I love how Crow refuses to admit the season is over. Sorry Crow, it’s episode 12. There’s nothing we can do about it….
Before we get into this, some bookkeeping. I’m in the standard font while Irina’s bold, which to be honest always felt like the more appropriate arrangement! And if you don’t want spoilers, then please go watch the episode before reading this post. Because as usual, there will be spoilers!
Actually just go watch the episode. Neverland has been on an upswing. You won’t be wasting your time.
After thinking about it, I’ve decided that one of this series’ hallmarks is packing a huge number of powerfully emotional moments into a small space. It’s hard to pick out the best scenes, because they’re all either the best or are tightly interwoven with the best! But we’ll try not to write a novel here.
Irina, before we get started, do you have any opening remarks?
Neverland is not a bloody series. It doesn’t compare to something like Attack of Titan or even One Piece. But it’s been a while since I’ve seen such great use of atmospheric tension and pacing. Granted if you don’t have the patience for dialogue it could wear thin I suppose, but the fact that so many fans were captivated by small children (with zero fanservice) talking to each other against the same 4 backgrounds for 12 episodes, should tell you something.
We pick up right where episode 11 left off: We see the house in flames, and standing before it is a crazed Isabella. She’s about to dash off when little Phil grabs her skirt.
There’s a reason for that, and it’s because Emma is learning how to command. Remember all the way back in episode 2 when Emma said she wanted to take everyone with her when she escaped? That she wouldn’t be happy unless even the babies got out? Irina, do you remember what you said about Emma’s conviction?
“The point is Emma is willing to sacrifice Everyone is order to avoid sacrificing Anyone. It sounds noble at first but it’s also selfish.” hmm…that does sound like me…..
Turns out the narrative agrees! And what’s so cool is that Emma’s went in a direction that I didn’t consider.
I’m patiently waiting my turn. Good thing Crow and I discuss these things on paper or he would be so annoyed at my jumping in all the time…
It’s hard not to jump in! Different threads in my mind keep trying to pre-empt what I’m writing, there are so many things going on in this episode!
Just look how small Gilda looks in this shot. She’s wracked by doubt; she’s wringing her hands. She’s too young to be going through something like this! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
The scene was beautiful and heavy and dramatic. Emma, Gilda, and Don were reviewing their progress. Everyone over the age of five had been read into the plan, and now they were at a decision point. Should they tell the young ‘uns (or the younger ‘uns — they’re all pretty young)? Now that push had come to shove, Gilda was having second thoughts. You could see her distress. She felt like she was betraying her ideals — or maybe Norman’s and Emma’s ideals. Don pointed out that if they left the kids there, those kids would get shipped out. Gilda admitted she knew that, but she couldn’t reconcile all of the opposing thoughts.
This scene was a flashback. The episode was showing their conversation interspersed with current scenes of the older kids pulling each other up the wall, back in the “present,” as they’re trying to get away. Emma’s struggling to pull everyone up. That’s also dramatic — they’re trying so hard to succeed, just like Gilda’s trying to think her way through this.
Couldn’t you just feel her agony, Irina?
I loved that Gilda also had the counterpoint here. Gilda is so soft and nurturing. She is consistently shown as deeply caring if more reserved and shy than Emma. The fact the she was the one to bring up the idea that taking the little ones may not be wise brought the argument beyond practical considerations.
There is no doubt that Gilda loves the children. They all do really. But she simply isn’t the one to be putting emotion aside out of necessity. If she said it, then it may truly be the kinder alternative.
Gilda’s insights threw their plans into chaos. How would Emma react? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
And this is the realization that throws everyone into chaos. They have been clinging to assumptions as if they were facts for security but now they have to face reality, and that’s always terrifying.
In an atmosphere where their very lives are at stake, sweet little Gilda finds a way to up the stakes. Wringing her hands, she points out that there are other farms, with other kids, who have no idea they’re being raised for food.
Excellent point. If we are arguing abstract morals, why don’t those other kids deserve the same chance. And what do they owe them?
Emma’s shocked — and nearly panicked when Don asked what they should do. Suddenly, Emma had an idea. We don’t know yet what it was, but I’m really feeling the tension. How’s she going to reconcile all of these contradicting goals? How are they going to take everyone but leave some? Can they even think about rescuing kids from the other farms if they can’t rescue themselves?
She calls for Phil. She tells him what’s going on. We get to watch his happy smile vanish. In an innocent voice, he said, “I knew it.”
