The Promised Neverland Episode 2 Review
After one of the best premiere episodes I’ve seen in a long time, episode 2 of The Promised Neverland had a lot to live up to, and while I can’t say it 100% did, it was still a very solid episode that has definitely moved the plot and characters along nicely while still managing to ooze atmosphere and tension. The majority of the episode focuses on Norman and Emma considering how they are going to escape as Mother gives a few indications that she’s got her eye on them and messes with their heads a little, before Ray joins the two in their plans. It doesn’t sound all that exciting but much like with episode 1 it is all about the execution. (Some spoilers below.)
However, this is where I did pick a few faults this week. Where episode one had the consistent clock motif throughout the episode, and that is still present in episode 2, a lot of the visual effects this week seem a little disjointed or don’t seem to quite hit the mark. Notably early in the episode where Emma is sitting up in her bed and we seem to be looking at her from the clock’s perspective and the scene sways back and forth like a pendulum. It is kind of clear they are trying to show us how unsettled she is and how unstable things are and yet mostly I just felt queasy and like the scene went on too long. It didn’t pack enough emotional impact for the time it took.
The second effect that I had to look at a couple of times and still didn’t really click with was when Mother and the other children walk past Norman and Emma back into the house and they are trailed by after images. I’m not entirely sure what tone this was supposed to hit but it was another moment where it didn’t draw me into the scene but rather pushed me out of the moment and had me puzzling why they went with that effect rather than following the characters and the scene.
Though, with the exception of those sequences, I really liked how this episode was put together. Again we have some very interesting angles used on the characters to show their emotions and relative power, there’s a lot of thought put into the music and sound, and mostly the pacing works exceptionally well at making you feel uncomfortable and waiting for the next moment and then lingers just that little bit longer before moving on.
For me, Emma was the real champion of this episode. Not so much because I like her as a character. She’s pretty generic in terms of the big sister character who wants to be cheerful and protect her family. I like her more because of what she has done for the plot.
Because of Emma and her shock and inability to just act like nothing happened, Mother seems suspicious of Emma and Norman. This is the first factor that escalates tension in this episode and ensures we are very carefully watching Mother all throughout the episode to see if she actually knows or is just suspicious. If Norman alone had been the one to find out about Conny, there’d be nothing happening in a lot of these scenes because he’s beautifully playing the role of someone who has no knowledge.
Also, the escape plan that Emma and Norman are cooking up involves saving everyone. All of the children. As Ray points out when he is included in the conversation, that’s stupid. It is nearly impossible and even if they all escape how will they survive afterwards. And honestly, Emma, Norman and Ray believably could escape in a couple of days after snooping around some. But then, where would the excitement be?
No, Emma puts her foot down hard and insists everyone is going to escape. She won’t sacrifice anyone. And Norman sides with Emma because despite being super-logical, he likes Emma and he’s 12. Emma’s decision and her lack of consideration for any compromise, turns what is already a steep task into one that might be insurmountable.
For other shows wanting to raise emotional and narrative stakes, take notes from The Promised Neverland. You don’t have to randomly and gruesomely kill off your cast to make things seem more dangerous. Yes, this anime did kill a character in episode one to establish the overall stakes, but without a single drop of blood being shed, episode 2 managed to build on that drama and craft a compelling path for the story to take. I am very much looking forward to where this story goes from here.
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The Promised Neverland, Vol. 1
- Episode 1: The Promised Neverland’s First Episode Promises Much, Will It Deliver?
- Episode 2: Why Emma’s Lack of Compromise is Both Foolish and Brilliant
- Images from: The Promised Neverland. Dir. M Kanbe. CloverWorks. 2019.