A bit of an annoyingly enigmatic title this week on Attack On Titan, though if I had to make a guess I’d say it was referring to a chess opening, which seems the best way to have a title named Opening halfway through your season. It could also be the opening of dialogue between Eren and the rest of the Titan Shifters, as this episode was basically nothing but four characters in a tree talking to each other and as such makes it fairly straightforward to review, which is a bit of a relief for me. And unlike The Hunters last week, this felt like meaningful and interesting character development, rather than just going over what we already know. I come away from this feeling like the episode was well worthwhile despite the complete lack of action.
There were a few scenes outside of the forest and tree but they were so minimal and only served to remind the viewer that the scout team were still progressing to catch Reiner and Bertholdt, while Hange has a suspicion about Connie’s village, so they’re essentially just the plot for other stories being wheeled along without fanfare in the background and serve a purpose by letting us know those plots are still going, which I appreciate, too many shows don’t do that.
So onto the four characters that this episode is dedicated to letting us learn about, I’ll start with Eren, the audience surrogate for this episode and I have to see him as that less I get further annoyed by his stupidity. He’s the character that needs everything explaining to him but I found him more sympathetic than usual, as he finds that he is powerless and is just desperate for answers from anyone, while Ymir and Bertholdt be evasive and Reiner just acts deranged. I can for once understand the Eren ranting mode at this point, no one gives him any straight answers and he is obviously in peril with no easy way out. And coupled with that, Reiner and Bertholdt were two of his closest friends, and yet they are responsible for so many deaths it doesn’t bear thinking about. Eren now has to deal with his friends being ‘psychotic mass murderers’ and the way this comes across here, where he so often doesn’t know what to say, makes for more compelling watching than his ranting at Reiner a few episodes ago. He’s had some time to collect his thoughts into something coherent but it’s still not enough to truly come to terms with what he’s learned, he may never do. To him, Ymir may be an ally but he doesn’t know how he’s going to get out of this and his desperation does feel justified this time around.
Bertholdt is really hard to read, I kept wanting him to say more, for an episode where he was part of the conversation for the whole thing he had a miniscule amount of lines. This is not least because I like him as a character, not for what he’s done, but because of how mysterious he is (yet is the most powerful and iconic titan of them all). He kept his responses to one-word answers and his reaction to Reiner’s ranting suggests that he had seen all of this before and is weary of it. This may make him the more evil one of the two, suggesting he’s always been aware of what’s going on and has been hiding it far better. Nevertheless, he still has that permanent worry line on his face, I don’t think he’s quite sure about what’s going to happen next either.
Indeed, the only one of the four who seems relatively confident and happy with the situation is Ymir, who clearly knows a lot more than she is letting on. She might know that she is in no real danger for now from Bertholdt and Reiner, and can convince the Scouts that she was an unwilling captive, which she might be, she certainly does not seem aligned with Bertholdt & Reiner’s Titan group. For now, she seems content to let what will happen play out but is going to find out what she can by asking questions about the Beast Titan and presumably trying to further her own agenda, which may align with Eren’s, it may not. Future episodes will reveal I hope, I like this mystery too.
The flashback showed Reiner and Annie looking tearful as Marco died, which either shows that they do have some semblance of human emotion left, or that Marco was one of them and yet still got attacked and killed by Titans. I suspect the latter as it would make some narrative sense but I am really going to have to rewatch the first series again is what that told me. After this whole thing has finished.
And then on to Reiner, who this episode really did a number on. First we find he has some form of split personality disorder or seems to have suppressed the memories of killing and tearing down the wall so much so that he thinks he’s a soldier fighting against the Titans (incidentally, although I knew what was meant, the distinction between soldiers and warriors in English is not all that much without any distinguishing qualifiers, I can only assume the Japanese equivalents, my Japanese isn’t that good yet, are more distinctive). And that split personality is really heart-breaking to watch and it explains well his team player attitude that Bert never really demonstrated, saving Connie from Titans and expressing feelings of love for Historia, which puts him on a level of understanding with Ymir at least, I guess, although who knows with her twisted morality. And then there’s the harsh personality that he displays when he is snapped out of it by Bertholdt and it is such a contrast. He seems far more antagonistic than his partner and it seems that the entire situation has been putting a huge mental strain on him. Which is understandable, partly, given his young age, they are both effectively child soldiers and some part of me wants to understand them, even after what they’ve done. I do still feel sympathy and that’s because of the ‘million is a statistic’ factor, for all Attack On Titan seems to be a show where anyone can die, not that many important characters have died (yet) and there has yet to be a huge feeling moment where one has, if Marco has turned out to be one of the Titan shifter squad, even less so. Reiner hasn’t yet personally killed anyone we cared about. So I don’t quite feel the impact of Reiner and Bertholdt being evil as I’d like to, knowing what they’ve done. Some part of me still feels that they can be redeemed even though the more rational side of me knows that that can never happen.
This episode made Reiner a much more interesting character than I had ever pegged him to be, even though I thought he was a good ‘bro’ character in the pre-reveal days, I didn’t know what to think immediately after he turned and he was never top of my favourite character lists because I didn’t have many feelings directly about him. This episode changed that and put him right to the top of characters I want to see more from. If Bertholdt will release a bit more information I’ll put him there too, but this episode was fantastic for giving me more information about the characters, if not so much as to what the hell is going on. Maybe that’ll be next week.