I’m sure all of you were expecting last week’s cliffhanger to end up like this. Because of course it did. You’re not a fool. You’ve seen cliffhangers before. This is how they work. They leave us at a high point in the tension at the end of an episode to bait us into watching the next, only to rapidly deflate at the start of that one. I mean it’s not like they can end an episode with, ‘will they die?’ and then have an episode start with, ‘yes, they die!’. Actually, that would be an amusing reversal, but it’ll make the rest of the episode rather hard to write. Where would you go from there? If you start from the height of tension the only place you go is down.
All in all, cliffhangers are cheap tricks and I find them generally offensive. They go to show, though, that thrillers and horrors are not really that interested in how tension is resolved. Rather, they’re about indulging in the tension itself. The exciting part is the build-up, the anticipation, letting the audience work themselves up. Then they release the tension in whatever way — reveal a monster, lop some heads off, a fake-out, doesn’t matter — so they can start over. You can see the cycle in action this very action: the cliffhanger last week was a false alarm, tension is released, so we build it up again with Don (was his name Don?) pulling even riskier stunts, we anticipate potential disaster, he manages to dodge that bullet, rinse and repeat. It’s a familiar routine, but it can sometimes get heavy-handed. I’ve mentioned before that one of the reasons I like Yakusoku no Neverland is that it features protagonists more intelligent than your usual shounen fare. They’re smart. They know what they’re doing. Unfortunately, Neverland has introduced ‘conflict via stupidity’ back into the plot through Don. It’s nothing to do with his character, I just find it unsatisfying to have characters stumble into trouble through blind ignorance and then stumble out of it through dumb luck. It lacks agency. And I also fundamentally sympathise with Ray; Dan is rash, arrogant, and violent and such qualities jeopardises the entire operation. Yeah, I know, it’s supposed to be a heartfelt moment where we all have a good cry and renew our bonds with each other, but I must confess that a cold part of me was calculating the increased odds of success if we just feed Don to the demons and be done with him.
Well, at least it all served to drive the plot, and here comes Krone offering a deal. Of course, we know better than to trust her, but the enemy of our enemy is our friend. I assume that, if she is indeed bargaining in good faith, she does so in order to undermine Isabella. After all, if a bunch of children escaped on Isabella that would be a mortal blow to her reputation. Better yet, if a bunch of children escaped but it’s Krone who manages to catch them, then she gets to have her brain-flavoured cake and eat it too. Sounds shady, but I’m sure smart kids like Norman and Ray can work with that, and a mutually exploitative relationship is probably better than having Krone as an active enemy. Or perhaps not; as an ally she’s like Don. She’s unreliable, partly because she’s treacherous and mostly because she’s cray. I’m not entirely comfortable in siding with Krone simply because she opposes Isabella, because I’m not convinced that Isabella is entirely villainous. She looked noticeably dismayed when she heard that Norman planned to murder her. She keeps mementoes of her lost children. Perhaps there’s something human in her still.
On that note, who’s William Minerva? Minerva is the Roman version of Athena, the patron god of, er, Athens, who presides over wisdom and the martial arts. The owl is one of her symbols. No spoilers, of course, but here’s my bets: first place, Isabella; runner up, a generic resistance group outside; dark horse, a race of owl-people opposing the demons.