Attack On Titan Final Season Makes Sacrifices For The Greater Good In 'Retrospective'

There's (according to rumors) only one episode of "Attack on Titan" left, but its penultimate episode shows no signs of slowing down. Now that the remaining Scouts have accepted the violence necessary to save the world, the latest episode, "Retrospective," just raised the action to new levels.

But this is still late-stage "Attack on Titan," so even in the middle of some brutal and thrilling action scenes, the show never forgets its anti-war themes. In addition to a cool new Titan reveal, there are some heavy-hitting emotional confessions and a lot of losses as we head into the finale of "Attack on Titan."

WWED: What would Erwin do?

When Hange and the remaining Scouts discover that they don't have enough time to fix the flying boat and get to Eren before the world gets destroyed, an alternative is offered: to drag the boat along on the back of a transport ship, head to a Hizuru island, make the necessary repairs there, and then head out to find Eren. As Hange describes it, it's a big gamble because they would be sacrificing countless cities in the meantime.

This marks yet another episode and another character who gets their moment to reflect on Erwin's legacy and whether they are correctly following his lead. Whether it's Armin questioning his life's worth, or Jean questioning if he's capable of taking the harder route rather than the easy one, it's become clear that the former commander still casts a long shadow over the entire show. Hell, even Floch is now channeling Erwin's passionate suicide speeches to his subordinates.

Indeed, bringing back the memory and the ideals of Erwin makes it abundantly clear where every character stands now that we're fully in the show's endgame. If you go back to the first few seasons of the show, there was a lot of talk about "humanity" as a concept, and what should be done to best serve it. Sure, it was easier to think of the whole of humanity when we thought there were only people on the walls, but the sentiment stands. Everything Erwin did, from entrusting his and everyone's lives to Eren, to surrendering to the military police only to plan a coup, to sacrificing his life to give Eren a chance to reach his basement, was for the benefit of "humanity." 

Even when he led every single Scout to a suicide charge against the Beast Titan, it was because he believed it would best serve the whole of humanity they were leaving behind, no matter if he knew them or not. This last bit, fighting to save those you don't know even at the cost of those you do, is the moral crux of this last season of "Attack on Titan," and it becomes clear when we hear Floch talk to his soldiers about defending their homeland and fighting for their country while Armin and the others talk about saving strangers all around the world.

Falcon Punch

Speaking of Floch, it's truly a testament to Hajime Isayama and his writing that Floch has quickly turned into one of the best anime villains in recent years, if not ever. Seeing him command an army with authority, then stand his ground against both Titan shifters and veteran Scouts shows how far he's come from the cowardly kid eager to prove himself and join the Scouts back in the earlier seasons. It's not just that he's a character that is incredibly easy to hate, but that we see where he's coming from and understand his beliefs (as twisted as they are) that makes him despicable. Thankfully, he is seemingly (finally?) stopped. Right before he can shoot a thunder spear to the boat where the Scouts are hiding, Floch is shot by none other than Gabi herself, who continues her reign as the best sniper in the world.

And Floch is not the only one kicking butt this week. I've mentioned it a few times throughout this season, but Studio MAPPA has really outdone themselves with the animation these past few episodes compared to "The Final Season Part 1." Just this episode we get kinetic action choreography that seamlessly mixes 2D animation with 3D — even the Titans get 2D moments to shine. Take Connie, a character that was once ranked in the top 10 of his cadet class, but was usually relegated to the background while folks like Mikasa and Eren took all the glory. This week, however, Connie is front and center just cutting down his former comrades while saving Annie and Riner, who get decimated by the Yaegerists with their thunder spears. We see a truly shocked Annie, who last saw the Scouts as defenseless soldiers playing with toy swords, and now faces a killing machine that can mow down Titans like butter. She loses both a hand and even her head to the spears, and both she and Reiner almost die until they get rescued by a falcon.

That's right, Falco finally shows his Titan form — and it looks weird and also awesome! Maybe it's for some deep meaning, or maybe it's because he drank Zeke's spinal fluid, or just because it's a cool design, but Falco transforms into a bird Titan, together with a beak, feathers, talons and everything. Of course, aside from being very cool in action, Falco also follows the long tradition of Jaw Titans saving Reiner from certain death. Never change, Reiner.

But as thrilling as Falco and Connie were, the action this episode belongs to Mikasa, who finally goes back to being a ruthless killing machine. She gets one of the all-time great action sequences in all of "Attack on Titan," massacring her former comrades, skewering two soldiers, beheading a few others, and even exploring two with thunders spears while looking away all while blood rains down on her. It is brutal, gnarly, and a tragic yet exhilarating return to form for Mikasa.

'For as long as people hold on to different beliefs, there will be an enemy'

Before the end, we get a new "Currently Publicly Available Information" card during the commercial break, and it is maybe the most poignant one so far, reading: "When Titans were the threat, they were the enemy. When countries were the threat, they were the enemy. For as long as people hold on to different beliefs, there will be an enemy." This is the encapsulation of what the show has been saying for years now, and it bears repeating in case there is any doubt about what "Attack on Titan" is actually about.

But there are rays of hope, such as Magath. After giving a heartfelt apology last week, Magath decides to stay behind and buy the Titan Alliance some time by exploding a ship that could pursue them.

Before he can do that, however, Magath meets with Keith Shadis, who helped them by stopping a train with reinforcements. Shadis confesses to deciding to step up and help after seeing his students working together with Annie and putting their differences aside, while Magath confesses that he cannot feel at peace knowing he ordered children to go to war to serve the interest of a country. They both recognize that, if only the kids could live normal lives, they would be able to be happy. Of course, Shadis training child soldiers to save the remaining humans from extinction is on a different level than Maggath's sins, it is a rather poignant and significant scene to watch these two veterans come to terms with the role they played, and talk to the main point of the show about how war affects children.

As they all but reenact that scene from "Lord of the Rings" where Legolas and Gimli talk about dying as friends, Magath and Shadis light a fuse that makes the whole ship blow up. These are two men from opposite sides of this endless war who realized how alike they actually are and how pointless their conflict has been, if only there was more time.

With that act, Keith Shadis, a character we've known since the very start of the show, finally stopped being a bystander and becomes a legend.

We're in the endgame now

Before the episode ends, we get a post-credits scene where Hange explains the plan to the rest of the team, and how it means that they won't make it in time to save Marley, or Liberio. This makes Annie break down, as she realizes that she has no reason to fight now. But Hange reminds them that Magath just sacrificed his life for the plan, that he knew there was no way to save his homeland, but still died so that the others could "save people whose names he'd never know."

Once again, "Attack on Titan" plays into the idea of those you know, versus those you don't. Going back to Erwin as a leader and as a hero, this episode makes it extremely clear where his allegiance would stand had he been resurrected rather than Armin. A man who could willingly and easily sacrifice his arm, his freedom, his life, so that strangers would have a chance to live does not align with Eren's "let's kill everyone except our neighbors" plan for genocide. Now, it is all up to Armin, Connie, Jean, Mikasa, Hange, Reiner, Annie and Falco to fulfill Erwin's dream and bring this long history of death and violence to an end.

But there is one small problem left, as Annie asks Mikasa once again if she's willing to kill Eren or stand by and watch as Annie kills him. "I'm sick of killing each other," she says, crying. This is a group of kids who have known nothing but death and violence their entire lives, and with one episode of "Attack on Titan" left, the most they can hope for is a future where no kid has to destroy a wall and kill thousands of people ever again.