Sunday, January 9, 2011

Logan Echolls: Changing Perspectives

If he were real, Logan Echolls and I would not be friends.

In fact, it wouldn't even be close.

When I started watching Veronica Mars a few weeks ago, I won't say that I didn't like Logan. In fact, despite the fact that pretty much everything he did was morally reprehensible, I was rather fond of him. He was funny, and his banter with Veronica was charming. ("Annoy, little blonde one! Annoy like the wind!") Aside from that, though, there was not much to like about his character. He was the spoiled son of a millionaire actor who attends all the underage drinking parties, etc. You know the type.

Knowing what I know about where the show eventually goes, I kept waiting for them to show a different side of Logan. But what they did instead was much more, well, much more powerful, in a way.

Revealing the 'good side' of a generally bad character has been done so many times it can easily be cliche. It often manifests itself in a peculiar weakness that hearkens back to a characters past in some way. The memory of a mother's face. A young boy who reminds a villain of his dead brother. All can be moving, when done well, and achieve the desired effect of endearing us to a character who isn't all that endearing, otherwise.

Logan's case is different, in that, he is not actually a villain. Merely a rather unpleasant character. But the idea is the same. If a character is going to be likable, whether 'good' or 'bad', there is one key thing that must happen. Viewers (or readers, in the case of books) must be able to sympathize with the character.

The episode where Logan's 'moment' happened started out like any other. He was a jerk to a homeless veteran at a gas station, then tried to pay the guy to participate in a boxing match the next night. A few days later, video surfaces of Logan cheering on two homeless guys to beat each other up at his late night 'fight club'.

His actor father, Aaron is embarrassed by his behavior, and frankly, livid. Not because of what it says about his son's character, but about how bad that looks in the PR department. It was then that we get the first taste things are not right in the Echolls home, when Aaron shoves Logan onto a couch in their living room.

In an effort to fix this PR nightmare, Aaron and Logan drive to a homeless shelter to serve supper to the residents, news cameras and reporters in tow. (Of note, on the way there Aaron talks to his agent on the phone about an eight figure contract for his next movie.) Logan puts on a great show for the cameras, serving food and giving a beautifully scripted apology in front of the cameras. The father and prodigal son embrace, both smiling with happiness, before Logan announces that he cannot hold in the news any longer.

Logan speaks, almost tearfully, about what an excellent example of generosity his father is and boldly announces Aaron's 'plan' to donate half a million dollars to the food bank. Everyone cheers, including the reporters who have caught every word on camera.

The episode cuts away for a while, tying of Veronica's side of the story, before coming back to Logan. I think that final scene was so powerful because of how unexpected it was to me. We see Logan open a closet full of belts and carefully select one. My biggest suspicion, frankly, was that he was planning on hanging himself (though how that would work, since he's in the rest of the series, I'm not sure).

But instead he takes the belt his has chosen and carries it to his father's study. That's when I realize what is happening, though I can hardly believe it. Logan removes his shirt and the door is discreetly pushed close before the sharp sound of impact is heard.

I have seen a lot more disturbing things, frankly, but that one left a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach. What caused that? Well, as I said before, I think the unexpectedness of it really drove it home.

Then there is the fact that Logan was not being punished for misbehavior. Name a law and Logan Echolls had probably broken it. He was being punished because he was going against his father and had cost him half a million dollars (that frankly, Aaron could well afford to lose).

And last, it adds a whole new angle to Logan's character. A man does not beat his 17 year old son with a belt for the first time. It had certainly happened before. Aaron Echolls was far from a stable man. I can only imagine what kinds of problems a child growing up in his house would experience.

It is amazing how drastically a scene with no dialogue that lasts no more than a minute can change everything. How much it can say about a character. How suddenly, Logan Echolls' story can become one of my favorites.