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Velma: “Velma” and “Candy (Wo)Man” (S1 E1&2)

There are quite a few shows I have anticipated for in the new year like The Last of Us, season 5 of Slasher, and season 2 of 30 Coins, to name a few. One of the shows at the top of my excited-to-watch list is Velma. As a ’90s horror baby, I grew up on Scooby-Doo. Between the original show, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, and Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, it’s safe to say I grew up in prime Scooby time. When I heard HBO would be releasing an R-rated Velma Dinkley spin-off/origin story I was definitely excited. It should be said, though, how controversial this new series has become. With keyboard warriors butthurt that Mindy Kaling was playing Velma, that she is a lesbian, AND that Scooby is not in the series this series had a few hurdles to get through.

I have high hopes for the series and have eagerly been awaiting January 12th to arrive. After watching the first two episodes I am still on the fence. There are some excellent sight gags, humor that falls flat, and great moments of body horror. A good portion of the dialogue feels forced, but the voice acting and animation are spot on. Even if I wasn’t covering this series I found the first two episodes decent enough to come back next week for the next two episodes.

Episode 1 “Velma”

The very first scene brings us to hear our titular Velma (Mindy Kaling) who monologues over items in her room that provide context clues to the Velma we already knew. There is a red-string conspiracy wallboard. A handful of 1st place science trophies. A bookshelf with some [too] on the nose books like How to Solve Mysteries With Your FriendsScuba Dos & Don’tsHistory of Fog, and The BIG Book of Books Seen on TV. Trust me this show tries to go meta as hell. My favorite inclusion on the bookshelf is a Creeper mask from the original series. The monologue is decent but ends with Velma saying she’s telling “my story my way, and it starts with a murder, bitch.” Yeah, there’s a lot of cursing here. The final shot of this opening is of Velma’s journal that shows how she and Daphne (Constance Wu) are feuding, also she has missed multiple calls from Norville (Sam Richardson). In case you were wondering, we don’t call him Shaggy in this series he goes by his Christian name.

A Creeper mask sits deflated on Velma's bookcase.

We arrive at Crystal Cove High, where Daphne and her friends all participate in a team shower. They have their daily ‘team shower discussion’ where Daphne asks “have you ever noticed how pilot episodes of TV shows always have more gratuitous sex and nudity than the rest of the series?” Somehow this leads to a full-on brawl between Daphne and Krista (Debby Ryan). It makes no sense, it just really seems to serve as two naked women fighting in the shower covered in soap bubbles. Out of nowhere, Velma enters and literally whacks Daphne in the face with a field hockey club. Velma asks Daphne, while in a daze, “how do you feel about race-blind casting, Daphne?” This whole shower scene is just strange. It seems sloppily mashed together to try and give a reason for the TV-MA rating, rather than just having minor violence and cursing. This all leads to Velma opening her locker and Brenda’s body falling out. Once the body hits the floor the top of her skull pops off revealing that her brain is missing.

In a strange turn of events, Velma gets arrested for the murder of Brenda because you would totally put the body you killed in your locker. Makes sense. Daphne’s adopted moms, Linda (Wanda Sykes) and Donna (Jane Lynch) are the detectives questioning Velma about the murder. There is some minor backstory about how they were the detectives in the case of Velma’s missing mother Diya (Sarayu Blue), this is accompanied by a weird running joke about how they keep getting Diya’s name severely incorrect. Velma also lets us know that she doesn’t solve mysteries anymore because of her missing mother.

As Velma leaves the jail, with the knowledge that they will arrest her in 24 hours if she does not find the killer, and bumps into Fred (Glen Howerton). There is an ongoing bit here about how Fred doesn’t remember anyone’s face because he’s an entitled white guy. This is another scene that feels pretty forced and could have been handled a lot better. There’s nothing wrong with the direction they wanted to take Fred’s character, I just think they could have fleshed the character out a lot better.

