That is a long and dragged-out title, and much like the title, this penultimate instalment in Eren Yeager’s story sadly feels the same way.
When it was announced that Attack on Titan’s ‘Final Season’ would be split into 2 parts, it had a lot of fans divided. Taking the same ‘cash-grab’ route as a lot of Hollywood Blockbusters have done, like Harry Potter and the Avengers, it appeared to fans that MAPPA studios were trying to milk one of their most popular franchises for every last financial drop. Then, we got the news that the Final Season would be in three parts, and that rightly left almost everyone vexed. While some fans will want the show to carry on forever, a lot of viewers agreed that dragging out the final season would negatively impact the overall story.
The second part of Attack on Titan’s Final Season is an hour-long special that sets up its final part, and while it does contain some beautiful moments, it is ultimately unnecessary. Every plot point that happened in this special episode easily could have been included in the first episodes of the show’s ‘Final Part’, which would have only split the final season into two parts.
Now, with the ranting about the pacing and structural decisions out of the way, let's have a look at what this episode does right.
Firstly, like most MAPPA projects, the animation is beautiful. This hour-long special does not shy away from the graphic violence and gore it is known for. The opening scene highlights the devastation caused by The Rumbling, specifically from the POV of two Marleyan children who sadly meet their end in excruciating ways. Opening the newest part of the final season with child murder is a bold and gutsy way to set the tone for what’s to come but it does so perfectly. From its first episode, Attack on Titan has explored nihilistic themes in a world where any of the characters can and probably will die at any point.
As well as the graphic imagery, the show’s opening scene also displays Eren’s nihilism towards his actions and explores the ideas of pre-determinism and free will. Eren sees a young boy in Marley called Ramzi who is being beaten by adults for stealing. He questions whether he should help save the boy as he knows the boy will die later during The Rumbling. The camera then cuts and skips ahead to Eren and Ramzi talking after Eren has inevitably saved him, apologising for what is to come. The scene explores the visions that Eren has had of the future, and how Eren follows these visions and lets them influence his decisions and character (resulting in his genocidal plan). The highlight of the scene is when Eren breaks down in front of the child, saying that he cannot change what will happen, despite it being his pre-determined future actions that will cause the boy’s death.
A reoccurring theme in this special episode is the reflection on lost characters, and how their deaths influence the surviving characters' actions. On multiple occasions a character will say something along the lines of ‘I’ve seen too many good friends die, some I have killed myself, to give up now.’ While this theme isn’t handled with the subtlety and nuance that it deserves, going for a more overt approach, it is still a heart-breaking scene for long-time fans who are also reflecting on long-dead characters like Marco, Hannes, Erwin, and Sasha.
By far one of the best, and most emotional, scenes in the episode is Hange’s final stand. For Armin, Mikasa and the rest of the crew trying to stop Eren, to safely escape in the seaplane, someone has to slow down the encroaching titans of The Rumbling, as they move closer to the docks. After much debate, Hange states that she will be the one to stay behind and orders everyone else to leave as she is the highest-ranking scout among them. The scene is filled with several beautiful moments, including Armin becoming the new leader of the Scouts, and most notably Levi’s farewell to Hange. The scene also showcases Hange’s love and obsession for the titans, a trait which has made her a long-time fan favourite.
Hange’s battle against dozens of ‘colossal titans is easily the best fight scene in the episode, showcasing the titan obsessive easily gliding between the titans in her ODM gear, and taking out a fair few of them before meeting her fiery end from the titans’ heat. This scene not only provides Hange with a heroic ending, making her one of the few characters who gets to choose how she dies but also shows the colossal titans as being vulnerable, as they are seen stumbling over each other whilst they blindly walk forwards. Like every action scene in Attack on Titan, we are made to feel the consequences. As Hange stalls The Rumbling, the camera cuts to several shots of the surviving crew in floods of tears as they fly away safely. The final shot of the scene is a close-up of Levi as he sits stoically, simply saying “so long, Hange.”
Tranquillity in Death
The scout regiment is infamous for the number of deaths within its ranks, with Hange being the latest casualty, but her death also leads to one of the few ‘happy’ scenes in the show. As the survivors reflect on those they lost, they often question whether the deceased are watching them from the afterlife, and Hange’s death finally confirms it. After her heroic sacrifice, Hange awakens in the crater of a colossal titan’s footprint. Upon waking, Hange is greeted by a clear blue sky, and the voice of Erwin, who reassures her that the plane took off safely. Hange then turns to see Erwin standing amongst several other Scouts, before looking up and seeing the plane safely flying off.
In the episode, we also see the return of Annie, now out of her crystalized cocoon. She decides not to travel with the crew to stop Eren, instead opting to look after Gabi and Falco as she looks for a ‘life of peace’. However, while Annie sails away with the two children and Kiyomi, she and Gabi make a discovery about the Female Titan, its adaptability. The short scene sets up a potential major reveal in the final season’s final part, as it is left on a cliffhanger. Annie also confronts Armin about their feelings towards each other, thanking him for keeping him company while she was crystallized. Their relationship will most likely be explored further in the final part, but it was incredibly satisfying for fans to see the two speak on equal terms and made for a touching and positive scene amongst the despair and violence the rest of the episode is filled with.
Overall, the final episode progresses Attack on Titan towards its highly anticipated conclusion, whilst building on character relationships, expanding the world, and providing a few moments of comfort before Eren clashes with the rest of the scouts. However, it is also hard to overlook the structuring of Attack on Titan’s conclusion, as this hour-long special could easily have been split into smaller episodes and added to the show’s final part.