Attack on Titan
Series 2, Episode 6
Halfway through this series! That's an odd sensation. While we've had plenty of character development, it feels like not a whole lot has actually happened this series: There's really only been five major plot beats -- the Beast Titan appearing, Wall Rose being breached, Connie's village, Historia, and Ymir being a Titan Shifter -- and it feels like you could have essentially condensed those into three episodes instead of five. Still, I enjoyed all the character development and backstory stuff we got, so I'm not complaining too hard.
This episode's title is a pretty obvious throwback to 'Soldier,' where Bertholdt remarked that Reiner used to be less of a soldier and more of a warrior -- indicating that Reiner is losing his ferocity some and becoming too group-oriented. It was a suspect line at the time, but the fact that they're revisiting it makes it pretty obvious that these two are traitors.
Picking up shortly after the end of episode five, this episode sees Eren cornered by Reiner and Bertholdt. As Reiner tells Eren that he and Bertholdt are the Armoured and Colossal Titans respectively, Eren has a flashback to before they set out, revealing that Zoe and Armin had already figured this out. As Eren tries to play Reiner's remarks off, he's driven over the edge, and a battle begins upon Wall Rose.
Before I say anything else, I want to note that this episode sealed Zoe as my favourite character. Because it would be easy -- and lazy -- to have her being openly untrustworthy towards Ymir, but instead we see her being pretty delightfully pragmatic and open. She wants the information Ymir has, and she understands that Ymir is on their side, and even though the matter of Ymir keeping her shifter status a secret still needs to be investigated, her first priority is making sure that Ymir gets medical care, and then that the Wall is sealed up.
That's nice. I've said before that characters shouldn't always act in a completely reasonable fashion one-hundred percent of the time, because then you have no story -- but in a narrative like this one, that already has plenty of conflict, adding an additional conflict in the form of people being angry and upset at Ymir wouldn't have added anything to the story, it would just be forced conflict for the sake of forced conflict.
(We also get absolute confirmation that there's no breach in Wall Rose, to nobody's surprise.)
So, obviously the main draw of this episode is Reiner revealing that he and Bertholdt are traitors, but it happens in a weirdly undramatic, almost comical way. Reiner just sort of takes Eren aside and calmly tells him, while other characters converse in the background. Eren doesn't even really have that strong a reaction to it at first, just inwardly remarking that his day has become more difficult.
|Yeah, so has everyone's, Eren, it's not all about you.|
Obviously, the show was trying to do something here: Possibly they were trying to hammer in the horror and shock of the situation by downplaying it (which is a legitimate tactic for writers to use, and often a very effective one); or maybe they figured that everyone watching had already cottoned on to Reiner and Bertholdt being traitors, so a big dramatic reveal would be wasted. Either way, it doesn't really work. It's just this weird nub of unintentional comedy in an otherwise dramatic episode.
The flashback that came after was well done (I'm always a sucker for Armin being sleuth-y, and the reveal that a seemingly innocent moment last series is actually evidence of Reiner's betrayal was both clever and well-foreshadowed), to the point where I actually think that would have worked better as the reveal. Instead of Reiner outright admitting it, unprompted, have him say something obviously suspicious, then segue into the flashback, then cut back to Eren being nervous, and Reiner's speech about how there's nothing else to do but finish it right there.
|Honestly, he even has the same hairstyle as Reiner.|
Because everything that happens after that flashback is also really good: Eren's nervousness, Reiner's self-loathing, and the tension ramping up just before Mikasa jumps in and tries to kill Reiner and Bertholdt, only for them to transform before she can finish the job. It's a triumph of dramatic pacing, music, and impact, and it's so weird to me that it comes in the same episode as 'Reiner's Unintentional Titan Comedy Routine.'
Next week, it looks like we find out where the budget for this series all went, as we have the Survey Corps fighting Bertholdt-the-Colossal-Titan (good luck with that, guys), while Eren fights Reiner-the-Armoured-Titan (good luck with that, Eren, when he's bigger, stronger, and 100% more armour-y than you). The preview makes it look like it'll be both a gorgeously animated and very compelling episode, so I'm really looking forward to that.
Incidentally, gosh it's nice to have Eren back properly. I hadn't realised how much I missed the kid.