In Velma Season 1 Episode 1, former best friends Velma and Daphne get into a fight in the school showers. When Velma later goes to open her locker, their classmate Brenda falls out of it. Not only is she dead; her brain has been removed from her head.
Due to a list of reasons, but the greatest being her weirdness and unlikability, Velma becomes the prime suspect in Brenda’s murder. The cops (Daphne’s adoptive moms Linda and Donna) give Velma 24 hours to help them solve this mystery, or they’re going to have to arrest her. The problem is that Velma doesn’t solve mysteries anymore. She hasn’t since her mom Diya disappeared two years ago.
At the behest of her dad’s girlfriend, Sophie, Velma starts working as a waitress at her restaurant, Spooners. It’s also where Brenda’s funeral is held, and where Daphne announces to everyone that Velma is the primary suspect in the murder case.
When Velma slips behind the restaurant, she runs into Fred. He confesses to her he’s trying to be the man his dad expects him to be. But he can’t stop crying since Brenda died.
Velma tries to comfort him by telling him about her own problems. Two years ago, she solved the “mystery” of where her Christmas presents were hidden, but then felt bad about ruining Christmas. To make her feel better, Diya went to the store to buy her another gift. That night, the police found her van abandoned and empty except for her glasses and wrapped gift for Velma. Wracked with guilt, she now experiences terrible hallucinations every time she tries to solve a mystery.
Fred appreciates her story, but still runs away, not wanting to be seen with her. Norville (he’s not yet going by Shaggy) then finds Velma to tell her he knows how to find out who did kill Brenda.
Norville sent Brenda on an assignment for the school paper. She took his camera and went to Spooners to find out the secrets of its success. She took a picture of something in the bathroom. Now, his camera is missing. Norville thinks what she saw is the reason someone killed her.
Velma remembers Sophie has a new camera. But when she snoops around, she finds out the camera isn’t Norville’s. Apparently the secret to Spooners’ success isn’t drugs; it’s just good food (and the fact that Sophie lets teens have sex in the bathroom.)
Velma’s dad Aman tries to talk her down from another hallucination. Her mom didn’t go missing because she solved a mystery, he says. She left them. Velma lets this soak in. Eventually, she accepts that her mother hated them, and she throws away the wrapped gift she never opened.
Velma goes to school the next day with a new look, but people still think she killed Brenda until Fred stands up for her. Enraged, Daphne tells Velma she can have her boyfriend; he never puts out anyway. In fact, Fred is so self-conscious that he kicks everyone out of the Spooners bathroom when he has to use it.
A lightbulb then goes off for Velma, and she gets Norville to drive her to Fred’s house to find out more about her new suspect. She sneaks into his place, but her hallucinations return. This time, however, her mother turns into the creature that has been tormenting her.
For a moment, Velma thinks she deserves to die. No one likes her anyway. But Norville takes the opportunity to confess that he likes her over the phone. She thinks this is a joke and laughs, which makes her visions temporarily go away. His continued compliments to her make the hallucinations disappear completely.
Velma finds Norville’s camera in Fred’s room, and it contains pictures of Fred in the Spooners bathroom. Suddenly, Fred comes out of his own bathroom. Velma has discovered his secret–that he hasn’t gone through puberty yet–so he’s going to do to her what he did to Brenda.
Fred reaches inside his robe. But before he can take anything out, Officers Linda and Donna show up and shoot him in the leg. Fred insists he was just going to pay her to keep quiet, but they arrest him, believing they’ve caught the murderer.
Norville takes Velma home. She admits she hallucinated again because she knows her mother didn’t leave her. Her mystery-solving caused her disappearance.
They think they’ve solved one problem, at least. But when Norville notices cockroaches swarming one of the Dinkleys’ garbage cans, he opens it to find Krista’s dead body–minus a brain.
The Episode Review
In the dozen or so adaptations of the 50-year-old original Scooby-Doo series, this HBO Max original is the first to center explicitly on Velma. It’s no surprise Velma’s day has finally come; the turtleneck-rocking nerd is a favorite of many.
What is a surprise is that creator Charlie Grandy decided to adapt the cartoon at all. Little is recognizable from the original series and its subsequent adaptations; Scooby isn’t even in it at all. Velma, then, isn’t really poised to work as an adaptation and probably won’t please die-hard Scooby-Doo fans. Mindy Kaling fans, however, should resonate with the modern spin on the show–crushes, falling-outs, family problems, insecurities, and all.
It is a somewhat bumpy start for the teen mystery series. The meta humor is hit-or-miss, and there’s a tendency to over-explain each character’s relevance. But there’s potential here for a unique blend of horror, comedy, and intrigue. I already like the fact that the show’s mysteries aren’t wrapped up tidily in one episode. There’s still the mystery of who the real serial killer is, as well as the drawn-out mystery of what happened to Diya.
It’s pretty obvious Fred doesn’t have the brain power to pull off serial killings. A murderer is still at large, then. And it seems they’re trying to frame Velma.