Home Film & TV Velma: A Mystery Gang Origin Story Meets Teen Drama in Animation

Velma: A Mystery Gang Origin Story Meets Teen Drama in Animation

by Neil Bui

Warner Bros. Animation has a new series streaming on HBO Max next week, Velma. This is a comedic animation for older audiences that tells an origin story of Velma Dinkley, from the Scooby-Doo franchise.

The series stars Mindy Kaling as Velma, Glenn Howerton as Fred, Sam Richardson as Norville/Shaggy, and Constance Wu as Daphne. At the time of this review’s writing, only the first 8 out of 10 episodes were screened.

Personally, the last time I watched a Scooby-Doo animation was in elementary school, with 2001’s Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase serving as a milestone straight film of my childhood that reinforced certain expectations or tropes for the franchise. These include Velma being the brains, Daphne being a bit of a pampered princess, Fred as an eager leader, and Shaggy as someone always looking for his next meal.

Now this series frames its plot as an origin story for Velma and takes place during her teenage years at Crystal Cove High School along with her classmates. Through flashbacks, it is shown that Velma had a penchant for solving mysteries as a child but stopped after the disappearance of her mother. It is also revealed that she and Daphne are former best friends that had a falling out years before the series starts.

Against a high school setting with teenage characters, Velma showcases modern teenage experiences, with smart writing that utilizes topics relevant to today’s youth which includes dating, sexual exploration, confusion, parental influences and more. The series isn’t afraid to make fun of itself through references to classic Scooby-Doo motifs or even comments about typical teen drama elements.

One of my favorite lines is from episode 6, where Velma narrates “if there’s one thing teen dramas get right, it’s that nothing is ever actually a teenager’s fault. We’re all really just paying for the sins of our parents. They’re either lying to us or trying to change us or hiding some dark family secret, but when it comes to truly crappy parents…”

Parents and children are a constant thread throughout the series as Velma wants to uncover the secrets of her mom’s disappearance, while Daphne has grown up as the adopted daughter of two married women on the police force and seeks to know about her birth parents, and Fred seeks to win the approval of his father in order to be heir to their family’s company which of course sells ascots and other such things.

Shaggy, going by Norville in this series, is relatively better off with his parents as his mom is the school principal and his dad is the counselor. However, Norville is a victim of unrequited love as he tries to express his feelings to Velma, who surprisingly is more often fawning over Fred and trying to understand her feelings for a certain childhood friend.

The series is definitely worth watching for those with a fondness for nostalgic characters like the Mystery gang but also an open mind to modern retellings that introduce new elements. Catch Velma only on HBO Max starting January 12.

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