The Promised Neverland Episode #11 Review

Synopsis: Emma, Ray and Norman are the three smartest children at an orphanage known as Grace Field House. Under the care and guidance of their caretaker known as “Mom”, the children live peaceful lives, with the one condition being that they are never to go beyond the gate that leads to outside of the orphanage. However one day, Emma and Norman discover the truth of what lies beyond the gate, and it’s one that will change their lives forever

The Review

We’re one episode away from the end the season, and Neverland has one last trail of material to blaze through as it speeds towards the finish line. “Blaze” being in the literal sense as the kids prepare to enact one last plan to outwit Isabella and its pretty lit to say the least. There’s a lot material packed into this week’s events and with the amount of reversed expectations this one is packing, it’s the one of the hottest episodes yet.  

Alright I’m pretty sure I’ve expended about as many fire puns as I could think of, so might as well get down to talking about the source. As Emma tells Ray that she hasn’t yet given up on escaping, she reveals that she’s only pretended to have lost hope to throw Isabella off Don and Gilda’s trail and give them time to prepare everything for the escape. Ray meanwhile, has apparently been working on a plan of his own for a while now, and suggests to Emma that the best method of escape would be to set fire to the orphanage and flee with the rest of the kids in the confusion. While he’s still against the idea of taking the others, he acknowledges that Emma won’t budge on her convictions and decides to respect her wishes, even if he hopes she’ll reconsider. With how dead set Ray has been on abandoning the rest of the kids, it seems a little strange that he’d be willing to budge in the final act, but it all makes sense when we discover what Ray truly plans to do.  

When Emma mentions that Isabella might prioritize securing the kids over stopping a potential fire, Ray reveals that he’s come up with a contingency plan for that: setting himself on fire to distract her. In truth, Ray never planned on escaping with Norman and Emma to begin with, as he had given up on the hope of being freed from the farm system ages ago, and feels weighed down by the lives of his siblings who he’s helped to kill in the pursuit of securing Norman and Emma’s safety. Seeing as up to this point, Ray’s been presented as a cold, if understandable, pragmatist, discovering that he has so little regard for his own life is a pretty big twist to say the least, and yet it also explains quite a bit about some of his behavior in previous episodes. For as much as Ray has preached about the efficiency in abandoning the others to survive we’ve also seen moments where he’s clearly more concerned about the other kids than that attitude would suggest, and combining that with this revelation puts Ray’s world view into full perspective. His focus on pragmatism isn’t because he actually thinks it’ll help him survive, but rather because he’s convinced himself that his situation is utterly hopeless, and that if he’s going to die anyway, sacrificing himself for his loved ones is better than clinging to a sense of hope that may not exist, the latter of which he expressed concern to Norman with back in episode 5. Much like Isabella’s scene with Emma last week, this revelation also ties in pretty heavily with the story’s themes regarding the emptiness in a life built on sacrificing others to survive, and while Ray may frame his suicide attempt as an act of rebellion, it’s more an admission of defeat.  

Much as I really like this concept thematically though, in execution I was once again a little let down by how the anime directed this scene. While Ray is clearly letting all his emotions loose in this moment, it felt a little too over dramatic for what the moment needed and the heavy orchestral music playing in the background took what should have been a poignant, or at the very least terrifying moment, and made it feel slightly goofy. Like with most of my complaints about the anime’s sense of direction I wouldn’t say this outright failed in what it needed to do, but tonally I kinda wish they’d swapped this scene around with how Krone’s death was portrayed. I’m willing to admit I’m particularly biased on this one though, so hopefully it still managed to get the point across to new anime viewers.  

Important as that moment is though, what follows is no less significant as when the fire starts and Isabella attempts to rescue Ray, she realizes she’s been played. While Ray might have thought he was doing a good job of hiding his intentions, Norman caught on to Ray’s suicide plan from the very beginning and gave Emma a warning to stop him before he got the chance to follow through on it. This catches Ray off guard and forces him to properly join in the escape, but it’s not the only surprise in store for him: It also turns out that Emma decided to bring the rest of the kids in on the true nature of the orphanage, and they’ve all been working on the escape plan during the two months Emma was pretending to do nothing. That development not only works as a great twist, but it’s also a pretty great rebuttal to Ray’s (and to a lesser extent Isabella’s) viewpoint. He wrote the other kids off as being dead weight who wouldn’t be able to handle the reality of their situation, but they’re clearly willing to face this reality head on, and are already doing their part to contribute, rather than surrendering to their circumstances the same way he and Isabella did. In the end, despite their insistence on it, Ray and Isabella’s pragmatism is ultimately limiting to their livelihood rather than helpful, and while it’s not yet clear how much this lesson has sunk in for Ray, it certainly hasn’t for Isabella who still believes she can salvage the situation before the kids finish their escape. With only one episode to go, and Phil, apparently staying with Isabella rather than fleeing with the others, its up to the finale to determine whose views will prevail, and more importantly: if the kids are alright.

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