As with most storms, there lay a calm before it. A moment of respite to collect one’s thoughts, batten down the hatches and prepare for the worst. Unfortunately for the members of the 104th, no amount of preparations could prepare them for the storm that is forming around them.
Metaphors withstanding, this begins as a fairly tame episode in the catalogue of Attack on Titan. The fractured groups that have comprised the past few adventures have finally come together and a majority of the 104th is back together. Except Jean. Those who were trapped in Utgard Catsle inform their rescuers about Ymir, about the newly revealed Historia Reiss and the lack of any hole in the wall. Real important stuff. However, it is a little overshadowed by a hunched over Reiner, who spends a majority of this episode breaking down emotionally and mentally. Which is sad…or at least it is before the big, and oddly quiet, reveal.
Since we can’t go two weeks without discovering that a character we somewhat know is actually a Titan Shifter, Reiner reveals that both he and Bertholdt are Titan Shifters. But not just any Titan Shifters, they just so happen to be the Armoured and Colossal Titans respectively. Which is a pretty big deal, considering they pretty much started this series…and killed thousands of people. However, rather than a dramatic reveal framed by dark outlines and those intense eyes we love so much, Reiner simply speaks his truth to Eren, to the right of frame, in dialogue that is almost immediately passed over by a conversation on the left of frame. It’s an interesting choice that is confronting as it is subtle. Though the traditional dramatic reveal would not be out of place in this series, Reiner’s quiet and broken declaration truly showcases how tired he is at this point. It also goes a long way to place us in the shoes of Eren. After all, it is a startling and sudden realisation, not a dialogue that itself demands focus. Not that that stops Mikasa showing off one of the most intense stares of all time. Shortly before she slices her former comrades like traitorous pieces of meat.
Aforementioned surprise in mind, we also learn this episode that the roster of main characters actually possessed doubts regarding Reiner and Bertholdt’s true allegiances before this explosive conflict upon the wall. Which seems a little odd given how this episode unfolds. Though Hange specifically informed everybody to not act suspicious around them, absolutely zero precautions were taken. Thus, the main cast are either the greatest actors of all time, or the flashback where we discovered that Reiner, Bertholdt and Annie all share the same hometown is useless. Armin specifically doubted them the most, due to him being designated smart member of the main trio, and even he nonchalantly walks away as they talk to Eren. Even a failed attempt to subdue the two would have lent credence to the flashback. Instead, we are left with a few minutes that, whilst interestingly plot progressing, exist solely to make sure we know that Reiner and Bertholdt are baddies. If them saying it outright wasn’t enough for you.
So, despite the generally subdues nature that hangs over this episode, at least when compared to the explosive combat of the one that preceded it, this is an episode of change. Surprising and sudden change. Who would have thought that so soon after adding Ymir to the ranks of the Titan Shifters would we learn the two more have existed in our main cast, let alone be two of the most important Titans in the series’ history? Sure, for the Armoured and Colossal Titan’s identities to have any impact they would have to be established characters, but still. Sudden. To be fair though, Reiner and Bertholdt are given two of the coolest transformations thus far, with flashes of lightning providing glimpses of their true faces before the Shift completes. The whole ribs forming around the Wall thing is also pretty neat and almost as intimidating as when Mikasa sliced Bertholdt’s neck wide open. Almost felt sorry for the guy. You know, before I remembered how he kicked down Wall Maria and got all those people killed. The jerk.