The following article contains spoilers for episodes 1-5 of Attack on Titan season 3, part 2.
Attack on Titan has resumed its third season after a six month hiatus, and it sure didn’t take long for shit to get real. After the cliffhanger ending of “Perfect Game” all but confirmed the deaths of Commander Erwin and the surviving members of the survey corps, “Hero” showed us their fearful demise in all of its bloody glory. The soldiers raged, the soldiers charged, the soldiers screamed… and the soldiers died, Erwin included.
The bold decision to have Erwin be struck down first was indeed an inspired choice for the outset of the episode, and as his terrified charges ride toward certain death without their beloved commander, it’s hard not to feel sorry for them. In a particularly brutal moment of grief and sorrow, a soldier wonders about what his wife is doing at that exact moment. He decides she’s probably still sleeping and smiles to himself, before being struck down by the next barrage of the Beast Titan’s horrific rock attacks.
Still the most surprising, and brutal, death came to one of Attack on Titan‘s central heroes. Armin, chief strategist of the survey corps, and longtime friend of Eren and Mikasa, went out in a horrifying blaze of glory in “Hero”, giving Eren the chance he needed to strike down Bertholdt once and for all. Though he promised Eren beforehand that he would not be able to die for the cause, he did just that, and sadly Eren will now have to see the ocean for the both of them.
Armin’s death, flash-fried by the steam of Bertholdt’s Colossal Titan, was particularly hard to watch, even by the notoriously violent standards of Attack on Titan. The audience doesn’t believe for a second that this is the end of Armin, a character who we’ve watched survive one certain death scenario after another for over 50 episodes, but as the overwhelming heat of Bertholdt’s steam attack begin to strip away his hair and flesh, a horrifying realization comes over us all: this is indeed Armin’s end.
Still Armin refuses to let go, telling himself “Just a little longer…” By the time Eren re-emerges from his part of the diversion to strike down the wretched Bertholdt at last, Armin is so thoroughly cooked that he bears no resemblance whatsoever to his former self. Teeth pulled back in a rictus of pain, and skin cooked to a wrinkled, beef-like husk, Armin succumbs to his injuries at last and dies a hero, despite his protests to the contrary.
But the capture of Bertholdt, the man who single-handedly destroyed the first wall, costing thousands of lives in the process, is only one of the victories achieved at last by the survey corps in “Hero”. Mikasa, Connie, Sasha, Jean and Hange overcame the resilient, seemingly unkillable, Reiner in an all or nothing thunder spear attack that blew him out of the back of his own titan with savage intensity.
Finally, honoring his word to make the deaths of the survey corps count, Levi struck down a dozen titans of his own accord before ripping the Beast Titan’s mysterious operative out of his hairy husk. Sadistic and overconfident to the last, the bespectacled owner of the Beast Titan is handily dismembered in shocked disbelief as Levi yanks him from the nape and rams a cold blade directly down his throat.
Though he may have escaped with the help of a new intelligent recon Titan, the fact that Levi has given chase, vowing revenge for his fallen friends, suggests that the Beast Titan may not live to fight another day after all.
All in all, the battle which has been the focus of the second part of season 3 has been a disaster for the survey corps, astutely planned as it may have been. Hundreds have perished, including some key characters, but the fact that victory has been seemingly attained at last is some small consolation. Still, we’ve seen both Bertholdt and Reiner down before, and until they have breathed their last, will their threat ever be extinguished for good?
As Annie and the Beast Titan still live as well, will this be the conflict that has Eren and Levi at bloody ends in the flash forward from “Night of the Battle to Retake Shingashina”? Levi seems intent on murder, even as the others are taking their hated foes prisoner. Is Levi’s promise to Erwin the linchpin of Attack on Titan‘s next conflict? Only time will tell, but if season 3 (with seven episodes remaining) can maintain this blistering pace, it may be the best run of Attack on Titan yet.