This season, Beneath the Tangles will be offering dual posts each week for The Promised Neverland, one for viewers who are new to the series and one for those who have read the manga. This post is for beginners and will only include spoilers up to the episode being discussed. We ask that you avoid any spoilers from the manga if you comment below. If you would like to discuss spoilers and other content from the manga, please read thathilomgirl’s posts for the series.
Can I just say…this episode is just not fair? How could it leave us with that cliffhanger, and this early in the season when we know so little that literally anything can go?
Alright, breathe, just breathe…we’ll get to the ending in a minute, but first, let’s see how we got there.
Episode four of The Promised Neverland continues down the path of previous ones—plans are hatched, problems revealed, and solutions developed. While Ray, Norman, and Emma train the children through tag (this time by splitting the teams up and using signals to communicate), they also concentrate on weeding out the spy among the kids. While the group suspect Phil because of his test scores and other factors, Norman suggests both that they reveal the truth to Don and Gilda and investigate them to see if one is the working for Mama.
And so develops the sense of paranoia that especially fills this episode. Scenes more reminiscent of The Great Escape are eschewed in favor of Resident Evil-like cuts, with the children’s point of view taking front and center as they walk through darkened hallways, unsure who their enemies are. This is especially effective when we discover that there may be multiple spies, and as we follow Gilda to her midnight meeting with Krone, who is growing more and more crazed as she hatches a scheme. But Norman lays the best trap, one that doesn’t quite make sense at first (after all, even if they catch Don or Gilda, won’t they in turn be caught?), but which we go with because the scene in which he explains it is too quick—we can’t pause long enough to consider it fully—and because Ray is fairly quick to accept it. Of course, that’s the whole point. After all, Norman already knows who the spy is.
And he already knows that they’ve been caught.
Norman and Ray have been treated as if they’re matches with one another in intelligence, but the truth is, both are different types of smart. Ray is an engineer, a scientist, but he’s not methodical. He’s not a traditional thinker, and he doesn’t connect the dots. But Norman, the chess player, does, and he entraps Ray, like an adult setting up a child. Ray cannot compete in this game—he steals the rope under Norman’s bed, when doing so doesn’t make any sense at all. Why would Don have stolen it and identified himself (or at least that he’s one of two suspects) when he simply had to report about it? Would not have Mama explained that to him? Without such adult guidance, Ray makes a childish decision, and Norman takes advantage of it.
But the episode ends with Ray still in shock at Norman’s accusation, and yet to admit to the truth, and so we’re left to wonder, is Ray really the spy? I would say, no, he’s not a spy—he’s something a little different. He is a traitor.
Early in the episode, Ray tells Emma to suspect everyone. He later consistently uses the term, “traitor,” which was first applied by Norman. It’s an odd choice of words, though, for Ray, the voracious reader. The idea of one of the children being a “spy” makes sense, as if manipulated by Mama into doing the task. But a traitor knows of a plan, deceives his colleagues, and goes to the other side. There are only three characters able to take on this role—Emma, Norman, and Ray. The final member of the group is too desperate to live, too worried about taking the risk, too hopeless—he will do what he needs to in order to live. After all, this is about life and death. If it’s between everyone dying and everyone except for him dying, he’ll take the latter; that’s just rational thinking.
The final portion of the episode is breakneck in speed—in fact, for an episode without any real action, the entirety of it felt this way. But from the scene where Norman talks to Emma about what do with a traitor until the final reveal, we’re left breathless. That conversation prepares us, though we think it’s for a far-off event, probably involving Don. Of course, it has to do with what’s to immediately transpire. Emma, the conscience of the group (and an important balance to Norman, who is as devious as Mama in his own way), is able to flip her friend’s mentality.
I wonder what would have happened if Norman hadn’t spoken to Emma first before confronting Ray, or if Emma made the comment that the traitor should be left behind. Would Norman have made plans to leave Ray and to continue to manipulate him? Doing so would be very difficult. Would Norman have eventually killed Ray?
Fortunately, a new route seems to opening. Norman will use Ray’s desperation to survive to turn him. We’ll gather more details in the next episode, I assume, but I wonder if Ray has even reported on Emma (could he be saving more than himself in his deal with Mama?), with my point being that I believe Norman will also appeal to his goodness, which if not at the forefront now, will apply as the series moves forward. Ray will become a centerpiece in all this—he’s not just the third voice and mechanic; he will now be a double agent, feeding Mama subtle and bad information. And so the tides will turn—the all-knowing enemy will start losing ground, maybe enough so that an escape will be possible. Maybe hope will exist.
And that’s the genius of Norman—a centimeter from the fire now will put them a mile away when it counts. He only must trust his mind and continue to stay a step ahead, lest he and everyone else get burned.
The Promised Neverland can be streamed on Crunchyroll.