Attack on Titan – 87 (The Final Season Part 2 Fin) – Their Best Shot

Before we reach the end of everything, Attack on Titan takes a look back to a time that was never covered in previous episodes: the last time the Scouts (minus Reiner, Annie, etc.) were all together: when they first arrived at Marley’s biggest port. It’s great to see Sasha alive, Levi in one piece, Mikasa in her Sunday best making the cutest faces while eating ice cream for the first time…while Connie and Sasha chase a car to try to feed it a carrot.

We know the gang is there to meet with the Azumabito and weigh their options concerning Marley. Ideally they can strike some kind of peace, and Hange makes it clear that’s the primary goal to start, no matter how difficult or dangerous it might be. They know there’s a “Subjects of Ymir Protection Group” making a big speech in the forum that will shake things up…it’s not much, but as Hange says, it’s their best shot.

While everyone else is either focused on the political talks or being fish out of water in the technologically advanced city, Eren already seems distant, with a thousand-yard stare that’s more like ten thousand yards. The ever-protective Mikasa finds him looking down at a refugee camp on the city outskirts.

He can’t help but relate to these people from whom everything was suddenly stolen. Then, out of the blue (at least for her), asks Mikasa “what he is” to her. Rather than say he’s everything and she loves him, she goes the safe route, saying he’s “family.”

Following that is one of the most purely joyful sequences in all of Titandom: when Eren, Mikasa, Armin, Sasha, Connie, and Jean are invited to the tent of the refugee elders and their family. There, they get drunk and have a shitload of fun all night long.

When the booze runs out, they simply go get more, and bring more refugees to join the party. When Hange and Levi find them, they’re all passed out, with Eren naturally flanked by Mikasa and Armin, the three inseparable even in intense inebriation.

Sadly, that’s the end of the fun and joy for both the episode and for Part 2 of The Final Season. Everyone gets over their hangovers and attends the forum, their purported ally, while voicing his resolve to help those Subjects of Ymir who have suffered as much or more than Marleyans, still considers the Subjects on Paradis to be “devils” and the “true enemy.” It doesn’t look like there’s much hope for peaceful negotiation, so Eren peaces out early.

Mikasa recalls that this was the day Eren left them. As she stands on the boat in the present, headed back to the Marleyan coast to try to stop the Rumbling, she can’t help but wonder if all of this would have happened had she given Eren a different answer to the questions “what am I to you” and “why do you care about me so much.”

The answer, of course, is probably not. While I still doubt Eren meant the terrible things he said to Mikasa when they basically broke up as both friends and family, but as we see in his last talk with Historia, he believed there was no other way to stop the cycle of hate and revenge than destroying the rest of the world.

Historia is understandably horrified by his position, and by his suggestion he can use the Founder’s power to wipe her memories to soothe her pain. But what probably haunts her most is that she, the “worst girl in the world” saved his life. Had she not, he wouldn’t be here preparing to commit mass genocide against her wishes.

Later, after Eren cuts off his own leg and stabs his eye to end up in a military hospital where he and Zeke meet, he asks his brother about the “forced behavior” of members of the Ackerman clan. Zeke assures him that Mikasa’s devotion to him wasn’t blood conditioning, but simply a level of love so intense she’d happily tear through legions of Titans for him.

I wish Zeke’s words had come earlier, before Eren had already pretty much committed to betraying his brother and usurping the Eldian euthanization plan for an Everyone Else euthanization plan. After all, Eren is certain he’ll only live four more years, tops. But he wants to leave the world a place where Mikasa and Armin can live and be happy.

Unfortunately, Mikasa and Armin aren’t content to simply sit back and let Eren do this in their names; there’s no way they could ever be happy in a world that 1.) doesn’t have Eren in it and 2.) has had most of the world’ population wiped out by the Rumbling. But Eren’s got tunnel vision at this point. Unless anyone can get to him and give their best shot to convincing him to reconsider, this thing is happening.

We see the beginnings of this as the largest joint fleet in human history assembles at the coastline. Their first volley of fire destroys several dozen Colossal Titans, but then the skin of the others begins to harden and that’s all she wrote; the 20,000-ton battleships being tossed into the air like plastic toys. The last line of defense, land-based artillery units, watch this nightmare unfold and abandon their posts.

As the camera pans up to the several-thousand-foot-tall Founding Attack/Founding Titan bearing Eren’s green eyes, the vow he made as a small child before an hour of scout training, when the vision of his mother being eaten still fresh in his mind, is repeated: “I’ll kill every last one of them.”

And that’s it for Part 2. Mind you, Part 2 was not Part 2 of 2. I kinda figured that when I realized half of this episode was over and we were still in a flashback. Still, the stage is set for a Part 3, which may or may not be the final part of the final season.

Will this all come down to an epic lovers’ quarrel between Mikasa and Eren? If it does, how many cities will be leveled before it gets to that? I don’t know, but I do know the face Mikasa should make in hopes of stopping Eren:

Attack on Titan – 86 – A Good Time to Die

Floch’s reinforcements are already on the way when Hange, Magath & Co. finally meet up with the Azumabito. That’s when the world’s scrappy last hope against Eren learns that the flying boat usually takes a whole day to service before it’s ready for flight. At best, they can shave it down to half a day, but Hange estimates they only have four days to stop the rumbling from destroying the entire world.

Kiyomi proposes they tow the flying boat to the Marleyan coastal city of Odiha (the map of which looks a lot like Tokyo on its side) where it can get serviced faster and more safely, but they have to get to the cargo ship and get it ready. As the logistic pile up, Mikasa informs Annie and Reiner, who are just barely holding the line as it is.

The ensuing battle is a sickening Eldian-against-Eldian bloodbath, with the Titans getting battered with lightning spears as th Jaegerist soldiers are carved up by Mikasa, Hange, Connie, and Jean. It must no doubt suck to have to kill so many of their own kind, but if they hesitate they’re the ones who’ll be killed, and it will be game over.

They have to fight, and kill, and slaughter in order to get to the next step, even if they have no idea where Eren is located. That means when push comes to shove, even Falco and Gabi aren’t spared from the fighting, as the former transforms into the Jaw Titan for the first time, while the latter fires the shot that finally takes Floch down…but is he really out?

