Originally, this should have been done by the end of the first season back in 2019, but the combination of a lack of writing motivation and the manga providing even more supplementary material for this article than expected (and many more potential ones in the future, really) has led to this being finished in time for season two finally premiering, which is the perfect time to bring this out of the woodwork. Spoiler warnings will also be given when referencing future events from the manga.
At the start of The Promised Neverland, Ray appears to be just a quiet, if somewhat cynical, boy who’d rather read alone than play with the other kids. After being “filled in” on the secret of Grace Field House by Emma and Norman as well as their escape plan, the reveal that he not only had been secretly a spy to Mom, Isabella, and was lowkey sabotaging their plan had been, to say the least, a great shock to both Norman and the audience. Rather than just keeping quiet and cutting him off when he wasn’t useful anymore like he would have done, Norman decides to keep him in with the plan. What would have led him to handle Ray in such a way?
Many past articles on this website have discussed in detail the importance of grace for those in the position of giving it. Of course, the receiver, too, and even primary, is impacted. To consider how Ray was effected, it’s important to note three particulars about him from the first arc:
- How he learned the secret of Grace Field House
- His identity as a spy for Isabella and why he chose to be one
- What he planned to do in order to let Emma and Norman escape the House
As it was shown in later chapters and in The First Shot side story, Ray’s lack of infantile amnesia, while undoubtedly helpful, brought him much stress at a young age. Given what he eventually figured out about the House and his actual blood relation to Isabella as her son, he developed a semblance of learned helplessness and guilt from being unable to save the other children being “adopted” out of the House to be eaten by demons.
With that said, however, while he eventually thought it impossible to save all the children in the house, he was still driven enough to try to save his two closest friends from that same fate. In order for him to accomplish both of those goals, his plan involved selling himself out to Isabella and acting as her spy for the sake of discreetly gathering information and equipment (Isabella later calls him “a liar and a traitor” for his actions). In doing so, however, he also indirectly used the other children in ways that either possibly risked them getting killed earlier than planned (with his experiments on the tracking devices in their ears) or caused a massive betrayal of trust and hurt once revealed (as in the case with Norman and Don), which may have increased his guilt even further. Add all of that with his general spite towards the adults and the demons, and we almost get to see the ultimate culmination of his six-year-long plan: a breakout caused by setting himself and the House on fire.
Emma, however, had something else planned for him.
Emma’s caring personality is often criticized by some both inside and out of the story as being too naïve or unrealistic for the situation the kids are currently in. Due to his own hope and optimism dying off over the past few years, her desire to bring everyone along in the escape had been thought of by Ray as a fantasy and a roadblock for his plan, especially with Norman supporting her. However, it’s also this same love and care that allows her to extend grace to him which, ultimately, saves him by the end of the first arc.
The first instance of Emma’s grace saving Ray happens just before Norman confronts him about being the traitor. In that instance, Norman takes Emma aside and asks her, hypothetically, what she would do if there really was a child among them that sold them out to the demons. Her answer, while expected, holds a surprising amount of depth in her reasoning. Even in the face of betrayal, she still cares enough to want to look after the safety and well-being of even those who’ve hurt her. And not only that, Emma’s willing to bank her trust on the spy’s goodness precisely on the fact that, in spite of everything, they’d still be a child who she’s known and lived together with for years. This is enough to soften Norman’s stance on dealing with Ray and give him another chance, instead of just planning to use him until it became inconvenient.
Even after Ray told her himself that he was the spy, Emma was still forgiving enough to understand how much he had been struggling behind the scenes. That being said, just because she was willing to give Ray a second chance, it doesn’t mean that she’s blind to the possibility that he might do something behind her back again (and he certainly wasn’t sincere either when he told her he changed his mind then). So she leaves him with a warning near the end of their conversation:
Despite mercy being shown him after outing himself as the spy, Ray still continues with his own plans up until the night before his 12th birthday. Fortunately for him, Emma and Norman’s steadfastness with their plan still gives him another chance that saved him from a fate he cursed himself to later on.
