Anime

Review of The Promised Neverland Episode 4 – The Trinity Askew

Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.

If you’ve read our reviews of the first three episodes, you probably know that Irina (of I Drink and Watch Anime fame) and I think highly of The Promised Neverland. Having watched episode 4, I just have to say this: Never has a climax hit me so hard in the mouth -- and I didn’t see it coming. At all.

In retrospect, the pieces all fell into place.

But it took me by complete surprise.

Irina, without giving away the climax -- at least not yet -- did you see that coming?

I did not. I’m still not sure I entirely believe it… OK let’s do this - Spoilers may come out this was a doozy of an episode. Then again they all are. I see that The Promised Neverland has gone to the Steins;Gate 0 school of ending every episode on a cliffhanger. I love it but you know, I would come back even without it!

Ray was kind enough to demonstrate my reaction to the ending. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

But hole - lee - hell Batman!

Anyway. More on that later.

I’m going to try something different. I’m going to try to emulate Irina’s approach to reviews, but with a Samuel Adams twist. I’m going to down a six pack of Sam Adams Light (a really good Light beer -- heck, a really good beer) before trying to write this review. Let’s see where this goes…

Oh great - my official style is “drunk” now. Can’t say I haven’t earned it but still… By the way I’m Irina and I will be your bold host today!

Remember the gut-punch that ended episode 3? The idea that one of the kids might be a traitor? The set the tone for this whole episode. Emma, Norman, and Ray need to figure out who the traitor is. Seems like a good idea, right? RIGHT! I sense a ‘but’...

And it is! Oh good!

But (I knew it!) Norman is always thinking several steps ahead, so he suggests that they modify their game of tag so they play in teams. That way, they can increase the chances that the stronger kids can help the weak. Momma watches them play, and she is clearly suspicious. But she lets them play, and Emma and Norman teach their kids hand signals to help them win while Ray and his team pursue.

Momma knows something's up -- heck, she might know exactly what's up! She's scary... Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

After the first game, Emma, Norman, and Ray regroup. Ray and Norman both coax Emma to consider who might be the traitor, and Emma starts to freak out. Ray has to remind her that this is life and death. Irina, you said before that you were concerned about how Emma’s desire to save everyone -- every last child -- was selfish. Did you see this moment as a validation?

First, that but was not too bad. Second, actually no I am getting pretty swept up in the story so I’m just rooting for all those kids to make it. I still believe that Emma’s idealism is short sighted but you know, in such a bleak situation, a little unreasonable blind hope may be just what you need to keep yourself going.

After all, there’s no guarantee anyone would make it at all, under any circumstances. If they’re going to fail for some reason... might as well be because they were trying to save everyone. It’s a worthy cause.

Well said!

I am horrible at sticking to my guns. I still think it’s a foolish and selfish dream, but I respect it. It’s foolish and selfish in the right ways.

And before we go on, that opening scene between Krone and Isabella! Oh yeah - Mom is really hitting all the right notes for most satisfying villain! She is in no small part a driving force behind this story.

And Krone lets it get to her! I felt sorry for her doll…

I came within a half inch of feeling sorry for Krone in this scene. Of course, the moment passed... Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Back to our three main heroes. This sequence where Emma freaked out had two significant dramatic implications. First, it drives home the idea that there is, in fact, a traitor among them -- and that traitor might have some valid reasons (not ending up a dinner, for example). Second, it gives us a clue to understand the reveal at the end, though I didn’t see it at the time.

Norman drops a bomb on them: He says they’re going to leave in two weeks.

A full month before either Emma or Ray thought they’d leave. And Ray was not happy…

And, oh God, now I know why…

Wait, wait - I wouldn’t be happy either.  Ray is the most pessimistic and sadly realistic among them. He knows that even taking advantage of every last second, they’re going to struggle, of course cutting the time down to one third of the original plan is going to put him off. No way they can get those kids ready in time. It’s shooting yourself in the foot that doesn’t already have a bullet in it (from taking everyone with you). Get it together Crow!

It’s together! Well, -ish. I’ll go farther to say you’re absolutely right! But that’s not the only reason that Ray reacted the way he did. And that's was I'm "oh God-ing" about!