He knew it? I wasn’t prepared for that, were you?
My mind sort of split in two here. Part of me was all A-HA you little treasonous spy! I knew it! But then again, there was something in the way he said it. Something that gave me pause. This wasn’t what hit me though.
Emma wasn’t ready for that, either. He explained that he’d picked up on some clues, not the least of which was how Emma acted scared of Momma after Norman left.
Watching Phil go from smiling, happy little kid to crushed, crying little kid was heart-breaking. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Even as he spoke, he assembled more of the pieces. “I see. Norman got harvested. And Conny… And everyone…”
He control broke at that point. Mine may or may not have — there are no witnesses because my wife’s away on business, and the cat won’t talk. She knows who brings her Fancy Feast!
Well, I’m not ashamed. This is what hit me! It was a beautiful cry. Not quite Nagisa in episode 24 of Assassination Classroom, but close. I really admire voice actors that can pull off a good cry.
I was letting the tears stream, eyes burning, full of regret, frustration and sorrow for children I have never known and that have never existed. Darn it Phil! Why must you constantly destabilize me!
Emma then proceeds to do a mind-flip (with apologies to Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Time Warp) and calmly announces that Ray is right (they can’t take everyone). Gilda’s right (they must take everyone). To accomplish all of that, Emma introduces another dimension to the solution: Time.
She won’t take the other kids now. She will take them later. She’ll come back for them. She even reasons through that no one gets harvested before six years old, and the smarter ones get cultivated longer. She figures she’ll have two years to come back for them. She explains all of this to Phil, who takes it in, his eyes wide and filled with tears.
Then, suddenly brightening that Emma still has a plan for him, he says, “I can wait! So leave us behind!”
Kids are so resilient!
How much must Phil trust Emma? He just cheerfully said sure, he’d wait for her to come back for him. Because if she doesn’t, he’s dead. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Irina, do you think her solution can work? And what did you think of Phil’s reaction?
It was amazing. And sensible. I think it has a much better chance of working than trying to drag them along now. Not to mention that they definitely need to scout the outside world. Establish a safe haven. All of this will be much easier without the babies.
Moreover, this is where Emma shines. She knows how to cut through problems. The emotional and moral weight of the situation was paralyzing everyone. They were all just there like deer in the headlights. It’s in the hopeless time where there are no right answers that you need an Emma.
You know, when your brain just short circuits because the implications are too grave and the guilt and fear threatens to drown you, Emma knows how to magically put it all aside and find the simplest solution no one else could ever have thought of.
There’s a Star Trek TNG episode where Data loses at a game called Strategema (something like 3d Go) to an alien master. He is bothered by it but in the end manages to win by trying to force a stalemate instead of going for victory. Basically adjusting his thinking to change the purpose of the game, completely threw his opponent off.
This is the type of thinking Emma excels at. She has a very unique way of assessing situations and it throws people off.
I also really appreciated that she took the decision herself. Not putting it on anyone else. Taking their advice or listening to reason. It was a completely independent choice from someone who can shoulder the burden of consequences. Impressive.
Isabella calls in the escape and the alarms go off. The demons block the bridge — the bridge that Norman had told Emma and Ray about. Isabella looks off towards the distant wall and says, “Try to escape it you can, Emma!”
What Isabella defiant? Encouraging? Did she even know herself?
You know my views on Isabella…
Was Isabella defiant? Was she encouraging Emma? Does Isabella even know? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Each time we do this, I think to myself, I’m going to read ahead so I don’t end up writing paragraphs too early or saying exactly the same thing you say later on. That would be the smart way to go about these collaborations… And each week I’m too impatient and jump right in.
I suspect what want to say about Isabella is going to be more relevant later on, if not – I’ll drag us back to it clumsily!
One thing I will say is, I usually call Isabella Momma or Mother. This week I feel compelled to call her by her name. Like she’s earned it…
With the bridge heavily guarded, I’m thinking they’ll be captured immediately in spite of any provisions Ray had made. Turns out that once again, the higher intelligence called Norman had given Emma a better idea. There was a place where the cliff was maybe ten meters closer to the wall. So the kids, particularly Don (glad to see he could contribute something so important!) practiced throwing rocks tied with sheets into the trees.
I have to say, I’m not sure showing us the demon brigade was a good move. Maybe it’s just me but they seemed a little goofy. In any case, not a single one of them was anywhere near as frightening as Momma. There’s a more effective unseen threat I think.
