There’s no saving The Promised Neverland
What They Say:
The Grace Field House trio comes to an ideological impasse – Norman plans to annihilate the demons and Emma seeks out an answer that doesn’t require bloodshed. Episode 7 feels like it could have made for a gripping installment in an alternate timeline. It’s honestly baffling that such a high-profile series from Shonen Jump could be mishandled to this degree.
Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
After episode 6’s slog of an exposition circus, episode 7 follows suit with another dialogue-heavy, revisionist entry. As if Norman’s magical “kill all the demons” drug wasn’t enough of a deus ex machina, it’s revealed that Mujika is the equivalent of an Uno reverse card. Her blood has properties that eliminate the degenerative blight that afflicts the demons. But according to Norman, Mujika and her followers were killed by the King and his Noblemen long ago. The way he and Ray explain it, such a gift would disrupt the order of this world. Without a way to cure their degeneration, the demons were dependent on the meat, completely controlled and regulated by the farms. Emma was seeking a solution that would avoid conflict, but the rules of this world wouldn’t allow it. There are 1000 years of bad blood on both sides – the conflict between humans and demons is unavoidable, as much as Emma hates to admit it. Her way of thinking is, and always has been, extremely idealistic. Norman’s way of thinking also hadn’t changed – he always aimed for the answer with the best chance of success and killing all the demons was his solution. With no other options, Emma offers a proposition: she and Ray would find Mujika and bring her to Norman so long as he delays his plan for the time being. Norman agrees to the deal.
I’m not sure exactly what Emma hopes to prove by bringing Mujika to Norman because he seems dead set on his annihilation plan. Norman returns to his Lambda crew and gives them a recap of his conversation with Emma. Of course, they don’t take the news well. The Lambda kids have no reason to empathize with the demons – humans are merely lab rats and food in their eyes. And the effects of countless experiments continue to grow more extreme. If they wanted to reap vengeance on the demons, the clock was ticking. Norman assures them that everything was going according to plan. He wouldn’t back down; this deep in the game, he couldn’t. If Emma brings Mujika, they will kill her.
In a vacuum, this scene isn’t all that bad. The black-and-white moral dilemma isn’t anything special, but Norman and Ray both brought up interesting points about demon/human society that help the worldbuilding and set up a compelling story beat. The problem is that we arrived here with almost zero setups, atop the corpse of a story that could have been great. Norman’s re-insertion was so mismanaged and underdeveloped, to the point where his gridlock with Emma feels extremely forced. We still have zero insight into what happened with Norman, yet now he’s the antagonist and we’ve already reached endgame territory for the plot. They really just put Norman back in the story to cherry-pick pieces from the manga and boil them down to a single sentence of dialogue. At every turn, Norman makes the first half of the season feel extremely pointless. Oh, you know that gate to the human world that Ray and Emma found in Minerva’s pen? Norman informs them that it was destroyed. Also, Minerva and all his followers are gone. Okay? So what was the point of anything that happened in the bunker? Oh, don’t worry, there’s still a gate to the human world, but it’s underneath Grace Field House! How many times will the writers retcon and rush huge story elements before they’re satisfied? What’s even the end goal of the adaption anymore (if you can even still call it an adaption)? The saddest part is that a lot of these plot devices would be acceptable if we were given ANY sort of context. It honestly boggles my mind the way this story continues to fumble.
Emma and Ray return to the children to tell them about their plan. At first, they can’t understand what Emma was thinking, going against Norman’s plan and sympathizing with the demons. But once she hits them with the “humans and demons aren’t so different after all” line, they start to come around. Emma, Ray, Gilda, and Don had five days to find Mujika, but is that even enough time? We pan back to Norman coughing up blood. The Lambda experiments have taken their toll. There wasn’t much time left. He must act soon.
And just as a cherry on top, the episode ends with a flashback to the day Norman left Grace Field House. Finally, we might get a glimpse at what Norman saw that day at the gate! But no, we couldn’t even get that much. It’s literally the same scene from season one. The only thing they added was a single piece of dialogue of a character greeting Norman from off-screen. What a slap in the face.
It really hurts to see The Promised Neverland get neutered like this. While the music has been great and the animation fine for such static scenes, the plot is basically unsalvageable. I’m not sure exactly what’s happening over at CloverWorks or how Shirai approved of this script, but it’s what we’ve been given. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a series finale this season. I see no way for them to add the content they skipped, and I don’t think they intend to. What a waste.