Okay, I need to focus. Emma, being Emma, wants to bring more kids into the know. She wants more tag team leaders, and thinking tactically, that’s a great idea. So, she picks Don and Gilda. Instead of telling them the full story, they say that Momma’s selling them off (human trafficking), which is bad enough!

How did Don and Gilda react? Emma, Norman, and Ray just told them that everything they knew was a lie and they were going to be sold to "bad people." So, they didn't react well... Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

What did you think of this approach, Irina?

I understand it. At this point there’s no need to overburden the kids and after all, they could both be traitors, laying out all your cars would be risky and unnecessary. They only know for sure about Conny. Mothers come from somewhere, there must be a way to survive.

Both Don and Gilda, after some heavy discussion, buy into their plan -- and seem to believe what Emma told them. There were several heartbreaking scenes in this episode, and Gilda’s reaction here was one of them. Gilda had seen Norman and Emma run off after Conny. She had known something terrible had happened because she had seem that had seriously affected Emma. But she didn’t know what. And she was in agony because she didn’t feel like she could ask.

Even as I felt anguished in reaction to her pain, I had to wonder if she was the traitor? Was she just putting on a good act?

This show…

Just because you’re paranoid. I really thought both were traitors, then I thought the younger kids may be since they would be less suspicious. For a second I was thinking back to that baby. I also need to get it together.

Oh, crap. You might be onto something -- what if multiple kids are accidentally traitors? They might not even know it! What if our heroes can't find the traitor because they're all unwitting traitors? 

Maybe I am paranoid...

There were so many emotional moments in this episode. And underlying it all was the question: Who's the traitor? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Irina, you know how I said that Ray reminded me of Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Norman seems poised to take that title from Ray after the scene with Don and Gilda. Ray confronted Norman, demanding to know why he gave Don and Gilda hope that Conny -- and the other kids who had been “adopted” -- were still alive. Norman responded that this was the best way to obtain cooperation. In other words, Norman was taking the utilitarian approach that this was their best way forward.

But Norman didn’t stop there! He said that he intended to set a trap to find out who was the spy. He said that he’d tell Don there was a rope hidden under his bed, and he’d tell Gilda that it was in the ceiling of a bathroom. Depending on which “stash” was looted, they’d know who the traitor was.

What’d you think of this tactic, Irina?

I liked it in theory but how would they have known which place was searched if Mom was playing the long game. Mom could just take a look while none of them are there and put everything back. We have seen plenty of occasions when all the kids are outside and Mom looking from inside the house. She already knows who the children are and that they’re planning something, no need to reveal her hand right away like that.

And I have a question about the last scene, so let’s move on.

This damned show…

The next thing we know, Emma’s pretending to be asleep, and she watches as Gilda climbs out of bed. Is she going to rat them out? Is she going to talk to Momma? We even see someone slip a note under Momma’s door that says the rope is under Norman’s bed!

But wait -- did Gilda write the note? Emma tails her, and it’s even worse than we feared: she doesn’t go to Momma. She goes to Sister Krone.

So, wait -- who slipped the note under Momma’s door? Don?

Does this mean what I think it means? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Obviously, right? The told Don it was under the bed after all Who else could have...oooohhh wait..

I was all like “Oh noes! Not Gilda!” She seemed to happy to be on the inside with Emma! It can’t be Gilda, can it? And as Emma followed her friend, you could see the trepediation on her face.

Ah, but this show isn’t done messing with us…

Krone tried to interrogate Gilda. But bless her little heart! Gilda said there was nothing to worry about! Emma almost cried with relief! Until Krone threw down her trump card, saying to Emma, “Gilda, so you know about everything now, don’t you?”

Honestly, Irina: did you hold out any hope for Gilda at this point? Because I sure didn’t!

You know, Gilda may have been the biggest twist here. I would not have blamed her for caving. Emma probably wouldn’t have either. Her body language probably gave everything away anyways but still - You go girl. Gilda, we’re proud of you!

I so hope she finds her Neverland. I’m still a little teary eyed. Crow, you tell them what happened!

The little girl Gilda -- this child who had only lived at the orphanage, who only had the life experience of playing with her friends to guide her, reached deep into her soul and fought back in the only way she could. She lied and said that she had no idea what Krone was talking about. And she was firm about it!

