Attack On Titan Final Season Part 2 Premiere Teases A Bloody War With No Winners

The final season of "Attack on Titan" (for real this time) started off with its first two episodes, titled "Judgement" and "Sneak Attack," reaffirming the show's anti-war message with some great character moments, while upping the ante with stunning action and absolute visceral violence, taking stock about the stakes as the war to end all wars begins.

The Scouts Are Scattered

We start things off by resolving the huge cliffhanger from last year, the fate of Levi Ackerman, who we last saw literally blowing up after the Beast Titan triggered a thunder spear. He is alive, kind of, as a quick shot of two severed fingers holding a sword makes it clear the beloved Titan-slayer won't exactly be leading a charge anytime soon.

The rest of the Levi squad isn't much better off, as they are still imprisoned and bewildered by Eren's actions and his harsh words against Armin and Mikasa last season. The first episode does a good job of recapping what the goals and stakes are and where everyone stands. As much as they are shocked by Eren leading a terrorist cell, he is still the suicidal maniac they grew up with, and he still cares about them, right? But, as Connie mentions in the most heartbreaking scene of the first two episodes, he's already been betrayed several times by his so-called friends. That Eren has left them behind to work with Zeke, the man who literally turned Connie's entire village — including his mom — into Titans, only makes things worse.

They end up deciding to help Eren by the second episode, since the alternative does not bode well for them, but there is a definite sense that things have changed, especially once Mikasa leaves behind the scarf Eren wrapped around her all those episodes ago. Whatever connection these characters once shared is now forever changed.

Gabi Said the Quiet Part Loud

As the remaining members of the Levi squad struggle to determine which side is right and what is the path of lesser collateral damage, the arrival of Marley's forces on Shiganshina District further muddles the answer to "who is the real enemy?" As we see the Eldian forces, mostly the Yaegerists, succumb to blind fanaticism, characters like General Theo Magath shocks viewers by showing genuine care for Eldian soldiers under his command like Gabi. Pieck said it best last season, as she explained that she does not trust Marley or care about the country, but she does trust her fellow soldiers who risk their life alongside her. These two episodes make it clear that this is no longer a matter of Eldia or Marley, but a matter of which individual characters we care about, regardless of side. Despite some questionable real-life imagery and allegories, "Attack on Titan" is undoubtedly a show about the endlessly hungry machine of imperialism, and how any group or nation that engages with conquest and deciding that they should have more power than any other group or nation will eventually lead down a very violent and hateful path from which escape is almost impossible.

Then there's Gabi, arguably the most divisive character in the entire show. After seeing her struggle all of last season, it is a huge relief (that surely provoked strong reactions in fans) to finally see her start to break through her programming and realize she was wrong about the so-called island devils she so thoroughly despised. After reuniting with the Marleyan forces, she decides to go back into the war zone to look for Falco, who is imprisoned with the other Eldian military officers who drank Zeke's spinal fluid and are at risk of becoming Titans with a single scream from Zeke. Like Pieck, Gabi is starting to place her loyalty not in ideas or concepts, but in people, risking her life to look for her friend. Then, when she overhears Sasha's parents show genuine concern for Gabi even after she killed their daughter, and hears Kaya swear she will get revenge, Gabi breaks down and outright utters the message of the entire show, "there weren't any devils. On this island ... there were just people." 

Not that "Attack on Titan" wants to say "there are good people on both sides" and call it a day, but the show has repeatedly made it clear it is about how there are no victors in war, how cycles of violence and hatred can turn good people into hateful, angry fanatics, no matter who they are hating on. Seeing Falco take the opportunity to confess to Gabi that he's always been in love with her is heartbreaking as both a reminder that these are just kids being thrown into a senseless, bloody war, and also as a reminder that he can turn into a Titan at any moment.

The Drums of War Are Beating

Just when it seemed like "Attack on Titan" had shown us everything it could do visually, along come these two episodes to up the ante in every regard. Visually, Studio MAPPA really outdid themselves with some of the most brutal and visceral moments in the entire show, with a war that truly feels like the start of the end of days, with their best mix of 3D and 2D animation yet.

And where is Eren in all this? Our protagonist, the audience's eyes, has been rather quiet these two episodes. Though the show will have to make a big effort to justify Eren not telling his friends about his plan and whether he is actually going to betray Zeke, this has been a fascinating turn for the character. It remains to be seen whether the show can earn him a redemption arc, but in the meantime, the opening song lyrics may give some insight into what Eren is thinking: "All I ever wanted to do was do right things, I never wanted to be the king, I swear." If we are to take this literally, then the lyrics could also offer some insight into what Eren is planning, and it is not good news: "Rumbling. Rumbling. It's coming."