Irina from I Drink and Watch Anime and I continue our collab review of The Promised Neverland. The second episode, 121045, continues the exploration of a world that’s decidedly more sinister than it first appears. But you already know that if you survived the first episode! And it’s probably the reason you returned for the second.
Though I’m still uneasy about the whole children in danger idea…
I'll be in regular type, and Irina will be bold.
Did the second episode live up to the promise of the first? Is it a worthy successor in terms of suspense? Danger? Raw nerve and courage?
Let's just say that the scenes near the end gave me goosebumps. Not scared goosebumps. Impressed as hell goosebumps.
Irina, before we dive into this episode, any opening thoughts?
I continue to be smitten by the visuals. Those colours are the bestest. I’m pretty sure there was an OP last week but I think the episode overshadowed it because I had forgotten it entirely. It’s nice. I like the music. Very optimistic.
In contrast to that optimism, I had to feel bad for poor Emma! I don’t blame her for having a nightmare after seeing what she saw, but dang, the girl has got to get a game face! The first time she saw momma after the incident (you know, the big reveal at the end of the last episode? The one dealing with humans being livestock and such?), she looked positively stricken!
Emma, I know you're just a kid, but you're going to need to learn what "poker face" means! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
It was a great scene. You could taste the anxiety. She’s an eleven year old girl after all. All I could think was “be cool Em, just be cool”...
Good thing that Norman took her aside. That kid has nerves of steel! Given Emma’s general compassion for the kids, I sort of expected her to be the most freaked out, but I didn’t really expect Normal to be so cool and calculating.
That “cool and calculating” sure came in handy. I loved how the scene unfolded where Emma and Norman’s intellects fairly danced, one idea building on the last, until they had figured out they likely had two months to get themselves out of there. They were starting to feel a little more confident when they saw something that deflated them.
You know, this type of dystopian horror always works best when it’s almost plausible. Now the idea that the human brains are in fact the delicacy is interesting but the connection between the physical characteristics of the brain and actual intelligence is a bit more iffy.
Women’s brains are smaller on average but don’t decrease in weight as quickly. Height also has an impact. I noticed that Emma was in fact slightly taller than the boys and I’m wonderin if this was actually on purpose. If so, kickass!
Between the two of them, Norman and Emma were able to figure out a lot. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
What did you think, Irina, when mom pulled out what turned out to be a locator to helper her find a missing child -- and put Emma and Norman on notice that she could find them whenever she wanted?
I thought that Mama has to be one of the most terrifying villains I’ve seen in a long time. The disconnect between the visuals and the traditional nurturing role is really effective. I know this is a rather common trope, we’ve seen it a million times but it still works (at least for me). And doubly so since she IS nurturing, caring, tender… She does treat these children as her own… chilling.
Reminds me of growing up on the farm. You had to be gentle with the calves, and I’m sure that from the calves’ perspective, they thought they were being treated well. But fact it, we had to make sure we didn't bruise the veal...
Speaking of Mama, what’d you think of the scene where she confronted Emma? I thought for sure Emma was a goner! But you could just see her summon her courage and put on a smiling face!
That was my favourite scene in the episode (one of the best I’ve seen in awhile) -- the confrontation between Mother and Emma in the hallway. Emma had been fidgety and obviously still in shock all day but she pulled it together in a second. Not only was the turnaround disturbingly flawless but I liked how cruel she was. Sure they had marked mom as an enemy but Emma was twisting that knife with all her strength. She didn’t simply want to avoid getting found out, she was doing everything she could to hurt mom.
There was no thought that in a world of demons, Mother may not have that many options. No sympathy or compassion on that side. I’m not saying she should have any, it’s just worth keeping in mind that this same hero will gladly crush those in her way.
What is momma thinking? What're her motivations? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Man, I really hope the show develops that idea. What’s more terrifying than a Mama willing to sell “her” children for food? A Mama who does that because she has to -- backed up by the narrative showing us the plausible reasons.
Undeterred by the homing device and by Mama’s steely resolve, Emma and Norman continued their exploration. They found that beyond the useless waist-high wall surrounding their orphanage was an enormous concrete wall. They figured out they could use sheets to make rope. They were trying to figure out how to get everyone over the wall when Ray showed up.
I thought it was awesome how he just said, “Yo.”
As I watched two prepubescent children calmly plan their escape over a huge wall, I was reminded of Attack on Titan and how once again anime is going out of its way to point out that Walls Don’t Work….
Too bad the kids don’t have 3D maneuver gear!
Irina, did you have any concerns about Ray being there? Any thought he might betray them?
None, I think Ray is the saving grace. Emma’s impulsivity and stubbornness might get them in trouble and for some reason, I think that if anyone was going to throw them to the wolves, it would be Norman. He seems like the type that has a “switch”. Know what I mean?
Ray turned out to be almost terrifyingly smart. He knew there was more to their trip to the gate than they were telling him. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Like he was all suave-like? Able to hold a poker face? You have a great -- if scary! -- point there! I say scary because the people I've know with that skill? I had to watch them with both eyes.
If I thought Norman was cool and calculating, Ray was a computing machine. He immediately accepted their explanation about flesh-eating demons (making he momentarily suspicious!), but then he showed a brutally realistic side. Emma said that they had to take everyone with them, and Ray said absolutely not! He then described to her what it mean that demons were harvesting them: Namely, that there was an entire demon culture out there, and this farm was just a small part of it.
And Norman had already figured that out!
Were you as floored by that revelation as I was, Irina?
I sort of thought they had all already figured it out. I keep forgetting how young they are.
But I’ve always been wondering: what are you running to? I have a feeling it’s gonna get way worse before it gets better.
