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.
Episode eight of The Promised Neverland is, in a sense, all about traps. Securely laid, several characters walk right into them in this episode. And tightly written and directed, we as an audience walk into them as well.
The first half of the episode is an unexpected resolution to the end of episode seven. What will happen to Krone? The “goodbye” whispered by Isabella to her during the previous episode indicates that she is to become a mother at another farm. But Krone isn’t happy with the revelation—she is frustrated at being bested by Isabella once again. And that frustration, combined with her generally poor mental health, leads Krone to make a bad choice, which is that she believes Isabella. In truth, though, Krone is not going a farm, as is revealed when she meets with “Grandma,” an older and apparently more powerful, wiser, and everything else version of Mama. Grandma trusts Isabella and knows that even with the truth revealed, she’ll keep the children under control; Krone, on the other hand, is the real problem, and is dealt with viciously—by becoming a victim herself.
The episode’s second half is focused on Isabella and could have been entitled “Mama Strikes Back.” In a six-against-one effort, it looked as if the cards were starting to stack against her, but Isabella reveals just how intelligent she is—and how ruthless. It begins with Ray, to whom she reveals that Krone has been eliminated and that she knows he is a traitor, before locking him up. She also tells him this as she goes to enact her plan:
The foreshadowing in the above line is interesting. We’re left to wonder what she means by that—what is it that Mama will do? I also considered similar wording involving forgiveness in Jesus’ words during his torture—”Father, forgiven them, for they know not what they do.” There’s a staggering juxtaposition there, probably unintentional, between Christ calling down forgiveness on those executing him and Isabella feigning in an request for forgiveness to do something terrible:
Isabella: Please forgive me for the things I’m about to do.
Jesus: Father, forgive them, for they know what they do.
And indeed, Isabella does not one but those things which are egregious. The first is shocking in its brutality. Isabella demonstrates that she’s no administrator sitting far away in an office while others do her dirty work as she breaks one of Emma’s legs. In one swift action, she physically shows the children what they already should know—Mama is evil and in all ways above them, a considerable and impossible foe. Her power in overwhelming the athletic Emma also recalls the sad flashbacks during Krone’s ultimate scene, where we see how strong she becomes in learning to survive as a mother-in-training. That scene is also reminding us that Isabella must be strong, too, stronger perhaps than the very powerful Krone.
We as an audience should have known this was coming, that Isabella was not in a corner after all. Maybe you did know—I didn’t. I was completely snookered into believing that Isabella was being incapacitated to some extent by Ray’s double (triple?)-cross. However, Krone’s flashbacks, and one showing Grandma recruiting what appears to be Isabella when she was young, help us to remember that Isabella was probably just as genius as a child as Norman is, and now, in wisdom must have surpassed and lapped them all many times around.
That scene also supports the assertion Isabella makes to Norman and Emma before she takes action, that this life they’re living is the best alternative. In a scene reminiscent to the red pill / blue pill conundrum set forth in The Matrix, Mama tells the two that they’re better off just living as a family, even if its for a short time. Pick the happy lie rather than the horrible truth, because it’s a cheerful life, she argues, and the death they’ll have is quick (It’s important to note that we don’t see Krone eaten; a flower is placed in her, as with Conny, and she apparently dies, her blood drained into the petals); besides, the world at large is unsafe as well. We also know that if Emma becomes a mom, she’ll suffer a horrible existence, as Krone did. It’s a well-crafted argument.
But Emma and Norman will have none of it, which leads to Mama’s bone-crunching tactic. And then in front of the five children, she does a second terrible thing: Isabella reveals that Norman’s shipping date has been set. Whether it’s literally tomorrow, which in intimated, or not, it’s coming soon, which begs the question: Will Norman really be sent off? There are a few options here. If the date is a few days off, it’s possible that he might escape by himself (though not with everyone—it will take Emma time to heal, eliminating that possibility). Or more likely, he will be shipped off, a move that is consistent with what’s happened thus far and setting the stage for more horror and more surprises.
I’m hopeful that we’ll have more of the latter—surprise—than the former, horror. We need a revelation that is kind to the children and kind to us viewers.
But I fear relief is a long ways away.
The Promised Neverland can be streamed on Crunchyroll.