Transitioning from a closed stage to open terrain: The Promised Neverland Season 2, Episode 1

The first season of The Promised Neverland ends like this.

Emma thinks of Norman and how they finally escaped while Mom Isabella tends to the rest of the children and wishes them luck. Running towards the light, the group’s exhilarated panting from running is replaced with a timely swell of the soundtrack.

The opening moments of The Promised Neverland‘s second season play with this, transitioning seamlessly from the optimism of the first season’s finale to a chase scene. What initially appears to be a direct continuation of the escape is actually set a short time in their future during a different and more immediate need to escape (which also is the series kicking things off in media res before going back and establishing setting). While the first season was all about careful planning and setup, this is about surviving moment to moment in a world that they do not understand where they are still near the bottom of the food chain.

The majority of The Promised Neverland‘s first season — everything but the final moments of the last episode — occurred on the closed stage of Grace Field House. Most of the storyboarding played with the idea of a closed room mystery. Who knew what was an important part of the visual direction, keeping both the audience and in-universe players guessing. In particular, Ray’s entire character, his betrayal, and his redemption are all foreshadowed and tracked through visuals.

Now that the kids have broken free of Grace Field House, the visual direction and storyboarding must follow. Where we learned nearly the entire layout of the house, even Isabella’s secret radio room, in the first season, the second season is about showing the scope of the larger world around Emma, Ray, and the rest of the escapees.

This begins with a shot of the vampiric vidar flower, used to drain children as part of meal preparation for the monsters that run the orphanages, raising children as food. It’s shown clearly in the foreground with the children smaller in the background as they walk. It dwarfs them figuratively and literally. The children are also shown dwarfed by the forest itself, which is wildly different from the confines of their upbringing at Grace Field House.

Most importantly, unlike the first season, the children are shown on a level playing field as much as possible. It doesn’t suit them to withhold information from each other anymore. They all know the terror of the monsters and the truth of the orphanages, so sharing information is far more fitting and relevant to their survival.

Even in scenes where Emma and Ray take the lead and are dispensing information, the group is included. This is shown visually when they remain small in comparison to the forest that’s surrounding them, but are joined first by Don and Gilda, and later the entire group. In the first season, information was shared like this, with necessary layers of distrust between the main trio, and then Don and Gilda, then the entirety of the group. Yet here in the second season, you already see the group being shown on an equal level visually and information being almost immediately shared with all of the children who escaped. Emma and Ray also seek out others’ opinions to fill in the gaps.

When Yvette speaks up about the water anemones, they listen and it’s used as a learning tool for the group. When the monster from the opening scenes appears mid-episode, it shows close-ups of not only Emma and Ray’s faces but all of the children. When they have to split up into groups, it’s communicated efficiently. Not everyone is on an equal level physically or mentally, but to Ray’s point, they would be best-served using their advantages to cover their weaknesses. This becomes vitally-important when both Emma and Ray are incapacitated in different ways and the rest of the group needs to make decisions without them.

Visual framing most resembles season one in the final moments of the episode, where Ray and Emma discover that they and the group were saved by demons and are in the more closed environment of a cave. Here, it’s again about obfuscating things visually and using varying levels of focus to show how much or how little they know.

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