The Promised Neverland relied on a lot of things to create suspense. Not only did each episode leave the viewer wanting more, but the series also used lighting and visual framing to best build on plot events and the main trio’s emotional state. Even when the animation itself was subpar, The Promised Neverland delivered with cinematography, which frequently did the heavy lifting when the animation could or did not.
Then there was Phil.
Phil is a four year-old boy who lived at Grace Field House. He is energetic and loud. Phil was shown in some of the series’ opening scenes, along with his Grace Field brothers and sisters. At that time, Phil is just background noise, like the rest of the children other than Emma, Ray, and Norman.
Yet, he continues to appear and reappear within the series at random moments, while the overarching narrative of Grace Field house as a human meat farm is revealed. When the trio begins listing off potential traitors in Episode 4, Phil’s name comes up on the short list due to his high test scores despite the fact that he’s only four. Phil is behind the cliffhanger between the fifth and sixth episodes — Don and Gilda are hiding in Mom Isabella’s office looking for clues when someone discovers them. Surprise! It’s Phil! He’s playing hide-and-seek. This runs parallel to Emma’s revelation that there are a series of Morse code clues in their library books. She found this fact out from, you guessed it, Phil.
The truth behind Phil is far less nefarious than the series allows you to believe — he simply figured a few things out due to his intelligence — but his existence for the majority of the series keeps us guessing and invested. We want to learn more about the central mystery, and we want to know where Phil stands. When he becomes the point person that Emma relies upon when most of the children make their grand escape, Phil fulfills his duty perfectly.
I enjoyed my time with The Promised Neverland. I’ll likely never watch it again, but will certainly watch the second season when it airs next year. Until then, I’ll remember Phil fondly.