The older kids venture out into the woods to find Sonju and Mujika. They believe if they can find them in time, they can stop Norman’s terrible plans from coming to fruition. Norman relives the torment from his days in the lab and decides to enact his revenge on the demon town. What will Emma and Co. do?!
The previous episodes had the issue of choosing to do “tell not show” style storytelling. Few things are less engaging than a bunch of people standing around talking out the plot to you. Episode 8 does give us some backstory on Norman and his fugitive comrades. Apparently Norman (like Isabella) is a genius, and wasting his fine mind on a dinner plate is not what the demons had in store. Instead, the lab facility he is sent to seems to be all about experimenting on these kids for the sake of making new, more refined meat. We’re also introduced to the white haired guy from the intro. I was wondering who he was and when he was going to show up.
Like numerous other things in this season’s plot, the lab flashback is barely on-screen long enough for me to feel the anguish Norman and the others feel. Yes, the sequences are terrible and I feel bad for Norman. I barely know these other kids though. I can’t get immediately attached to them just because them come in a Norman shaped package.
While the show has slowly careened into “generic trope” territory, I still felt like there was wiggle room for depth. Norman was shaping up to be “Martyr Hitler”. His genius mind fused with his humanity stripping abuse in the lab had him primed for such a role. There was a tragic beauty in the conflict between himself and the rest of the Grace Field crew. He feels like he shipped himself out to save them. It was he who paved the way, with the understanding he could have died in the process. Now that he’s come back, he’s trying to build a world where his family can be happy. That misguided sense of justice could have worked because we are all attached to the core trio of Emma/Norman/Ray.
I could dwell on issues like pacing or logistics, but I don’t want to keep retreading the same ground in these reviews. Instead I want to touch on what I feel is an overarching problem here in Promised Neverland Season 2: Commitment. The writers simply don’t have it.
– Let’s introduce Isabella again…and do nothing with her…(guaranteed she will show up later just to send the kids on the run again and make us wait for Season 3…)
– Let’s have the kids find a shelter and uncover the mysteries of William Minerva. Nope, we’re done with that in AN EPISODE.
And now…it’s Norman’s turn. He turns softie the minute he hears Emma’s name (don’t even get me started on how dumb it is that the demon grandpa named his granddaughter Emma…WHAT?!?!). All his conviction, all his intentions, all of the well done chilling imagery of himself and his comrades watching their bioweapon go off in the demon town and rip families apart, all of it…gone. He melts into a puddle of crybaby and Emma arrives to make it alright with her optimism face.
Yes, I acknowledge there’s a tie-in in there where Norman hears the grandpa demon say to demon Emma “Even if I die, I want you to survive”. Norman, for a second, likely sees he and the demons are more alike than he thinks. That’s a strong piece but there’s no execution on it. There was a theme in Promised Neverland of people doing terrible or tragic things just to survive. The world is harsh and nobody gets everything they want. I would have expected the writers to make Norman pick the choice he’s been set up to make. Destruction for the sake of his family. A later retrospective from him where he remembers demons and humans can feel similarly about their families would have had so much more impact. It’s the horrors of war. Your side vs the other. Only one side can make it out of this conflict.
Emma is somehow getting everything she wants. What’s next? We march over to Grace Field and save all the kids left behind with no resistance?! Then we keep marching and save ALL THE KIDS FOREVER?! We save all the demons with Super Blood Deus Ex Plot Device?! I’m not a morbid person, but there’s something to be said for these characters having to learn or behave true to the harshness of the world around them. The world we were presented with in Season 1. When do they have to make tough choices here?! When we are going to pick something and stick with it?!
I have one final theory courtesy of my husband. Mujika has super blood because she’s a cannibal. There’s a poetic tragedy to that that could shake up Emma’s world and make her understand you can’t get everything for nothing.
Episode 8 continues to make me concerned about this season’s ability to commit to any one storyline. I don’t know what happened here, but we need to pick something and genuinely stick with it. The flashback scenes from Norman’s time in the lab and the scene where Norman unleashes his bio weapon are strong. They were tough to watch, but they were also so short lived that it’s hard to get the full impact.