Attack on Titan
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 41 of
Attack on Titan (TV 3/2018) ?
Given that it feels like Attack on Titan's first season concluded a lifetime ago, and the more recent second round was such a tightly wound gearbox of dread and grim fights for survival, I'd honestly forgotten what it felt like for the show to breathe a little and revel in slighter shades of plot and tone that long anime epics like this usually indulge. The first few episodes of this third season were all about dousing our heroes' support systems with all the narrative gasoline that's going to fuel this world's impending political firestorm. That's all well and good, but “Trust” made me realize how glad I am that this more ambitious arc is giving Attack on Titan opportunities to pause and decompress. We even get some jokes, which are more than welcome at this stage of the game, considering that all signs point to nothing but bad news further down the line.
This episode offers little victories to balance out the plot's increasingly dire stakes, where soldiers and common folk alike demonstrate their own strength of character as the world around them becomes more clouded with political strife. The opening scene re-introduces us to two young members of the Military Police, Marlo and Hitch, who have been tasked with patrolling the forest in search of Levi's fugitive squad. It's easy to forget that, in the world of the show itself, it's only been days since Annie's rampage destroyed much of Stohess District at the end of the first season, and nobody outside of the main cast knows the truth about Annie and the rest of the Titan shifters. Marlo already suspects that the government's witch hunt for the Scouts is bogus, but Hitch is understandably still rattled over the Scouts' battle with Annie destroying her home.
As viewers, we have the advantage of knowing the truth about the real good guys and bad guys, at least for now, but so much of this episode is about how the Powers That Be have more than enough influence to cover up the truth and shape the narrative of this struggle to their own advantage. One of the emerging themes that I find most interesting about this arc is how the onus of heroic self-determination that's usually reserved for the main hero of a given story is now being passed on to everyone. When Marlo and Hitch get captured by Squad Levi, they both have to decide whether they will believe what the government has told them or risk everything to fight on the side of revolution. The actual trial that Jean puts them through is hilarious on its own; he wants to test their resolve by pretending that he's going to execute them in the middle of the woods, but he's just so bad at it, tripping and falling like a doofus before getting cold-clocked by Hitch with a stick. Not only does it demonstrate Marlo and Hitch's trustworthiness, it also serves as a potent reminder of how far Jean has come since serving as the Draco to Eren's Harry Potter back in training. Even in times as desperate as these, he's willing to stick his neck out for people he feels he can trust.
Speaking of sticking one's neck out, the best little arc of the episode shockingly belongs to Flegel Reeves, the perpetually sobbing progeny of the late Dimo Reeves. Hange pulls a Spider-Man and rescues the poor guy from the gang of MPs that have been hunting him down so they can prevent him from revealing the truth behind his father's death, but the junior Reeves is very reluctant to put his life on the line to help the Scouts clear Erwin's name. But he manages to find his own spark of heroism when he uses himself as bait and tricks the MPs into revealing their cover-up in front of a whole mass of listening civilians. It's a predictable trope, but this scene delivers both a badass moment of bullet-dodging for Hange, as well as the instantly classic image of Flegel announcing his noble intentions while using a soldier's face for a chair, so I'm more than ready to forgive the show for dragging out such a well-worn cliché.
Outside of those two funny beats, much of this episode is dedicated to setting up more pieces for the plot to come. Erwin is being led to a final audience with the King before his execution, and Levi's Squad are taking out small bands of soldiers to try and scrounge up Eren and Historia's whereabouts. The only “reveal” that these threads have to offer this week is Levi and Mikasa discovering that Kenny is also an Ackermann. Personally, I find it hard to be particularly interested in either Levi or Kenny's newfound connection to Mikasa's family name, since the twist doesn't mean much for the characters yet. Levi and Mikasa have barely interacted throughout the past 40 episodes, so it isn't like this completely changes their relationship or anything. I'm sure all of this groundwork is being laid for future mysteries and drama that Mikasa, Levi, and Kenny will have to reckon with, but it isn't much to go on at this point. Levi is already going to some pretty dark places this season, so I imagine that whenever he and Mikasa do finally cross path with Kenny again, it'll contain a lot more gunshots and stab wounds than your typical family reunion.
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