Logan Echolls and the Cycle of Abuse

Happy Monday everyone! As I was pondering my episode recap for Season 1, Episode 6 (Return of the Kane), I realized that there was so much more that I wanted to say that I didn’t actually say in the recap. And I think there are going to be more episodes like that, because some of the stuff on Veronica Mars is so much deeper than you’d expect from an early 2000s show about a teenage private detective. So here’s my first edition of Marshmallow Interludes, where I discuss a particular topic that came up in a recent episode of Veronica Mars.

I’m going to go ahead and say that I’ll probably talk about spoilers. But! Are they really spoilers if the show aired in 2004? *shrug*

In “Return of the Kane,” we see a series of events that leads us to a place where we, as an audience, know that Logan is abused regularly at home. What we know about him up until this point is this – he’s a jerk to the people who aren’t his friends; his dad is a movie star; he’s rich beyond reason; and he hates Veronica Mars. It seems very surface-level – she and Duncan broke up, so Logan feels loyalty to his friend. But it’s so much more than that, and we see it develop as the show goes on. Logan and V are two sides of the same coin in a lot of instances, and their witty banter is what nerd love stories are made of. But where V has seen a lot of darkness, Logan has lived it.

Let’s start with Aaron.

If I’m remembering my Veronica Mars trivia, Aaron Echolls’ father was a working class guy who never had any money to spare. He may have been a drunk – I can’t remember for sure (it’ll come out in the recaps). But what I do know is that he beat Aaron. That’s what was passed down to his movie star son – a sense of corporeal punishment that one deserved when one made “mistakes.” And of all things that Aaron decided to keep in his household, it was that. He’d beat his son. And – as of “Return of the Kane” – no one knows. Aaron is this ethereal being at Neptune High. He’s the voiceover for Duncan Kane’s election video, which is a big reason Duncan probably got elected. Duncan knows a movie star! His dad is a tech genius! Why not?

And as far as we’ve seen, Logan throws that fact in people’s faces sometimes, that his dad is a movie star. He does it a couple times in the very early episodes, but once we actually meet Aaron, that behavior stops. It’s not all that surprising to see changes like that early on in shows. You can’t introduce a plotline like this about a character that you’re not sure the audience is going to care about, and I don’t think it took very long for it to be clear that people cared about Logan. (Trust me, they’re going to care even more as the show goes on.)

But remember the pilot? Remember how V set Logan up to have his locker searched, where they find a bong? Remember how his car gets taken away, and he comes to seek revenge on V by smashing her headlights with a crowbar, and then Weevil shows up and beats Logan up? When you first watch that episode, you see a spoiled boy who’s never had anything taken away from him. You see a rich kid who lost access to one of his toys. You see someone deserving of what he’s getting, of what he’s gotten, a small piece of revenge from the girl who takes his shit constantly, and the new friend she made… who happens to be in a motorcycle gang.

But consider the alternative, now that we know what goes on at home. Logan gets sent home from school – it’s drugs, so likely suspended – to a father whose punishment is always going to be worse than what he’d get at school. All he knows is the feel of a belt on his back, or possibly some sucker punches to the ribs, who really knows. It’s made Logan defiant, because it’s either that or cry. So when that’s done, he calls up a friend to take him out to find Veronica Mars, the intrepid girl who used to date his friend, who caused this to happen for reasons that aren’t really known to Logan. It’s funny for us as an audience to watch a jerk get what’s coming to him, but to Logan, it was a pointless prank. And he needs to punish the girl who caused his beating this time, because otherwise the helplessness, the injustice of the whole thing will eat him alive. Like it’s probably already done for seventeen-ish years.

Logan continues in his path of defiance – mouthing off at school, pretending he doesn’t have a care in the world, taking overnights to Tijuana with his friends, etc. – because he sees no other path. His fellow rich friends – Duncan, Dick, Troy – their parents are strict, but they don’t get physically beaten. And he has to keep up with them. He has to save face.

So we’re back to “Return of the Kane,” where Duncan is playing an organized sport after school and Logan gets him elected as student council president to keep his pirate points. And on the side, Logan and Dick are planning this homeless person fight night, which is abhorrent, but what else are they going to do with their time? They’re bored rich kids with money to burn. And Dick isn’t even tortured yet – that comes later. So they set it up, and someone films it, and Dick thinks it’s awesome that Logan and his stupid prank made it up on the internet.

This is the first time we, as an audience, see Logan slip. He knows what that video means. He knows what it’s going to mean for him, and this time, he has no one else to blame. So he puts off going home, he tries to wait his dad out. It doesn’t work. He gets home late at night, and his dad waited up. But the beating doesn’t come right then, which makes Aaron the worst kind of abuser – the unpredictable kind. We can tell that Logan is expecting it – when Aaron is talking to him in the dark, he’s curled in on himself, trying to make himself smaller. When Aaron throws him bodily to the couch, Logan looks back, silently asking if there’s more to come. This time, there isn’t. This time, all Logan has to do is go with Aaron to a homeless shelter, serve some food, and save face in public. But Logan can’t help himself. That smart, defiant mouth gets the better of him, and he pledges half a million dollars of his dad’s money to the Neptune Food Bank. The PR will be great! But Aaron doesn’t like not being in control of everything.

That’s when the beating comes. It’s as if Logan had to push until it came, because otherwise the unpredictability would weigh on him, tug at his throat like a noose.

In future episodes, we’ll see Logan get into brawls. We’ll see him accused of murder. We’ll see him use his fists because that’s what he knows how to do.

But the cycle of abuse? The one that started with Aaron’s father, the one that Aaron perpetuated with his own son? That stopped with Aaron.

It’s one of many reasons I’ve loved Logan, after all this time. He’s gotten the short end of the stick in terms of people in his life time and again. People keep leaving him. His parents. His girlfriend. Duncan. But he can’t stop loving them. I know Veronica Mars is supposed to be about Veronica, but it ends up being about Veronica and Logan, about the two sides of their coin, about how darkness paired with darkness is sweet and toxic and intoxicating. Logan loves harder and more completely than anyone else on this show, save Mr. Mars’ feelings for V, and her reciprocal feelings for her father. And we see how that love destroys Logan time and again, it breaks him and builds him up again from the ground, patching together his broken pieces with glue and duct tape so he resembles a human, but clearly is only a shell of one.

V is his shining light. She always has been. Because she’s seen the darkness in his life, and she didn’t blink an eye.

The cycle of abuse stopped with Aaron because Logan is a better person than Aaron could have ever been, than he had the capability of being. I’m not saying that Logan is perfect – most of his early relationship with Veronica is toxic af, honestly. But his darkness isn’t one that leads to domestic violence. His darkness – the times when he is violent – are almost always with the ultimate goal of protecting what’s his and who he loves. The world forced Logan to fight back from a young age, and he’s not going to stop if the situation calls for a fight. But he doesn’t intentionally hurt the ones he loves. Ever.

And this is why I wanted to recap this show! There are layers! There is so much more to it than what’s happening on the screen, but you have to stick around to see it.

I hope you keep sticking around. There’s so much more to come.

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