Velma gets home and we meet her lawyer father Aman (Russell Peters) and his pregnant girlfriend/owner of Spooners Malt Shop Sophie (Melissa Fumero). Mid-conversation the baby kicks in Sophie so she rips all of her clothes off and tells Aman to get the camera. Sophie wants to I guess be a mom-fluencer. That’s it. That’s the bit. Before leaving the room Velma is told that she will now be working at Spooners, which is like fine but she was literally just arrested for murder and will be going to jail AND her lawyer father could not give a single SHIT about this. I think I am talking myself into hating this show.

Velma and Daphne argue out front of Crystal Cove High

There is a vigil for Brenda at Spooners. Daphne plays the piano as one of her friends sings a slowed rendition of Pony by Ginuwine. After having enough of this, and being called out by Daphne, Velma leaves work and throws her work clothes in the dumpster. Here she runs into Fred who is crying next to the dumpster. Fred vents to Velma about how he will never be the man his father is, about how his father puts out cigars on him, rich people problems, etc. Velma confides in Fred by telling him about how her mother went missing two years ago, that she was a mystery writer who would give her fun little mysteries to solve around the house. One of the mysteries was finding mom’s happy writing juice (alcohol). One night Velma found the Christmas gifts her mom got her, prompting her mom to go out and get new gifts…but she never came home! Daphne’s moms found Diya’s car with a single gift for Velma inside. At this point, a car speeds down the back alley towards Fred and Velma.

We finally get to meet Norville, as he exits the car that almost killed Velma and Fred. Norville tells Velma he’s been calling her all day and left her tons of VMs (voicemails). This whole VMs (voicemails) bit fell flat for me…and they really go in on it by having Norville say it about 80 times. It turns out Brenda was working for Norville. Norville runs the school newspaper and was running a story on why Spooners Malt Shop is so popular, he thinks it has to do with drugs (which he hates!). Brenda photographed something in the bathroom at Spooners and Norville thinks whatever she may have photographed is what got her killed. There is a red herring when Velma mentions to Norville that Sophie had just gotten a new camera, so she goes to see if Sophie’s new camera has any images of Spooners on it. It doesn’t.

This is when we get one of the most visually interesting bits of the series in Velma’s hallucinations. Yellowish-green hands appear and writhe around Velma’s body. Melting and molding into her body, it looks spectacular. From here Velma has a heart attack, thankfully Sophie does half-assed CPR on her to bring her back. At this point, Aman tells Velma that Diya actually left, which leads to Velma realizing all of the memories she has of her mother are through a nostalgic lens and that Velma was actually a terrible child.

Graffiti on the a brick wall that says, "Daphne is a huge bitch who ditches people to be cool - Velma"

The next day at school Velma decides new revelation new me, and makes herself up. Everyone is awed by her until Daphne reminds everyone she is suspect number 1 in Brenda’s murder. Thankfully Fred comes to the rescue and says that she is actually a good person. Someone chucks a paper cutter at Velma, but somehow Fred catches it and throws it back at them; cutting their leg clean off. There is a pointless conversation between Velma and Daphne (and her friends) in the bathroom that only leads to Velma learning that Fred won’t put out. Basically.

This new revelation is what causes Velma and Norville to go break into Fred’s house to find the camera. On her way inside Velma has another hallucination, this time she is saved by Norville spilling his heart out to her over the phone, and her laughing at it. It’s kind of sad honestly. This episode really seems like it’s dragging on at this point. If you’re still reading, hi! Let’s cut to the chase. Fred has Norville’s camera because it features images showing that he has not yet gone through puberty, so he paid Brenda for the camera. This somehow translates into Daphne’s detective moms shooting Fred in each leg.

Norville drives Velma home. He sees a ton of cockroaches trying to get into the recycling bin. What could be in there? Well, it’s Krista’s body, head cut off, brain missing.

