Last episode was pretty damn great. I thought Mikasa’s “regaining her resolve” scene was probably the best paced and best directed scene of the show so far, and the appearance of this sexy-haired titan definitely complicates their world in a possibly interesting way. I could see this turning the show in a more shonen and less tactical squad-based combat direction, which would make me unhappy, but we just don’t know enough to make a call like that this early. So let’s find out.
1:01 – It looks like they might be helping to manage the budget demands of a show like this by replacing cold opens with little recaps prior to the OP. I honestly didn’t think there were super-visible slips in quality earlier on, but I’m the story guy, so I’d probably be ignorant to this stuff even if it were fairly obvious. Either way, I don’t have much of a problem with this choice either – if they think it will better maintain the quality of the show, that’s a fine stance to take
3:04 – Okay, maybe recapping and then actually playing the last minute of the previous episode straight through is a little excessive. But I guess ya gotta do what ya gotta do
3:55 – Aw yeah, Armin using that big strategic brain of his. Good to see any of the characters exhibiting their individual strengths. That post-OP replay also kinda makes sense in retrospect, since it led directly into the pacing of the first new scene
6:02 – Also great to see Jean figuring his shit out – he’s one of the few characters that have really defined themselves outside of a single trait or two at this point, and the one I most want to see get more development going forward. They seem to be setting him up as another leader with a very separate style from the one Eren used, which I’m a fan of – blandly positive and hotheaded leaders are less interesting than caustic ones fighting through their own doubts and own personality to pull people together
Yeah, now that I think about it, Jean’s easily my favorite character in this show
6:33 – Goddamn is that titan’s hair ever lustrous
8:20 – “How many casualties did I cause… defending it is your goddamn job!” See, this shit is great. He’s an inherently antagonistic person, and he’s never had anything close to this level of responsibility, so he keeps veering between competent leader and the worst kind of team-breaking troublemaker
9:04 – We’re so proud of you son
14:09 – The gang’s first tactical operation! Good, they’re doing this the way I’d hoped – no Mikasa-style crazy groundless showboating, and instead a specific plan using the squad in the best way they can think of. They even fit in a little time for banter between all the main squadmates. I’ll be interested in seeing how they concurrently develop the… what is it, nine or ten core characters of their squad?
Well, I guess they could always just kill a bunch of them off…
15:43 – KAWAIITAN LIVES
17:36 – Man, this show is just doing every single thing I wanted it to. I like how Freckles assumed squad leadership and stayed strong for the less capable squadmates during the operation, and I like him helping Jean through his doubts as well – it’s furthering Jean’s character arc while simultaneously establishing his own personality and role in the squad. Excellent
21:17 – Another well-directed scene here, with that slowly building song doing a lot of work
Nice, I like ending on such a quiet tone for once.
But more importantly, yeah, Eren’s back. We’re finally up the point I’d read to, so I can finally stop acting like a genre-blind idiot in these writeups and say, yeah, that was definitely happening. The huge Mikasa flashback kind of gave it away – placing a flashback like that directly after killing one of the two characters it develops just doesn’t happen, and with both Mikasa and Jean they directly combined that sense of general hope and purpose Eren instills in people with appearances by the shiny-haired titan.
How do I actually feel about this development?
Conflicted. I don’t know if this story really needed Eren, and the idea of a shonen where the standard “we can do it guys!” protagonist gets himself killed within the first arc is a pretty compelling one, and also pretty damn appropriate for this show. Having a story where everyone just has to pick up the pieces in his absence would be fairly interesting… but not all the characters were that invested in Eren in the first place, and as we saw this episode, they can pick up the pieces pretty damn well, so maybe there’s less to mine there than I figured. I do like how his presence means we have three very different styles of leadership between him, Jean, and Freckles, though I’m kind of worried about this becoming-a-titan development. Clearly that syringe from before is going to come into play… if Eren can actually control what he just did, it will be hard for them to maintain really harrowing stakes going forward – squad combat is a lot more interesting and fraught with peril than titan boxing. And of course, calling takebacks on a protagonist death always comes with the inherent risk of devaluing all the stakes of your story, so hopefully this isn’t a bad sign in that direction either
That said, I really liked this episode! It finally pulled the whole team together and started developing them as a unit and diverse set of internal relationships, and pushed forward a bunch of the individual characters. I find that stuff really compelling and one of the best ways to add some substance to action shows, so hopefully the focus stays on that going forward, and having Eren back doesn’t center the perspective too much around him.