Sorry about the interruption there. OK, so the kids are on the wall throwing rocks…
Think it’s impossible? Back when I was young and worked on a farm (that’s when Pangea was around — talk about plenty of elbow room!), we used to do something similar for fun. Because, you see, we didn’t have these fancy new calm-pew-toors! So I can testify that what Don did is possible!
Actually, Irina wrote a post to describe the physics. You should check it out here — and be prepared to be astounded!
They even used a couple of water bottle rockets to carry two of the streamers across. There was something inspiring about watching them arc over the gulf, the water glistening as it fell like rain.
Don practiced hard not only to throw far enough, but to throw with precision and to hook a branch with his throw. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Don established the first link and then, using strong wooden coat hangers, they slid down to the other side.
Talk about courage!
I’m actually planning to try and math out if it’s possible or not. I have no clue at the moment but I bet I could come up with some half baked theory if I really tried!
And your post proves you were right!
As the kids are escaping the walls, the demons tell Isabella that they haven’t seen the kids at the bridge yet. Where were they? Isabella, remembering what she’d seen atop the wall, panics and rushes after them. The tension (never really low in this episode!) edged upward as one of the littlest kids lost her nerve. Ray stepped up and carrier her across, but it cost them precious moments — moments Isabella leveraged to use the trick she’d used when she was younger to climb the wall. Just as Emma was about to slide down, she looked over to see Isabella standing there, panting and desperate.
Momma didn’t plead. Maybe she was too out of breath. Maybe she knew it’d do no good. Emma looked back to see the house burning in the distance. She said goodbye to the house. Finally, she turned to face Isabella and said, “Goodbye… Mom.”
It was a great speech. Full of longing and a weird bitter sweet resolve. Emma sure loved that house. She had a great childhood. It’s odd to get betrayed by your happiest memories.
One of the great moments in anime — Emma saying goodbye to “Mom.” Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Ignoring Isabella’s final plea for her not to leave, Emma leapt across the chasm, just as the rest of the kids had done. An instant after she landed, they cut all three lines. They streamed gracefully in the wind. Staring at her children as they ran into the woods, Isabella reached up and undid her hair. Soon it, too, streamed in the wind.
Wasn’t it amazing how much that simple design alternative changed her appearance. I’m not entirely sure I would have recognized her had I not seen the transformation unfold.
In that moment, she remembered her youth. She remembered how a young man named Leslie had played music for her, and how she loved listening to him. She remembered watching him leave after his “adoption,” and the little smile he gave her was so bitter sweet. The next shots showing her finding out escape was impossible, then following the same path as Sister Krone to become a Sister… It was wordless, and in impact it reminded me a lot of the beginning of Pixar’s Up.
Young Isabella seemed a lot like Emma. All I could think of is “Of course she’s like Emma!” Of course she was a bright and extremely capable child full of resolve. Of course she loved the house she grew up in and the children there. OF COURSE she was a hurricane of optimism and joy. That is exactly the type of child that would have survived. That is specifically what you need to be a good Mother. No wonder she would have recommended Emma.
Young Isabella’s parting with Leslie was completely parallel to Emma and Norman. She was sobbing, so much more than the other kids, to the point where I wondered if she already knew the secret of the house. He was gentle and stoic. Calm but doing his best to put on a comforting front. He even wore very similar clothes to Norman’s parting outfit. Obviously… The Promised Neverland is not a subtle show. I don’t care, I felt for them both!
Young Isabella looked painfully like Emma — down to her intelligent, confident smile! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
It didn’t look like her pregnancy was a happy one… She’d apparently hum that song to her unborn baby, which was important a little later when she heard one of her wards on the farm humming it. He was sitting, his back against a tree, his shock of almost uncontrollable black hair all over the place.
It was Ray. How’d he know the song? He heard her humming it. Remember his fetal memories?
Yes. Isabella is Ray’s biological mother. And she didn’t know until that moment.
Irina, any thoughts? I feel like I should channel another series and say, “Misaka asked innocently to draw attention away from the shocking moment.”
I‘m still processing this one. There are so many assumptions, so many implications… I just said young Isabella is a lot like Emma right… As for Ray. How is he not a completely broken husk of a person by now? Just how resilient is his mind?
Norman is a genius, Emma is a hero but man, Ray is a rock!
Isabella looked… What’s bigger than horrified and “oh my God my life is a lie but if I had to do it again I’d do it even though I’d hate myself” kind of look?
