With the final episode of the season upon us, it’s only fitting that we get one of the best episodes of the franchise to send us off, and virtually everything we got here worked to maximize the emotional impact and give us an adrenaline rush worthy of a fight with humanity’s future at stake. Unfortunately, such stakes tend to require sacrifices, and Hannes ends up biting the dust—at the hands of the same Titan that killed Eren’s mother no less—along with Erwin’s right arm and half of the Scouts veterans. It’s a high price to pay—I can’t see Erwin in particular coming into the picture much after this, and we all know how important his presence alone has been—but one that ends up potentially worth the losses. After an entire season dancing around the issue, Eren finds himself capable of controlling Titans as the one code-named the “Coordinate,” and suddenly we have one key revelation to balance around the many questions we’ve had so far. The fact that it could change the entire tide of the fight for humanity’s survival only makes it that much better, even if we’ll end up waiting up to another year to see what happens from here.
With that said, this was an episode that was significant not only for its developments, but how it made many things come full circle. For one, the arrival of the Titan that killed Eren’s mother meant that—with Reiner and Bertholdt included as the Armored and Colossal Titan respectively—everyone responsible for changing the course of Eren and Mikasa’s lives have not only reassembled, but have done so at a time where Eren finds himself truly stepping into his role as humanity’s potential savior. At the same time, the fact that said Titan dies in a similar fashion to how it killed Eren’s mother makes it a tremendously fitting method of revenge, even if it wasn’t exactly intended. Similarly, having Historia come into her own—those thirty seconds with the insert theme “Barricades” playing in the background was beautifully done—only adds to the significance of it all by culminating all the development she’s been given this season, and even Ymir’s decision to rescue and run with Reiner and Bertholdt ends up just as fitting due to their natures as Human Titans that have either lost or never really felt as though they had a place within the walls.
Suffice to say, there was much to like about this season finale, and much to look forward to in the future as a result too—especially with things pointing toward all Titans potentially having human cores. The question about how they didn’t find proof of this earlier in the form of remains from their human cores aside, it’s a significant revelation that changes the entire dynamic of the war, and both Levi and Erwin’s expressions end up representative of the feelings every Scout privy to the information is likely feeling. As Erwin says, they’re finally one step closer to the truth. The problem is that they’ve endured a tremendous loss to get there, and with the rate of losses as is, it isn’t a cost humanity can afford to pay for just one step. The fact they’ve been potentially fighting and killing humans rather than “mindless monsters” also exerts a potential mental toll on top of things, and as we’ve seen this season in particular, it’s certainly an element that plays a large part in a soldier’s success.
With that said—and I’m probably in the minority in this regard—but I think this was a season that took a step backwards in some respects. However much they wanted to play up the mystery and highlight the individual natures of each soldier and cast member, the fact remains that they spent much of the season bringing up and repeating questions that we likely won’t receive answers to for a long time. At the same time, there was little to no addition to the story in terms of revelations and developments until the very end, and the pacing dragged throughout much of the season as a result. Granted, Episode 32 and this finale made many of the season’s low points arguably worth the price of admission, but if anything—the greatness of those two episodes merely highlighted how the series falls short when deviating away from combat and the simpler stories it told in the first season, which felt much more consistent and enjoyable across the board.
In particular, I’m still torn about what to feel about Reiner and Bertholdt. I mean, the fact that Reiner has a clear mental condition sufficed as an explanation regarding some of what he’s done up until this point, but through it all, I can’t find myself satisfied with that being the sole explanation behind everything he did before he destroyed the walls and after. I suppose much of this is because I felt that his condition makes it all too easy to say “I don’t remember” or “I don’t know why” when pressed for answers in the future, though I guess time will tell in regards to whether or not I’ll look back to this moment and just go “ah, that worked out better than expected.”
As I mentioned before though, it’s important to point out that for all its supposed shortcomings, the franchise as a whole has done much to at least meet much of the hype that surrounded it previously. At the very least, I’ve enjoyed Shingeki a lot more than some of the hyped series of past years, and you can definitely count me in as someone who looks forward to seeing what the series has in store for its upcoming third season. Until then, we can only wait, and here’s hoping we’ll all meet again once the time comes.
Author’s Note: Once again, please refrain from spoilers of the source material past what’s been covered so far. Use spoiler tags if you absolutely need to mention something that wasn’t explicitly shown/covered, as there is a zero tolerance policy in effect and comments with spoilers will be immediately deleted and bans handed out where necessary.