The Night of the Closing Ceremony

“Hey there. It’s been five years.”

DISCLAIMER: This rewatch will include spoilers for seasons 1-3 of Attack on Titan. If you have not watched all 3 currently available seasons of Attack on Titan, I discourage you from reading further. Even though I am a manga reader, I will not be talking about spoilers for the upcoming season.

So much time has passed in just four episodes. We went from the fall of Wall Maria in 845, to the graduation of the trainee’s in 850. There’s been lots of down time since the inciting incident, and structurally, Isayama could have started the story at the end of this episode with the appearance of the Colossal in Trost, but it would sacrifice pacing and character/world building for the sake of getting to the action quicker.

Just as I said in last episode that it throws a plethora of characters at you who will quickly die (a predictable pattern in AOT), the secret to finding out who will live is the start of this episode, where Shadis gives voiceover introductions to all the characters that become supporting cast.

During the training, Annie and Jean directly acknowledge the hypocrisy of the best soldiers being given the opportunity to become Military Police and flee the danger of the front lines. Looking at the top ten on this rewatch, I was surprised to see Marco made it. Also the show doesn’t directly focus on it, but Marco and Jean are often seen together. Annie, Bertoldt, and Reiner are only surpassed by Mikasa, which makes sense given their previous trainings in the warrior program in Marley.

This episode also introduces us to Erwin (now the Scout commander, usurping Shadis from when we last saw him 5 years ago), Levi, Hange, and Miche. Quick introductions so we know their names for when they join our main cast.

The final scene is borderline a comedy beat. Eren’s inner monologue waxes on how five years has allowed them to recover and prepare since the first terrorist attack, and how their counterattack begins today. Enter Colossal Titan for terrorist attack number two. I would elaborate more on Bertoldt’s perspective and the reasoning behind their stagnated attacks, but…

Fun Notes:
– Depending on the translation you watch, during a training exercise, Reiner hands Eren a play knife and says, “Your turn to play the bad guy.” In other translations it’s, “Your turn to play the bandit.”

– I am not sure whether this will come up in the final season or whether it will be cut. But I want to bring attention to Samuel, who Sasha saves. Daz is another Scout who comes up several times during this Trost arc and then seemingly never mentioned again. All you need to be aware of is their existence. Samuel and Daz are trainee’s of the 104th, and have close relations with the main cast as comrades who trained together.

Thematic Beats:
– Given later power transitions, many compare Armin to Erwin, but this episode actually makes Eren feel closer to Erwin. As we see, Erwin makes rousing speeches, and sacrifices for the greater good of serving his dream to find out the truth. Similarly, Eren makes a speech to discourage the top graduates from joining the Military Police, asserting his dream to kill all the titans. It’s enough to convince Connie, Thomas, and Mina who join the Scouts the next day. Thomas and Mina end up dying the same day in Trost. This will certainly not be the last time nationalist speeches convince foot soldiers to join a cause only to quickly perish in their first encounter.

– Sasha’s background won’t be explored further until S2E02, but I appreciate that it supports her food-stealing tendencies related to anxiety/starvation from her hunter/gatherer family suffering shortages post-Wall Maria falling. “Once we retake the land, we can raise cows and sheep again,” – a hope she has from times lost to war atrocities.

Favorite Scene:
– While on a first watch, the intention of the scene seems straightforward (establish Annie and Eren’s capacity to adapt martial arts) in the greater context, the Reiner/Annie/Eren training exercise scene has the most significance in terms of character. There are lots of subtextual/foreshadowing lines that will continue to have meaning revealed.

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