Prior to his final charge, Floch’s reinforcements are approaching on a train…which is promptly blown up. By who, we don’t know, but there’s no time to worry about it. Once all of the Jaegerist soldiers are taken out, the battered Anti-Eren Alliance limps aboard the readied ship, and they sail off to meet their destinies.

As for Magath, he stays behind to scuttle the docked  Marleyan cruiser before more Jaegerist reinforcements arrive. On the way, his life is saved…by Shadis, who followed the alliance here, his heart moved by seeing his former students think and act for themselves and for the good of the world. Shadis and Magath realize that their stories must end here, and indeed go out in a massive blast that takes the cruiser off the board.

I can’t rule out whether Floch managed to stow aboard the ship bound for Odiha (it’s hard to believe that’s the last we’ve seen of such an annoying antagonist) but one thing’s for certain: the alliance is too late to save Liberio, which means Annie’s reason for fighting is gone (though unbeknownst to her, her dad is already dead).

Hange once again demonstrates their leadership by telling Annie and the others that they’re on that boat because Magath trusted them to save people whose names he’d never know. So Annie, tears in her eyes, asks Mikasa once more if, when the time comes, she’ll be able to kill Eren, or let her kill him.

All Annie is sure of is that she’s tired of fighting—with Mikasa, even with Eren. Hopefully they’ll all be able to live to see a time when the fighting’s over and they can rest. It won’t be long now.

Attack on Titan – 85 – Coming to This

Floch and the Jaegerists have taken the port and secured the Marleyan flying boat, but haven’t destroyed it yet, despite being the only thing our new alliance can use to get to Eren. Hange posits that Floch isn’t in a hurry to destroy valuable tech that will take decades to restore with most of the world gone. Whatever the reason, the alliance needs that plane. What is everyone willing to do to get it?

Armin wants to try to secure the boat and get it repaired by the Azumabito mechanics without shedding any blood. It’s probably upping the difficulty level far higher than they need to considering the stakes. That said, they’re also trying to cling to what shards of humanity they still possess, which is admirable…as is Magath trying to wring Eren’s location out of Yelena, then bowing his head in apology for initially blaming four kids for all of Eldia’s historical crimes against Marley.

Even Magath understands the importance of not holding children responsible for the misdeeds of their ancestors in a future where everyone can co-exist. Unfortunately, we’re not quite in that future yet, and so the plan to capture the plan without bloodsheed quickly goes sideways, in part due to Floch being smart enough to consider whether Armin and Connie are traitors, and in part due to Azumabito Kiyomi not being ready to go down without a fight.

Kiyomi understands that Eren’s plan won’t save the world, only shrink it; concentrating all of humanity’s inner conflict on one island—and shrinking the gene pool along with it. No, this way will be mankind’s ruin, only faster than allowing the present system to continue. I don’t know if Kiyomi thinks Armin will do something and tries to buy time by pinning Floch, or if she’s just ready to die fighting.

The end result is the same: the Jaegerists, who can’t be reasoned with in such a compressed timeframe, must be wiped out. Mikasa bursts into the room where Kiyomi is being held and does her best to incapacitate the Jaegerists without killing them, while Annie and Reiner transform in an attempt to capture or kill Floch. I daresay I felt quite nostalgic seeing the Female Titan in action again after so many years.

But while Titans rumble towards Marley and other Titans flex their muscles on behalf of the alliance, the most compelling part of the episode happens on the pier, as Armin and Connie try to trick their former comrades Daz and Samuel into disarming the bomb attached to the flying boat and let them use it to “chase the Cart Titan”.

When Floch raises the alarm, Armin is shot and Connie held, but their comrades hesitate just enough to allow Connie to take the upper hand, shooting both in the head. Yes, he and Armin betrayed two of their old friends…but they had to. The very world depended on it.

Clinging to their humanity won’t mean jack shit if the Eren and Rumbling succeed. The alliance’s one and only mission is to prevent that, and doing so will stain their hands with far more blood than they’d prefer. It has well and truly come to this, and there’s no more going back.

Attack on Titan – 84 – Kumbaya

While lying awake in bed, Jean envisions a comfortable future in “that prime spot in the interior.” He has a wife, a kid, and all the fancy liquor he can sip. He can have it all if he simply “stays put”, does what Floch says, and allows Eren to commit global genocide unchallenged. In other words, he has to give up on being a Scout.

Jean meets secretly with Hange and Mikasa prior to the botched execution of Yelena and Onyankopon that results in the three being eaten by the Cart, so we already know he’ll choose to stop Eren. This week we learn why he made that decision. First, Hange’s three simple but powerful words—genocide is wrong. Second, Hange makes him feel the eyes of all his fellow scouts who have fallen. He won’t forsake them. He tells Hange, simply, I’m forever a scout.

Fast-forward to the big meet-up of the Paradis and Marleyan Eldians (and Magath), and while last week there was a distinct super-heroic feeling to this eclectic band being brought together, it looks decidedly shakier this week, once they all, ya know, have to sit around a fire together.

The sparks start flying when Magath and Jean argue over who started this fight, at which point Hange, stirring the stew, says none of them should be talking about a past they weren’t present for.

Then Annie asks Mikasa if, when trying to convince Eren fails, would she really be able to hurt or kill him in order to stop him. When Mikasa bears arms, Annie responds with her needle ring, ready to transform. They end up cooling down then partaking in the hot stew.

Meanwhile, the reason Yelena is alive is so she can tell Magath and the others where Eren is. She won’t tell them, but she’s happy to stir the shit by going over how many people everyone assembled there has killed, and more importantly, what they did to each other.l

Honestly, why Hange didn’t insist on Yelena being gagged in such a volatile situation is beyond me. Yelena doesn’t spare anyone, getting it “all out in the open”. What sets Jean off is when she mentions Marco, and how Reiner and Annie took away his ODM gear so he’d get eaten by a titan.

It’s not that fact, but when Reiner adds that he killed the titan that ate Marco, and begs Jean not to forgive him, than Jean basically beats him to a pulp. When Gabi gets between them, she gets kicked, but she and Falco still beg Jean to help them save their families.

At dawn, after he’s calmed down, Jean wakes Gabi and Falco up, saying that he’ll help them. There’s a crispness and clarity to the look of the morning that suggests a great many things were burned away in that campfire, or at least set aside to the point where they can all work together towards a shared goal: stopping Eren’s genocide.

