Vatican Miracle Examiner
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Vatican Miracle Examiner ?
As someone who's dabbled in fiction writing myself, I've always found mysteries to be the most difficult kinds of stories to write. There's a finely tuned combination of intensely logical thought and pure wild intuition that goes into crafting and placing all the little puzzle pieces that have to fit together perfectly in order to sell the narrative magic trick you're pulling off. The best mysteries have the audience feel like they themselves had to put in difficult yet rewarding work in order to make sense of everything. Vatican Miracle Examiner, on the other hand, is the kind of story that shows just how tedious and interminable a bad mystery can be.
Ironically, this criticism comes upon probably the most well-constructed and directed episode of the series to date. For almost the full episode, VME managed to stifle its worst creative habits and deliver a story that was mostly comprehensible, where I could actually follow what was happening on a basic level. Roberto and Hiraga's investigation of the Rainbow Jesus Horn leads them to the found footage of the Motley Clown hacking up an ill-fated film crew that opened the arc last week, and pretty much the entirety of the episode sees the two priests putting these pieces together to see where they lead. Eventually, they discover that the missing Father Trones was one of the victims of that tragedy, and when he turns out to actually be dead, FBI Agent Bill Suskins shows up to tie the Clown's killings to the Church of the Glowy Statue. It just so happens that, upon investigating the body of the pale boy who was killed by the clown, Father Julia's prints were discovered on the scene. Not only does this tie the case into the death of Bill's former partner, the whole Motley Clown operation apparently has something to do with the counterfeiting of US currency, causing Bill and his new partner to officially team up with the Priests to hunt down the killer jester.
While the plot and visual direction is as straightforward as any episode of VME so far, it doesn't save the show from its most consistent weakness, which is its terrible script. Even when all the scenes are put together in a coherent order and sufficiently explained, the story itself remains dreadfully uninteresting. No amount of bizarre imagery or overdone musical cues can alter the underlying sense of monotony that fills every frame of not just this episode, but most every scene of Vatican Miracle Examiner. This is a show with two extreme modes of presentation: bonkers bananapants insanity and unbearable dullness. While the Exploding Hitlers and Killer Klowns get most of the attention in these writeups, Episode 10 of Vatican Miracle Examiner reminds its audience that at least 60% percent of the show is concerned with Roberto and Hiraga breaking down nonsensical gobbledygook.
Effectively, nearly early beat, scene, and line of dialogue in VME is devoted to tireless exposition. There is almost no character development to be found in episodes like this one, just scene after scene of people telling other people facts, then taking some time to rephrase those facts until new facts are brought to the fore. This is what makes VME such an awful mystery show; at no point is the audience capable of solving the mystery themselves, because new impossible-to-guess factors show up every five seconds. Most every traditional detective story features a moment during the climax where the investigator breaks down how all of the clues came together for solving the mystery, and Vatican Miracle Examiner is what would happen if that one scene was stretched out to take up the entire story. There are no characters worth caring about, no moments of tension or suspense, and certainly no signs of a tightly plotted caper to be found anywhere. Just a muddy pile of clues that two mannequins-cum-clergymen get to wade through, while the audience simply watches.
What's worse is that the clues are always revealed after the fact to be very dumb in nature. For instance, Hiraga discovers that the Rainbow Jesus was actually just covered in paint that reacted to the sunlight that hit the statue at a certain temperature, but only because he happened to discover cans of that very paint lying around offscreen. Is the audience expected to believe that in all of their “thorough” investigations, neither of the priests bothered to check and see if there was anything coating the statue to make it glow funny? The reveal comes off as trying to be clever (“I bet the audience has never even heard of glowy paint!”), but it just ends up being silly, and the Miracle Examiners look silly for even beginning to buy into it.
Still, it's hard to fault a terrible show for trying to not be terrible, even if it doesn't succeed. The mystery is still dumb, the characters are still hollow and uninteresting, and the production value is still cheap, but it would be unfair to expect any better from Vatican Miracle Examiner at this point. The series' faults are so ingrained at this point that I don't think it's necessarily capable of being “good”, but I applaud its ambition, even if the result is more dull than fascinatingly terrible. We've still got a few weeks to go, so there's plenty of opportunity for the shlock to return in full force once again.
Vatican Miracle Examiner is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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