Hello hello hello, and welcome to The Promised Neverland Episode 291045 Review. Today, we’ll talk about beautiful long cons, shocking twists, and how to set them up beautifully.
If you’ve not caught up, please check out this index of previous reviews here. There are spoilers for previous episodes, so if you haven’t watched, read at your own risk.
There are no spoilers past the current episode, so if you are fresh like moi, you are safe.
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Without further ado, the episode.
Norman hides something under his mattress as the episode opens. Krone and Isabella meet to discuss Krone’s time at the house. Isabella compliments Krone on her job with the children while throwing some subtle shade to establish dominance. Isabella explains that Krone is insurance to protect the product and, therefore, she doesn’t need to know about which kids know the truth.
Isabella demands that she remain well-behaved and she act like a good little pawn; if Krone does that, Isabella will guarantee she becomes a mom. Isabella send a clear message: don’t push things.
Krone returns to her room in a fit of pique and destroys her precious doll and vows revenge.
Finding the traitor
Emma, Ray, and Norman do laundry. Ray and Norman suggest tag team games given the kids inability to fend for themselves individually. Emma gets offended on their behalf, but Ray compliments the kids overall and suggests teams for the actual escape.
Normans suggests they tell Don and Gilda about their plans. Ray questions whether that’s a good idea due to the whole…y’know, traitor issue going on. Norman says he can weasel out the traitor while recruiting and that he already has a plan. Ray gets ready to tell Emma the formations for tag teams, to which she eagerly says she’s ready to memorize them all by ear.
Ray sets another game of tag for 10 minutes, which the kids are eager to beat. Norman and Emma lead separate teams to help them win, with the adorable little children waddling behind them and Don and Gilda in tow.
The children split off into separate groups. Emma and Norman lead the charge against Ray’s team and successfully evade him. After the game Phil expresses excitement and Don wants to lead the next round. Gilda requests a break.
The big three break off to get something to drink and discuss Phil’s test scores: 203. High. They also note he was one of the last ones to be caught by Krone. Emma realizes that they suspect Phil as a potential traitor and Emma freaks out about having to be suspicious of everyone.
Ray chastises her about the situation. Norman asks Ray how long breaking the tracking devices will take and, after learning it will take 10 days, asks to escape then. Ray and Emma freak out about the quick turnaround. Ray in particular freaks out given that the shipment cycle gives them a month and a half to plan.
Norman explains that they’re playing into Mom’s expectations and that they need to beat her at her own game. They’ll need to escape before winter for obvious reasons so Norman wants the timeframe to be asap. He also convinces the two tell Don and Gilda that night.
The three finally reveal the partial truth: the children are being trafficked by “bad people,” which Don immediately laughs off. Norman points out all the weird inconsistencies surrounding the orphans who depart. Don laughs it off until Ray confirms. He then asks about Isabella.
Don’s in mad denial about all of it, but Gilda points out that Emma loves the house and would never lie. Gilda herself has found things suspicious since Conny left.
She notices that both Emma and Norman have been acting weird, and she’s been afraid to ask about it. Gilda breaks down and asks about Conny. Norman explains they saw her get taken, and Don asks who took her. They leave out that demons ate her face off (technical terminology), and Ray looks on disapprovingly.
Norman goes onto point out how test scores and age determine who gets shipped out which both Don and Gilda can pick up on based on the list. Emma asks them to join them in their plan to escape.
Emma leaves and Ray argues with Norman about his decision to leave out the fact the conny was eaten by demons. Norman explains the little white lie was to make it easier for them to join. Ray thinks the lie is too cruel and thinks it will only harm the cause further on.
Norman decides to let future Norman deal with that problems and tells Ray about his plan to capture the traitor: he’ll tell them where the rope is: under the bed or the light. He’ll tell Don one, and Gilda the other. Ray asks if neither of them is the traitor, how that might complicate the situation.
Norman has that in hand, too. Emma and Gilda reconnect and affirm their goal to leave.
The Traitor Strikes
In the middle of the night, Gilda leaves to see somebody. Meanwhile, someone — presumably Gilda — leaves a note at Isabella’s door, noting that the rope is under Norman’s bed.
Gilda then visits Krone, and Emma follows her. Krone asks her what’s going on; Gilda calls off their deal and says nothing is going on that’s suspicious. Gilda explains she’s ok and asks to be left alone. Emma’s relieved, but then Krone figures out that Emma must have told her everything.
Krone, her usual nutty self subtly threatens Gilda while pressing for details. Who else knows? Norman, Ray? Krone pushes, but Gilda pushes back and says she doesn’t know what’s up, only that she had a fight with Emma. Krone lets it go but says to tell if she thinks Emma lied.
Emma and Gilda hug it out after that *stressful* encounter. Krone gets even angrier at losing Gilda.
Gilda’s Innocence & The Real Traitor.
