Attack on Titan Episode 42
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 42 of
Attack on Titan (TV 3/2018) ?
Leave it to Attack on Titan to make a military coup d'état feel relatively subdued and low-key. The past four episodes have been all about building up the political unrest that threatens to tear human society apart, and while most of this episode is about watching Erwin and Pyxis make their final play against the corrupt cabal of nobles that hide behind their sleepy regal puppet, there is very little bombast or catharsis to be found when everything is said and done.
This makes sense though, and I don't mean to criticize the episode for playing with a more muted tone than usual. The actual sequence of the coup is well done – Erwin and Pyxis' ploy is to expose the nobles' cowardice and selfishness by faking a breach in Wall Rose, and it works perfectly. Erwin uses his final words to sow images of discord and chaos in the minds of the nobles, explaining that without the Scouts, another Titan attack could lead to rampant riots and an influx of refugees that would spell the end of the status quo. This is initially framed as Erwin trying to argue for his own benefit, but the minute it's announced that a breach in the wall has conveniently occurred just before Erwin is to be executed, it's obvious what he and Pyxis have really been sowing in the nobles' minds. They panic and ordered the city doors to be shut against any refugees, and that's all the other soldiers need to justify tearing down this regime for good.
It's a solid play on behalf of our heroes, and the sequence of quiet revolution is handled smartly. I wouldn't have minded getting to see more of the process of rounding up the MPs and getting the pieces in place to fool the aristocracy, but it might be for the best that the show didn't extend this plotline any further. Given how crucial the coup is to everything else happening in the plot right now, it was never in much question that the plan would go through, so I can see why AoT opted not to play up the twist of Erwin's scheme more than necessary.
Besides, I think it speaks to Attack on Titan's growing thematic complexity that this coup is only treated as another step in a much more complicated path to victory. Nobody putting this plan into action was under the delusion that it would solve all of their problems; Erwin still has to dig up the truth that caused his father to be silenced so many years ago, and Eren and Historia are still missing, so it isn't like they can move forward immediately after the king is deposed. One of Erwin's co-conspirators, Premier Dhalis Zachary, even admits that the coup was more of a personal vendetta than anything, done purely for the sake of shaking up the system. That it was successful at all is a minor miracle, but the times ahead are more uncertain than they've ever been.
Outside of that critical plot development, there isn't much more to this episode that isn't just necessary setup. Eren, who has been chained up in a cavern of crystal, seems to be having visions of Rod Reiss' eldest daughter Frieda, who was supposed to have perished with the other Reisses in a bandit raid from years earlier. Hange and the others find the exact nature of the Reiss clan's slaughter to be suspicious, so they are investigating the chapel where it happened to see if there are any clues to Eren and Historia's whereabouts. Eren's visions are odd in and of themselves, and the episode isn't at all subtle in the way it frames the vision of Frieda directly against Levi Squad's investigation, with Armin wondering just who Eren must have eaten to gain the ability to shift back to human form.
Since I'm not caught up on the manga, I can only speculate, but my guess is that Eren and Historia's pasts are more intertwined than they might have guessed. Given that the preview implicates Eren's father in the titular “Sin” of next week's episode, we might even be approaching an answer to what's going on with that damned basement. Now wouldn't that be something?
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