“This world is cruel and merciless, but it’s also very beautiful.”
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.
This is the episode where the show ‘clicks’ and you get what it’s going to be. The minute we see the Attack Titan killing, it becomes obvious that it’s both Eren and that this is some kind of twisty fleshy version of a mech show (although not nearly as basic and serialized as most mech shows).
To make the darkness even darker, we open this episode by watching a couple of nameless characters belonging to the supply team get cornered by a titan. One of them loads a gun and shoots themselves as the others looks on in horror. Then we cut to named characters (Connie/Jean) receiving an order to retreat but having no gas to do so, as the supply team refuses to fight back and is surrounded, resigned to their fate. Even Sasha, the comic relief, fails to rally others.
In the interim of it’s reveals, we get some nice development for Mikasa and Jean. It’s unfortunate that this is one of the last episodes where Mikasa gets sole focus and solo scenes. Especially important that this is one of the only episodes where Eren is truly believed to be gone. Who is Mikasa without Eren?
Excellent storytelling can often feel like excellent magic through the shared techniques in misdirection. You’ve got to appreciate the way Isayama builds your expectations only to twist them. We’ve had six episodes of nothing but horrible giants destroying our hopes and killing our allies. When Mikasa is surrounded, he has both titans march at her from each direction. The punch and subsequent kill by Eren’s titan is made that much more effective through the repeated futile imagery we’ve seen thus far. The appearance of his titan is a distinct shift where it’s revealed there is hope for these people, and they stand an actual chance of fighting back.
– It took my second or third watch before I noticed Annie’s comments to Reiner in this episode. Isayama masks this hint very well. Amidst the chaos in Trost, Annie asks Reiner what they should do and Reiner says to wait for ‘them’ to gather. On an initial watch, you’d believe they’re talking about a strategy to fight against the titans, but on subsequent watches, we know this pertains to their shared mission as spies. My assumption is that Reiner wanted more titans to gather in Trost before becoming the Armored Titan and destroying Wall Rose (which they decide doesn’t need to happen as Eren’s transformation provides them what they want).
– In the last episode, Mikasa was reminded of how the world is cruel through her remembrance of the cycle of violence in survival — we kill to eat. We all look like enemies to someone. I’m reminded of the great line from Capaldi’s 12th Doctor in the Doctor Who episode The Pilot, “Hardly anything’s evil. Most things are hungry. Hunger looks very much like evil from the wrong end of the cutlery.” Here, at what she believes is her end, she’s reminded of it’s beauty — not just her relationship with Eren, but also the very concept of family and home, which she directly associates with Eren.
– Basic bitch answer, but the punch. It’s just a really fantastic build up and pay off from what we’ve seen thus far.