The Promised Neverland
Episode 6

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 6 of
The Promised Neverland ?

So it turns out that cliffhanger from last week did end up being a tease; it was Phil opening the door on Don and Gilda, not Mama. Even the episode's biggest deviation from the manga turned out to be a fake-out, perhaps specifically designed to hoodwink manga readers. Originally, Don stole the key before he and Gilda ever tried to sneak into Mama's secret room, so their initial failed attempt was created solely for the purpose of giving last week's episode a nice hook to end on. I can't be too mad at the deception though; given how the anime has wisely shuffled some plot events around, the crew had to find some way to end last week's story on an intriguing note. Besides, the remainder of this sixth episode is so exceptional that any minor nitpicks that opening might have generated were completely lost to me after a minute or two.

It's difficult to know exactly where to begin, because everything that follows from the moment Don and Gilda open the doors to Mama's chamber is a master class in building an atmosphere of pure suspense and dread. The lighting and color scheme bathe every shot in the lush golds and deep blues that define the interior of Grace Field House, and throughout every scene, flickering lamplight amplifies the shadows that cloak both the faces of the children and the secrets they're hunting.. Don and Gilda discover the machine that Mother uses to communicate with their enemies. They find the toys left behind by all of the siblings that have gone before them. On one of the shelves sits a little bunny, which confirms what Don has been suspecting. Conny isn't waiting for them out there beyond the wall to be rescued. She's just gone.

Meanwhile, Emma, Norman, and Ray find themselves poring over a pile of books in their giant library, because Emma has discovered a companion that could help them in their escape; at least, the littler kids discovered this potential new friend's messages that have been left behind. In dozens of books lies the faded emblem of an owl enclosed in a ring made up of broken up lines. Below this sigil is a name: William Minerva. The kids have no clue who this is, but Norman almost immediately spots what Emma and the children found. The dashes and spaces that encircle Minerva's owl represent morse code, and with a convenient translation guide, the kids can read the messages Minerva has sent them, one word at a time.

“Run”. “Doubt”. “Danger”. “Truth”. “Harvest”. “Monster.” “Farm.” As the camera pans through book shelves and focuses on our heroes' expressions, we feel the scope of their situation begin to slowly but drastically expand. There is someone on the outside with resources and knowledge, who's apparently trying to deceive the adults and the demons in order to help the children realize the truth of their imprisonment and escape. This gives us a kind of emotional suspense that contrasts the psychological suspense of Don and Gilda's plot. Can Minerva be trusted? Emma is eager to accept this stranger as a friend and ally, Ray is predictably skeptical, and Norman is caught in the middle, trying to puzzle out just what kind of person William Minerva could be. It's absolutely thrilling stuff, directed superbly. There are so many little flourishes of detail that contribute to the episode's tactile atmosphere – I especially loved the insistent way Norman traced his fingers over Minerva's Morse code. It's a split-second beat that could have easily been skipped over or done on the cheap, but the time and effort was taken to get it just right.

Emma, Norman, and Ray don't have long to celebrate their newest discovery though, because Don and Gilda arrive to confront the trio about their deception. Gilda is mostly stunned, but Don is furious with them, angry and hurt that the others would have such little faith in their capabilities that they felt the need to lie about Conny's fate. Though he knows they aren't wunderkinds like Emma, Norman, and Ray, the pain of being cast as the burdens of the group, coupled with the shock of losing the last shred of their innocence, is simply too much for Don to bear.

I loved this scene; it was brimming with the kind of raw emotion that's gotten lost in the head games of recent weeks. Our three protagonists are very different in how they process things, but all of them are preternaturally cunning and self-assured, to the point where it's easy for them to get too caught up in the mechanical obstacles of their escape. Ray's pragmatism has been an obvious source of conflict, but Emma is also guilty of this. Her insistence on saving all of her siblings is noble, but Don and Gilda's reaction this week shows how Emma has been treating them like pieces on a game board to be protected. She lost sight of their humanity, and she vows not to make that mistake again.

With everyone truly working as a team now, the stage is set for the conflict to finally explode. Ray is feeding Mama false information about Norman's “plan” to kill her, while Mama makes sure to remind Ray that his time is running out, and that the next shipment will see him turning a deadly number twelve. On the other side of the farm, Sister Krone catches Emma, Norman, Don, and Gilda in the middle of plotting and makes a devilish offer of cooperation, though to what end we don't yet know. Things feel awfully dire for everyone by the time the episode ends, but now there's also a thin strand of hope for the kids to cling to. It comes in the form of the last word William Minerva left for them to find: “Promise”.

Rating: A

The Promised Neverland is currently streaming on Crunchyroll, HIDIVE, and Funimation.

James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.

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