Unfortunately, before they reach the port where Azumabito Kiyomi says there’s an airship for them to board, Pieck reports that the port is already under Jaegerist occupation, and Lady Azumabito is among Floch’s hostages. The Stop Eren faction is off to a rocky start.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Attack on Titan – 83 – Putting Together a Team

Levi is lucky his companion in the woods is Hange, who is able to stiches him up and keeps his wounds clean. The two are in the dark until Eren’s message to all Eldians. Hange thinks the only option is to run, but even in his awful state, that’s not how Levi flies, so the two make contact with Magath and Pieck and propose an alliance.

We catch glimpses of Jean, Mikasa, and Annie at night trying to sleep through the din of the Rumbling, while Armin and Gabi ride through the night, trying to catch up to Connie in time to save Falco. Little did I know everyone in this little sequence would not only eventually reunite, but also have a plan involving Magath, Pieck, Hange and Levi. But first, Armin has to stop Connie from doing something he’ll regret.

Connie’s lie about “brushing the titan’s teeth” is not that convincing even to a dummy like Falco, but Armin and Gabi make it there in time, and Connie gets Armin to stand down by essentially forcing him to save him from his mother’s jaws. Almost losing Armin—and almost subjecting her mom to becoming the Colossal Titan—snaps Connie out of his crazed plan, as does realizing his mom would not have wanted him to kill a friend anda kid to save her.

After a downer of a scene where Mikasa gets her scarf back from her would-be protégé Louise (who is dying of shrapnel) and another scene of Floch going full Fascist, Armin, Connie, Gabi and Falco stop in town for some much-needed food and just happen to sit at the same bench where Annie is scarfing down her first food in four years. Sure, it’s convenient, but I’ll totally allow it, as well as Connie’s not-so-nice ribbing. These guys once trained together as kids, so after all that’s happened it’s nice to be reminded they still are kids.

Back at the ruins of the fort, Floch, who believes Jean has chosen a side, prepares to execute Yelena and Onyankopon. The former has no final words, but Floch wants Jean to prove his loyalty by killing Onyankopon first, and Onyankopon, who was dealt a terrible hand in all this, has a lot to say. The camera cuts away as Jean shoots once, twice, four times, all of the shots missing…on purpose. He pushes Floch away as the Cart Titan pounces, swallowing Jean, Onyankopon and Yelena.

The four shots were a signal to “continue the plan”, meaning Armin, Mikasa, and Connie had a plan, working with Magath, Pieck, Hange and Levi. Armin and Mikasa leave the city driving wagons packed with supplies, with Connie, Annie, Gabi, and Falco all along for the ride. Annie notices someone watching them leaving, something that will most likely come up later. But it’s just thrilling watching all these characters I like teaming up.

Pieck stops by a stream to regurgitate Jean, Onyankopon, and Yelena, the latter of whom was saved because she’s part of Hange and Levi’s deal with Magath and Pieck. Jean explains to Onyankopon that he just couldn’t plug his ears and remain a part of Floch’s xenophobic Jaegerist regime. Like Connie, he held on to his pride as a soldier.

In his cabin hideout, a recovering Reiner is kicked awake by Annie, someone he probably never expected to see alive again. He’s even more confused by the odd combination of people around him: Mikasa, Connie, Armin, Annie, Gabi, and Falco. He asks what’s going on, and he gets an answer: they’ve assembled a team…to save the world. Despite the magnitude of the difficulty of their goal considering the Rumbling is already underway, in that moment, I believed them.

This is the first episode of this cour of Titan that was actually fun to watch more often than not. Turns out there are a few good guys (or the closest thing to it) in this world, who never asked Eren to destroy the world for them, and are committed to stopping the slaughter or die trying. This episode was thrilling (and at times pretty damn funny) enough that I’m content to wait for the next episodes to explain exactly how they’re going to do that.

Attack on Titan – 82 – Wanting to Go Home

Eren’s Rumbling army hasn’t even left earshot and his great plan to save Paradis is already going sideways. Turns out destroying the rest of the world will only result in the Eldians on the island splitting off into pro- and anti-Eren factions. It’s already starting in Trost where Hitch is stationed.

Of course, the main reason we’re back with Hitch is because she was assigned to watch Annie, who surprises her in a dark room but is too weak to hurt Hitch or even transform into a Titan. We also learn that Annie has been conscious these last four years, listening to Hitch talk about terrible men while in what felt like a hazy dream.

With Annie awake and sure to transform and wreak fresh havoc once she’s recovered her strength, Hitch puts her on a horse and rides as far away from the city as she can. Annie recounts her life up to that point, noting how she was forced to listen to Hitch talk about herself for four years; turnabout is fair play.

It’s both darkly comic (in an episode that needed a little comedy) and provides fresh insight into Annie’s current attitude, she’s no longer the nihilist she once was. Instead, all she wants is to go home to the imperfect father who turned her into a weapon, but was also the only one who didn’t abandon her. Even if the only thing waiting for her back home is death and destruction.

As Eldians around the world panic over their shared dream and their non-Eldian oppressors don’t believe them (and Annie’s father is among those shot on the spot for “conspiracy”), Shadis and his trainees are cornered by the Jaegerists, whom he’s certain will take control of the island. Shadis is too old to keep playing suck-up to his enemies, and would rather welcome his impending death, but insists the kids get in line and do as the Jaegerists say, for the time to rise up will come, and they’ll know it when it does.

One of the more tragically hapless and rudderless characters in this whole mess Eren created is poor, poor Mikasa. It’s bad enough Eren said those horrible things to her, but now she finds herself being abandoned not just by him, but by Armin, who is going to Rakago to convince (or if necessary force) Connie to give up Falco.

Mikasa asks Armin what they’re going to do about Eren, and Armin, who usually has an answer, tells her to think for herself for once. He’s juggling too many things he has a chance of doing, and the Eren situation is something he feels is frustratingly outside his control. After chewing her out, Armin says Erwin wouldn’t have done so, and the wrong person died.

The Braus family bids Gabi a warm farewell. Even Kaya tells her to take care, and while Gabi gives her her real name, Kaya prefers Mia. In a world full of increasingly shrinking populations splitting off into warring factions, Kaya and Gabi’s rapprochement is one of the few beacons of hope that remains. It’s too late for old men like Shadis, and probably even younger soldiers like Armin and Mikasa, but not for Gabi, Kaya, and Falco, which is why Armin has to save the latter. If Gabi loses him, like that, that faint glimmer of hope could fizzle out.

