「有罪か 無罪か/」 (uuzai ka muzai ka)
“Guilt or Innocence”
The show’s most action-packed episode thus far somehow manages to be its least interesting.
That may sound like a scathing assessment, but unfortunately, this week’s Luck and Logic fails to deliver on what should’ve been an exciting and emotionally resonant bit of development for our Chief. The episode attempts to invest the viewer in Veronica’s internal struggles—the strain of losing a loved one, the consuming urge for vengeance, the revelation of her mentor’s wrongdoing. However, due to a severe lack of properly cultivated narrative elements, all of these aspects fall absolutely flat.
An Empty Connection
First and foremost, the show does a lousy job of fleshing out the relationship between the Chief and Ash Paxton. Throughout the episode, we witness an almost unrecognizable Veronica—consumed in anger and emotion, as she hungers vengeance for Ash’s comatose. She’s a far cry from the cool, calm, and collected Chief we’re used to seeing every week. This extreme change of state is supposed to signify that she cares so much about her mentor that she completely abandons her usual rationale. We’re supposed to empathize with her because she cares so deeply for him.
Problem is, we just found out about Ash Paxton like, a minute ago. The series makes no effort in establishing their relationship—in at least conveying in previous episodes that Ash Paxton does indeed exist and he does in fact mean a whole lot to Veronica. Instead, we’re introduced to him in one, wordless quick shot at the end of last week’s episode and treated to a hasty and uninformative debriefing on their history together. Instead of being shown what Ash means to the Veronica, we’re merely told it—and roughly so. As a result, we’re unable to engage in the Chief’s anguish, for we have little to no sense of its source. While I should be feeling her pain and sympathizing with it, I’m instead just dully observing. The skirmish all ends up feeling a smidge arbitrary, and terribly explained.
Contrived Emotional Conflict
Furthermore, not enough of the lore is explained to convey the weight of Ash Paxton’s past actions. While I’ve previously praised the series for subtle and indirect exposition, the immorality surrounding Ash’s past scientific endeavors requires a robust and explicit explanation in order to clearly illustrate its malfeasance. Instead, very little of the situation is relayed—we weren’t told anything substantial concerning what Ash was trying to accomplish with his research (only very vague ramblings). I’m thus unable to feel horrified and conflicted at the revelation of his work like the Chief was because I have only the slightest idea what that is. I should be right there with her, trying to understand a previously unfathomable immorality from Ash. Instead, I’m still just trying to fill the gaps in my own head.
The plot also hurt from a lack of knowledge concerning foreigners. Up until now, we’ve had very little reason to believe that these things were anything more than monsters of the week. The only departure from the formula we’ve had was Quetzalcoatl (who by the way, is turning out to be a really enjoyable character), and while that shed some new light on these creatures, it wasn’t nearly enough for the show to demand the level of sympathy it did. When we find out Ash tortured an innocent Belva, we’re supposed to feel conflicted contempt towards a human and an unlikely compassion for the foreigner.
However, we have little reason to sympathize with the beast because all we’ve seen them do is terrorize our world with ill intentions. Even Quatzelcoatl harbored the same motivations before he changed sides. Maybe if they made Belva an actual character—one with a voice and personality of his own—and not just a stage hazard, this could have been achieved. The most we got was seriously just a visual parallel with King Kong. More should have been done to help us sympathize with the foreigner, whether it be from humanizing him, or explaining in more detail the ethical error of the situation. This makes Veronica’s conflicted emotions feel even more unmerited.
Overall, an incredibly disappointing entry into the series. The Chief’s internal struggles should have made for a powerful episode. However, an abhorrent lack of prior set-up made for an emotionally empty narrative. New information was constantly being thrust upon the viewer, who is expected to just accept the changes and roll with the punches. The series should have spent time establishing some strong, emotional connection between Veronica and Ash. We got a little bit of this near the episode’s end, but it came far too late and in far too empty a way to add anything meaningful. The severe lack of information regarding Ash’s experiment—what he was trying to achieve, why Belva was innocent, what kind of man he was—made for a strikingly vapid plot.
The episode’s concluding scene ends up feeling incredibly contrived as a result, especially because it relies on a shared relationship with the Chief that we just didn’t see in past weeks (the Chief has honestly been nothing more than a background authority in the show). Mix all this in with a mess of unattractive CG action, and we have one of (of not the) the weakest episode in the series thus far. Hopefully the series will step it up as it (hopefully, finally, maybe?) gets ready for a more ambitious storyline