Attack on Titan
Episode 55

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 55 of
Attack on Titan (TV 4/2019) ?

The debate at the heart of “Midnight Sun” has been foreshadowed for weeks now, and it was cemented with Armin's sacrifice in “Hero”. Levi has one Titan Injection that he retrieved from Kenny, and we've been repeatedly reminded that not only can it give humanity the ability to steal one of the Titan Shifters' powers, it can also bring someone back from the brink of death. Unfortunately, the Beast Titan and the Quadruped Titan don't take long to steal what remains of Reiner away from Hange and Jean, but Bertholdt has been all but left for dead. When Levi returns, Eren discovers that Armin is miraculously hanging on by a thread, and at first the decision seems easy, but then the sole survivor of the charge against the Beast Titan returns with Erwin, who is also just moments away from death.

Though the pacing of recent episodes has been shaky, they've done a great job reinforcing the bond that Levi shared with Erwin, as well as Armin's kinship with both Eren and Mikasa, turning this initially easy choice into an impossible dilemma. Who gets to live on by stealing Bertholdt's power? Who is the more valuable asset in humanity's war against the Titans? Levi doesn't hesitate; the minute Erwin's body is laid out in front of them, he knows the Commander must live, but of course Eren and Mikasa feel the same way about Armin. Eren makes a solid argument too, reminding everyone that Armin was the one who came up with the plan to plug the wall with a boulder back when all this began, that he was the one who discovered Annie's identity (and the existence of enemy Titan Shifters in general), and that Armin was the one who made it possible to discover Reiner and defeat Bertholdt in this battle.

Floch, the guy who found Erwin, gives a more succinct but equally powerful argument for Erwin: he has an insane track record for being an unstoppable maniac. The fact that he's still alive after everything that's happened means he has to be some sort of demon, which is exactly what humanity needs in order to beat the Titans. For an episode that's relatively lacking in action and mostly takes place on one roof where both Erwin and Armin lay dying horribly, Attack on Titan wrings a surprising amount of tension out of this conflict. Levi trades blows with both Eren and Mikasa, Hange comes in to wrangle Mikasa and offer some more thoughts on the matter, etc. Everyone looks tired, broken, and just on the edge of collapse, but nobody can rest until the choice is made. One of these heroes is going to live, and the other will die for good.

Levi is given the ultimate decision, and it seems all but certain that he's going to choose Erwin, but then the delirious commander slaps the needle away. Erwin may not truly understand what's happening (his mind is back in his childhood days, asking the kinds of questions that got his father killed), but this extra moment of reflection gives Levi the opportunity to really think about what Erwin would want. The commander had set his sights on the end before the Beast Titan's barrage blew him into bits. He was willing to die for the cause and for the sacrifices of his men. He wanted to be done with all of the fear and rage and fighting just as badly as he wanted to open up that basement and vindicate his father. So Levi makes the right choice and lets Erwin go.

Honestly, it's the only way this could have gone. For Levi, this moment of conflict and resolution has provided some welcome character development, and just seeing him impulsively resurrect Levi would have felt cheap. Besides, in the grand scheme of things, I don't think there's much question as to whose survival would benefit Attack on Titan's story most. Erwin was cool and all, but he's fully served his purpose in the story, and Armin is Armin. Who doesn't like Armin? The kid just wants to see the ocean. He's got simple dreams.

As much as I was legitimately shocked at his violent almost-death last week, I don't think keeping Armin alive is the cop-out it could have been. Erwin's death still gives the choice dramatic weight, and it isn't like Armin will just forget paying the price of being slowly scorched to death any time soon. (At the very least, we won't forget.) That Armin was willing to go down like he did makes him a real hero, regardless of whether or not he got a get-out-of-death-free card in the end. His survival also gives Bertholdt the inevitably tragic end that was coming for him, going out screaming and crying in terror, so there's plenty of depressing carnage to go around either way. Now that Armin is back in business, humanity has the power of the Colossal Titan on its side, so the conflict is bound to be shaken up in a big way. Now what's the title of that next episode again?

”The Basement”? Attack on Titan, you already had my curiosity, but now? Now you have my attention.


Attack on Titan is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.

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