The case against Armin’s generation is the fact that zealots like Floch seem poised to inherit control over the island. Floch encourages the Marleyan volunteers to bent the knee to him. He’s drunk with power, and considers himself almost equal to Eren in that Eren is taking care of the outside world while he takes command the island.

He doesn’t hesitate to kill a defiant volunteer, hoping the others will fall in line, or else. He tries to assure Jean, who does not like what he’s watching unfold, that essentially “it’s over”, and “the good guys won.” He can take it easy in the military police like he wanted to years ago. But Floch is ill-informed; that’s not who Jean is anymore, and Jean would probably make a better leader, precisely because he has doubts about the direction things are headed.

Pieck and Magath managed to escape Shiganshima in one piece, and watch as the airships speed home to at least warn Marley of what’s coming (and confirm what the interned Eldians there already know). But the two agree that Marley is probably hosed, and they’re out of options…or are they? Hange sidles up to them unarmed, bearing a wagon with Levi, who is somehow still alive. While I’m not sure what if anything this meeting of four people can accomplish, I’m excited by the wild-card vibes it invokes.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Attack on Titan – 81 – The Devil in All of Us

Last week we learned the profoundly sad story of the Founder Ymir and Eren made his move, and by doing so has condemned all Eldians not living on Paradis to the same fate as non-Eldians.

This week the ramifications begin, and we watch it unfold both on the ground and from the rooftops. Gabi finds her injured uncle and stashes him in a house to rest, then continues her search for Falco. happens to be in the custody of Mikasa, Armin, Jean, and Connie.

Being Eldians, all of them were briefly transported to the Coordinate and heard Eren’s plans, and none of them feel particularly great about benefiting from mass genocide. That said, Conie wants to feed Falco to his immobile mom in Rakago in hopes of restoring her.

Armin doesn’t want to kill Falco, but when the Pure Titans start going on a rampage, Connie uses the ensuing chaso to escape with Falco—and I can’t blame him for wanting to save his mother.

Among those fleeing for their lives from the Pure Titans (whose rampage is a nice bit of symmetry from the terrifying first episode of the series) are the Braus family and Colt. Kaya hits her head and falls behind, and is about to be eaten by a Titan when she’s saved…by Gabi and her trusty anti-titan rifle.

When soldiers arrive and recognize Gabi, Kaya returns the favor by saying they’re all one family, just trying to get away from the Titans, while Colt says he fired the gun. Neither Kaya nor Gabi quite know why they saved each other, but the fact that they did matters, and is a good sign for the future.

No one in Paradis can do anything about Eren or the Rumbling, so they stick to what they can do: kick some Pure Titan ass. As Commander Shadis organizes the frightened trainees inside the fort, Jean takes command of the soldiers outside, gathering all the lightning spears they have and raining destruction upon the Titans, many of whom were their mentors and comrades, like Pyxis.

When the dust settles, the Marleyan army has been all but wiped out and the Pure Titans have been exterminated. Floch, who is still alive, arrests Yelena, who has been out of it for a while now, and orders her to assemble the volunteers. Things in the city have calmed down, but always in the background ring the booming steps of those Colossal Titans representing Eren’s uncompromising will.

Gabi and the Brauses end up meeting up with Mikasa and Armin, which is how Gabi learns that Connie has Falco and is planning to feed him to his mom. When Gabi reports that the hardening of Reiner’s Armored Titan shattered, Armin asks a very important question: when exactly that happened.

Turns out it was the precise moment the walls fell, which means Eren undid all of the hardening in the world at once. That means Annie Leonhart, who has been “on ice” for quite some time, is now officially back on the board.

Did Eren simply forget about her, is she part of his plan, or is it moot since the Founder can command all other Titans? I for one am glad that the show at least didn’t forget about Annie. The fact her awakening is the cliffhanger almost assures she’ll play a crucial role in the remaining episodes.

Attack on Titan – 75 – Piecking Sides

Zeke barely survived the Thunder Spear explosion, but believes he may be soon pushing daisies until a Pure Titan arrives, cuts open its belly, and places Zeke inside; presumably to facilitate healing. Levi’s gambit failed and his fate remains unknown.

To the last, Attack on Titan is to tense, unpleasant meal scenes as Yuru Camp is to relaxing, pleasant ones, as Pyxis is forced to dine while soldiers wearing the same uniform hold a gun to his back.

Pyxis notes that various colored handkerchiefs adorning everyone—white for Jaegerists, red for those who found out they drank wine and forced to comply, and black for those who drank wine without knowing it—seem an awful lot like “how Marley does things”. But Yelena makes one thing clear: this isn’t about revenge.

In the jail, Connie and Jean want to know what Eren said to Mikasa that made Armin throw a punch at Eren, then get the shit beat out of him (though his Titan healing seems to be working fine). Mikasa doesn’t want to talk about it, Connie thinks it doesn’t matter; Eren is a piece of shit and now he’s gone mad; and Jean wonders if Eren is actually playing some kind of 4D chess.

Then Yelena arrives to tell the once-“heroes of Shiganshina” that they’re to sit quiet and behave until Zeke and Eren meet. When Niccolo berates Greiz for selling them out to become Yelena’s lackey, Greiz lays into Niccolo for falling in love with a “devil spawn whore”.

His words earn him a bullet to the head…from Yelena, who bows in apology and assures the others that Paradis “has no need for those who would call you devils”. She decides to come clean with Zeke and Eren’s true goal: the Eldian Euthanization Plan that will end the cycle of hatred.

Gabi, the rootable yet pitiable poster girl for that cycle throughout The Final Season, is visited by Eren, who asks her to help him if she wants her friend Falco to live, by calling for help on the radio to flush out her allies. Just as he’s making this not-a-request, one of those allies in Pieck slips right in, cuts the guard’s throat, and points her Luger at Eren, ordering Gabi to train the guard’s rifle on him.

Eren is unmoved. Pieck’s orders were to retake the Founding Titan, not kill him, otherwise he’d already be dead. He impresses upon her how both she and her family would be punished by Marley for disobeying orders. Pieck stands down and orders Gabi to do the same, declaring that her true goal is to free all Eldians—in Marley and around the world.

