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Attack on Titan
Series 2, Episode 5
Last week, I incorrectly said that this series was twenty-four episodes long -- it's actually twelve, meaning that we're nearly halfway through now, and that feels more than a little odd. A quarter of the series being taken up by this one day and night is one thing, a whole five twelfths of it taking place over a single twenty-four hour period just feels absurd.
Obviously, that time has been padded out some with flashbacks -- we've got to see some impressive amounts of backstory for Sasha, Christa, and Ymir, as well as a little bit of backstory for Reiner -- but for the most part, it feels almost like a waste. Had it been so inclined, the show probably could have compressed these five episodes down to about three or four.
This episode focuses on Ymir and Christa, and is neatly split into two halves. In the first half, we follow Ymir and Christa during their winter weather training, as they attempt to drag another cadet, Daz, through the snow towards safety. With no chance of making it in time, Ymir reveals that she knows Christa's history, and presents her with an ultimatum. Back in the present, Ymir -- revealed to be a human Titan -- attempts to fend off the horde of Titans and defend the tower that Christa, Connie, Reiner, and Bertolt are on.
So, I'm just going to drop in my biggest bugbear with the episode right out of the gate: A large part of the conflict in the flashback section is that Daz will not survive the implied-to-be-long journey to safety, making throwing him down a cliff (which sits above the village in question) and hoping he survives Christa's only option. Except, towards the end of this flashback, we get a wide shot that shows the cliff in relation to the path to the village, and even dragging Daz, it can't possibly be more than a fifteen or twenty minute walk.
That gripe out of the way, this is actually a pretty strong episode. Playing off Ymir's cynicism against Christa's optimism in a life-or-death situation isn't the most original turn, but it's an effective one, and it sets us up pretty well for why they would be such firm friends: Ymir appreciates Christa's idealism and determination, while Christa, after finding out that Ymir took Daz to the village herself, recognises Ymir's inherent compassion.
We also get to find out Christa's backstory -- that she's the illegitimate daughter of a noble, forced to change her name and join the Corps. Ymir alludes to the idea that she has a similar backstory (presumably in the sense of 'was unwanted'), but we don't find out any more, and presumably won't, given that this episode ends with her seemingly dying.
|Christa and a stylish coat.|
The latter part of the episode mostly revolves around Ymir fighting a losing battle with the Titans, and everyone's reactions -- chief among them being Reiner and Bertolt's reaction, as they both recognise her as being the Titan who ate their friend, which (along with Connie's acknowledgement that her hiding her abilities is more than a little unnerving) puts a pretty big question mark over whether or not Ymir is truly on their side, or if she's an infiltrator like Annie was, whose friendship with Christa culminated in her 'going native,' so to speak.
As predicted, the episode culminates in Eren's group arriving, and their entrance -- with Mikasa saving Christa and the others and telling them to get back, just in time for the music to dramatically swell as the Survey Corps come swinging through the sky, lit by the sun, to fall on the Titans. That contrast of visceral horror with moments of genuinely uplifting heroism is probably the biggest part of what makes Attack on Titan popular, because it's really not all darkness all the time, and every so often we do get a pay-off like that.
|It's better in motion.|
Incidentally, apparently this episode marks Eren's first kill as a human, which is weird because I was sure he'd killed loads of Titans as a human before. I guess I was entirely mistaken about that, and he's just killed a bunch of Titans in his Titan form.
The next episode is titled 'Warrior' which basically confirms that it's about Reiner, given Bertolt's weird disapproving remark to him last episode. Moreover, it appears to show two people transforming into human Titans -- one doing so on Wall Rose, where Eren, Armin, and Reiner appear to be talking, and then Eren doing so while gripped in the hand of a Titan.
That on its own would make me extremely suspicious that Reiner is actually a human Titan infiltrator, but when combined with Bertolt's apparent disapproval of Reiner bonding with his comrades, and the fact that we know almost nothing about these two or their backstory, it becomes almost a certainty.