The next day while doing laundry, Norman explains that Gilda’s out. He asks ray about Traitor’s betray others. Ray explains that it’s like a matter of self-interest and safety. An insurance policy. Don and Gilda realize tag was a game for the escape.
That night, Norman asks Emma about Ray’s suggestion about traitors. He asks if she would leave that person if their reason was survival. She would because their life would likely be forfeit if they did actually manage to escape. She also wants to believe in the goodness of her family.
She wants to keep her faith in the people. She doesn’t want to lose faith in her family.
Norman meets with Ray and shows him the rope in the bathroom. Norman checks the bed for the rope. It’s not there. Ray assumes that Don is the traitor. Until Norman drops a fat ass bomb.
Ray is the traitor.
With that, the episode concludes.
Unexpected, but inevitable
Well, I gotta say, I didn’t see that coming.
To date, this show continues to be excellently put together on a technical level. As I said previously, while Gilda’s traitorousness was always an obvious red herring, the fact that Ray’s the actual traitor in this situation is both the most unexpected, and the most logical.
In Alica LaPlante’s Doorstopper of a writing textbook “The Making of A Story” she discusses the idea that good writing should be both surprising, and inevitable. That the story, the prose, the character work should come off as surprising, or in some way unexpected, but also be absolutely foreseeable.
A famous example is Oedipus Rex. In the play, something fishy is going on in Thebes and Oedipus vows to find the previous king’s murderer. When it’s revealed at the end of the play that, not only did he kill the previous king on his way to Thebes, but that that king was his father, and he married his mother…well, at least in ancient Greece, the details are all there so that the dramatic irony plays out.
That’s how it feels with Ray being the traitor.
It makes the most sense of all of them, honestly.
The Misleading Details
While I didn’t believe for a second that Gilda was the actual traitor, the show does an excellent job of playing it extremely close to the chest until that final reveal. I re-watched the episode to write this reaction, and in hindsight, everything is laid out with mathematical precision.
In particular, the moment that really elevates the storyline is at the midpoint when Norman is using his ploy, and Emma and Gilda have reconciled. We see Gilda leave her room with a twisted dark expression; then we see a pair of slippers head down the hall followed by a letter sliding under Isabella’s door with information on the traitor.
We don’t know who has been told about the rope under the bed. And the way it’s designed, it looks like Gilda is casually slipping the note. But the animators play it coy by never actually showing her doing so. The tension isn’t broken until the moment when Gilda confesses to Krone that she can’t do her dirty work anymore.
But the details that are even more startling surround Norman’s gambit throughout the episode. After the reveal, it’s obvious that Norman at least suspects Ray is the traitor. He feeds Ray the information in particular ways that elide much. And in the very final scene before the reveal, he asks Ray how he feels about betrayal.
It’s gloriously put together. And it’s all oblique, just shy of obvious enough that if you don’t know, you wouldn’t see it.
Unexpected, but inevitable.
Emma’s Central Flaw
Given just how incredible the twist is, I felt I should devote more time to it than the other stuff. But these episodes are fucking packed tight with story. We have Krone getting outplayed by literally everyone and killing her poor stuffed doll (Jesus).
Emma’s freak out about the potential traitor is utterly heartbreaking in the context of this story. The biggest and most obvious conflict dynamic is that of family and faith. It’s purely texting at this point, and the idea of having a loving family is clearly the most important thing to her. That she has to suspect everyone runs entirely counter to her character’s goal: Protect everyone. No matter what.
And that trait is also an excellent flaw for her to have. Given just how much she loves her family, she wants to do everything to protect them. And sometimes, she thinks protection means sheltering. Her love leads to her most extraordinary feats of strength and lays the groundwork for potential conflict down the line. For example…
Don, Gilda, and a Little White Lie
While it’s admirable that Emma wants to protect her family, it’s also obviously best to be straight with them about just how dire this situation is. Don and Gilda are clearly the second tiers in the intelligence scale – especially Don, who, while vivid and likable, is clearly very emotional – so the logic that they need to be treated with kid gloves is not the worst idea.
But in context, it’s a horrible idea.
The big issue, which Don demonstrates immediately, is that he believes that Conny is alive. Don has been loud and brash since episode 1, and he, like Emma, cares about the other children, and he wants to help. In many ways, he’s a foil to Emma’s own idealism and hot-headedness.
Given how intentional the show has been about its conflicts to date, this lie feels like it’s going to spiral out of control quickly, and Don or Gilda will do something stupid because they have hope.
It’s an organic, believable conflict rooted in all the character’s best and worst traits. You gotta love it. It also really underlines how much of a boon and curse Emma’s love is.
Other than that big stuff, I have little to say about the rest of the episode. Much of the conflict is setting up the escape, and while that’s interesting, it’s not nearly as tense or as necessary to go in-depth as the traitor and Don and Gilda stuff.
I will say, though, that Tag’s idea as a way to train the kids remains a smart tactic to cram a lot of training into small windows.
Other than that, though, The Promised Neverland continues to be firing on all cylinders, and I look forward to seeing more of it.