She snuck back to her room, where Emma was waiting for her. I was an emotional wreck watching her the two of them hug!

I think it took every last bit of energy that Gilda had to make it back to their room. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Why am I watching a show that puts them in such peril?

Sometimes it’s the worst situations that bring out the best in people. Not usually though.

The next day, Norman and Ray have a philosophical discussion. Why would someone betray them? What could possibly motivate them? They decide that the demons might have promised the betrayers that they’d live -- perhaps becoming a mom or similar. Someone who the demons would keep alive.

Sounds a bit tempting, doesn’t it? Moving from prey to facilitator? It would at least ensure a longer life, if nothing else.

The only cost would be one’s soul…

Remember how Norman’s entire response to this situation would be summed up as “Whatever makes Emma happy?” Well, he delivers on that idea in the waning moments of this episode. He tells Emma about his conversation with Ray, and he asks her what she’d do about the traitor.

She says she’d still take the traitor with them.

Even Norman’s surprised, but she’s adamant, saying, “Yeah, I’d force them to come with us. Because if we escape, that person’s life might not be guaranteed anymore.”

Watching this scene, I couldn’t help but remember you reaction to Emma’s declaration that she wanted to save all the children, Irina. Did you experience deja vu during this scene?

I had already softened my perspective on Emma’s approach but this clenched it. She wouldn’t want revenge. She really does want to save her family. And she understands the perfectly reasonable human drive to do anything you can to survive.

If she keeps making these kinds of decisions, I'm going to have to start calling her Saint Emma! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I really liked that. The explanation just flowed out of her as if it was plain facts. If we escape without them then they might note live - they want to live, question closed. Strategically, I think taking along a traitor under these circumstances is much smarter and more efficient than taking all the kids anyways.

It’s someone who’s proven their drive for survival, so once they have no choice, they’ll be a fairly strong ally and they may have access to precious information. I can see upsides to this.

Flip the traitor. Make their well-developed survival instinct work in the family’s favor. That does make sense!

Emma gushing about want to save everyone, even if they were a traitor, was kinda uplifting in an “oh my God they’re all gonna die” sort of way. But it was a setup. A setup for the moment that ambushed me. The next scene showed Norman and Ray seeing which stash got raided. It was the one under Norman’s bed, which should have meant the traitor was Don.

But what did Norman say?

Did Norman agree that Don was the traitor -- after apparently setting up the test himself?

No.

Norman turned to Ray and accused him of being the traitor.

Ray -- the traitor?

Irina, what was your reaction?

My reaction was...Are they going to kill Norman now? I mean, that’s the next step in crushing an uprising isn’t it? It would be one thing if the rope was found in the ceiling. You can still have both sides pretend they don’t know exactly who’s involved, but putting it in your own bed forces the other’s hand, doesn’t it?

And once again, Ray gives a great imitation of my reaction to this moment in the episode! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Norman knows this. Norman knows everything. He knows that at the very least he’s going to be separated from Ray and Emma, and he hasn’t told Emma of his suspicions?

Something isn’t adding up. He should have hidden it in Ray’s bed. I do think Norman is getting a bit crazy and suspecting everyone (like I am) but I also don’t think he’s completely sure about Ray yet. I believe the question was an actual question, if a very accusatory one.

I’m still not sure I believe it. Did Norman get tricked? I’d believe that before I’d accept Norman as the traitor -- though I do believe he’d stretch the truth to protect Emma. But Ray? A traitor?

What is it with this show?

What if Norman slipped that note…. We’ve only seen two adults. There’s no reason to believe that there aren’t fathers out there as well. But there’s no reason to believe there are either. The only thing we know for sure it’s that women may survive to adulthood. We know Norman isn’t above keeping things from Emma for her own good, she’s his reason for being after all.

Would he be capable of sacrificing everyone else for Emma? Could he have sold everyone out  in exchange for a guarantee of Emma’s future?

Oh (I say in a tiny voice). Yeah. Yeah, I think he would. But did he?

What is this show?

Completely engrossing and worth the hangover, that’s what it is!

