'Veronica Mars' Creator Rob Thomas Wants More Grown-Up Mystery Next Season

veronica mars
This interview contains major spoilers for Season 4 of Hulu's Veronica Mars. Proceed with caution.

Creator Rob Thomas's decision to torch a key element of the Veronica Mars mythology in the finale of the revived show's Hulu-produced Season 4, featuring his beloved gumshoe, has been a controversial one, to say the least. Though fans are mourning the death of Logan Echolls, Thomas insists the bold move was all part of a grander plan to make Veronica and her world sustainable for future seasons. 

Thomas assumes a fifth season around the exploits of Kristen Bell's hardened-to-the-world private eye is in the cards, and wants it to look different than any one that came before it, fully disposing of the high school drama that defined the show's initial run on UPN and The CW in the mid-2000s and going into full mystery territory. At the Television Critics Association's summer press tour in Los Angeles, I sat down with Thomas during a lunch -- in which the swanky Beverly Hilton's garden was dressed up to look like Spring Break in Veronica's hometown of Neptune, California -- to ask him what he has in store for the future of Veronica Mars.

Thrillist: How have you been dealing with the reaction to the finale? There are some angry people out there on Twitter. 
Rob Thomas: I knew this was coming and I've largely stayed away from Twitter. I shouldn't say "largely." I have completely stayed away from Twitter. I do get a Google alert on Veronica Mars, so every day I wake up to a list of headlines about Veronica Mars and really, by and large, there will be eight great headlines and then two "why does Rob Thomas hate the fans of his own show" headlines. But it's almost exactly what I expected. There hasn't been any surprise. Now, a reporter who was just talking to me said, "I've read people who are going to put guns to your head, people who are going to come to your house." Those I wasn't expecting. That's someone who cares a little too much about television. That's a little disturbing. But by and large, in some ways, it would disappointing if I killed a beloved character…

And people weren't angry. Still, compared to the 2014 movie, this season was very restrained in terms of fan service. How did you decide on that approach? 
Thomas: I don't think there was any world where I would have killed Logan in a fan-funded movie. But additionally, with the movie, there was a real sense this could be the last anyone ever sees of Veronica Mars and in that headspace I was good getting her back together with Logan and leaving her sitting in her dad's chair in that office. That felt like okay, if this is the last we ever see them, I'm fine. I went into that with a belief that it's probably 50-50 we'll ever get to see Veronica again. So I left her in a place where I was fine leaving her. This time I'm betting that we are going to see more Veronica. I think we will. Now I'm sort of thinking, hey, we may be 70-30 or 80-20 that we get to see more Veronica. In a world where I think we're going to get to see more Veronica, I want to set up the show for its best chance of survival. 

Do you consider this a sort of transitional season? 
Thomas: I've called it a bridge. Season 4 is a bridge that takes us from what the show was to what it's going to be moving forward. 

veronica keith

You and Kristen have both said that Veronica can't be happy. How do you take it forward from there? 
Thomas: It's sort of a two-part answer. How I see the show moving forward is much more a mystery, that's the lifeblood of the show. It's no longer half-teen soap and half-murder mystery. Now, it's going to be fully a mystery show. I think Veronica will get moments of happiness. Even in these eight episodes, you saw lots of moments where she was happy, but if she is going to survive as this important fictional character, this fictional detective, I think her baseline [is unhappiness]. I think people like angry Veronica. I think people like driven, vengeful Veronica as one of the favorite zones for her. So there is some value in her not ever being satisfied without her being quite all the way fixed. 

The original DNA was this half-mystery, half-teen show. Have you had to recalibrate your idea of how to write it? 
Thomas: I don't want to say she will have no romantic life moving forward. There are going to be issues in her personal life, but I want them to be issues of a 35-year-old woman next time and not rehashing. The irony of the show is that what I really want to do is do a teen soap. I had never written mystery before Veronica Mars. I didn't know how to write mystery. The show I wanted to be doing was Freaks and Geeks. If someone let me just do Freaks and Geeks, I would be thrilled.
You got Martin Starr eventually [to star in Party Down]. 
Thomas: Yes, we did get Martin Starr. We got Lizzy Caplan. We really raided that cast. After Freaks and Geeks got canceled, the mystery was suppose to be the Trojan Horse that allowed you into telling teen stories. And now, here I am, I'm cutting off the part of the show that was my original reason for wanting to do it. But I have this, I guess it's not a secret goal because I've now been saying it out loud. I want Veronica Mars to be the first name in female detectives. If you're on Family Feud I want "Veronica Mars" to be the number one answer for female detective. 

Veronica is driving away at the end of Season 4. Do you need Neptune for the show to work? 
Thomas: I like the seediness of Neptune, the "looks good on the outside, looks shitty from the inside" quality of Neptune. And I love Keith and I don't think Keith is going anywhere. I haven't quite figured out the next mystery, but I know we're not leaving Neptune for good. 

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.