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Saturday, 10 June 2017

Attack on Titan S2E11: Charge

Attack on Titan
Series 2, Episode 11

We're very almost at the end of this series now, and it's been fun, and has picked up considerably these last few episodes, managing to deliver a pretty good mix of lore, emotional moments, and people swinging around on high tension ropes with air jets, so that's all good. A third series is still up in the air, obviously, but if this series receives as much praise (and ratings) as is usual for an Attack on Titan series, it's all but a certainty.

Carrying on immediately from the last episode, this episode sees Reiner fleeing the Forest of Giant Trees, with the Scout Regiment in hot pursuit. As Ymir struggles with her divided loyalties and the probability that she'll die if she doesn't hand Christa over, Jean, Sasha, Connie, Mikasa, and Armin attempt to find an opportunity to snatch Eren, and also to discover why Bertholdt betrayed them. Meanwhile, Erwin circles around to begin a daring -- and potentially catastrophic -- plan to retrieve Eren.

So, we'll start with the Ymir and Christa stuff, mostly that Ymir is obviously lying, albeit not in the way the other characters accuse her of. We heard from Ymir last episode that she was worried she wouldn't get a chance to see Christa again before another of Reiner and Bertholdt's comrades ate her, which almost certainly means that she's expecting to die regardless of what happens. It's still a ploy to convince Christa to come along quietly, but it's not quite as cold-blooded as Connie and Sasha clearly think it is, which is an interesting distinction, I think.

Hey, Jean.

Still, it's always nice to see more of Ymir and Christa's dynamic, especially the affection the two have for each other -- it was very much a background element in the first series, but since so much of the second series' plot hinges on it, any time spent establishing and showing it is time well-spent, in my opinion.

The next big part of the story is the 104th vs Bertholdt (and Reiner, but honestly, mostly Bertholdt). It's odd, because Bertholdt has never been a particularly important character, so the series is having to play catch-up to make us sympathise with him and to understand why his betrayal, not just Reiner's, would be so harrowing for the 104th.

Surprisingly, though, the series has done a pretty good job with that. Jean's little speech about how they marveled at Bertholdt's strange sleeping positions and tried to use it to predict the weather was genuinely heartbreaking (albeit perhaps not so much as if we'd ever seen this happening), combining some honestly brilliant writing with a really good vocal performance from Kisho Taniyama -- and Connie's much more straightforward approach of demanding to know if Bertholdt really betrayed them makes for a good contrast.

(Incidentally, I've seen people remarking that Bertholdt hasn't done anything that terrible yet, as if he isn't a cannibal whose actions directly led to the death of tens of hundreds of people.)

Also, kidnapping.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Mikasa -- behaving exactly how you'd expect her to, and being terrifying in the process -- and Armin, who sets a new personal record for cold-bloodedness in this episode when he remembers that Bertholdt has feelings for Annie and proceeds to exploit the heck out of it, cheerily lying to Bertholdt and telling him that Anna is undergoing horrible torture, and that he's abandoning her to endless pain and horrors.

This is a pretty striking moment for Armin, because while he's always been smart, and he's always had a ruthless streak, this takes it to a whole new level for him -- it takes Jean and Connie's understanding that Bertholdt is still a human who was once their friend, and Mikasa's brutality, and his own intellect, and combines them all into something that clearly shocks even Eren.

It works, too, unsurprisingly.

Reiner's no good bad day.

The last big plot thread is Erwin's plan to swarm Reiner with Titans -- a plan which backfires on him pretty sharplike, as he starts rapidly losing men and also his own arm. It works, so Erwin probably considers it a win, but regardless it was a foolhardy plan and he's paying a pretty steep price for it. I'd be surprised if Erwin survives past the next episode, not least because I was surprised he survived to the end of this one.

All in all, this was easily the best episode of the series, and it looks like the next one will see everything going to hell, as the Titan that killed Eren's mother arrives, Reiner seems to decide to just kill everyone, and probably several people are going to die horribly. Perhaps Bertholdt will even go all colossal-titan on everyone. We'll see. Next week will also be the finale for the second series, so it'll be very interesting to see what kind of note it leaves things on.

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