When Pieck asks Gabi what they are, she says “Honorary Marleyans”, but Pieck says they’re Subjects of Ymir first and foremost. Port Slava showed that the time of the Titans’ usefulness is nearing an end due to the advancement of military technology. When it does, Marley will slaughter the lot of them.

While Pieck tries to convince a still-thoroughly conditioned Gabi of their need to fight for their right to live, Yelena finishes explaining to the prisoners how the Jeager brothers’ plan will end the Eldians’ time on this earth “gracefully and peacefully”. Armin is moved to tears by the nobility of such a cause, apparently in agreement that the only way to end the cycle is to end the Titans.

Having agreed to point out her fellow Marleyan invaders to Eren from atop the Shiganshina citadel’s tower, they walk through the citadel. She waves to soldiers like an idol and is met by blushing faces…there’s no denying Pieck is extremely cute—and cool-headed to boot. But until Eren is satisfied she can be trusted, he has her shackled to Gabi so if she tries to transform into the Cart, she’ll kill her.

Just when Gabi couldn’t be feeling lower, Pieck squeezes her hand in hers and gives her a soft, kind smile. When Eren orders her to point out where the enemy is, Pieck turns around and dramatically points…right back at Eren. She’s not lying, nor is she talking about Eren, as Porco/Jaws blasts through the floor and snaps up everything below Eren’s waist.

Unfortunately he wasn’t able to snap his head off, gobble him up whole, and Eren simply transforms into the Founding Titan. But that’s apparently just what Pieck, Porco, and their compatriots want, as five Marleyan airships arrive right on time, with both Commander Magath and Reiner Braun on board. We get one last look at the Founding Titan’s glorious glutes before the cut to yet another To Be Continued.

That’s right: The Final Season isn’t over yet, only the first part. This actually came as news to me, but I’m also eternally grateful things don’t end here with some kind of “Want to find out how it ends? Read the manga!” message. As the minutes were counting down I had a feeling there simply wouldn’t be adequate time for an anime-original wrap-up of everything going on. But the endgame is certainly nigh, and this first part of the final season covered some serious ground and ended with Eren as the Big Bad.

Will he remain so in Part 2, or go against his brother’s plan to exterminate their race? Is his relationship with Mikasa and Armin been permanently destroyed, or will a chance at redemption present itself, possibly aligned with his split from Zeke? How many more twists are we in store for? Questions abound, just as they always do at the end of a cour of Shingeki no Kyojin—and as always, the next cour can’t come soon enough.

Attack on Titan – 69 – Love Is in the Air

Things in present-day Paradis are pretty grim, but leave it to Hange to liven things up a bit by getting all pedantic about an incarcerated Eren repeating “fight” into his mirror. Hange is there to talk, just like the first time they met, only this time they’d prefer if he did most of the talking. If nothing else, Hange believed Eren would never sacrifice Historia (which is necessary for the Rumbling). Yet here they are.

Flash back to two years ago, with the Scouts and Yelena’s Marleyans welcoming the first outside visitors to Paradis’ rebuilt port: Paradis’s sole friendly nation, Hizuru, and its special envoy, Azumabito Kiyomi. During initial pleasantries, Kiyomi presents the shogunate crest: three katanas forming a triangle. Eren urges Mikasa to reveal what she’s only ever shown to him: that very same crest on top of her right wrist.

That’s right: Mikasa is the long-lost descendant and rightful heir to Hizuru’s throne. Queen Historia immediately feels a deepened kinship with Mikasa, as both were born with a heavy burden to bear. It’s just that unlike ‘Tori, Mikasa likely has no intention of uprooting her life, so say nothing of leaving Eren’s side.

Kiyomi has come to Paradis on Zeke Yeager’s invitation, as he enticed them with the prospect of mining the unique resource known as “Iceburst Stone” which fuels Paradis’ ODM gear. They’re excited at the prospect of restoring their former glory by taking the lead in an innovative industry. It also becomes clear that the Azumabitos of Hizuru are particularly concerned with profit, however it can be acquired.

Zeke’s plan to use the Rumbling to protect Paradis consists of three stages, as presented to Historia and all the island’s higher-ups. First, there will be a “test run” of the Rumbling, then strengthening of the Paradis military. Finally, the Founding Titan and a Titan with royal blood will be passed down. Zeke will pass the Beast Titan to a royal, and for thirteen years that royal’s primary task will be to have as many children as possible.

This plan makes sense in the present, but it does nothing about the overarching problem of the power of the Titans bringing ruin upon Eldians. Basically, the cure (i.e. the successful defense of Paradis) is worse than the disease. Hange understands this, and doesn’t like the prospect of kicking the can down the road to future generations, as previous ones did to them.

Back in the present, Hange tells Eren she felt the same urgency to weigh the protection of their lands against the cost it would incur, but still wishes Eren hadn’t gone off on his own, which severely limited their remaining options. Eren’s only response is that no prison can hold him now that he has the Warhammer Titan, so if Hange has “anything up her sleeve”, now’s the time to come out with it.

As for Queen Historia, she became pregnant in the ensuing two years, as discussed by a good old boy’s club getting drunk and discussing future strategy. The father of the child she’s carrying once threw rocks at her on her farm and later volunteered at her orphanage as penance. It was Historia who initiated their eventual liason resulting in her pregnancy.

One old man, Roeg, drunk on wine, can’t believe the queen got herself knocked up, and suggests they make her a Titan despite her pregnancy; no one else thinks that’s right or wise. Roeg suspects it was Yelena who convinced Tori to get pregnant, but he really has no idea. These guys, by the way, are being attended to by Greiz and Niccolo, who serve under Yelena.

Looking back two years ago, Eren, Mikasa, Armin, Sasha, Connie, and Jean are all hard at work building a Paradis railroad, of all things, when Hange and Levi pay them a visit to report that Hizuru gave their reply: they won’t help Paradis open trade with other nations, as they’re committed to a monopoly on the island’s resources.

The rest of the world’s nations remaining united against Paradis, Root of All Evil, creates stability they’re unwilling to give up. That means they have little choice but to rely on the Rumbling for defense, which means sacrificing Historia. Armin wishes they’d reconsider a more peaceful path, but Mikasa tells him it’s no good; as long as those nations don’t know who and what they really are, they’ll always fear them.

