And on that day humanity received a grim reminder – of how awesome Attack on Titan is! Welcome back to the Multiversity Summer TV Binge! Tremble under the visage of of the worst titan yet, we’ll see a development that’s been a long time coming. Join me as we dive, swoop, and swing our way through Attack on Titan season three. Let’s see what happens in the eighth episode: “Ruler of the Walls.”
1. Fear is the mind killer
This is an action show and a war show, so saying there was a lot of action seems banal, but there was a lot of action in this episode. In a way, not that much happens. Two episodes ago, Rod Reiss set his plan in motion and took his horrible titan form. Last episode, everyone planned to fight him, knowing they might die. This episode, they do fight him, they don’t die, and they win. It’s about as simple as these things get.
I do feel obligated to mention that Rod Reiss’ titan form is the most hideous crime against nature I have ever seen. The monster design on this show in general, is laudable. Here, it crosses the line twice. It crosses the line a zillion times. It haunts my nightmares.
2. Can’t teach an old scout new tricks
There’s a fight and it’s really cool. Details. Hmm. At this point, you sort of know how these go, but this condenses the entire Battle of Trost or the fights with the Female Titan into one jam-packed episode. They try standard tactics, which don’t work. They improvise something but it’s dangerous. The Scouts need to invent some on the fly weapons of war. This is the signature Attack on Titan battle, and it is because it works.
Like, we know that the best way to kill titans is to hack at the nape of their neck, otherwise they can regenerate. We also know that big titans can generate dangerous amounts of heat. So the wall garrison is forced to resort to canon fire, which does a lot of messy, gory damage, but nothing that will keep. So the injured Hange Zoe (your hero, and mine) loads up barrels of gunpowder and attaches them to the ziplines on their ODM gear. This lets them strategically target different parts of the lumbering behemoth, and then the ziplines pull the explosives into place. That’s really clever! And it builds on technology that we all understand: barrels that explode and the ODM kits that are integral to most action scenes in this show.
I say it almost every week, but that focus on tactics is what sets Attack on Titan apart from every other action anime series. You think of soldiers in WWII improvising equipment in the field. A group of people sees a mundane problem with life or death stakes, so they need a solution right now. It’s a lesson that all storytellers could take a moment to learn.
3. That horrible face
When Rod reaches the walls, he rears up and folks, the nightmare gets exponentially worse. Between the explosions and burrowing through rock and dirt his face is um, not. It’s been completely scraped away. He looks like a gag in a Nightmare on Elm Street movie; something so gory and awful that its kind of funny.
Eren leads the charge (in titan form!), and hurls a sack of gunpowder into the things bloody maw. There’s an explosion, and it’s Historia who dives in to strike the final blow, killing her dad. At this point, she doesn’t seem too broken up about it, and man, I get it. Once your dad has become gross Godzilla, I won’t blame you if you no longer think of him as a human being. But now, the political threat and mortal threat have both been ended in one blow. Ding dong, Rod Reiss is dead.
4. Never give up, never give in
I’m going to jump around in chronology a bit, because I want to end on the most important development. But before that, lets look at the very last thing that happens. He may be injured, but Kenny is not done yet. He crawls from the wreckage of the crystal cavern, removes his equipment, and slumps down against a tree. This story has done nothing to make me empathize with Kenny; he’s a criminal monster who gets a lot of points for charm. But he’s so beat and broken, his whole team is dead, and I feel a little bit of stirring in my heart for the guy. I attribute a lot of that to the beautiful direction and animation, which takes place in a gorgeous grove, one that Kenny seems almost ready to die in.Continued below
It’s Levi (his nephew? Adopted son?) who finds him. It looks like it’s gonna be a manly scene, two warriors reconciling in their final moments. But then Kenny shows that he’s got one of Rod Reiss’ titan syringes! Uh oh! Cliffhanger!
5. The ruler of the walls
So who has the real power behind the walls of Attack on Titan? There’s the monarch of course, who represents a sacred bloodline. But that was Rod Reiss, a proven literal monster, who had to rule through a proxy from the shadows. The military threw a successful coup, combining strength of arms with their ideological passion. Last episode, Erwin and Levi seemed ready to make Historia their puppet. She’s got the bloodline, and seems gentle enough that she’d carry out their will.
That’s why I think it’s very important how this goes down. Historia kills her dad, an objectively hardcore move. She lands on a convenient wagon, and the townspeople gather, trying to figure out what the hell just happened. And it’s Historia who makes the decision to rule, Historia who announces herself, not anyone else. She doesn’t lean on a friend for support, or an authority figure for direction. She made her own damn decision, and when it came time for it, Historia stood alone.
She’s going to be one hell of a queen.