Episode 2 “Candy (Wo)Man”

We start this wild ride with Fred getting arrested, and Daphne stashing piles of money in a beanbag chair. God typing this out now seems just as tedious as watching this show. I am actively liking it less and less as I go on. Aman is representing Fred in court, even as the news labels Fred as the most unlikeable suspected murderer of all time. The Dinkley family really needs the money so Aman is hoping this case is going to be an easy victory, and since Fred’s family owns the number one gentleman’s fashion accessories, yes ascots included. Oh, and Velma wants Daphne to get her mom’s cold case file because she still believes her mom was kidnapped. Daphne says she’ll do it for 500 bucks because Daphne’s ulterior motive is to try and find her biological parents.

Aman’s defense for Fred is going to play up the idea he is a late bloomer, to his father’s dismay. This comes in a couple of cringe-inducing scenes where Fred is fed food and he yells, “cutties,” at the butler to get him to cut his food. Whether you like the character of Fred or not, Glen Howerton absolutely kills this performance. It may be the best performance in the entire show. He takes this character to such an exaggerated and unbelievable level…it almost seems believable. Oh, and in a weird twist of events, Daphne’s moms are going 21 Jump Street to find the “candy man” who is selling drugs to the students of Crystal Cove High. But what if…it’s a candy woman? It is. It’s Daphne.

In order to get the 500 bucks for Daphne, Velma tries to use her power over Norville to get the 500. This leads Norville to try and hawk his favorite sword, and when that doesn’t work he tries to sell his kidney. Since Velma can’t get the money, she tries to beg Daphne for help. Daphne ends up saying she’ll give the file to Velma if she helps sell drugs. My favorite moment of the episode is when Velma asks Daphne what drugs they are selling, and Daphne says, “zoinks, jeepers, mystery machine,” I want more fan service like this.

A hallucination from Velma of a large woman with scraggly arms, backlit and covered in a green hue

Velma is terrible at selling drugs, and they quickly get caught by Daphne’s parents. This leads to a chase that takes place on a wheelie suitcase, which is pretty dumb. Although this does end up with Velma and Daphne making their escape and almost kissing. It’s a cute moment. Back at the courthouse, Aman’s defense is to have Fred try and cut a steak in front of the court. This leads to the entire courtroom laughing at him, which pisses him off. He jumps up on the table, stepping on the steak, and getting himself covered in blood. Fred tells the court he is definitely capable of murder and is found guilty.

After the trial, Daphne comes over to Velma’s house. Daphne tells Velma she saw what Velma said on the stand, yes the trial was completely televised. Daphne gives Velma her mother’s case file, and Velma immediately has a hallucination. After not being able to make Velma laugh to break the hallucination, Daphne kisses Velma. This immediately pulls her out of the hallucination.


Final Thoughts

There may be some moments of this show I enjoyed, but writing this out made me realize just how many bits fell flat. The amount of ideas they throw at the audience just really doesn’t work. Sure there are a few good moments, but does that justify the overwhelming majority of crap? I’m thankful we finally got an adult form of something Scooby-Doo-related, and my hope is this spawns some better ideas.

My biggest gripe with the show is how hard they are trying with the stakes. Look at ’02s Scooby-Doo, or Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, hell even Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost. These succeeded because they had stakes. In ’02 Scooby-Doo you have the stake of all of these island goers’ souls in peril. Zombie Island literally has zombies. And Witch’s Ghost has WITCHES! That is what I find so compelling about those, the idea that something really bad could actually happen to these people. The original series was fairly tame because you always knew it was going to be some dude in a mask who would probably end up getting arrested for like terroristic threats, maybe kidnapping. But here we have a serial killer on the loose! This is such a brilliant idea, it’s just beyond contrived and forced.

There are no repercussions in regard to the stakes either. No one in Velma’s family cares that she was arrested for suspected murder. Fred cuts someone’s leg off and no one says anything. Daphne and Velma crash through a brick wall and no one cares. There are no consequences for a single action (except Fred going on trial).

I don’t have the highest hopes for the rest of this season, but I am along for the ride and praying that there are better episodes than these first two.

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Written by Brendan Jesus

I am an award-winning horror screenwriter, rotting away in New Jersey.

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