Attack On Titan Final Season Makes Villains Of Everyone In Emotionally Damaging 'Traitor'

After a couple of slower, more meditative episodes, "Attack on Titan" is back in action. Now that the team is here and willing to work together to save the world, there is just one question remaining: are they willing to betray and kill old allies to save the world? Can they sacrifice those they know, to save those they don't?

One of the things "Attack on Titan" has always excelled at is bringing back small details in much more significant ways years down the line, whether it's a piece of dialogue or background characters. In "Traitor," the show goes for maximum emotional damage by bringing back some old friends with an episode that makes traitors out of everyone.

'It's our duty to remember this stupid, bloodstained history'

The episode starts with the great Titan alliance preparing to take down Floch and escape Paradis on a flying boat, but to do that they need to save the Azumabito engineers that can prepare the boat, and deal with the remaining Yaegerists. With Eren and the Rumbling having already crossed the ocean and reached Marleyan shore, there's no time to waste.

Of course, it is one thing to stop the abomination that is Eren, or kill a bunch of soldiers on foreign soil, or giant, man-eating Titans, but it is not easy for Armin, Connie, Mikasa, and Jean to simply be on board with murdering their former comrades. Many of the Yaegerists are people they served alongside with as cadets. Annie recognizes this, saying they would probably not be willing to destroy the wall like they did that fateful day. This makes Reiner remember his meeting with Eren in Liberio shortly before the attack, where Eren said he finally understood Reiner and recognized they were equals.

It all clicks for Reiner, who realizes that Eren meant he was willing to go to hell and back for his idea of saving the world, just like Reiner did. The difference is that, unlike Eren or himself, Armin, Connie and the others are genuinely good people who would not break a hole in the wall and kill hundreds of thousands, they would have found another way. He then offers them an alternative: sit idly by and let Reiner and Annie handle the killing. But of course, Armin refuses to wash his hands of blood, they are in.

Before the plan can begin, however, there's one more piece of character development to get through, as Magath bows in front of the Eldians and apologizes. He recognizes that he was desperate to justify his actions and appear less vile than Marley, but he was wrong. He apologizes for having the Scouts bear the sins of the past due to their race, and to Pieck, Reiner and Annie he apologizes for making them endure the hatred of the world for so long.

'The world will shrink, that's all. You'll still continue to kill one another as always'

Meanwhile, everyone's least favorite psychopath fascist is back, trying to convince the Azumabito to either join his New World Order, or be executed. But Kiyomi, the leader of the Azumabito, is not convinced. She recognizes that Eren's plan is doomed to fail because whoever is left after the Rumbling will continue the fight, they will continue to hate the Eldians.

When I was reading this act in the manga, I was very unsure about the decision to seemingly turn Eren into the giant squid from the end of "Watchmen" or Lelouch in "Code Geass," and become an all-powerful villain that would unify the world against him. Having a singular villain bring the world together seemed like a rather clean and simplistic ending for a story as complex as "Attack on Titan" — and it doesn't help that the past two years have shown how little we would actually band together to avoid extinction. But these past few episodes have made it quite clear that Eren is no mastermind, and no ever-lasting peace will come from the Rumbling. Whatever happens to Eren and the rest of the characters, it will take more than a couple of people apologizing to truly end the cycle of violence.

Meanwhile, Armin and Connie fail to convince Floch to give them the flying boat after some lying, and they have to face their old comrades Samuel and Daz. They are the last two other survivors of the Colossal Titan's attack on the Trost district way back in season 1, and they hold the detonator to a set of explosives wrapped around the boat.

When negotiations fail, it is time to go on the offensive, meaning we finally get to see Reiner and Annie go back into Titan form and kick some fascist behinds. It is truly stunning to see the Female Titan back in action after all this time, even if it is a little ironic how we are now meant to fully support her and Reiner killing a bunch of Scouts in order to go stop Eren.

'Someone has to be the one to stain their hands with blood'

Back in season 2, both the characters and the audience were dumbfounded and angry when it was revealed that Reiner and Bertolt were Titans and had betrayed their best friends. Now, the tables have truly turned. In a moment of hesitation, Samuel shoots Armin (he's fine, his Titan powers heal him), and Daz starts asking why Armin and Connie are betraying their friends after they had made plans together for when the war ended.

This prompts Armin to remember a memory of Bertolt from season 2 after everyone discovered he was the Colossal Titan. Bertolt pleaded with Armin and the other Scouts to see and understand him, saying that someone had to get the job done. This is a fantastically placed flashback, as Armin finds himself in the same position Bertolt once was — to quote George Lucas, "it's like poetry, it rhymes." Now it is Samuel and Daz who are dumbfounded to learn their former friends and comrades have betrayed them and are working to undermine Paradis Island, while Connie — the same kid who broke down in tears a few episodes ago, tired of getting betrayed — gets forced to become a traitor himself. Sure, they have a very good reason for what they are doing, they are saving the world after all ... but Bertolt and Reiner told themselves that too.

This is what "Attack on Titan" does best, reframing moments from the past in new ways that forces you to rethink the entire show thus far. Everyone is a traitor to someone else, and the only thing you can do is keep moving forward.

While fighting back tears, Connie executes both Samuel and Daz, and screams in agony for maximum emotional damage. Now there is no turning back. Everyone is on equal footing, and there's work to be done.