An alternative plan, then, involves showing them who and what they are, by setting up a base in Marley. Eren worries time is running short; he only has five more years as a Titan. Then talk turns to who will inheret his Titan. Obviously, Mikasa volunteers first, but Jean vetoes, as there’s too much mystery surrounding the Ackermans.

Jean volunteers, but Connie believes he’s too valuable as a future regiment commander. Connie volunteers, but Sasha says they can’t leave such an important role to an idiot, so she volunteers. Connie says she’s more of an idiot than he is, so that wouldn’t work. Then Eren says he doesn’t want any of them to have to inherit it. They’re all too important to him, and he wants them to live long lives. This causes all of them to turn red—apropos for Valentines.

Back in the darker, bleaker, narrower present, Mikasa, Armin, Jean and Connie discuss what’s next now that Eren seems to be going all in on Zeke’s plan. If Eren is choosing Zeke over them, they may need to cut him down, but of course Mikasa would never allow that. She assures them it won’t come to that, that he still cares about them.

But Jean mentions how the old Eren would try to keep Mikasa off the front lines. The new one pulled them into an unnecessary battle that got Sasha killed. And worse, Connie mentions how Eren laughed when he heard Sasha had died. Armin decides that he and Mikasa will talk to Eren alone and try to see how he sees things. Because he may not be Eren anymore, and thus may not consider them as important as exacting final revenge upon Marley and the world.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Attack on Titan – 68 – No Peace In Our Time

The Scout Regiment is back home on Paradis, and Armin is reminiscing on better times on a torch-lit cell, all the while with the shell he found that day on the beach in his hand. He looks back to three years ago, to when there was still a possibility things could come to a peaceful or diplomatic solution.

Thanks to Eren lifting Marleyan scout ships out of the water and dropping them on dry land, the Scout Regiment as led by Hange and Levi manage to secure the entire Marleyan crew as captives. But they have help from within: Yelena, who along with her pro-Eldian compatriots, turn on their Marleyan crewmates and accepts Hange’s somewhat kind if somewhat manic offer of a cup of tea.

Yelena and Onyankopon describe to Hange and Levi Marley’s extensive advantage in military technology. When asked why Marley hasn’t used that tech to invade Paradise, Yelena’s answer is twofold: the hordes of Pure Titans around the island meant to keep the Eldians within the walls also do a good job keeping would-be invaders away.

Secondly, after the Colossal and Female Titans were captured by Paradis, Marley’s weakness was exploited by a number of nations ganging up on them. As we know, the fresh invasion of Paradis couldn’t happen until their war with the other nations was won. Yelena and her people, who aren’t foreign secret agents embedded in Marley but a group called the “Anti-Marleyan Volunteers” are tasked with freeing the Eldian people, are led by Zeke Yeager.

Hange relays Zeke’s plan to save all Eldians by bringing about the Rumbling, which requires both the Founding Titan and a Titan of Royal Blood. When some higher-ups bristle, Eren confirms that Zeke at least isn’t lying about the Founding Titan and Royals, as he himself experienced with Dina Fritz. He hadn’t brought it up until now because he wished to protect Queen Historia.

The Scouts capture more Marleyan Scout ships as the plan is considered, but Eren doesn’t want anything to do with a peaceful resolution. As far as he’s concerned, everyone across the sea who believe they’re scary monsters who can turn into Titans are absolutely right, and should be scared.

But three years later, with Liberio in ruins and Sasha dead, Armin wonders if they could have taken a different path to get what they wanted. Jean and Connie are joined at Sasha’s grave by Niccolo, the captured Marleyan who used to love cooking for Sasha as much as she loved eating his cooking. Sasha’s parents visit the grave, and Niccolo tells them the small but meaningful way he knew and cared for their daughter, and he shakes her father’s hand.

It’s Armin’s wish writ small—an Eldian and a Marley joining hands and joining in their mutual grief. But it’s too small against the most dangerous “Titan” of them all: that generational leviathan of shared, irreconcilable hatred and distrust. It’s why once Yelena’s haul of stolen Titan serum is secured, Pyxis has the volunteers detained, while Levi stuffs Zeke in the forest, on a tight leash.

Meanwhile, in the cell she shares with Falco, Gabi chews her nails to the quick, cursing Eren Yeager with every breath, a vessel for that long-stewing hatred mixed with her own personal losses at Paradis’ hands.

Armin then says that no longer what he and Mikasa and Sasha and everyone else did or didn’t do, Eren was going to have his way; the worst was going to happen regardless. With that in mind, he believes they had no choice, no more than Reiner, Bertholdt, or Annie had a choice that day years ago. The person he’s talking to? Annie, still frozen in crystal.

As Mikasa leans against a gravestone, she repeats the words she’s lived by: “Fight or die. Win and live.” Those words are echoed by an Eren just as fully committed to war and vengeance as Gabi…just as lost: “The only way to win is to fight.”

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Attack on Titan – 67 – A Few Miscalculations

Here it is, the rematch you’ve all been waiting for. Eren vs. Reiner. Attack vs. Armored…aaaaand just like that, it’s over. Reiner’s down for the count. He didn’t have much gas in the tank to begin with, and neither did Eren, who hops out of his Titan and gets picked up by a waiting Mikasa.

After last weeks Titan battle-heavy episode, I was pleased that this was only a brief struggle, with Reiner’s consolation prize being he managed to rescue Porco and Jaw. But even if Eren and Reiner are done for now, Gabi isn’t. She grabs her gun and runs after the airship. Falco follows close behind.

When Mikasa carries Eren up to the airshop, Armin is waiting there to help lift them up into the cabin, after the exchange of weary, haunted stares. I can’t help but think back when the three were just little kids running around Shiganshima laughing without a care in the world. If Armin’s a bit chilly, Levi is downright disgusted to see Eren’s face again.

Compare their thousand-yard glares to the still-strong camaraderie of the B-Team, Sasha, Connie and Jean, with Connie taking a moment to hug dear his siblings from other mothers out of relief they all made it out of this crazy operation. Indeed, we learn the Survey Corps only lost six men, against untold hundreds of Marleyans.

