Every day between now and Christmas morning, we’ll share the twenty-five stories that engaged, enchanted, amused and amazed us the most in 2014. If you missed them, now’s your chance to catch up; if you’re looking for a gift for the wonk in your life, then these are our most enthusiastic recommendations!

Today, Veronica Mars: The Movie.

Let’s be honest: there was no need for Veronica Mars to return to Neptune, and there was no need for Veronica Mars to return to our screens. While there were some misjudged steps and stumbles along the road, the series consistently turned in interesting character development and compelling emotional notes alongside grounded, solidly-crafted mysteries. Perhaps it ended before its time, and the third season was a relatively sour note upon which to end, but it burned bright in our memories, like a baleful stop light over a rain-soaked street in the worst part of town.

Sorry. This noir stuff is infectious.

Worse still, when news of the movie finally arrived, it came bundled with a crowd-funding campaign that seemed to guarantee a surfeit of fan service and references to past glories. How could a movie made with fan money walk the dark, antagonistic line that Veronica Mars had walked? How could they make, as they had made in the past, the tough choices?

We needn’t have worried. Though there are enough nods and beats to satisfy the squishiest of Marshmallows, Rob Thomas and company once again defied expectations, and pulled together a tight mystery that — mostly — works on its own terms. New viewers may have trouble understanding quite why Veronica is so attracted to Logan, or what the deal is with Dick Casablancas, but the well-structured mystery unfolds with all the precision and purpose that we could have hoped for. It isn’t clear if there’s going to be another on-screen outing for the blonde gumshoe, but it’s a testament to the strength of the movie that it works equally well as a closing statement, or a transition to something new.

Buy it now: Veronica Mars: The Movie