Hulu

This story contains major spoilers for the new season of Veronica Mars.

While previewing Hulu’s revival of Veronica Mars, the noir drama about the titular, once-teenage sleuth, the show’s star, Kristen Bell, dropped a grim clue. “This will be a controversial season, let me just say that,” she hesitantly told E! “I’m also going to probably stay off the internet once it airs … There’s some stuff that happens that people will have strong feelings about.”

She’s right. The fourth season, which arrived on the streaming platform in a surprise drop Friday afternoon, is a grittier, moodier take on Veronica Mars. The hero, now an adult, is investigating a series of bombings in her hometown of Neptune, California, and struggling to find fulfillment in her life as a PI. One of Veronica’s few pleasures comes from her romance with Logan (played by Jason Dohring), her on-again, off-again boyfriend since high school, who encourages her to imagine a life not mired in darkness and trauma. But the season ends their arc with a cruel twist when, just before the newly wedded couple leave for their honeymoon, Logan is killed by a bomb planted inside Veronica’s car. His death is a deeply cynical way to end a season that—unlike the fan-service-inundated film revival from 2014—was largely a return to form for the series. What’s more, it’s a curveball that cheapens the evolution of one of the show’s most fascinating characters.

When Veronica Mars introduced Logan in its pilot episode, Veronica labeled him the “obligatory psychotic jackass” of Neptune High—and she was justified in doing so. Logan, the underachieving son of the A-list actor Aaron Echolls (Harry Hamlin), had an entourage to do his bidding, a different girlfriend every other week, and an arsenal of snarky one-liners. Yet just like Veronica, he’d been traumatized by the death of Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried), his girlfriend and Veronica’s best friend. And as the series progressed, it peeled back Logan’s layers to explore the roots of his hostility, revealing an abusive father and a tormented family life.

Logan was a sharply written character and an excellent scene partner for Veronica, who shared his bitter worldview. The two began a romantic relationship (fans nicknamed it “LoVe”) near the end of the first season; from then on, Logan became the series’ very own ship-worthy antihero, following in the footsteps of Dawson’s Creek’s Pacey Witter and paving the way for Gossip Girl’s Chuck Bass. Logan’s evolution wasn’t exactly a redemption arc—Season 2 found him beginning a self-destructive affair with a married woman, and Season 3 painted him as an overprotective boyfriend with an impulsive, violent streak. Still, his mistakes made him interesting, and his story helped underline the show’s ethos: that no person is his reputation, however damaged it may be.

Fast-forward a few years to the beginning of this latest season: The adult Logan is now a buffer-than-ever Naval Intelligence officer who’s developed a new sense of discipline. He has learned to embrace his flaws, works hard to keep himself in line, and acts as an effective foil for Veronica. While she’s regressed in some ways, he’s matured. While she falls back on old habits, he accepts his transformation. In other words, Logan has the potential to become an even more intriguing figure. And yet the showrunner Rob Thomas seems uncertain about how to make the most of the character, choosing instead to render him practically inert. The Logan of Season 4 doesn’t display many of his old rough edges; he deals with frustrations in offscreen therapy sessions or by simply walking away. He delivers his usual quippy remarks from the sidelines. It’s as if he’s the season’s official bystander: Without a full arc of his own, he’s a passive player in other characters’ stories, often appearing in their scenes by mere chance.

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Logan gets killed off; now that he finally has his life together, his arc of self-improvement seems to have run its course. Thomas told TVLine that he got rid of Logan to take Veronica’s story out of the realm of teen drama, since romance “limits your options” in a hard-boiled detective show. But while ending Logan’s story may have made sense, his death is a plot twist that takes the lazy way out of examining him as an adult.

After all, the series has sent characters off in much more thoughtful and satisfying ways before. When Veronica’s first flame, Duncan Kane (Teddy Dunn), left Neptune at the end of the second season, he got a hero’s goodbye with a scene revealing that he had avenged his sister Lilly’s murder. Before Meg (Alona Tal), Veronica’s friend and romantic rival, died in Season 2, she and Veronica repaired their fractured relationship in a last, heartfelt conversation. Even characters whose stories didn’t get such tidy closure received exits that had long-term effects: The series spent several episodes in the first season exploring how the disappearance of Lynn (Lisa Rinna), Logan’s mother, affected the Echolls family.

By contrast, the events leading up to Logan’s death and the brief scenes that follow it are extremely rushed. In an almost farcical fake-out, Logan appears to have changed his mind about marrying Veronica when he fails to show up to their wedding after running into an ex; a few scenes later, it’s revealed that he was simply delayed. The scene seems to ignore the show’s characterization of Logan—for all his newfound discipline, he ends up being late to his own wedding—and the development comes off as a desperate way to drum up unnecessary tension.

Even more egregiously, the series tries to justify Logan’s death by setting it up as a crucial catalyst for Veronica’s growth. In an epilogue set a year after the wedding and the bombing, Veronica goes to see Logan’s former therapist, Jane (Mary McDonnell), who tells her that the visit “shows me you are on your way.”

“To what?” Veronica counters.

“To well-being,” Jane responds.

Sure, Jane. The unconvincing attempt to place a Band-Aid over the deep emotional wound Veronica is suffering gets even worse with the final reveal that Jane has been holding on to a voicemail in which Logan declares, “I want to marry Veronica because she’s the toughest human being I’ve ever met … She always picks herself back up.”

The line comes off as more cloying than actually affecting, as if Logan himself knew that he was hours away from being blown up. And it doesn’t make up for the utterly mundane way in which the character is killed: He was in Veronica’s car when the bomb went off only because he was moving it to avoid a parking ticket. Logan, after years of witty banter and quotable quips, has nothing but a brief aside to an approaching parking officer as his final words. Logan, after an epic life, dies trying to accomplish a chore.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.