Emma’s graciousness shows up once again as she foils Ray’s suicide attempt. Having been made aware of the plan beforehand by a letter from Norman after he was shipped out, she and the other children who learned the House’s secret quietly worked behind the scenes to prepare for their actual escape plan. From the moment when she caught the lit match to when they crossed over the chasm to the forest, Emma and the other kids were more than willing to bring Ray along, taking measures such as making a dummy to put in the fire in his place to fool Isabella. Another point worth mentioning is that some of the kids also sacrificed some thing or part of themselves in order to ensure the escape wouldn’t fail: Norman with his chance to escape Grace Field a few months back, Anna as she cuts her long hair for the dummy, and Emma with her left ear as the tracker inside it serving as another distraction tactic for Isabella. It’s due to this that he was able to witness a radical experience (“I’ll show you something cool, so shut up and come.”) which then led to a radical transformation.
The success of the escape from Grace Field almost immediately hearkens a change within Ray. When the kids finally get a moment of rest in the forest, he has a private conversation with Emma, repentant over how he felt and acted before with the others, now knowing how much they are willing to do for him. He finishes his thoughts with a promise to Emma:
“Emma, I’ll live. I’ll live and protect this family. Everyone in this family, just like you. This time, for sure I vow. No matter what happens, I’ll never abandon them again. So you don’t have to bear the burden all on your own. We’ll create it together…a world where we can live as a family. All of us.”
[Manga Spoilers for the Next 4 Paragraphs Ahead]
While Ray may fall back on old cynical habits in stressful situations later in the story, they often end up being short-lived, especially as he puts more of his trust in Emma and her decisions. Even at times when he may not understand them, he’s now more open to and supportive of possibilities he would have once brushed off that actually work, as was shown in his and Emma’s trip to the Seven Walls. His outlook in life is much more hopeful now, and he becomes more openly caring to the people around him in his own way. Through living beyond when he thought he would die, Ray opens himself up to more opportunities where his own strengths were able to contribute in saving all the cattle children in the long run.
It should also be noted that Emma’s grace doesn’t just start and end with Ray. Isabella also becomes one of many other links in this chain, especially since her own radical experience (watching the children successfully escape the farm) gave her renewed hope that the entire system can be destroyed, which drove her to help with it through her promotion as the new Grandma. After Emma’s group successfully took over Grace Field from Peter Ratri, Emma offers Isabella and the other women the opportunity to come with them to the human world as she has already included them in her promise deal with The One. The women, wracked by their own guilt and shame, choose to stay behind. Ray, however, had some words to say to that:
“Get over it already. You were sick of this, right? If you have regrets, take care of them in the human world. I’m glad I’m alive. It’s because I’m alive that I can atone for my sins and clear my conscience. It’s fine. No one will resent anyone. We’re not holding grudges. So let’s go. All of you, with us.”
Ray, who until then had such complicated feelings for his mother to the point of calling her a monster, decides to let go of all that and extend forgiveness to offer her the chance to make things right. This action, as well as with how the younger children were so willing to plead with the other women to come by hugging them, shakes Isabella down to her core. With her burden finally lifted off her shoulders, she accepts the offer, and was even willing to lay her life down for the children when a rogue demon employee tried to kill them in a rampage. Other different case examples can be made with Norman in the midst of him seemingly succeeding with his demon genocide plan, and Peter Ratri as he tries to maintain the status quo of the previous promise. However, the latter deals more on when the recipient decides to coldly reject the offer of grace, as he, in true Javert-esque fashion, would rather off himself on the spot than accept the chance to come with Emma to help the rest of the cattle children in the human world.
[Spoilers End Here]
As it is shown from the story itself, in the midst of the cruel and terrifying world that she’s stuck in, the love and compassion Emma shows even to her enemies or those who betray her is something that has the potential to transform into something impossible and incredible by the ending. An act of grace, however small or seemingly useless as it may seem at the time, can form small ripples which can change the course of at least one person’s life for the better. And as those waves reach more and more people, this can bring about a great change and giant waves in the end. This is as much true within the story of TPN as it is in real life, and it is through this we would be able to show the saving love that God has shown to us to those who also need it the most.