Attack on Titan The Final Season
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Attack on Titan The Final Season ?
”If people knew it would come to this, nobody would go to war.”
It's easy to forget how, back in the very first episode of Attack on Titan, the total destruction of Shiganshina was a plot enacted by a few children the same age as Eren and his friends. The only thing that differentiated our heroes from the villains that ruined their world was the overwhelming power of the Titans that Reiner, Bertholdt, and Annie had been gifted – or cursed – with. Of course, neither the audience nor the protagonists could have ever guessed that then, and years would pass before Reiner and Co. were eventually revealed to be the wielders of the Armored, Colossal, and Female Titans. By then, the campaign against the Titans was in full swing, and the dark implications of the Warrior Unit's origins were used mostly to fuel the conflict brewing between the nearly grown brothers and sisters-in-arms. A sad and tragic twist of fate, yes, but one among many, more important for what it meant for our hero's perpetual fight, and not so much the turncoats of the Scout Regiment.
Sticking with The Final Season's intention to add depth and nuance to the antagonists of Attack on Titan, “The Door of Hope” functions as a flashback episode of sorts, giving us the perspective of the Warrior Unit that initially arrived on Paradis Island to take back the power of the Founding Titan. Reiner is the focal point of these flashbacks, as we see how he was radicalized over years of being indoctrinated by the anti-Eldian propaganda that his mother has completely bought into; how his hopes for a future and a mended family lay in earning the title of one of the Nine Titans, and with it the status of “Honorary Marleyan”; and, inevitably, how all of those dreams were immediately dashed when he finally inherited the mantle of the Armored Titan.
Reiner's estranged father immediately rejects him, regardless of any newfound status or personhood, on account of his “devil” blood. Almost as soon as the crew arrive on Paradis, Reiner's nationalistic bluster gets cut off at the knees when Marcel reveals that he intentionally manipulated the military command by belittling his brother and praising Reiner at every turn, because he wanted to protect his little brother, Porco. After years of burying all of the voices inside and outside of his head that were putting him down, Reiner gets told to his face that he truly wasn't good enough. This, of course, is just before poor Marcel is devoured by the Titan-ified Ymir, leaving the Warrior Unit demoralized and without a leader. Annie nearly beats Reiner to death, and we are fully reminded of how the assault on Shiganshina was not so much the nefarious plot of a coordinated cell of Marleyan sleeper agents, but the ramshackle plan of a gang of desperate child-soldiers being lead by a boy who only knew that to return home empty-handed would mean certain death.
This is all information that the audience could have fairly well inferred up to this point, but to see it unfold does a lot to drive home the years of guilt and ambivalence that Reiner has been carrying. This was also brought up in his darkly-comic “War is Hell” monologue last week, but there's nothing much funny about what we see here, as Reiner does his best to maintain the façade of the hardened leader while the years pass by, even though Annie isn't afraid to call out Reiner's conflict, which he himself refuses to acknowledge. It is clearly eating away at the man, though, because now, after he has just been told that he will be returning to Paradis, Reiner comes a mere half-second away from shooting himself in the head.
It's an incredibly dark – and incredibly sad – direction for Reiner's story to go, though it isn't at all surprising. My major complaint about Reiner's near-suicide isn't how the show handles the moment itself, but how shaky the build-up to it is. All of the material leading up to Reiner arriving with the Warrior Unit on Paradis Island and enacting the assault on Shiganshina is great stuff, well-paced and skillfully told. The second half of the episode is where you can tell that a lot of material must have been cut and/or rearranged from the manga, and it is harder to follow the jumps between the Scout Regiment's training, Reiner's behind the scenes scheming, and so on. There's one particular moment where a refugee from the Titan assaults hangs himself publicly, shortly after telling Reiner, Bertholdt, and Annie about everything that the war had taken from him. It's a powerful moment in its own right, and an arguably necessary bit of foreshadowing to lead into Reiner's own actions in the present-day, but it gets lost in the script's dead sprint towards the end credits.
Reiner doesn't end up killing himself, thankfully, because Falco appears at the very last minute, slamming the wall outside of Reiner's room in frustration. The boy is unaware of the life he just saved, but Reiner now seems determined to live, if not for himself, then for the next generation of Warriors. Based on everything that has happened over the last few episodes, my guess is that Reiner wants to prevent Falco and the others from falling into the same despair that he has, though the question remains: Will he do so by forcing the Eldian Warriors to confront the terrible hypocrisy of their self-hating loyalty to Marley? Or will he try to stomp out any remnants of the young soldiers' morality once and for all?
After inadvertently rescuing Reiner from that bullet to the brain, Falco goes to visit one of the traumatized Eldian veterans that the rest of his countrymen are so keen to forget about. This wounded soldier, nursing an amputated leg in addition to his numerous other wounds, reveals that he has been lying about having amnesia; he simply can't return home and face his family. He also gives Falco some interesting lessons about what the battlefield has taught him. The wounded Eldian's monologue, about the indignities of warfare, and the different hells experiences by those that do and do not choose to pursue them of their own accord, is lovely stuff, perfectly in keeping with Attack on Titan's tone and themes.
What interests me more, though, is the familiar timbre of this stranger's voice, and those eyes that shimmer in somber green. He has not given Falco his name, and even if he did, I would not trust it to be his real one. After all, Reiner and his friends proved all those years ago that the chaos of war makes it quite easy to slip in amongst the enemy ranks, and in the world of Attack on Titan, what goes around tends to come back in full force. Reiner knows that better than most, as haunted as he is, though I'd wager that the ghosts of his past are closer to him now than anyone would ever suspect.
Odds and Ends
• Potentially Spoilerific Theory Corner: So, I remain completely blind on most of the story's developments, and I did not check any of this episode's credits or production info to confirm this, but the minute we got a closeup on the Wounded Eldian's face, my first thought was: “Oh, yeah, that's definitely Eren.” I don't want to know yet if I'm right, or not, though, so please make sure to keep properly tagging any manga-specific developments in the discussion board!
• There has been so much Attack on Titan, stretched over a long enough period of time, that you will have to forgive me if I miss some obvious callback to prior episodes or OVAs (especially since I've never seen the OVAs). One moment that really baffled me this week was the random aside to Kenny confronting the blonde girl who was calling him “papa”. What on Earth was that about? I couldn't remember any such event from last season, so I figured it was crammed into this episode to account for some future developments, but feel free to correct me if I'm just completely spacing on material the show has already covered.
• I haven't had too much to say about MAPPA's production work the last couple of weeks, as it has been generally very good, and more focused on mood and character beats than flashy action. It's to the studio's credit, I think, that I didn't find it all that jarrng to see old WiT footage spliced into the flashback material, even though the differences in each studio's coloring and character design choices are pretty obvious.
• I couldn't find a good place to mention this in the last two reviews, but Porco's possession of the Jaw Titan, plus a brief flashback last week, confirm that Ymir was killed shortly after being taken to Marley. Normally, I would be upset that one of my favorite characters in a show basically got killed off-screen in-between seasons, but given AoT's current shift in focus and expanding scope, I'd say it makes sense. RIP, Ymir. You and Historia will always be my AoT OTP.
Attack on Titan The Final Season is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and FUNimation. Save on Anime Streaming Subscriptions with Funimation
discuss this in the forum (168 posts) |
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history