Of course, not only has the airship not ascended or cleared Liberio, it hasn’t even finished gathering up all of the corpsmen. One of them is Lobov, an older man but new recruit who sought to do more than he was doing in the garrison. He is unfortunate enough to be in Gabi’s line of fire.

But before that, Gabi is stopped by Falco, who tells her it’s impossible to chase an airship on foot. She tells him how Zofia and Udo died, and shocked she was by how protective of her the soldiers at the gate were despite her being an Eldian. All her life, Marleyans have cursed and spit on her, and all she wanted to do was prove Eldians could be good people.

Then tonight happened, with Paradis stomping on all of that. So yes, she’s going to chase an airship on foot. Falco tells her “we stomped on them first”, but it’s only an abstraction for Gabi, like the Eldians and Paradis themselves. To her, they’re cruel demons who deserve to die, end of story. She slides, gets a lucky shot off that kills Lobov. He crashes to the ground, but his ODM cable is still connected. As Gabi prepares to retract the cable and ascend to the airship, Falco again tells her it’s pointless and she’ll be killed.

Gabi doesn’t argue the latter part, but believes it will be far from pointless. She wants Falco to tell everyone how she fought to the end, and they’ll surely inherit her feelings. She tells him he’s a good person, then pulls the trigger…but Falco grabs hold of Lobov and rises with her, honoring what Reiner told him to do: save her from a grim fate.

When she asks why, he doesn’t say because he loves her—she wouldn’t understand—he tells her he’ll be the next Armored Titan. Of course, none of them know how the ODM works, so they end up banging against the belly of the airship. In the midst of the totally off-guard jovial celebrating corpsmen, Sasha hears their bump. But again, virtually everyone else aboard is in the midst of a celebration, before leaving the battlefield…before the battle is over.

It’s a shocking lack of discipline and training for such a dangerous operation. Before anyone knows the source of the bump, Gabi rolls into the cabin and fires the gun she’s been clutching tightly since the battle began, just waiting for her chance. The bullet goes straight through the heart of Sasha, the woman who killed the guards at the gate.

As she bleeds out, the corpsmen swarm on the two kids and beat them bloody. Floch wants to throw them out of the airship, but Jean, who is not an out-and-out monster (yet), won’t authorize it, because if he could, there would be no end to this killing. He takes them to Eren instead, so Gabi can curse him in person. The thing is, someone else they know is aboard the airship: War Chief Zeke.

Back on the ground, a recovering Pieck tells Magath she finally remembered the somewhat-“off” soldier who dropped her and Porco down a well. He, or rather she, was a follower of Zeke’s. We learn her name is Yelena, and she was wearing a fake beard when she escorted Pieck and Porco. Zeke was in on the operation all along, and to hear Eren say it, it was a victory: the operation killed the leaders of the Marleyan army, sunk their main fleet, and destroyed their major military port, and he was able to inherit the Warhammer.

While it was a tactical success, it may turn out to be a massive strategic blunder if the entire world unites against Paradis. Even so, I guess Eren demanded that the people who created the people who destroyed his home and family needed to be hit and hit hard, no matter the cost. As Hange remarks, Eren used his trust in her and the corps to rescue him, but by being taken hostage again and forcing them to attack, they’ve now lost their trust in him.

Zeke calls the sacrifices made “noble” as they will “bring freedom to Eldia.” It’s clear that unlike some like, say, Gabi, he wasn’t satisfied with Marley simply allowing Eldians to exist under their bootheels. True freedom means liberating all Eldians from the yoke of Marley forevermore. He’s willing to go, and indeed has gone, farther than someone like Gabi even believed was possible to even go. Call it the narrow perspective of youth.

Alas, there is one noble sacrifice no one in the corps was ever going to be able to bear: Connie reports that Sasha has died. Beautiful, capable, eternally hungry Sasha Blouse. She didn’t die in a blaze of glory, but by the hand of an indoctrinated little Eldian girl who was so desperate for revenge she literally chased down an airship and found a way aboard.

Mikasa and Armin race to where her body lay. Eren asks if she said anything before passing away; Connie says “meat.” Eren fights back a chuckle which twists into a grimace as Jean tells him Sasha is dead because of him. I doubt she’ll be the last, because as much as Eren cared for Sasha, her death won’t be enough for him to stop. If anything, it’ll only motivate him to keep going. Like Gabi, he can only keep going.

Attack on Titan – 66 – What You Saw That Day

Eren has Lara Tybur in the palm of his hand but isn’t able to do anything with the super-hardened crystal she’s encased in, and she initiates a last-ditch attack that immobilizes him. This gives Pieck, Porco, and Zeke a chance to rally the troops.

Pieck’s machine gun armaments are particularly effective against the Paradisians’ ODM Gear. Gabi also has a gun, and runs. Even if it looks like she’ll never be able to make the slightest dent in this chain of events, well…let’s just say that’s how it looked for one Eren Yeager many years ago.

Reiner was already begging for death before the attack began; now he’s lost the will to even wake up from unconsciousness. He was able to save Falco, but that’s as far as he’s willing to go. He’s as much paralyzed as Eren, but by choice. He was already the aggressor; what’s the point of starting the cycle over?

Eren, full of terrible purpose, tries to bite through Lara’s crystal but only ruins his Titan’s mouth. As Levi stalks the Beast Titan, Eren transfers out of the immobilized body and into a fresh Titan body. Gabi has stopped running, but still has her gun, and wants to use it. Against Eren. Against his allies. Against the demons of Paradis. Then Armin Arlert makes his appearance.

Having hidden aboard an unassuming fishing boat that drifts right into the middle of the Marleyan fleet, Armin transforms into the Colossal Titan, which we recall is a cataclysmic event in and of itself. It’s as if a massive bomb were detonated over Liberio’s waterfront.

The eerie blood-red glow calls to mind Evangelion and the God Warriors of Nausicaä—the 80s precursor to Colossal Titans. The Marleyan navy is obliterated; even the water the ships were floating is all boiled away. Armin climbs out of the Colossal, looks upon his mighty work, and despairs. This is essentially the very same sight Bertoldt Hoover saw in Shiganshima.  What’s past is prologue.

