It seemed like the perfect recipe for success: a sleuth show in the hard-boiled bent, witty dialogue and banter, a high school setting a la Buffy, and individual stories tied together with season-long arcs. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite come together as one would hope.
For one thing, the hard-boiled genre in a high school setting is a little disturbing. Part of the genre requires that there be no truly good characters. This world is dark and it is hard to fathom teenagers involved in, committing, and dealing with crimes like rape and murder. The other problem, also sort of a “noir” thing, is that many of the stories involve less of a puzzle to solve and more of a manipulation of circumstances. When that means Veronica helping wronged people get justice, it can be uplifting. However, much of the time Veronica manipulates the situation to get revenge or even worse, she is manipulated by other to accomplish their goals.
In the end, the thing that probably did this series in, in spite of its critical acclaim, was that nothing ever really clicked. The writing was good but not great. The stories tried hard but didn’t quite deliver. As the series moved on into season two, it lost some of the qualities and strange magic it had in the first. (The appearance of the murdered victim throughout the season, for one.) Then, as the third season started to gain a stronger sense of plot and direction, it suddenly killed the main plotline for the season halfway in and tried to do more stand-alone stuff.
Not the best (or even among the best) sleuthing television has to offer.