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''Veronica Mars''

By RD Heldenfels Published: October 6, 2005

Finally caught up with ''VM'' tonight. (Also this week's installment of ''The Office,'' where the workplace boredom-beating made for one of the truest, and best, episodes of the American show so far.) I am confused, concerned and delighted. I bow to series creator Rob Thomas, and to Diane Ruggiero, ''VM'' co-executive producer and a writer who has made an enormous contribution to the show.

I get a little uneasy when I think about how much I have come to care about the ''VM'' characters, since they are all fictional, and I have plenty of people to care about in real life. But I found myself wanting to talk to Keith Mars about this whole running-for-sheriff thing. He's an idealist, after all, and he's running for the best of reasons -- to do good for people who aren't getting much good from the current sheriff. But it feels as if no good can come of this. Has he forgotten that Veronica's messed-up, thieving mom is still out in the world somewhere, an opposition-research squad's dream?

But so often ''Veronica'' is about bad things happening to good people. (More dread: Wallace's budding relationship with a girl who looks like big trouble.) Nor is justice always done. And even when bad things are happening, they are often presented matter-of-factly, very ''this is the way of the world.'' Characters may win in a specific situation, but the institutions of corruption have not been toppled. And, as was so painfully clear last night, the truth does not always set you free of pain and misery.

Because its world is so complicated, I love this show even when the characters are trapped in sadness.

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