Ray had already figured out what awaits them outside the wall -- and he was adamant about what they had to do to survive. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Remember how I said the scenes near the end gave me goosebumps? To understand why, allow me to let you in on a secret. It’s a secret that flies in the face of the lone entrepreneur motif; the image of the lone cowboy, or the renegade politician changing everything.
You want to change the world? You want to lead a revolution? You need an exceptional second in command. You also need someone who gets things done -- and you don’t want to know how they did it. You can’t just go change the world; you need specific kinds of help.
Yes. And sacrifice.
Near the end of this episode, Ray’s freaking out. He can’t believe that Emma refuses to buy into the idea that just the three of them should escape. Too many kids will slow them down, he argues. There’s no way they can travel with that many kids.
And then Emma said something that forever marks her as the leader -- the moral foundation of their team.
“Let’s change the world.”
"Let's change the world," Emma says, much to Ray's consternation. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
She understood what Ray was saying. She didn’t dispute it. But instead of bowing to that reality, she looked reality straight in the eye and told it to eff off. She was going to be the shining example for others to follow.
Think she’s being an idealistic idiot? Norman -- her perfect executive officer -- thinks differently. Ray appealed to him to convince Emma, but he shared this with Ray: “Emma was crying. I thought she was crying because she was scared... Emma was crying because she was scared of her family dying…”
Emma knew, in the emotionally challenging aftermath of seeing what happened to Conny, what the stakes were. Her first thought was for her family and how to save them. The key idea here is that she understood what was going on. There’s no wishful thinking here; she knows the stakes.
The perfect executive officer (XO) has to be dedicated to their leader’s success. Norman explained his motivation to Ray when he said, “I like Emma, so that's why I want her to always be smiling."
Wasn’t that a beautiful moment, Irina?
This is what scares me. What happens on the day when Emma’s smile is no longer the priority. The conviction needs to go beyond any individual.
I like hopeless optimists. I root for the foolishly idealistic. But you know, mercy and kindness have a price. And if you can’t afford it, they turn into something very different.
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. She doesn’t want to lose anyone else. She doesn’t want to be sad. It’s great if she can save everyone. But what do you say to the dozens that died because she insisted on taking a bunch of toddlers along they have no guarantee they can even provide for.
Ray appealed to Norman but found Norman was backing Emma's vision to save everyone. Even still, what if Ray's right? What if it's impossible to save everyone? What will that do to Emma -- at a critical moment of decision? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
I’m playing devil’s advocate mind you. I don’t know which is the moral high ground. But mercy is a luxury only afforded by the strong. Let’s hope Emma is as strong as she is nice, otherwise, everyone will have to pay for it.
And I don’t see Norman telling her those hard truths. Ray pointed out that it was absolutely necessary for her to understand, but what was Norman’s plan? He was intentionally shielding her from reality. I think that a pretty terrible XO, if a nice friend.
Even if you’re playing devil’s advocate, there’s a stark truth there. Emma needs to step it up. She needs to rise far above herself, or they all fall. She's going to have to inspire her team to come up with a plan to do the impossible -- at least according to everything they know now. That’s the burden of leadership.
This scene showing Norman, Emma, and Ray’s argument had already impressed me -- it was an amazing insight into the dynamics of group politics! The show wasn’t done, though. Norman knew he’d snagged Ray’s interest, so he pressed his advantage. And then Ray said that he was onboard! The XO's job is to get people onboard; and Norman was doing that.
But real change often requires an additional component: someone who gets things done. Regardless of the cost, regardless of the morality. There’s a scene from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 5, episode 22. Buffy has just defeated Glory, one of the baddest bad asses Buffy had ever encountered. Glory had only one one weakness: she sometimes turned into Ben Wilkinson, a medical intern, who was a normal human. After Buffy wailed on her with a magical war hammer, she forced Glory to transform into Ben. But she didn’t have it in her heart to kill him. She showed him mercy and walked away.
Sounds like the dilemma you were just talking about, Irina!
But Giles? Her Watcher? He knew that Ben would eventually turn back into Glory. He knew that Buffy had to show mercy, because she’s the good guy, and she has to set an example. She’s the shining moral compass. But Giles knew her mercy couldn’t stand. He knew that Glory would reappear to attack them again.
“She’s a hero, you see,” Giles tells Ben. “She’s not like us.”
And he proceeds to suffocate Ben.
Emma's idealism won't be enough. She'll need someone to be her Giles. I suspect that'll be Ray. Capture from the Hulu stream.
Emma’s idealism, just like Buffy’s, needs a strong planner and supporter, just like Norman, to get things done above board. Both of them need someone who thinks like Ray (or Giles!) to take care of the rest.
At least, that’s my cynical take.
My considerably more cynical take was that Buffy was exhausted and things were winding down to The Gift, so she did something irresponsible and short sighted. She didn’t want to bother anymore. Where would that heroism be if Glory came back and murdered an entire town of innocents? Why would they have to die for Buffy to keep her precious idealism?
And yeah, Giles (Norman) acted out of love for the individual but what if some magic would have made Buffy completely immune to Glory? Would Giles have looked the other way? How’s that for cynical?
You know your Buffy -- nice! And what do I Giles would have done? What’s necessary. Whatever form that would take.
What I hope Ray will do. What I fear he will have to do.
Back to The Promised Neverland (though now I want to review Buffy!), after this scene, for the first time in this series, I thought that these kids just might have a chance. And then the second “momma” showed up.
Uh oh! Mama got reinforcements! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
What do you think, Irina? Was my optimism premature?
Well, just like an extra ally can be a destabilizing element and a potential traitor, the same goes for the other side. These are monstrously smart children, they may be able to use the turn around to their advantage. To me though, I was wondering how they would expect to take an actual baby along. Talk about a handicap!
And we’re only to episode 2!
I wonder if I can keep my resolution not to read the manga...