It feels like The Promised Neverland staff clocked out early this week.
What They Say:
Norman’s return marks the turning point for season two and maps out an inevitable conflict on the horizon. But the lightspeed pacing and heavy exposition killed any chance of feeling invested. Episode six is the most prevalent example of this adaption’s shortcomings.
Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Norman’s back, which means the Grace Field House trio are reunited at last. At this point in the season, his reveal came out of left field, but I was willing to put that discontent aside. How did Norman survive? What has he been up to all this time? These burning questions needed answers and maybe (just maybe) those answers could satisfy the decision to bring Norman back now. All I can say about what comes next is this – My disappointment is immeasurable, and my day is ruined.
Norman gathers the whole family around the fire to get everyone up to speed. And boy does he have a lot to say. In the next five minutes, Norman hits us with a wall of exposition, monologuing enough content to fill out a whole season. Within the timeframe of what Ray and Emma have accomplished in season 2 (which is very little), Norman escaped a test facility, saved kids from other farms, figured out the demons’ have a degenerative Achilles Heel and created a drug that could wipe out all of the demons. Excuse me? This scene alone broke so many rules for writing good television. Most people are familiar with “show, don’t tell”, which was the biggest offender by far. There is a time and a place for verbal exposition, but this was just so incredulously ham-fisted. We went from Emma and the gang struggling to get by in the demon world, to them deciding whether they should genocide all the demons or not. I originally had faith in this anime’s adaption because apparently, the anime-original direction was in response to the manga’s rushed ending. But instead, they decided to… rush it even faster? I’m almost completely at a loss for words the more I try to analyze this episode.
Speaking of demon genocide, Emma is not a fan. She and Ray discuss Norman’s plan in private as they search for an alternative. What about demons like Mujika? Maybe there was some crucial detail Norman was missing in his plan. But after a roundabout conversation, they realize there is no right answer. The fight between demons and humans is unavoidable. Nevertheless, it doesn’t sit right with Emma, so at the very least, Ray encourages her to discuss it with Norman. I have no problem with this conversation, save for the fact that this same moral dilemma was tackled to a much better degree in the manga content that was cut. Goldy Pond compelled Emma to come to terms with killing demons and forced her to confront those actions with her own hands. Norman’s deus ex machina drug is such an extreme leap that it completely undermines Emma’s ethical struggle.
Ray and Emma trek to Norman’s hideout and have a conversation with his allies. It becomes immediately clear that Norman is not the same sweet soul they once knew. Emma and Ray’s idea of Norman is a mirror image of what his allies see him as, and their own convictions will give you an idea of what that implies. They are fully onboard with exterminating all the demons. From their point of view, it makes sense – they’ve lived their entire lives as food to the demons, this was a natural reaction in the cycle of revenge. Still, Emma believed there could be another way. When Norman finally arrives, Ray and Emma bring up the possibility of an exception – maybe there are demons that won’t degenerate? What happens to the demons that are an exception to Norman’s plan? Suddenly Norman gets a grim look on his face. He knows exactly who they’re talking about. As the episode comes to an end, he utters the line, “The Evil-Blooded girl is still alive?”
That final line was maybe the one saving grace of this episode. It gives me hope that we might actually get to see Norman’s backstory and his ties to Mujika next episode. But aside from that final moment, this episode was the epitome of bad adaption. I honestly can’t fathom what is going on in that writer’s room for them to have churned this one out.