Levi takes out the Beast Titan. Sasha shoots dead one of Pieck’s gunners, then her reinforcements carpet bomb the Cart Titan. The only Marleyan Titan still in the game is Porco in Jaw, who uses his speed and agility to deliver some wounds to Eren. Only Eren uses Lara’s crystal to block one swipe, and thus Porco inadvertently teaches him how he’ll crack that particular nut.

Levi cuts Jaw’s legs off, and Eren uses him as a nutcracker. The crystal doesn’t just crack, it shatters into a million pieces; Lara is just a spray of blood, most of which Eren swallows up, thus gaining the Warhammer power. Zeke is out of commission. Pieck looks near death. Jaw himself is about to be eaten by Eren. And oh yeah, Hange Zoe has arrived via armored airship to retrieve the assault force.

All Gabi can do about this situation is call out to the only Titan left: Reiner. So she cries out to him, in an extended scene that I hope Ayane Sakura recorded in parts because it sounded painful to scream that much. Falco joins in, and their two-kid chorus reaches Reiner, even though he’d prefer if they just stayed quiet.

Reiner knows if he gets up, he’ll be giving Gabi and Falco a good chance of dying even more horribly than they might have otherwise. All the same, he can’t ignore their cries. He transforms behind Eren, interrupting his eating of Jaw. He’s not in his full armor—indeed, he already looks exhausted before raising a hand to Eren, and certainly not particularly happy to be here once more. But if certain kids won’t let him die in peace, he’ll just have to die more violently, even if those kids will rue the day they asked to be saved.

Well, that was a goddamn downer. It feels downright wrong at this point to outright root for the Paradis forces. Heck, even Mikasa and Armin look like they’d rather be anywhere else…like back on that gorgeous beach. At the same time, did they have a choice? Willy Tybur was coming for them with the full force of the Marley Titans. The majority of Eldians of Paradis don’t deserve death any more than the Eldians of the Liberio Internment Zone.

In any case, a large number of lives were going to be lost. The only question was from where those lives would be taken. There are no heroes here, and probably never were. Only warriors on both sides sacrificing their humanity to try to ensure their side suffers a little less this time around.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Attack on Titan – 65 – Empathy for the Devil

In last week’s big finale, Eren bursts on the scene as the Attack Titan. This week begins with Willy Tybur saying goodbye to his family, perhaps for the last time. His plan is to draw out the Titans with as many people from around the world watching in order to maximize the carnage. Commander Magath can’t promise he can protect Willy, but Willy doesn’t want protection. After all, the nations won’t unite against Paradis if he doesn’t survive.

Eren’s attack mirrors Braun and Bertoldt’s attack on Shiganshima many years ago, as we watch from the perspective of people on the ground as chaos reigns. Gabi turns to Zofia to find she’s been crushed by a giant boulder, while Udo is trampled to death. Colt keeps Gabi from suffering the same fate by holding her close against that same rock.

Of course, while Willy fully intended to sacrifice his own life on the alter of global cooperation, he also intended for whatever was left of the Marley military in the area to mount a counterattack. It is led by the Tybur family heirloom itself, the Warhammer Titan, but Willy isn’t its pilot—his younger sister Lara is.

When she transforms, the Warhammer immediately starts whaling on Eren, who can’t penetrate his foe’s hardened skin even with his hardened fists. He’s impaled on a giant spear. Meanwhile, Pieck and Porco are rescued by the Panzer Unit, whom Pieck instructed to follow them when she hugged one of them. As they emerge from the house, we hear that oh-so-familiar sound of zipping ODM gear overhead.

The Attack/Warhammer stalemate is seemingly broken when the military, led by Magath, starts firing at Eren anti-Titan rounds. He’s in trouble, so who should appear in the nick of time but his raven-haired guardian angel, Mikasa Motherfuckin’ Ackerman, sporting a new short hairdo and all-black Survey Corps uniform.

Mikasa attacks the Warhammer’s nape with a whole bunch of explosive missiles, disabling her temporarily and giving Mikasa time to ask Eren to come back home. He can’t undo what he’s done—including killing scores of innocent civilians—but he can stop continuing to kill them. Eren doesn’t seem interested in stopping what he’s started.

Despite her adoptive brother, best friend, soul mate, and one true love basically commencing his heel turn before her very eyes, Mikasa won’t leave Eren’s side or stop protecting him, as she must do when the Warhammer wakes up. But Eren noticed something fishy when the Titan constructed from the bottom-up rather than the usual nape-outward.

Colt and Gabi take Udo to the hospital, but they’re in triage mode and Udo is already dead. Gabi is still largely in shock, and doesn’t understand why Zofia and Udo just died, but decides she’s not going to run and hide, but join the military in the fighting.

Upon reaching the gate, the guards (who know and are fond of her) warn her to run, and are both shot dead…by Sasha Blouse. Sasha and Gabi lock gazes, but Sasha doesn’t kill her, instead joining Connie, Jean, Floch, and the rest of the Survey Corps in their operation.

As Mikasa distracts the Warhammer, Eren finds a hose-like extension from its feet, and locates Lara, who is encased in the same kind of extra-hard crystal as Annie Leonhart. Nevertheless, the egg-like “cockpit” is small enough for Eren to eat and thus inheret the Warhammer Titan’s powers. Before he can chow down, he’s interrupted by Jaws, piloted by Porco.

Porco, however, doesn’t have enough time to bite through Eren’s nape, because Levi swoops in and slices Porco’s nape, continuing the thrilling back and forth. Porco can only watch helplessly as dozens of Survey Corps soldiers descend upon him—mere humans not only unafraid of the fact he’s a Titan, but ready to end him. To paraphrase Magath, there are devils on both sides. There always were.

The war between Marley and Paradis has well and truly begun, and assuming enough foreign dignitaries escaped the carnage, it won’t be long before other nations answer Willy Tybur’s call. Meanwhile, Paradis has come in force to wreak havoc on Marley and, presumably, destroy its own force of Titans, while Eren may have his own, more nihilistic agenda. In any case, it’s great to see the old gang in action, looking much cooler—and more hardened—than the goofy kids we saw on the beach.

Magath ends up surviving a grenade attack, while Braun and Falco are missing for the entire episode. It will be interesting to see if Braun passes the Armored to Falco due to the fact he’s not certain Gabi survived Eren’s attack. Falco wants Gabi to live a full life, but Gabi wants revenge for Zofia, Udo, and all the other comrades and friends she’s lost.

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