The first season of Veronica Mars was as close to a perfect piece of television as I’ve ever seen. The way stories and characters developed over the course of the season, the ways in which all of the plot threads converged and tied up neatly at the end — it was an amazing thing to watch unfold, and I actually feel fortunate to have seen it in its original run (that sounds really stupid, but it’s true). The big question it left at the end of its season finale — besides “who’s at the door?” — was, “how can the second season live up to this?”

It turns out that it couldn’t, not quite. Some plot points in the second season seem to fly in out of left field, the last few episodes feel kind of rushed, and some story lines are left hanging in the season finale. So Veronica Mars will have to give up on being considered perfect, and settle for being the best show on TV. (Lost is in love with its massive plot holes, Arrested Development got canceled, and nothing else comes close.)

The trouble with writing about a show like this is that it’s impossible to say anything specific without feeling like I’m spoiling things for people who didn’t watch the finale (or the rest of the season). I’m not even sure if I can describe the series’ central mystery without accidentally giving out hints about the who that dunnit, because it’s one of those mysteries where once you know the ending, you realize that there were clues pointing to the answer all along.

Perhaps the most satisfying thing about the show is that it remains a character-driven mystery rather than a plot- or procedure-driven one. The key to cracking the big cases on Veronica Mars — to figuring out the “who” — is to figure out the “whys,” the hidden motives and desires that drive people to do evil things. And sometimes, figuring out the “why” involves figuring out the “what else”; sometimes the solution to one crime is to be found in another crime altogether. Veronica Mars has been described as “a fusion of Heathers and Chinatown,” and as in those films, there are no real innocents in the town of Neptune, not even the protagonist.

Given all this, I’m still trying to figure out how a deliciously complex, critically-adored show like Veronica Mars manages to remain of the least-watched shows on the air. From the ratings numbers, it seems that the only people watching it are TV critics and a few die-hard TWoP types. Hopefully, the new CW network will ignore the ratings and pick up the show as it picks over the remains of UPN and The WB. Otherwise we’ll be left with nothing but fanfic to resolve those last few dangling plot threads.