The Promised Neverland
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Promised Neverland ?
The Promised Neverland's seventh episode is the kind where a small amount of story action is turned into an entire half-hour's worth of entertainment, and it manages to do so quite well, except when it doesn't. On the surface, the plot is simple enough that it can be broken down into a single sentence: Krone reveals that she knows of the kids' scheme and offers to work with them, the kids warily accept her deal, there's a whole bunch of psychological maneuvering as the kids and Krone each try to figure out exactly what the other knows, and then Mama comes in to throw a wrench into things and deliver the cliffhanger that primes us for next week.
Given that not much progress is made on any of the story's core threads, “011145” must instead showcase The Promised Neverland's skills in maintaining atmosphere and giving all of its characters' moments to be deviously cunning. From the beginning, Emma and friends know that Krone is only waiting until she can dig up enough dirt on them to make her case to the demonic higher-ups, who can put her in charge of Grace Field as the new Mama. Likewise, Krone is well aware that the children know more about the truth behind Grace Field than they let on, and that tension is the key to keeping up the episode's momentum.
The greatest example of this is also the episode's centerpiece, a drawn-out psychological standoff between Krone and the tag-team of Emma and Norman. Krone has promised to be an open book for any questions that Emma and Norman may ask, and the kids pay her a visit to take her up on the offer:
“What is the device that tracks the children on the farm?”, they ask, and Krone reveals her little pocket radar, which seems to match Isabelle's. “Where are the tracking devices, and how do we destroy them?” Krone confirms that they're in the kids' ears, but she doesn't know of a conventional way to destroy them. Even if she did, the destroyed beacons would immediately alert the demons and send them swarming down to Grace Field. It'd be easier to just cut their ears off instead. Krone can even show the kids where to find the necessary scalpels and anesthesia.
“How old are you?” Krone is 26, and Mama is 31. “Have you ever been outside Grace Field?” No, Krone hasn't. She has no connections to the humans who deliver the supplies the kids use. She knows nothing of life outside of the farm. She's never been anything other than a girl raised to be meat who got lucky enough and scored high enough in her tests to be recruited as a Mama-in-Training. Krone reveals a terrible scar where the demons cut her open and placed a chip on her heart that can kill her at any moment, should she ever think to defy the demons' will. Emma bristles at the thought that a child could have ever grown to betray her family like Krone seemingly has, but we can see that Krone is just as trapped as the kids. She knows that climbing to the highest bars in the cage don't make her any less of a prisoner, but she's spent her entire life working to find even a modicum of dignity and power within this awful system.
And it's not like Krone is an idiot. Despite the show's increasingly regrettable presentation of her as an outlandish buffoon, it's obvious that Krone is far too smart to just give up everything she knows out of charity – despite Emma and Norman's best efforts at poker faces, Krone can read them easily. She figures out their plan to disable the tracking devices, and if she can catch the kids in the act, it's the perfect piece of evidence to hand over to the demons. Ray manages to snag a polaroid camera from Mama as the final piece of the puzzle for his vague gizmo, but as Norman points out in one rather clumsy and on-the-nose moment, it's going to be a race to see if the kids can finish the device before Krone discovers it for herself.
When the focus shifts to Krone in the final scenes, the episode's strengths and weaknesses come into sharp relief. On the one hand, Krone's scenes have an energy to them that perfectly reflects the episode's balancing act between ridiculously small and terrifyingly large stakes. She's ruffling through the belongings of preternaturally smart orphans to gain a leg up in a psychological death match that will end with one of the involved parties being slaughtered by eldritch flesh-eaters. On the other hand, it's yet another instance of the series going too far in exaggerating Krone's manic qualities – with all of the other characters feeling so grounded, it's difficult to take Krone's narrative as seriously, despite the stakes being just as high for her. Also, I can't stress enough just how unfortunately caricatured some of these shots look.The reappearance of her soliloquy doll is another strange choice that this anime doubles down on this week – I understand the desire to give Krone something to talk to when she's alone, and I still don't mind the way the show handles the lack of inner-monologue. What I don't quite get is the choice to make the doll read like a creepy metaphor for Krone's unstable psyche. I'm echoing a complaint I've seen lots of the manga's fans make, but it deserves to be said that Krone may be devious and manipulative, but she's not meant to be totally cuckoo-bananas, and I don't see any reason the show should commit so heavily to this direction for her character.
Given how much focus she gets this week, the issues with Krone mar the episode, but it's still a taut and compelling piece of the puzzle that leaves us with even more questions to tease us for another week. Krone discovers a piece of evidence that Ray planted that the audience isn't privy to, and just as the credits roll, Isabelle arrives with another piece of secret information that makes Krone's blood run cold. “Goodbye,” Mama whispers coldly, and we can only guess at what she could possibly mean. Perhaps it's finally time to reveal the dark twisted truth at the heart of the show, that Phil is the secret evil mastermind ruling the demons from the shadows. I mean, just look at this kid. Something about that boy ain't right.
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