First, for all the flack the cast of this case gets for being annoying, I honestly think they’re the most fascinating of the “filler” cases. Ben and Trilo, while I love them, are probably the weakest link of the cast, as once their testimony’s over they pretty much fade out altogether (they don’t even visit Max on the second day of the trial) and it’s unfortunate, because I think there’s a lot of potential to explore their psychological makeup. And we get hints that there’s possibly more to them than meets the eye, as shown when, after Maya refers to Trilo like a separate person, someone (I think it was Max) tells her it’s just Ben and Ben alone. And then there’s Ben’s incapability to speak without Trilo, their conflicting personalities which mostly serve as comic relief, but I thought it was really interesting when Regina is brought up to Ben he responds that he doesn’t like her very much. Still, I’ve said this much about Ben and Trilo—what they lack in purpose in the plot they make up in character.
I’ve seen people say the case would have been better if Regina had been the murderer, and I couldn’t disagree more. Regina’s an interesting character because she’s straightforward, innocent, bubbly, and has no secrets to hide—which ironically culminates in making up her biggest flaw: because of her sheltered upbringing, she’s terribly insensitive. Her thoughts are so free of negativity she can’t understand concepts like pain and the weight of death; I really adored what Acro had to say about her being like the animals she tamed, in that she’s innocent, but her innocence can be hurtful and even cruel to others, because she’s never consciously aware of it. I think, had the game set her up as faking innocence, it would have been a dull and predictable “twist.” Instead, it takes the innocent, cute girl archetype and—as overused as the word is!—deconstructs the hell out of it in a really clever, powerful way.
And then there’s Moe…one of the most despised characters in the series. He makes terrible jokes, and he’s a clown—nothing more really needs to be said. Yet, if you look past all the terrible jokes and clown makeup—which is no easy task, I completely understand—he’s a really interesting character in this extremely subtle way. We get hints of his past, how he used to have a family he loved and presumably got divorced or separated from them, and though we’re never told why it happened, it’s still reflected in the character; in his desperate, awful jokes, and even openly admitting his insecurity in himself many times. He’s annoyed with Max, but admits what he says about the circus aiming for high standards is right; he loves Regina, but knows when enough is enough and that she has to face the real world and understand its consequences; he’s cares a lot about Acro but…well, here’s where things get interesting for Moe’s character.
Moe, who was dead-set on pinning the crime on Max, who had the most solid reasoning for believing Max did it (seeing Max’s “face” was really more than enough), was able to figure out that Acro was the real culprit. For all his apparent immaturity and loudness, Moe is capable of displaying some remarkable insight and wit; and it’s never easy admitting a friend of yours was responsible for the death of a loved one.
But the real star of the case, the main reason I have a hard time accepting Turnabout Big Top as the worst case of the series, is Acro. My god, what an interesting character. I was already awfully fond of him before, but wasn’t until this playthrough that I understood just how interesting and multi-faceted he was. He’s kind, humble, and wise, but he also has this vengeful side that, while perfectly understandable, reaches terrifying degrees. He willingly pins the blame on someone who didn’t do it, and he doesn’t even harbor a grudge against that person. Throughout the trial, he even gloats when your theory is lacking evidence.
Yet…he’s not this irredeemable heap of garbage of a person, either. In a way, he reminds me of Mia—on top of the scary vengeful side, he’s also got this calm, cryptic presence, as though he wants you to find out about the truth of the matter. He doesn’t want to say it in his own words, but have you piece it together yourself. He even commends you every time you do it.
And I love, love, love this moment, right here, which sealed Acro as an excellent character for me:
He doesn’t beg for forgiveness. The only forgiveness he begs for is Max’s, for having pinned the blame on him to begin with. He admits it wasn’t an easy thing for him to do, even contemplated suicide after he realized he killed Russell, and implies he only framed Max to ensure that he could see his brother again—but he never tries to beg for sympathy, or even ask that others try to understand his position. He simply says what he’s done, and at the end of the day, he’s still a murderer. Even though I’d seen this scene many times before, it wasn’t until now that it really hit me.
And even though he’s portrayed as sympathetic, I like that the narrative keeps it ambiguous enough for the player to come to their own conclusions—not just about Acro, but about the other characters involved, as shown in this scene:
It’s a sad case wrapped up in this bright, loud exterior, and between it and the previous case, shows how sometimes crime can from people who are—just that—people, not unlike the people Phoenix defends. It’s a perfect lead-in to the next case, right down to the idea of having a paragon of innocence be exposed to the harsh realities of the world.