"S***, guys! Is anyone alive?!"
This is the moment where any notion of a happy ending in "Attack on Titan" disappeared in smoke. From the moment she killed Sasha, it was heavily theorized that Gabi would end up killing Eren too, and it finally happened in what will go down as one of the most stunning and truly shocking scenes of the entire show — and a moment that will certainly lead to a civil and cordial discourse, yes sir.
That this was just one of several big reveals and devastating losses this episode is just the icing on the cake of pain. If there was any doubt that we're in the endgame, this episode confirmed that there is no turning back. There is a reason why I picked "Attack on Titan" as the very first entry for my anime column on this very site, and this episode confirms it: we're witnessing the end of one of the greatest anime shows of the modern era.
It's All About Brothers
The episode starts where we left off, with Zeke's triumphant return being instantly thwarted by Pieck's giant anti-Titan gun, and Eren beating Porco to a pulp. These first three episodes have given us some of the most visceral and gut-punching fight scenes in the entire show, and by this point, there should be no doubt that Studio MAPPA is doing the story justice, as they are pulling out the big guns to deliver something that truly feels like the end of days. Sure, Studio WIT gave us a rare action show with a vibrant color palette that MAPPA basically threw away these two seasons, but the muted colors and smoky palette fit with the change in tone to a full-on war drama. Whatever sense of optimism the color palette of the first three seasons evoked has been replaced with sheer pain and horror this final season, and it only gets worse this episode.
As Porco gets broken by Eren mercilessly using his hardened fists to break his skull, he gets in contact with Reiner, who is not faring much better. Porco seemingly activates the "paths" and experiences his brother Marcel's final memories, and finally learns how Marcel sabotaged the warrior candidate program and made Reiner earn the Armored Titan in order to save Porco from a shortened lifespan. It's the first of many, many emotional moments this episode, and even if Porco hasn't been given that much screen time, his reaction to learning his brother's sacrifice is quite touching.
Indeed, the episode's title "Two Brothers" not only applies to the Yeager brothers, but also to the Galliards and the Grices. Just as Zeke is about to unleash the Titans to save Eren, we see Colt arrive with Falco. Like Marcel did, and as Zeke is doing, Colt decides to doom everyone and simply try to save his immediate family, as he begs Zeke to just wait until Falco is out of reach before weaponizing his scream and turn all the officials into mindless Titans. "Slaughter away," Falco implores, not giving a single care about the Marley versus Eldia conflict, "just don't drag my brother into this." This is not unlike Marcel dooming Reiner to a life as a Titan just to save Porco, or Zeke threatening to turn dozens of people into Titans to save Eren.
But despite Colt's pleas, Gabi's crying, and even Eren yelling to wait, Zeke has no mind for anyone but his plan. "Only too well do I understand the feelings for one's brother, so it's a shame," the Beast Titan responds, before unleashing his scream and changing everything.
'Is Anyone Alive?!'
And that's how "Attack on Titan" briefly turns into "The End of Evangelion," as all throughout Shiganshina we see dozens upon dozens of columns of fire light up (rather than the lightning shot they've used before), and in a true throwback moment, Hiroyuki Sawano's "XL-TT" from all the way back in season 1 starts playing, and we see something we haven't seen for a good while: Titans as menacing, terrifying bringers of death. Marleyan soldiers die left and right as the officials who drank Zeke's spinal fluid from the wine turn into mindless Titans.
It is also here that we get arguably the most heartbreaking 10 minutes in the entire show. Sure, Erwin's sacrifice was a gut-punch, as was Armin's, but this is just devastating death after devastating death. Before everyone turns into a Titan, rather than run away, Colt hugs his little brother and stays with him through the bitter end, as Falco's entire body starts glowing, and Gabi tries to reach out to him before his Titan transformation kills Colt and burns his body to a crisp. Elsewhere, characters we've known and loved for almost a decade also turn into mindless Titans, from Erwin's friend Niles, and Pixis, who simply takes his fate solemnly.
It is a true testament to the writing of the show that Falco has turned into such a grounded and well-liked characters, and his death hits as hard as any death in the show despite us only knowing him for a few episodes. Add the fact that Colt died with him to not leave his brother to turn into a Titan alone makes it all even worse.
Speaking of Falco's Titan, he instantly jumps out at Reiner and kicks his ass (at this point, who hasn't?). Reiner struggles to hold both Eren and Falco down, while elsewhere Armin and Mikasa realize they arrived too late to the fight, with all the remaining Eldian soldiers dead, and Pieck still managing to deliver a seemingly killing blow to Zeke. We also get the single quote that best encapsulates this episode during this sequence, "S***, guys! Is anyone alive?!" Believing Zeke to be dead, and seeing his mission accomplished, Reiner has no reason to stop Eren anymore and decides to finally let go and just let Falco devour him and end his suffering once and for all.
But once again, "Attack on Titan" reaffirms Reiner as a true Greek tragedy figure, doomed to just staying alive no matter how hard he tries to die. Right as Falco is about to cut through the Armored Titan's nape, Porco arrives with half a face, but full of determination. "I ain't dying for nothing," he says, as he distracts Falco's giraffe Titan away from Reiner, and fulfills the promise of every Jaw Titan thus far: sacrificing themselves to save the Armored Titan's ass. With his parting words, Porco re-establishes himself as one of the coolest Titans in the show: "There's no denying it now, I was always better than you," he tells Reiner, as he accomplishes something Reiner is seemingly physically incapable of doing — dying. We'll have to wait at least until next week to see what Falco's Jaw Titan looks like, however, because there's still one more death in this episode, and it's a big one.