9 thoughts on “Review of The Promised Neverland Episode 4 – The Trinity Askew

  1. I do think Norman thinks that Ray is the traitor. If he suspects him, it would be counter-productive to tell him what he’ll Gilda and Don? The solution? Four ropes, and if one of Ray’s ropes is tampered with then he knows that they’re trying to frame someone. (Ray knows where the original rope is, so removing only one rope is clearly a framing move.) Norman wouldn’t leave things to chance, if he can help it.

    I honestly thought the show was being obvious and it was going to be Gilda, although I’ve seen other people thinking it was Ray. Ray would have been my second choice, mostly because of Sister Krone’s profile. If you’re weakness is making clear decisions, and it’s in the files, then Isabella would be well aware of that. That would be someone you could break.

    As for the show: I’m watching it much like Death Note: high intellectual involvement, low emotional involvement. Don’t much think about it while it’s not on (or blogged about). I like the characters and don’t want anything bad to happen to them, but it’s only skin deep for me. The show doesn’t completely draw me in.

    1. “I’m watching it much like Death Note: high intellectual involvement, low emotional involvement… The show doesn’t completely draw me in.”

      That’s interesting! Is there something about the show that’s actively disinteresting to you? Or is it more that it’s not capturing your imagination?

      1. I don’t know really; all I can do is guess.

        One element has little to do with content. I think the camera in this show, whose panning speed around one per episode triggers my motion sickness, is one element that makes me cautious on a subonscious level and is a hindrance to involvement.

        Then there’s a matter of taste here: I’m not that interest in shows that divide sympathies so obviously. Faceless evil, sinister middlemen, poor innocent children. And the show exploits this stylistically: the aliens quibble amongst each other and are jealous of their better; the adults are cold or broken; the children are all nice to each other and never amongst each other (have you ever seen one of the little ones cry, because a slightly older one took away the toy, for example?) I just feel a sort of sculptedness to the emotions I’m supposed to feel. I mean, the kid they shipped off first was cute, wide-eyed and wished everyone well. Imagine if the first kid they’d shipped off was a troublemaker who didn’t get along with anyone and bullied people. Different story, no? (This is just an extreme example to make it more obvious what I see in the show.)

        That should be the most obvious and strongest hindrances, but in themselves they’re just trends. I think I’ve been emotionally involved in stories like that before.

        1. “have you ever seen one of the little ones cry, because a slightly older one took away the toy, for example?”

          Now that you mention it, I haven’t. And I would expect to given their ages and the child to adult ratio. Is that a plot point building to something interesting (e.g., the children have been “bred” to reduce strife), or a reliance on a cliche?

          And honest, I’m sometimes unclear on what’s a cliche and what’s a trope.

          “Imagine if the first kid they’d shipped off was a troublemaker who didn’t get along with anyone and bullied people. Different story, no?”

          The part of me that studied moral systematic theology says no! But honestly? You have a point.

          It sounds like we’re emphasizing different aspects of the series, and I think that’s important. I just bought Neil Gaiman’s Master Class The Art of Story Telling. He spoke of his early days as a writer, when he couldn’t sell a story. He was sitting in a writer’s workshop, surrounded by several notable writers, and they began discussing a story they had just read.

          At that time in his career, he said his opinion was more or less, “I liked it. It was fun to read.”

          You can probably guess that the other (more experienced) writers had a completely different take. He said it was in that moment he realized he was thinking as a reader, not a writer, and if he wanted to sell, he’d have to change his perspective.

          The case here is different. We’re both coming at this from the perspective of a viewer, and we’re both applying our critical filters. But I’d argue that you’re approaching it from a more technically correct perspective, whereas I’ll intentionally overlook stuff if I otherwise like the show.

          I hope you keep watching this show, because I’m enjoying your comments!

          1. I’ll definitely continue with the show (the only thing that could make me drop it is if the camera were to get more unbearable; once per episode is fine); it’s one of the best this season.

            I am (or used to be and might be again in the future?) a hobby writer, so when I don’t quite get into a story as much as other, I’ll try to figure out what it is, and one of the best methods I’ve found is imagining things being different. Don’t misunderstand this as saying that’s how the show should be: it’s just making clear what kind of show it is, i.e. what kind of decisions it makes.

