Warning: This post contains spoilers about “Veronica Mars” Season 4 and its finale.
It’s the night of senior prom, and Veronica Mars is exactly where she shouldn’t be: sitting in the corner of the party with bad boy Logan Echolls, who’s finally drunk enough to pour his heart out to the teenage private eye.
“I thought our story was epic, you know. You and me,” he says, inching closer to her during a series-defining episode in the show’s second season. “Spanning years and continents. Lives ruined and bloodshed. Epic.”
Little did we know that his proclamation, something akin to a sacred text for fans of the teen noir, would be taken so literally in the long-awaited fourth season, which debuted on Hulu this month, 12 years after the series ended its original run. Shortly after the fan-favorite couple weds in the finale, Logan is killed at the hands of a serial bomber driving the new season’s central mystery. It’s a devastating ending for a character previously believed to be untouchable, polarizing the fandom and propelling the series and its titular heroine into uncharted new territory.
For Jason Dohring, who’s played Logan over the course of 15 years in roughly 70 hours of television and one fan-funded feature film, saying goodbye to the character was a shock to the system.
“I blacked out for two or three days because I was just so overwhelmed,” Dohring told HuffPost, adding that series creator Rob Thomas informed him of the twist before he even received a script. “When I read that, I was like, ‘Man could you set up a more crushing beat down for the audience?’ Fucking brutal.”
As heartthrobs go, Logan Echolls was never meant to rank among the Jordan Catalanos and Dylan McKays. Dohring originally read for the role of Duncan Kane, an early love interest for Veronica (Kristen Bell) who exited the series in the second season. He was contracted as a guest star instead. Since he wasn’t concerned with getting the girl, the character, described as the school’s “obligatory psychotic jackass” in the pilot, was dark and destructive, upending the predetermined rules about what a teen romance could look like on television.
Fans were so disgusted by Logan’s antics, when the cast embarked on mall tours to drum up excitement early in the series’ famously low-rated run, Dohring recalls being routinely ignored.
“People in the line would skip me because they hated my character,” he said. “Fans would come up, get the autographs from the cast and then go past me and give me a dirty look.”
But Dohring would, of course, win them over. Logan’s layers were peeled back to reveal that he was the abused son of movie stars played by real-life husband and wife Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna (no, he’s never watched his TV mom on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”), adding a welcome dimension to the archetype. His crackling chemistry with Bell didn’t hurt, either. Toward the end of the first season, their love/hate dynamic skewed toward the former as the two shared a passionate kiss, launching a TV ship that could weather, well, almost any storm.
Dohring feels especially protective of this relationship, knowing just how much the romance has meant to fans over the years.
“That relationship started in care because they both came from broken families and worlds. It wasn’t just romance or sex,” he explained. “It was like, ‘I love you and all that stuff, but I fucking care about you and will protect you.’”
But when the gang reunited for the fan-funded movie in 2014, the character’s hard edges had been sanded down. In the intervening years, Logan had traded chaos for order in his adult life and enlisted in the military. His evolution was the biggest departure from the original series and proved to be a test for Dohring as an actor, who said he, like many fans, missed the early iteration of the character.
“Whenever I’ve had to play the straight guy, which happens when you get together with the lead girl, all of a sudden you can’t be totally immoral because then she wouldn’t be with you,” he said. “In the beginning, it was me and Duncan and I was, like, the cut-up guy. But when Dick (Ryan Hansen) came on as my best friend, he was now the funny guy. I just preferred Logan when he was flying off the handle.”
“It was kind of challenging because I can’t be free playing the straight guy, which is even more true in [Season 4],” he continued. “I always liked the total freedom.”
And, in retrospect, making the bad boy go good was an all-but-certain death sentence, because in the world of “Veronica Mars,” boring might as well mean dead.
While fans and Dohring himself might not be ready to let Logan go ― a Change.org petition to bring the character back and the hashtag #NoLoganNoShow are already gaining traction ― series creator Rob Thomas has defended the decision as a necessary sacrifice for the show’s continued success.
With the death of Logan and a hardened Veronica determined more than ever to seek justice, the series now stands firmly as a mystery-driven hour of television akin to “Murder She Wrote,” abandoning its teen soap roots once and for all.
“When I step back and think of it from the show’s longevity and point of view, it totally makes sense,” Dohring said, encouraging fans to trust in the creator’s vision. “We saw the full evolution of Logan. There’s more story, obviously, and I’m sure [Rob Thomas] could send him off the deep end again, but it feels full-circle to launch Veronica into this new life where she can chase her dreams, achieve her potential and find happiness.”
And as for Logan’s legacy? Dohring, much like his alter ego, is quick to wrap his genuine emotion in cynicism.
“He was an asshole. He was an abused asshole. He was a charming and witty asshole. Then he was this romantic guy,” he said. “Logan has gone every way but dead, and now we can check that off as well.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.