Attack on Titan The Final Season Part 2
Episode 78

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 78 of
Attack on Titan The Final Season Part 2 ?
Community score: 4.6

“There's no greater salvation than never being born in this world.”

“Two Brothers” sees the story of Attack on Titan fully devolve into the kind of horror-show meat grinder that you see described in the real first-hand accounts of the soldiers who fought with their boots on the ground in the worst wars of modern human history. There are no “good people” left to root for, and no happy ending left to cling to. This inevitable conclusion is, I think, what has made Gabi and Falco's inclusion in the story such a stroke of wicked genius. They are children, yes, and victims of horrible cruelty, but just as Eren says when we finally see the moment that bound him and Zeke to their destructive path, Gabi and Falco were damned before they ever took their first breaths.

The war began a thousand years before they were born, and they were conscripted by birthright to fight for an Empire that is determined to use them up and toss them aside. Falco was maybe the closest thing we had to an “innocent” character left in this story, and he was technically an accessory to a horrific war crime. Gabi's hands have been stained since we met her, and plenty of people were understandably furious over her zealous bigotry, not to mention her hand in Sasha's death. Sure, she's come around to seeing the folly of her ways, but it doesn't change the fact that she is now being forced to pay for that blood in kind. One of the most difficult and important questions that AoT asks about characters like Gabi is whether that debt is hers to pay, or whether a kid caught in the gears of history's greatest machine can be held fully accountable for a war she had no part in starting. What does that say about Reiner, then? Or Zeke? Or Eren?

If it seems like I'm a little all over the place this week, it's only because I'm having a hard time “reviewing” something that is so precision engineered to make me feel so terrible. What kind of pull quote could I possibly come up with? “I got to see Falco get transformed into a Titan by Zeke, and not only did Colt get burnt to a crisp as he embraced his brother one final time, but poor Gabi had to stand utterly helpless and watch a grotesque parody of her last friend on Earth eat Porco alive. I feel somewhat dead inside, but MAPPA animated the hell out of it, so five stars!”

In all seriousness, this is one of the darkest and most ambitious episodes of Attack on Titan ever produced, both because the foundations of the story and its characters are being shaken to their core, and because the show is continuing to find new and inventive ways to express all of that chaos. I especially loved the use of multiple layered and composited still frames for scenes like the moment when Gabi separates Eren's head from his shoulders (even if some of the seams are visible for a few of the 2D layers). Also, even though I hesitate to use the word “incredible” to describe scenes of characters I loved being horribly tortured and killed, the animation is generally stellar throughout the whole episode. There was at least one sequence that made me not feel so sad and terrible about the events unfolding on screen, and it was Mikasa's inhumanly smooth double takedown of two Marleyan soldiers. It isn't enough to save Eren from getting murdered by Gabi, or to stop Zeke from gaining the Founding Titan's power after all, but we have to take whatever morsels of unambiguous “fun” that we can get.

Also, hats off to the sequence of Eren's consciousness traveling to “The Coordinate Where All Paths Converge." Attack on Titan has always been a show that uses viscera and sensory assault to get its points across, so there is always a little risk in reaching for a “trippy” style, but I think the show nailed it. In any other show, everything that goes down in this final scene would probably be too much by half, but Attack on Titan hasn't lost me yet. I have no idea what glimpse into the past Zeke is going to try to use to convert Eren to his side once and for all, but I'm less interested in the lore than I am in whether these next few episodes will be able to make sense of Eren's actions. He clearly has a plan of his own, and I can't argue with fighting against Zeke's Eldian Euthanization scheme. Whether Eren's ultimate goal will be worth everything he did in order to accomplish it is another story.

Though, I am missing the point to even be weighing what is “worth it.” In a certain sense, we already know how this will end. There's a podcast hosted by Dan Carlin called Hardcore History, and it has been one of my favorite shows to listen to for years now. When Attack on Titan returned this season, I took the opportunity to dive into Hardcore History's six-part exploration of the Pacific Theater of World War II. It felt thematically appropriate, and I was morbidly fascinated as Carlin broke down the many, many horrific stories of what the soldiers on both sides of the battlefield experienced in places like Nanking and New Guinea, not to mention my home island of Guam. A line that Carlin used to end one of these Pacific Theater episodes has stuck with me all throughout this (supposedly) final climax of Attack on Titan: “It was an evil war, in so many ways.”

The Eldians and the Marleyans both have been trapped in an evil war for their entire lives. The only thing that Eren has been able to do, from the very beginning, is to keep moving forward, no matter the cost, no matter who tries to stop him. It's the same choice that Zeke made, and Reiner, and Levi, too. It's the choice that every soldier in this war has had to make, one way or the other. What else could they possibly have done, given the world that they were born into? What would I have done, if I were put in any one of their positions? I genuinely don't know how to answer that question. I hope I'll never have to.

Rating:

Attack on Titan The Final Season Part 2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.


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