And on that day humanity received a grim reminder – of how awesome Attack on Titan is! Welcome back to the Multiversity Summer TV Binge! We’re still a bit short on giants, but boy did this episode have some great speeches. Seriously, this was the most political episode of the show, and one of the best TV episodes about politics ever. Seriously. Join me as we dive, swoop, and swing our way through Attack on Titan season three. Let’s see what happens in the fifth episode: “Reply.”
1. Twilight of the Scouts
This wasn’t really a bottle episode, but it sort of felt like one. (I know that animated shows can’t technically have bottle episodes. Don’t @ me TV pedants). The momentous stuff all happens around one conversation one room. I don’t know how exciting that sounds on its face, but it is very very very exciting. Characters, whole organizations are sentenced to death. There are thrilling reversals. By the end, all of human civilization has been radically altered. That’s some good conversation.
But the bulk of it is a consideration as to whether or not the Scouts should be allowed to go on existing. Now, we know that the Scouts are the bravest, most skilled soldiers in the world, willing to sacrifice anything in the line of duty. Questioning their existence is the question at the center of the whole show. For all their skill, their heroism, their sacrifice, what are the results? The titans are winning, humanity is in a worse position then they were 10 years ago. The efforts of the Scouts mean nothing. Why should they be allowed to keep existing? Why not throw them into a crazy suicide run that could turn the tides? What’s all that heroism for?
If this was a straightforward superhero story, we’d get some message about how heroism is a valuable pursuit in and of itself. Maybe the main heroes wouldn’t succeed, but they would inspire someone else, and that would make a difference. This isn’t that. Genuinely, that bleak, nihilistic question doesn’t get an answer. There is what the characters think and there is what the viewers think, but it’s hard to tell right from wrong. What’s the point of heroes who always lose?
2. Watch the throne
Man the hierarchy in this throne room is confusing. Rod Reiss (not present) is the real king. King Fritz is ostensibly the power in the room, but he’s just a puppet figurehead. There seems to be some sort of organized power structure by the noble families, but the laws of nobility and how they convene is kind of unclear. Then there are the military leaders who we have seen to be ideological to the extreme. The populace is controlled by the Military Police, which in turn is controlled by Nile Dawk. We’ve known Nile to be a bit of a hardass, but this episode establishes him as a compassionate guy who doesn’t really have the stomach for this realpolitik.
Then, between the commanders and the nobility is Premier Zachary, who in one version of the subtitles I saw called “Fuhrer Zachary” (because otherwise the Fascism would have felt too subtle). Zachary has been a bit of a cipher up until this point, standing aloof and not seen making any tough decisions. Later in this episode, we learn that Zachary has a deep hatred for the government and he’s just been hoping for a coup every day. How… how did this power structure stand for 100 years? It seems very unstable. Well, as we’re starting to learn, a wizard did it.
3. Shaka, when the walls fell
Erwin’s little trial is cut short when a runner comes in and shouts pretty much the worst possible thing. Worse than fire in a crowded theater bad. Wall Rose has fallen, and all the hardships that humanity has suffered in these last few years are about to get about 300 times worse. Great time for a suicide mission right? The nobles want to finish Erwin’s execution and then send the remaining Scouts to just bum rush the titans and maybe retake the wall, maybe die. Either way that takes a problem off their list.
“No,” says Nile, who commands the guys with the guns who would be performing the execution. “I don’t think I wanna do that,” he says. “Yeah, uh-uh,” Zachary agrees. And now we’ve got a military coup.Continued below
4. A good old fashioned Junta
Pyxis sort of takes credit for masterminding this rebellion, but it seems obvious that Erwin is to blame. Nile is the key player in this moment, and he could really go either way. This is great storytelling. It’s a big moment, maybe the biggest in the story so far, and all of it rests on the shoulders of some dude we don’t know very well. That uncertainty creates an almost unbearable tension. Nile seems to respect Erwin. But he also takes his duty very seriously. What will he do? The deciding factor is the nobles’ apathy towards the refugee crisis. The military police are loyal to Nile, and now they are throwing in behind him.
All of this could have been tanked if Zachary tried to step in, but as I mentioned a moment ago, he’s a secret anarchist! It is these political moments that Game of Thrones did so well in the early seasons. You feel the importance of every person’s choice in the moment, and how their viewpoint is shaped by all their life experiences. Erwin is a zealous patriot. Pyxis is a true man of the people. The nobles don’t care about the people. Nile realizes that he cares more about the common man than anything else. And then mysterious Zachary has been waiting for this moment his entire life, mostly out of spite. Political change happens not just because of political feelings, but also because of petty emotions.
5. Creepy crystal crag
Oh yeah, there are other characters on this show. Actually, we haven’t talked about our main characters at all, because they didn’t do too much. Eren is still a captive and there’s something important about the secret history of the Reiss family. They were all in a chapel that got burned down by “bandits” (suspicious). Rod was the only survivor. That’s around the time Historia went into hiding. There’s something actually special about the magical lineage of the Reiss family. Which, yes we’ll get to, but for now Eren is in BDSM mode again.
Eren Yaeger spends a lot of this show bound and gagged is what I’m saying. And this is the most he’s been on display since his trial in season one. And what’s this? It looks like Historia is siding with her dad? Getting ready to sacrifice Eren? Ohhhhhhhhhhhh snap!
This was a really really good one y’all!