The Promised Neverland Season 2 is now complete, marking the end of a most divisive addition to the beloved franchise. Many fans have disliked the latest season because it’s very different from the manga. Season 2 made major changes, condensing major events, leaving us with questions but not leaving enough room for a Season 3. So is The Promised Neverland Season 2 worth watching? Here’s what we think:
When the first season of The Promised Neverland first aired in 2019, most would agree that it was a remarkable achievement. Who would have thought that a modern fairytale about a group of children fighting to avoid being eaten could be so clever and emotionally poignant? And who would have thought that after this success, season 2 would only be marked with a 6.39/10 on MyAnimeList?
The Promised Neverland Season 2 had its moments. It did a good job at expanding the world Season 1 introduced us to. It reminded us that nothing is as it seems: while the demons were the undeniable villains before, Season 2 revealed that neither the human nor the demon world is intrinsically good or bad.
Both worlds were mostly populated by everyday people who tried their best to live normally, protecting themselves and their own, while those who ran the world from seats of power, whether humans or demons, were actually the ones to blame for the world’s horrible state.
Some fans argue that the anime did a better job than the manga at explaining why Emma considered the demons worth saving. When we were shown demon children degenerating into ill, malnourished, non-sentient forms for lack of human meat, it was hard not to feel some degree of pity.
And, of course, there were emotional moments, opportunities for character development, and some good ideas… which sadly remained just that: good ideas, barely executed. The first five episodes, in which the children were mostly surviving in the wild, aided by the demons Shonju and Mujika, were lacking compared to the previous seasons' constant mind games to outsmart Isabella.
The safehouse of William Minerva could have provided excellent opportunities for more of this cleverness, as his character and his puzzles are a core part of the manga and a huge Season 1 mystery. Instead, the children moved on really quickly, and before we knew it there was a year skip. How did the children develop during that time? We never found out because we never saw it.
When Norman returned, the moment should be poignant. Sure, the reunion was emotional, but after that things went downhill. While his motivation to kill the demons theoretically made sense, and his debate with Emma was heartbreaking, too many pieces were missing. For me, it was a case of wanting to feel something, rather than feeling it.
If we had seen Norman in Lambda, or shortly after, it might have all amounted to something. There would have been real stakes then. But he literally told his siblings parts of what happened to him, only for a few delayed flashbacks two episodes later that should have been enlightening, but just didn’t help enough.
His new friends from Lambda had every potential to be interesting, but each had only one or two good moments. In the end, they seemed to be little more than interestingly drawn characters, with interestingly drawn scars – but they still felt liked strangers.
The ending did have a few good and hopeful moments and, as a whole, the anime adopts an optimistic view about humanity. But all in all, it felt rather underwhelming, only there to tie any loose ends – this was all it came down to. The issue is not that The Promised Neverland Season 2 didn’t have its good moments. It did. But to say “it had its moments” when there was a unique, memorable first season to compare it to, is just not good enough.
To decide whether The Promised Neverland Season 2 is bad, we need to consider the ways season 1 was good. The main villain for one. To me, Isabella was more horrifying than the demons, not despite being human but because of that. The power struggle between her and Emma made viewers feel something because it was relatable.
Sure, no one’s mother has tried to feed them to demons in real life. But anyone would be heartbroken knowing their parent figure had done terrible things. There’s always some degree of sadness when children first find out that their parents are imperfect and will sometimes act selfishly.
It took a while for Season 1 to persuade us that Isabella was worthy of our pity. When it happened, though, it was one of the most memorable moments of the show – and it made us realize why this was the perfect villain for Emma to fight against: Emma could have been her. Like Isabella, she had lost her best friend and had been offered to be spared and become a “Mama” sending children like her to their deaths. Unlike Isabella, she denied that fate.
And yet, it was almost impossible not to feel sorry for Isabella. Few characters are as strong, kind, and determined as Emma. Isabella was tragic because she genuinely loved her children. She just loved surviving more and she would do anything to be the last one left standing.
This brings me to the other things Season 1 did well: the stakes. Yes, when you have a shonen anime about plucky children determined to survive, you know they most likely will. The difference between seasons 1 and 2 was that, in the former, each win felt earned. The children and consequently the viewers had gone through hell first.
I’m not saying that children should have to “earn” their happiness, but this is a dystopian show, and the world they live in isn’t meant to give them an easy time. In season 1, when Emma and Norman climbed the wall to see what lay on the other side, only to find a chasm, I felt their entrapment. When Norman was shipped, I felt like the world had ended – like Emma did.
Season 2, on the other hand, made it all too easy. Whatever dangers existed were neutralized in three to four episodes at most. Isabella was a ghost of her former self. It’s not so much that she didn’t deserve any redemption – but we didn’t get to see why she deserved it. What mental process did she go through? How did she manage to ascend the ranks after her disgrace to eventually help her children from a position of power? We don’t know, because we weren’t shown, or even told.
Then, there’s Peter Ratri, the main villain of season 2, and a poor match for Isabella. The very last episode attempted to give him an emotional backstory, perhaps similar to hers, but what was the point? Unlike her, he wasn’t raised on a farm.
His brother, William Minerva shook the foundation of young Peter’s world when he decided to break the promise to the demons and help farm children. Killing Minerva was heartbreaking for Ratri, but he thought it was necessary to be the gatekeeper of the promise when his eldest brother abandoned it.
All this had the potential to be a good backstory, yet one that came too late and explained too little. We never saw enough of Ratri to be terrified of him as a villain, since Norman had already outsmarted him by escaping before we even knew about him.
Ratri's motivations didn’t make sense because not enough work was put into the worldbuilding – such as explaining just what the Promise entailed and why it mattered so much to him. Isabella was afraid of being eaten by the demons. What was he afraid of? Once again, we were never shown enough to care.
Eventually, Ratri was defeated too easily. Isabella was forgiven too easily. The younger children went to the human world and it hardly felt earned. When Emma stayed behind to help other children still trapped, my only thought was “of course she would.” If you reach that far you will likely be beyond feeling or worrying. You know it will just be too easy. And it is.
In one of the last scenes, we were told that Mujika wanted to learn why her blood was important – perhaps we wanted to learn too, but most likely we never will. We can read this as a symbolism of the entire season and its missed potential. The writers wanted to give a new, exciting turn to the show that was entirely their own, but instead, their adaptation felt like running for an easy way out.
A way out of what though? Would using the manga material and having 3 great, faithful seasons be so bad? This is another thing we might have wanted to learn – but we might never.
So is The Promised Neverland Season 2 overrated? That would be an overstatement. Viewers don’t really credit it for more than it’s worth. Is it worth watching? No fan likes leaving things half-finished, so if you loved Season 1, this is your decision to make. Just know there’s a manga to go to if you end up not liking the answer.