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Saturday, 27 May 2017

Attack on Titan S2E9: Opening.

Attack on Titan
Series 2, Episode 9

We are now officially three quarters of the way though the series. It really has flown by, and while the action is kicking into high gear now, the fact that this is only a twelve episode series means that, in hindsight, those early character focus episodes (not to mention almost the entirety of last week's episode) do feel somewhat wasted. Mileage might vary on that one: For people who enjoy more of a heavy character focus, and who like getting a lot of backstory, those episodes might not have felt wasted at all. 

For me, personally, I feel like it would have been more worthwhile to cram more plot in.

This episode kicks off in the aftermath of episode eight, with Eren and Ymir taken captive by Reiner and Bertholdt, waiting in the giant forest for nightfall, when they can make their move -- whether that move be 'trying to escape' or 'trying to abduct Eren and Ymir back to their hometown' -- without fear of Titans eating them. As the Survey Corps closes in on them, Eren and Ymir question Reiner and Bertholdt, and learn that Reiner's grip on reality is very, very loose.

So, this episode basically consists almost entirely of Eren, Ymir, Reiner, and Bertholdt sitting and/or standing in some trees, discussing what's going on, and that's always a slightly risky proposition. It's easy for an audience to grow bored with what amounts to a prolonged conversation, especially when it's a conversation that largely involves one party asking questions and the other refusing to answer them.

The episode gets around Reiner and Bertholdt's reticence towards sharing any information by having Ymir be perceptive enough to pick up on the nuances and subtleties of the situation without Reiner having to outright tell her. So we get some exposition about Reiner and Bertholdt's relationship with the Beast Titan -- specifically that he's someone they know, and seemingly somebody that they either admire or fear, and that they think they can return home if they find him.

Murder bros.

The revelation that the Beast Titan is a Titan Shifter isn't exactly new -- I think everyone figured that one out the moment he opened his mouth and spoke -- but the fact that Reiner and Bertholdt are familiar with him, but Ymir can only draw from inference in regards to him, raises some interesting questions about how Ymir became a Titan Shifter and what kind of group Reiner and Bertholdt are a part of.

Ymir clearly knows something about whatever organisation Reiner and Bertholdt belong to, since otherwise she'd have no reason to believe Reiner when he says that what they're doing will help preserve Christa's future, and she clearly at least somewhat believes it -- but exactly what she knows, and moreover, what Reiner and Bertholdt know about her, is left a mystery.

This episode also breaks up the question and answer session by having a brief insight into Reiner's delusions. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this section -- like the moment when Reiner reveals his true identity to Eren, I think it leans a little too heavily on the 'normalcy as horror' trope, with Reiner casually chatting about wanting a promotion in the Survey Corps for everything he's done recently, while Eren and Ymir are bewildered, and Bertholdt is resigned.

Reiner: He Has Issues.

What makes it work is Bertholdt's reactions. He doesn't say much, but it's made clear by his silence and facial expressions both that this has happened before (and a lot, at that), and that he doesn't believe there's any possibility of Reiner getting better. It also contextualises his proud, happy smile in the flashback where Reiner is talking about how he only cares about returning to his hometown in an entirely new light: Knowing what we know about Reiner's mental state, it starts to become likely that that might have been Bertholdt witnessing a rare moment of complete lucidity, and possibly a glimmer of hope that Reiner might get better.

Having Ymir then immediately explain the problem was a bit too on the nose, though -- I think the moment could have stood perfectly fine on its own, without Ymir explaining it to Eren and, by extension, the audience.

Bertholdt: He Too Has Issues.

Amid this, we also have a few interspersed moments of the Survey Corps approaching the forest, and one short scene of Zoe insisting she needs to go look at the Titan that was found in Connie's house. It looks likely that Zoe will figure out pretty soon that the Titans didn't break through the Wall, but were created out of people already in them.

Next week, it looks like we'll have pitched action in the giant forest, with Reiner and Bertholdt attempting to escape with Ymir and Eren while Mikasa, Armin, and the Survey Corps attempt to stop them. Also, it looks like Ymir hasn't actually gone evil, so that's good.

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