This is it. Well…almost. This hour-long special comprises part one of Part 3 of The Final Season. The final final finale is expected to air this Fall, and then Attack on Titan will end. And would that it would end like this special began: with Eren waking up from a long dream. Mikasa asks why there are tears in his eyes, but he doesn’t know. He can’t remember.
As Eren walked through the city, he watches a poor boy getting beaten in an alley for stealing, but he doesn’t stop to help. How can he pretend to be righteous when he knows, and is resigned to the fact, that he will soon level this entire city and everyone in it with the Rumbling? He later apologizes to the kid with tears in his eyes, for what he believes can’t be stopped.
After that, we return to the present, in the midst of the Rumbling, and it’s a rough, rough watch. Just unblinking carnage among the rich and poor, men, women, and children, one of whom is the boy Eren met earlier and his brother. Like so many millions, they end up crushed under the foot of a Colossal Titan.
The Rumbling has begun, and there’s nothing the Scout Regiment can do about that, but they’re still determined to do what they can. While on Azumabito’s ship, Annie thanks Armin for talking with her while she was frozen, and he all but confesses he did it not for strategic purposes, but because he loved her.
Annie doesn’t believe she deserves such deference after all she’s done, but Armin has long ago stopped pretending he’s any “better” a person than she. The world beyond the walls wasn’t what he or Eren thought it would be (something Annie already knew), and that reality made monsters of all of them.
But as Falco and Gabi are told by Pieck that the Rumbling has begun and all their family must be dead by now, Armin tells Annie he still hopes there’s something out there, far beyond the walls, to give them hope for the future.
But again, for now, Armin and Mikasa and their meager fighting force are simply going to do what they can. That night at the port when the flying boat is being prepared for flight, Mikasa notices Annie and Armin’s thing and gets flustered herself.
She’s also resolute about bringing Eren, who has gone “far away” in more ways than one, “back”, with the unspoken “or die trying”, but is also accepting that Annie has fought enough, so she’ll fight so she can spend the time she has left more peacefully.
That said, Armin is going on this mission from which he may not return, and Annie is deciding to stay on the ship with Azumabito, Gabi, and Falco. Yelena confirms that Eren’s likely next target is Fort Salta, where the Marleyan airship fleet will no doubt be mobilized for a final assault.
Yelena also maintains that Zeke’s Eldian euthanization plan would have been preferable to the global massacre currently taking place…and Hange can’t disagree anymore. After Reiner and Annie share a heartfelt hug of farewell and apology, Armin shoots Annie one last wave look of acknowledgement before the ship steams off. He wants Annie to stay Annie.
Predictably, the launch of the flying boat does not go off without a hitch. Floch, who had stowed away on the ship, appears to shoot holes in the plane’s fuel tank, delaying the launch enough for the Rumbling to arrive. Knowing someone has to try to slow them down to give the welders time to repair the tank, Hange assigns herself what she knows will be a one-way mission.
She’s her typical happy-go-lucky and somewhat unhinged Hange Zoe self right to the last, naming Armin her successor as Scout Regiment Commander, and then flying off on her ODM gear for one last sweeping view of the port city, before blushing at the beauty of the Colossals before her.
Hange puts up a hell of a fight and brings a number of Colossals down (they’re very stupid, so they don’t dodge her attacks or even step over one another), but she is eventually enveloped in flames and falls to her death. But by the time she does, the flying boat is safely in the air, and hope of stopping the Rumbling is still alive. Hange, unfortunately, is not, and joins Erwin and a number of other fallen comrades under the blue skies of the hereafter.
The second half of the special is entitled “Sinners” as everyone from the main players of this story to their parents and parents’ parents, reflect on the lives they’ve led and how they may have contributed to the situation they’re in now, and how to make things better in the future, if they can.
Armin wastes no time asserting authority as commander in laying out their plan of attack once they get to Fort Salta and encounter Eren. Killing him will only be a last resort if dialogue won’t work. But just as they’re discussing such dialogue, Eren brings them all to the Path and declares in no uncertain terms that the Rumbling will not stop under any circumstances.
This begs the question: if he doesn’t want the Rumbling to stop, why are they all still able to use their Titan powers? He tells them he’s given them the freedom to choose. They can either sit back and watch him complete the purge of all non-Eldians from the world, or try to stop him. It’s not exactly an invitation, but Eren is well aware Armin and the others will choose the latter.
Back on the boat, Annie learns that Falco has been dreaming memories of Zeke. He still has a connection to Zeke and the Beast Titan, ergo if Annie so chooses, she can use her Female Titan power to manifest those abilities. Annie had just heard Azumabito saying she may not be able to turn back time or ever forgive herself, but she can still do what she can. Was that talk, and this opportunity, enough to bring Annie back into the fight?
Just as a train from the city being controlled by the Eldians (including Reiner and Annie’s folks) approaches Fort Salta, they see all the airships, their means of escape, have been launched in a last-ditch effort to stop the Rumbling. The fort’s commander vows to break away from the cycle of hate that caused this crisis should they somehow manage to survive.
The airship bombing run does not go well. The airships’ altitude is too high for accurate targeting, and the Beast Titan sprouts from Eren’s spine to lob lighting balls at the ships until they’ve all been blown out of the sky. All hope seems lost for the soldiers and refugees at the fort, united in their desire to survive. But then the flying boat peeks out of the clouds, running on fumes, just in time to drop the Scout Regiment right on top of Eren.
Armin, Mikasa, Jean, Connie, and Levi leap from the plane, joined by Reiner and Pieck, who transform into the Armored and Cart. The people at the fort can see what’s going on, and Reiner’s family revels in the fact he’s still alive. How long, however, remains to be seen.
As Armin prepares to get up close and personal with his former best friend, he has one more question for him: How is this freedom to him? Those colossal ribs look like nothing so much as a cage in which Eren is restrained, pulled and dragged along by what he feels to be his final fate.
But even after all the sins he’s committed and plans to commit, Armin and especially Mikasa are not ready to give up on him. They’ve sinned too, after all, as has every single living soul in the world. The time for judging one another is over. This is a fight for survival and the future, and if they lose, it’s the end of everything. Who will prevail? We’ll find out in the Fall.