Realizing Zeke is not actually dead, Eren activates his Titan hardening to trap Reiner, and with the help of Connie and Jean stopping Reiner with thunder spears, Eren turns back into a human and hauls ass to get to Zeke, but Gabi is waiting. Time literally stops, and we flash to every one of the main characters we've followed since the start of the show — almost nine years to the day since Eren got devoured by a Titan back in season 1 — we're back to seeing the show's protagonist get killed, this time by Gabi 360 no-scoping with Colt's anti-Titan rifle. Though this moment is probably going to be highly controversial not just because Eren's head literally goes spinning in the air, but because it is Gabi who delivers the killing blow, it is a stunning scene; we see Eren's flying head get reflected on Zeke's bewildered eye. As if the shock of Eren's death wasn't enough, seeing Gabi tear up as she takes the shot seals the show's thesis of war making losers of everyone. Gabi has truly changed since we first met her as a counterpart to Eren, as the happy-go-lucky kid who relished in killing enemies and who simply couldn't wait to inherit a Titan to go kill some devils. Her taking the shot is not a moment of triumph for Marley or even of revenge for Gabi, but the tragic and inevitable response to Zeke killing any chance for peace when he turned Falco into a Titan, the only logical response to this never-ending conflict that has caused so much death and destruction on both sides.
'When I Save The World, It'll Be With You'
After the commercial break, we get a flashback to Eren and Zeke's meeting in Liberio where they first thought out their whole euthanasia plan, with Eren saying every word that Zeke wanted to hear, including blaming their father for everything, and agreeing that if Eldians hadn't been born, everything would be better. It's been 19 episodes since we last had Eren as a POV character, and since then the show has played his true intentions extremely close to the chest. While Eren's antagonistic turn has been the greatest magic trick the anime has ever pulled, it remained a bit baffling why they had to keep us in the dark as to whether Eren truly believed in Zeke's euthanasia plan, and why the guy obsessed with freedom would tell Zeke that "there is no greater salvation than never being born in this world."
After the flashback, we return to the present, and Studio MAPPA delivers one of the most visually stunning sequences in the entire show. With time stopped, we see all the main characters frozen in their reaction to the horror that just occurred while the camera moves around Shiganshina in a sort of mix between a motion comic and a bullet time. What so far were mostly 3D models of characters turn 2D, in what almost feels like a throwback to Disney's multiplane camera, with the background moving while the foreground characters stay in place, rigid. Then we see that Zeke's years of baseball practice paid off and he caught Eren's head with his hand, and suddenly everything goes white and we get glimpses of past events and memories (and even some Easter eggs to the high school spin-off and a sauna mock cover from a while back), while the most beautifully drawn eye in the entire show blinks.
In the blink of an eye, we're transported to the Coordinate, where all Paths meet. This is the same place Eren, Ymir, and Zeke have seen in the past, where a giant Yggdrasil-like tree of life lies, and we finally get some good exposition. As Zeke explains it, he's been here years waiting for Eren to wake up, as the founding Titan Ymir personally and physically reconstructs his body from the headshot, just as she does every time someone transforms into a Titan (so the Titans are basically just huge sandcastles, I wonder how long it takes her to make a Colossal).
When Zeke asks Eren to fulfill their plan and ask Ymir, Eren pulls an Uno reverse card and finally reveals that he's been using Zeke all along. Zeke pleads that if Eren doesn't go through with it, the cycle of violence will just repeat itself, and asks his brother why he's betraying him, to which Eren answers "because I was born in this world." Yuki Kaji and Takehito Koyasu do spectacular work as the Yaeger brothers in this episode, and it will be a huge loss not to have Kaji on our screens as Eren week after week once "Attack on Titan" ends. After a season of Eren not showing any emotions, seeing his disdain for Zeke, as well as his desperation after he discovers he cannot control the powers of the Founding Titan is impactful, as is Zeke's face of genuine hurt as he realizes his brother is not actually supporting him.
As Eren reveals his true intentions, the second meaning of the episode title is illustrated. "Two Brothers" is about how the older Yeager, Grice, and Galliard brothers are willing to doom others in order to help their immediate family, while the younger brothers are willing to sacrifice everything in order to save others. Porco gave his life to save Falco, while Falco enrolled in the warrior program to save Gabi, and now Eren admitted he was never going to go along with the euthanasia plan.
But, this is "Attack on Titan" after all, and if you're hoping for a happy ending, you're watching the wrong show. Zeke pulls an Uno reverse card on Eren's Uno reverse card and reveals he's been in control of the Founding Titan all along, and was using Eren as a key to unlock the power. We end things with Zeke promising (or threatening) to "fix" Eren using the powers of the Founding Titan, and if things got dire this episode, they're about to get worse.
Say what you will about the changes this season, or about MAPPA, but "Two Brothers" just cemented itself as one of the greatest episodes of "Attack on Titan," and one of the best episodes of anime in recent years.
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