder was committed by ABEL KOONTZ, it cost Keith his job and his marriage. Keith's wife LIANNE MARS took off, leaving Keith to deal with Veronica and her grief, and Keith opened his own detective agency. He never gave up on his theory, though, even when his investigations led him to suspect that he might not be Veronica's real biological father.

While that would be hard for any parent, it would be devastating for Keith, and if you're a fan of the show, I'll bet one of your favorite things about it is just how great the relationship between Keith and Veronica is. That's because Rob Thomas wrote them as two people both grappling with a world that had body-slammed them, treating each other as equals, determined to do anything to keep each other sane while everyone else turned against them. I think Keith Mars is as classic a dad as Calvin's dad in Watterson's classic "Calvin & Hobbes," and what makes him such a great character is the obvious love he has for Veronica and the way he inspires her by example.

A respected critic and commentator for fifteen years, Drew McWeeny helped create the online film community as "Moriarty" at Ain't It Cool News, and now proudly leads two budding Film Nerds in their ongoing movie education.