If there’s anything that Attack on Titan has excelled at portraying, it’s the matter of just how fucked humanity is in this scenario. I mean, if the survival of the entire species (well, obviously not since a chunk of them are clearly behind this entire conspiracy, but most of it) depends on a complete and utter knob like Eren, things are pretty desperate. Yet it does, and they are – and while I might be giving Isayama too much credit (it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been accused of that) I’ve come to believe that he’s quite aware of what a pathetic excuse for a savior Eren is, and makes it a major component of the story.
We had our usual mixed bag of Shingeki this week (way too many lingering close-ups of bugging eyeballs continue to be an irritant) but as has mostly been the case lately, the overall presentation was highly entertaining. It was an odd narrative choice to present the anti-Annie planning as flashbacks at the beginning of this episode, and frankly mostly unnecessary – I’m not sure it added anything in that it went down just about exactly as most viewers probably thought it had. But once the episode hit the streets (along with several soon to be former members of the Recon Corps) it flew by in a flash. There are a lot of questions that surely aren’t going to be answered until the inevitable second season, but planting a couple of titans right at the heart of the interior will surely speed the process along a bit.
I’ll say this for Eren: at least he’s consistent. Whenever he’s tried to apply his judgement to any problem he’s almost invariably come up with the wrong answer. He was wrong when he argued against all evidence that Annie couldn’t possibly be the female titan – although “argued” is probably the wrong word, since he offered no actual arguments to the contrary. But I think the sight of him biting himself repeatedly, unable to transform, and then (yet again) bursting into tears as his colleagues were being killed around and above might have been a low ebb for the character. To be honest, having seen what Eren had seen by that point I find it a little hard to take that even he would be so hesitant simply because the enemy was Annie. It’s not as though they were ever shown to be especially close and even if they had been, well – does the imminent threat to his real friends in concert with the atrocities he’s seen her commit not suffice to outweigh it?
As usual, things improve when the camera is pointed elsewhere. Mikasa is as consistent in her way as Eren – she’s an overpowered and single-minded advocate for the knob in question, and can be relied upon to always do her thing. But I always enjoy it when Shingeki teams up Jean and Armin, as it did here after Jean abandoned his Eren disguise (I certainly don’t blame him for being pissed off at being called “Eren”) and joined the fray. The common-sense twins, these two are – and the two who’ve come closest to having something resembling a true character arc. For Jean this is an interesting moment, because he’s seeing first-hand the organization he set out to join, the Military Police – and it isn’t a pretty sight when they encounter actual danger. Armin, meanwhile, has grown into a decisive and very ballsy soldier. He’s always (conveniently for the plot) been the one with the big ideas, but there’s not much hesitation in him now – when he decides, he acts. And he’s doing so with a fair amount of dexterity, too, which I guess proves that all that training and fighting for his life has turned him into a passable combat specialist in addition to being the brains of the outfit.
There’s yet another backup plan in place to capture Annie, a repeat of the one that was used in the giant forest – and again it fails, as she manages to break free of the traps Erwin had laid for her with ease. Erwin strikes me as a pretty good but not great strategic thinker – he deserves credit for being secure enough in his authority to listen to a green rookie like Armin – but clearly, it’s his commitment more than any special brilliance that makes him relevant in the struggle. Plainly spoken, nothing Erwin has tried has really worked – it’s really only Eren and his (occasional) ability to transform that has the ability to change the game. Again, credit to Erwin for being smart enough to understand that – but what a quandary for him and for the struggle he leads, having to wager everything on an unreliable child with an even more unreliable talent that he may or may not be able to rely on when the chips are down.
The action scenes with Annie are really good, as they usually have been in the last string of episodes, and the episode works best when it doesn’t step back too far from the chaos. Next week is of course the final episode, and while the manga readers presumably know exactly where the anime will leave things off, for the rest of is it’s the largest remaining question. I’m not expecting any answers to the big questions, but it’ll be interesting to see where things with Annie end up. No matter how her fight with Eren turns out, there are titans inside Wall Sina – a wall which has no breaches that would have allowed their entry. How exactly does the conspiracy cover that up or, failing that, explain it? Even if Annie were to kill Eren and the entire Recon Corps (which won’t happen, of course) in a sense they’ve already won a sort of victory by blowing the lid off the conspiracy in a way that likely has never happened before.