            ***”It sounds like we’re emphasizing different aspects of the series, and I think that’s important. “***

            I tend to like shows that feel alive, which I suppose means putting the seeds of chaos anywhere. The decisions the show makes with respect to making the kids as likable as possible isn’t a bad choice, if they’re going to go for suspense.

            Another thing, for example, I didn’t know how to take. First episode: obviously we were supposed to be horrified at the thought of aliens eating children. Now, I’d been spoiled on that one aspect, so it wasn’t a surprise, and by the time we came to that element, I thought, well it’s free-range farming. It could be worse. I wonder if there are battery kids somewhere out there? Factory meat for the lesser aliens?

            Shows that want me to go “how horrible!” usually underestimate my tendency to think up really horrible stuff.

            ***And honest, I’m sometimes unclear on what’s a cliche and what’s a trope. ***

            A trope (in the TV-tropes sense) is just a recurring pattern, which you can do a lot of things with. A cliché is a reccuring pattern that everyone’s so used to seeing and interpreting in common ways that it functions as a unit, and it’s very hard to do anything with it internally.

            The kids all being nice to each other isn’t a cliché, because it’s not a unit. It’s an element in a bigger structure that can be changed for dramatic effect (I.e. if all the kids are always nice to each other, the one who isn’t will stand out). It’s a stylistic choice with effects on drama, and it helps direct your sympathies.

            For example, right now we’re likely to be supposed to root for the kids, while we’re supposed to hope that the grown ups fail. I don’t expect the former to change, but it’s possible that they’re going to pull out the rug from under our feet later, with respect to Isabella and Krone. They currently not giving us Isabella’s point of view at all, while Krone’s point of view is all surface emotion. I’m fairly sure the show remembers they were both kids once, and if Ray’s really the traitor (I think so now), then the aliens are probably recruiting from the livestock. And if all the kids do escape, Isabella’s finished. How do you expect the show to spin it? Tragic villain? You get what you deserve? Deeply broken person spinning into her own darkness (i.e. pathetic and powerless villain)? I’m expecting a tragic villain, to be honest.

  2. I’m with you guys in that Mother is making a good run at villain of the year. It is kind of satisfying after last year’s lack of fairly compelling villains to watch her in action and the opening scene with her and Krone this week was pretty golden.
    I think this show may have slightly given the game away with Emma’s speech to Norman about taking the traitor with them. She specifically said that even if the traitor thought she was naive she’d take them with her. The only character who has called her naive is Ray. Whether Ray ends up really being a traitor or not, I kind of suspected Norman was about to confront him, though they still did an excellent job with that scene. Because I was trying to avoid revealing who was accused in my review I couldn’t really get into that point, but I felt it was either great foreshadowing or a slip up. But what it did tell me was that Emma isn’t as naive or as clueless to what Norman is up to as he’d like to think.

    1. “She specifically said that even if the traitor thought she was naive she’d take them with her. The only character who has called her naive is Ray… but I felt it was either great foreshadowing or a slip up.”

      I’m going to vote great foreshadowing! Even thinking back, even after you explicitly pointed this out, I think it’s subtle enough that most folks (including me!) wouldn’t catch it the first time.

      Reminds me of The Sixth Sense. According to legend, M. Night Shyamalan didn’t want to leave in the child’s line, “I see dead people… They don’t know they’re dead.” He thought that an astute reader would figure out the plot twist.

      I didn’t. But you know what? My wife did! The first time she watched it, she figured out the twist based on that quote alone.

      What that tells me is good foreshadowing is hard. I think your question is spot on, and by offering my answer (calling it foreshadowing), I don’t want to give the impression that I’m 100% convinced I’m right!

      “But what it did tell me was that Emma isn’t as naive or as clueless to what Norman is up to as he’d like to think.”

      She’s got a _lot_ more going on than anyone’s giving her credit for! You mentioned that Mama’s making a good run for villain of the year (and I agree!). I think Emma’s on the way for a protagonist of the year nomination!

      1. Emma is doing a great job as the protagonist and I’m interested to see where she’ll go next.
        And yeah, I also saw through The Sixth Sense which kind of makes the reveal at the end a little less affective. Still a good movie but less wow factor.

Please let me know what you think!

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