Roush Review: 'Veronica Mars' Returns With a Clever Mystery Full of Twists

Matt Roush
Review Michael Desmond/Hulu

Where would cult TV be without streaming services?

Shows as varied and distinctive as Breaking Bad, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Schitt's Creek found new life, and audiences, after being exposed on binge-friendly platforms. And in one of the year's happiest comebacks, thanks to Hulu, the delightful Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars (once of UPN and The CW) is back where she belongs, after a 12-year absence and a crowdfunded 2014 movie. It works better as a series.

Surf's up, and teeming with puzzling red herrings in the upscale seaside California town of Neptune, which is rocked by a series of deadly spring break bombings. Sounds like a job for the West Coast's most wickedly sardonic private eye, a role Bell (The Good Place) embraces with bright and withering wit.

Veronica is now equipped with a law degree and enough world-weary life experience to keep her from instantly accepting a marriage proposal from strong-but-sensitive Logan Nicholls (the droll, dashing Jason Dohring), a Naval Intelligence officer on temporary leave. In fact, Veronica's romantic ambivalence haunts her throughout the brisk and sexy eight-episode season, further complicated when deputy turned FBI agent Leo D'Amato (Max Greenfield) returns home to work on the case.

But as any Veronica Mars devotee knows, the relationship that matters most is her loving bond with her dad and fellow PI, Keith Mars (the wonderful Enrico Colantoni). "How many people get to work with an actual ray of sunshine?" he banters with fond irony, though he frets that recent instances of memory loss could imperil their business and even his daughter's safety.

Kristen Bell Previews a 'More Grown-Up' and 'Darker' 'Veronica Mars'

Kristen Bell Previews a 'More Grown-Up' and 'Darker' 'Veronica Mars'

'Veronica has become jaded, and she's ripe for an evolution, which is a really cool place to start,' Bell teases.

Their investigation into the bombings puts them in frequent danger, especially from a lurking pair of Mexican cartel hitmen who, in a wacky subplot worthy of Elmore Leonard, seek vengeance for one of the victims.

Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) and Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) (Richard Foreman, Jr. SMPSP/Hulu)

Other welcome additions include J.K. Simmons as an ex-con in cahoots with shady developer Big Dick Casablancas (David Starzyk) and Patton Oswalt as an obnoxious pizza-delivery nerd who leads a band of amateur crime-solvers.

They should know better than to try to upstage Veronica, who's at the top of her game in a clever mystery that some fans may feel takes one twist too many. Still, let's hope we haven't seen the last of this fabulous character.

Veronica Mars, Season 4, Now Streaming, Hulu