Knife not quite twisted far enough yet? Because Ray asked, “Hey Mom? Why did you give birth to me?”
The question seemed to anchor her. Here, at least, was familiar ground. Her distant yet warm smile reappeared, and she said, “It was for survival. Longer than anyone.”
The realization that Ray was her son — her biological son — almost unnerved Isabella. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
And this is when you think back on everything we know about the past 12 years or so, and everything that’s happened in the season and you realize that all this time Ray knew that was his one and only mommy, and Isabella knew it was her only (maybe not) son.
It makes their relationship so much more twisted. Ray can’t even have the fairy tale of loving parents. He knows what his mother is like. And Isabella. I’ve said it before, she has fractured her mind into believing she is doing the right thing. And if it’s right for the others, it’s also right for her own child. She stands by her convictions, no matter what else you may say about the woman.
“Fractured her mind…” I like that!
The scene shifted back to Isabella standing with her hair swirling in the wind. The music was a single, beautiful and lonely voice. Her expression was so forlorn that I felt terribly sorry for her. For a terrible, terrible moment, I thought she would use the streamer she caught to wrap around her neck and hurl herself from the wall. Into the abyss.
I kinda misread that, didn’t I, Irina?
I did think of it but let’s face it, it wouldn’t have been the Isabella we know. She’s a lot like Emma. I’m repeating this for effect.
She loves her children and wants what’s best for them. And like any loving mother, you have to realize at some point, when your children have strayed so far off the proper path, you have to let them go. Let them make their own mistakes and hope for the best. It’s difficult but it’s what a good parent does.
And Isabella is a good mother.
Seeming to find some peace of mind, Isabella told them to go on and to be careful. She even prayed they would find the light! Then she made her way back to the babies and Phil, who were waiting for her. The last we see of her, she brought out blankets for everyone and sat, smiling serenely, as they huddled asleep all around her.
This is Isabella in her element — being the mother these children need. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
This episode humanized and endeared the character more than I thought would have been possible in the last 20 minutes of the season. It also confirmed just how damaged and broken she is. Bested by small children and driven in a corner.
But to me, she remains a far more formidable adversary than any of those ancient magi. It’s not just me right, they do look a little like Elias..
Okay, that’d be an interesting cross-over!
Emma and Ray lead the rest through the woods. They came to a crest of a hill a as the rising sun cleared the mountains beyond. For at least that moment, regardless of what came before or what came after, they were free.
I want to know what their chances are to stay free, but I don’t know enough about the world. I want to know if Isabella will be punished. I want to know what happened to Norman. There are a ton of things I want to know! But season 2 has been announced, so maybe we’ll get some answers.
Irina, final thoughts on the episode or the series?
Ray’s conversation with a Norman that wasn’t there once again reached me, just as it had last episode with Emma. This sort of looming presence is something I find myself enjoying lately. It’s a theme in Killing Harmony and Gurren Lagann. I find it a nice narrative device to hold the story together and warp bitter grief into something closer to solace.
Norman wasn’t there physically, but he was certainly with them in spirit. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
This episode solidified the tone of the series. Namely hopeful. For all the tension and grief that runs through it, it is filled with so much simple joy. It’s the clash of the two that makes it really interesting. And fittingly it chose to end season 1 on a forcefully uplifting note. Even Mom had to wish them luck!
That scene with Norman was pretty amazing, wasn’t it? So was Ray’s admission that he’d lost to Norman — and that he was really happy about it!
I’m very glad the season ended by wrapping up the arcs it had started. It’s like the writers have enough confidence in the material that they knew the story itself would bring us back for season 2. There’s no need for cliff-hangers or other devices. There’s no way I’m not coming back to watch what Emma, Ray, and the rest do next!
Irina, thanks for recommending we review this series. It was amazing watching it unfold with you!
I assure you the pleasure was entirely mine!
Reviews of the Other Episodes
- The Promised Neverland Episode 1 – 45,000,000$
- The Promised Neverland Episode 2: 131045
- The Promised Neverland Episode 3: 181045
- The Promised Neverland Episode 4: 291045
- The Promised Neverland Episode 5: 301045
- The Promised Neverland Episode 6: 311045
- The Promised Neverland Episode 7: 011145
- The Promised Neverland Episode 8: 021145
- The Promised Neverland Episode 9: 031145
- The Promised Neverland Episode 10: 130146
- The Promised Neverland Episode 11: 140146
- The Promised Neverland Episode 12: 150146