“I wonder…was there any other choice we could’ve made? Maybe everything had been decided from the start.”
Here, at the end of the season (but not the end of The Final Season!), “The Dawn of Humanity” gives its characters one last chance to reflect before they pass the point of no return. To be more specific, it’s about Mikasa and Eren, two of the characters we’ve been with since the very beginning of Attack on Titan. As the crew sails Marley, and their final confrontation toward their old friend, Mikasa remembers the very last time that she and her friends were truly happy, back when they first set foot in the land across the sea. Eren, on the other hand…we’ll get to him.
Moments of levity have been few and far between this season (for very understandable reasons), and the episodes that did make the attempt to lighten things up a little in the middle of all this carnage, like with Annie’s infamous “Pie Incident” a few weeks back, have come up with mixed results. Mikasa’s flashback to the gang’s first trip to Marley hits all of the right notes, though, because for as zany as the comedy gets, it’s all tinged with the utter tragedy of us knowing that this is the last good time these kids are ever going to get, together. Soon, Eren will abandon the plan and rendezvous with Zeke in Liberio, and then the war will begin to earnest.
And when I say “zany”, I mean zany, because “The Dawn of Humanity” wants the inevitable tragedy to sting as much as possible. Sasha gets one last chance to be The Best Character in Attack on Titan™ again when she mistakes a car for a cow and then graphically violates a vanilla ice-cream cone in the span of a couple of minutes. Levi is mistaken for a child gangster by a terrifying clown, Onyakopon is horrified when Sasha and Co. Attempt to feed the car carrots, and Hange has to pretend to be Sasha’s sister to rescue a refugee pickpocket from the wrath of the Marleyan mob.
Eren is preoccupied with how the Eldians in Marley are being systematically abused and denied the privileges of ice cream and clowns, which Mikasa recognizes as a bit of a red flag in hindsight, but it makes perfect sense to us, knowing what we know. At this point, Eren already knows what he’s going to do to this place and these people—what he’s going to become—and it’s clearly tearing him apart inside.
When Mikasa finds him overlooking the refugee camp and asks him what happened to the boy from the market, he tells her, “Nothing yet.” It’s enough to send chills down your spine. It makes the entirety of the drunken revelry that follows so terribly sad, and not just because we know that soon Eren will be gone, Sasha will be dead, and all of these shenanigans will be a distant memory. If Eren succeeds with his mission, every last one of these refugees will be dead, and the only understanding they will have of their pain and suffering will come from the sight of a hundred titans emerging from the sea to destroy them all.
Mikasa wonders if there was anything they could have done differently to turn Eren away from this path. He’s seemed set on it from the moment they attended the hearing over Eldian refugees and learned how deeply the hatred of the Paradis Eldians runs throughout the world, though Mikasa seems to think that Eren might have responded differently if she admitted her feelings for him when he asked her dead on before the party. Could it be that, if Eren had a stronger anchor to this world, something to remind him of his own humanity, he might not have fallen prey to his own darkest impulses?
If Eren’s half of the episode is anything to go by, the answer is almost certainly no. Mikasa even acknowledges the simple fact of it herself: Maybe Eren has always had this monster living inside of him, and they were just never able (or willing) to see it. After all, from the moment he swore his oath of vengeance as a child, Eren’s stated purpose has never really changed. In a way, he has never been able to escape the mindset of that terrified and furious boy he was all the way back in Episode 1, and the fatalistic nihilism that he is embracing now is further proof of that. When a child is confronted with all of the hard and painful truths of the world, and has everything that matters ripped out of their hands, it’s only natural that their immediate response would be to throw a tantrum and break everything around them.
So it could be that Eren was always going to go down a path like this, even if nobody could have ever predicted the catastrophic amount of power he would end up wielding. Or perhaps Eren is simply using the perceived permanence of the future he will witness when he kissed Historia’s hand as an excuse to give up the burden of agency. If he is destined to become the beast that kills mankind, then maybe it is better – not to mention easier – to give up on resisting. He can push his friends away, he can use the lie of the Ackerman curse to hurt Mikasa enough for her to give up on him forever, and he can deny the desperate pleas of his Queen. He must. It’s already been written in stone…right?
We don’t know everything, yet, which makes sense now that we know there is one last “part” to go in this Final Season. Attack on Titan has still got to save some surprises for it’s endgame, I suppose (and they wear that they mean it, this time, too). Maybe we’ll finally get some answers about Historia’s pregnancy, which gets teased again Despite not being at all relevant to the plot since it first got brought up over a year ago.
There’s only one thing that’s absolutely certain going into Attack on Titan‘s climax, and it’s that absolutely nobody in the world beyond Paradis will ever forget the face of Eren Jeager for as long as they live (however short a time that may be). While the sight of the Colossal Titans swimming in the ocean was maybe a little goofy (I think it would have been much creepier just to have them walking along the ocean floor), it is impossible to deny the sheer terror of their arrival in Marley. The steam they give off is enough to melt the flesh off of mens’ bones, and every step they take crumbles the foundations of civilization into dust.
It’s the moment that this story has been building towards for nearly a decade. For Jeagerists like Floch, it’s nothing less than the culmination of a lifetime of fighting, the beginning of the Eldians’ new golden age. For our heroes, it’s the start of their own final battle, and the cost of victory will be steep indeed. For Eren, it’s the fulfilling of a dark prophecy that he himself was the author of, making good on the promise a young boy made all those years ago to his mother.
For everyone else, though? It’s simply the end of the world.
Attack on Titan The Final Season Part 2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitterhis blog, and his podcast.