Humanity is not the strongest species in the world. We do not have claws, we do not have fangs, we cannot fly, breath underwater burrow into the Earth itself. And yet, we can. Through intelligence and ingenuity, humanity carved a path through history as a dominant species on a planet of creatures more suited to this role. It is this very same mentality that has seen our characters through their toughest trials, plagued by Titans as they are. Reiner and Bertholdt themselves have been assuring their survival in their own betraying way, longing to live on past a time of war. So why, oh why, did they get between Eren and Mikasa? Literally anybody anywhere could have told them how boneheaded that move was. Very. The answer is very.
Holy crap. Mikasa Ackerman is terrifying. Sure we’ve seen her slice up Titans like they were a tomatoes an infomercial about knives, but she take the fear factor up to eleven this week. We saw her click when Eren was in danger, we saw her slash through two former allies…but then they had to go and actually kidnap the guy. The simultaneously enraged and dead look she sports for the majority of the episode is something no mortal should ever have to witness and is enough to send Bertholdt into some level of shock. Keep in mind, Bertholdt can transform into the Colossal Titan and has not received so little as a scratch in said form. And he is terrified. Even allies aren’t safe, as Mikasa outwardly admits that she has a finite amount of space in her heart and outside of Eren (and possibly Armin), she couldn’t give a damn what happens to them. And that’s just…heartwrenching. As the seeming climax of the maelstrom that is Mikasa’s emotions, there is no longer any doubt that Eren is what binds Mikasa to humanity. Were it not Eren’s self imposed mission to kill all of the Titans, I’m honestly not sure where Mikasa would be. Which is a terrifying thought. One of humanity’s greatest soldiers, possessing only the slightest connection to those she protects. Combine this with Eren’s berserker tendencies and overall habit of getting himself in over his head and I spy a very dark stormcloud on the horizon of humanity.
Continuing this theme of morality pets, Ymir and Historia once again showcase their strange dynamic and the lengths they will go to protect each other. Even after being eaten, kidnapped, spat out and held hostage, Historia refuses to see Ymir as anything other than an ally and someone to be saved. It’s an admirable level of faith that further solidifies Historia’s place as an impossibly naive character in a world that honestly should have quashed compassion and sentimentality eons ago. Ymir herself seems to constantly break Historia of this, deciding this week that her own fear of death led her to steal Historia away (her presence the only deterrent for Reiner and Bertholdt killing Ymir). You know, not her absolute and unwavering love for the girl. Surprisingly enough, nobody actually buys this and even the 104th Cadets who haven’t been around for a while understand that Ymir would never put Historia in harm’s way, for any reason. Even Connie calls her out for not understanding something so simple. And he’s Connie.
What was perhaps the most refreshing development in this episode however, was Bertholdt actually speaking up and marking himself down as a character in this series. Through his screams and exposition, we come to understand him as a self proclaimed necessary evil, staining his hands so others won’t have to. A tried villainous motivation to be sure, but it is no less powerful in this iteration. We see a great deal of pain in the eyes of this quiet traitor and learn from the other cadets who arrive on the scene that the 104th was closer with each other than we have seen. The simple fact that Reiner made no attempts to swat them away as they landed on his Titan form express the hesitation both feel in fighting their former allies and implies the necessity they face from their own side. Whoever, and whatever, they may be.
Said feeling also drives the knife in deeper when Armin decides to make his return to the frontlines. With a few choice statements regarding the horrendous fate of Annie, most revolving around unceasing torture, Armin manages to unnerve Reiner and Bertholdt to the point of breaking their guard. A tremendous feat in and of itself, the fact that Armin manages it with words says a lot about his character. What he chooses to say does the same, but in a far meaner way. It makes sense, you find a weakness, you exploit it. Combat 101. But damn was that dark Armin. “That even with her body’s healing, you can never get rid of the pain.” For crying out loud man. That’s twisted. I’m pretty sure it’s all a lie considering the last time we saw Annie she was frozen in a giant crystal, but still. Erwin had an arm bitten of in this episode and Armin’s speech is still the most frightening thing to witness. Let that sink in.
Although, if you really want to let terror sink in, then cast your eyes to a face I never considered seeing again: The Titan with the hideous smile. The very same Titan that ate Eren’s mother and showed us all those years ago that Attack on Titan was not a series that pulled its punches. For it to appear now of all times is completely unexpected and is sure to mess up this situation even further. Because that’s totally what we needed. An injured Mikasa, a Reiner and Bertholdt with everything left to lose, a Ymir who stands on an undetermined side and a regiment that is currently eaten, crushed or lost in the steam of an exploded Titan. So screw you first episode of Attack on Titan because I’m pretty sure every damn day is a grim reminder.