This Attack on Titan review contains spoilers
Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 10
“Not worth using your name…”
A big component of the first half of Attack on Titan Season 3 is clearly the shifting influence of the Reiss family, but a secondary focus through all of this has been the frayed bond between Levi and Kenny. Kenny’s presence has been a heavy factor that’s weighed down on Levi since the season’s premiere, but “Friends” very nicely ties a bow on their complicated relationship and the results do not disappoint. “Friends” turns into a packed, fulfilling episode that’s full of twists, turns, and even sees Levi get sucker punched in the face and take it like a champ. What’s not to love?
“Friends” begins right where the previous episode left off, as Kenny shows off his batch of Titan serum and entertains some very serious decisions. Before anything drastic that Kenny may or may not do in the present, it’s first important to understand the choices that made him this man in the first place. What follows is a glorified Kenny flashback episode that examines his introduction to Uri Reiss that began as an assassination attempt, turns into a friendship, and results in his alliance and knowledge of the Reiss’ secrets.
This exercise turns into a surprisingly moving, emotional episode and Attack on Titan actually creates some empathy for Kenny. “Friends” makes both Levi, and the audience, finally miss the infamous “Kenny the Ripper” right before he exits the picture. Caring about someone as violent and unruly as Kenny may have seemed impossible when he first appeared this season, but “Friends” is the flashback episode that he deserves.
It’s pretty interesting to see that Kenny’s original mission was to assassinate Uri Reiss and cripple the royal family, but then Uri in Titan mode spares Kenny’s life and thanks the Ackermann family for their diligent work during this difficult time and persevering through unfair prosecution. Kenny is so impressed and touched by Uri’s change of heart (not to mention the humility of Rod and the royal family) that he pledges to become the man’s bodyguard and a constant pillar of support for the Reisses. This definitely isn’t the expected trajectory of Kenny’s character, but it does hint at a person who can actually build loyalties and friendships, rather than the cutthroat cipher that slashes his way into the scene in season three.
There’s also a tiny bit more of elaboration on just exactly how the Reiss’ special memory powers work. Uri explains to Kenny that one day he’ll be able to pass over his memories and abilities to another member of the Reiss family and ostensibly “live forever” in the process (which is essentially what happens when Frieda consumes Uri).
The idea here is for the Reisses to gradually pass their memories and powers through their bloodline so all that’s left of humanity is a specialized, select group of people who will have the strength to survive. A lot of this could be assumed through what Rod Reiss has already told Historia, but it’s satisfying to see Attack on Titan get a bit more explicit with this backstory. A little clarification in such a busy series never hurts.
“Friends” also thoroughly explains just how Kenny and Levi know each other and the depths of their relationship. After Kenny’s sister, Kuchel, passes away, Kenny reluctantly agrees to look after her son, Levi. While an honorable gesture on Kenny’s part, he has zero interest in being a parent. Even though he technically “raises” Levi, he treats him much more like a pupil than a family member and he only instills him with battle strategies and the means to survive in the world (including Levi’s trademark “reverse-grip” blade stance).
Then, after Kenny figures that Levi has enough of these essential skills, he abandons his nephew to survive the elements on his own. He doesn’t even explain to Levi what’s going on or why he deserts him and it happens in the middle of a duel, no less. So yeah, Levi is more than a little justified in the overwhelming grudge that he holds against Kenny. However, if Kenny hadn’t taken such a negligent attitude to a young Levi, then perhaps Levi wouldn’t have developed the exceptional skills that have kept him and many of the Scouts alive for this long.
Kenny begins his devotion to the Reiss family from a just place, but it doesn’t take long for his more selfish compulsions to rise to the surface. Uri casually tells Kenny about the power within the Reiss bloodline and their propensity for becoming Titans. As soon as Kenny hears about this power he can’t stop thinking about how to acquire it for himself. He becomes obsessed with wanting to turn his life into something greater. Thus begins Kenny’s complicated mission to rise through the ranks of the Reiss’ military and steal their power, only the latest events in present day throw a drastic, life-ending wrench into Kenny’s scheme.
It’s kind of perfect that Kenny’s death is just a result of inconsequential debris from Rod’s transformation and not some brilliant attack. It’s just a result of the randomness of fate. Such a controversial figure from Levi’s life is just wiped out by happenstance, but it’s one of the better deaths that the show has pulled off and it actually generates sympathy for Kenny in his final moments.
He seems to understand the error of his ways and at least goes out on a noble note, even if his life was mostly on the wrong path. He poignantly realizes that even people with as much power as the Reiss family are still slaves to something in life, whether it’s children, dreams, or even God itself. “Friends” explains the importance of Kenny’s desire to become something larger and in his final moments he selflessly abandons this dream for the greater good and the safety of his nephew. Kenny may now be dead, but he finally gets his priorities in order.
Finally, Historia gets crowned as Queen and it’s one of the more joyous moments that has ever occurred in the series. Historia’s first order as Queen is to swiftly punch Levi, which is a glorious callback to her “deal” with Mikasa back in 308. What’s even better is how Mikasa eggs her on even further here! It’s surprising to see how satisfying this moment is and just how difficult the past few weeks have been for everyone. Perhaps now, finally, life will begin to get a little easier.
Just as all of the family drama and emotion comes to a satisfying close, “Friends” throws a massive cliffhanger at its audience for what’s to follow all of this Historia and Reiss family chaos. Out of nowhere, a vicious battle between Reiner’s Titan and the Beast Titan reaches its conclusion. Bertolt jumps in to save Reiner from death, but the bigger news here comes in regard to the identity of the human who’s in control of the Beast Titan!
This individual isn’t explicitly identified (eagle-eyed viewers may briefly remember him from the end of the second season), but he happens to have glasses that look suspiciously similar to the kind worn by Grisha Jaegar, Eren’s father. Could this mysterious Titan soldier be another gnarled, unexpected branch from Eren’s family tree? Not only are this stranger and Bertolt anxious to acquire the “Coordinate” Titan ability, but they’re also just as set on having words with Eren and intercepting his mission. Could a messy family reunion be that far off?
“Friends” is a very satisfying entry of Attack on Titan that feels like the conclusion of this season’s first big arc in many ways. While there still may be another episode or two that explores the aftermath of Historia’s crowning and the changes to the government, it looks like the season is ready to move onto more Titan mysteries and pivot back to Eren and his family. “Friends” provides many answers, plenty of tense battles—both in a human and Titan capacity—and some impressive aesthetics that improve the experience. The music in this series is always enjoyable, but it works particularly well here as it punctuates painful pieces of Kenny’s past. The score that crescendos during the episode’s finale is also especially powerful and really helps that cliffhanger pop.
That being said, Attack on Titan has entered such a rich, fascinating chapter of its story that they could deliver a completely silent episode and it’d still be must-watch television.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, Bloody Disgusting, and ScreenRant. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.