Emma and Ray manage to talk Norman down from his genocidal plan, and Norman does the same with his fellow Lambda survivors. Mujika and Sonju use their blood to save and immunize the villagers, and everyone returns to the temple hideout to regroup. Meanwhile, Isabella and Ratri have a plan to lure the kids back to Grace Field, but the old priest has information that may help the escapees avoid the trap.
This episode just drives home the lack of commitment to darker themes that Su brought up a couple episodes back. Norman is convinced to abandon his monstrous plan with a hug and some platitudes, and it feels deeply unsatisfying that we’re just going to gloss over his literal attempted genocide over the course of barely two episodes. The situation the kids are in is horrifying, and just feeling bad about your actions doesn’t make up for killing and maiming dozens or possibly hundreds of sentient beings who are trapped in a hideous system through no fault of their own.
There are ways this could’ve worked; maybe Norman’s plan doesn’t get put into action before Emma and Ray return, and he actually has to struggle with pulling the trigger as the people he claims to be doing this for try to stop him. Maybe he stops short, only for one of his more zealous friends to say, “F that noise!” and unleash the chemical weapon. Or heck, maybe Norman could commit to being a monster in the hopes that his family would be left with a better world. Instead, he does a little oopsie atrocity to get that sweet moral ambiguity and then escapes any form of judgement from the demons OR Emma, the one who worked so hard to stop all of this in the first place!
Compounding this is that the majority of Norman’s kill-crazy gang all fall in line and abandon their quest for revenge with nothing more than a moment of angst. They spent a major scene in episode six convincing us of how much these folks hated the demons, only for them to turn around on Norman’s say-so. There was an opportunity for Norman or Ray to use their big logical brains or Emma to employ her power of friendship, but none of that gets leveraged.
Later on, we get back to season 2’s favorite pastime of having characters stand in a circle and explain things as the kids learn that their friends from Grace Field are about to be shipped out in the most obvious trap Isabella could possibly have put together. In fairness, just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it isn’t compelling, and the whole season has been building towards a return to the farm and an attempt to liberate the other children. It sets the hook for our season finale well, but once again pushes Emma and the others around rather than letting their actions drive the plot the way they once did.
Beyond these plot beats, there’s a very predictable betrayal from the exact person you’d expect. We’ll see how that last part shakes out in the next episode, since we haven’t had to wait more than two episodes max from the time any season 2 plot point is raised to it being largely resolved. It feels like another overcorrection from the slower pace and gradual buildup of the first season, but we are approaching the final arc of this cour, so things have to start moving apace.
While it has some strong emotional moments between the kids and keeps Isabella in the picture, episode 9 faces the same issues of inconsistent pacing and lack of firm storytelling direction that have plagued the ones before it. We’ve been very harsh on this show lately, and I feel bad because of how much I enjoyed the first part. All of that setup for this strange middle(?) season that can’t seem to find its heart is deeply disappointing, and I can only hope that episodes 10-12 give us a tense enough rescue attempt to overshadow the rough middle portion of this season.