This Attack on Titan review contains spoilers.
Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 14
“This moment! This battle! The survival of humanity depends on it!”
Battle of Winterfell, eat your heart out.
Last week’s “The Town Where Everything Began” did an admirable job at setting the table for what’s to come in the second half of Attack on Titan Season 3. The episode brushes up against a major war and teases lots of Titan-filled action. The luxury of this is that “Thunder Spears” gets to reap the benefits of its predecessor’s prep work and just indulge in thrilling warfare. This installment is extremely satisfying for that reason.
In “The Town Where Everything Began,” Erwin claimed that this would be the definitive battle between human and Titans and it largely lives up to that statement. On top of that, “Thunder Spears” also manages to be about so much more than just flashy combat scenes. Fans would likely be content with a lengthy melee alone, but there’s something in this episode for everyone, whether it’s stunningly animated combat, entertaining new weapons, or gratifying character moments. “Thunder Spears”
In Attack on Titan’s previous episode both the Survey Corps and Reiner and Bertholdt’s Titan army exhibited some brilliant battle strategies and there’s much more of that at play here. There’s so much history and hostility between these individuals, but they show restraint here to ensure that they make the right move. It’s exciting when these teams actually come to blows, but it’s just as intense to watch them try to best the other with the smartest tactical plan.
Reiner and Bertholdt decide to focus the first wave of their attack on the Survey Corps’ horses so they’ll be even more crippled in terms of escape and mobility. As a response, Erwin cleverly decides to throw Eren into the fray as bait. Granted, this isn’t the first time that Eren’s become bait for the enemy, but in this case it forces Reiner and Bertholdt to choose between continuing with their attack on the horses or to take this opportunity to seize Eren. They bite, which allows the Survey Corps a little more time to survive and figure out their next move, but it also pushes Eren into combat with Reiner.
This showdown between Eren and Reiner works extremely well for a number of reasons. It’s a very nice touch that this colossal-sized carnage takes place amongst the streets of the neighborhood from Eren’s youth. These two demolish many buildings as they fight each other and for each structure that gets knocked down Eren literally destroys a piece of his childhood. It’s particularly poignant that Eren is poised to kill a major antagonist only feet from the place where he first vowed that he would kill every single Titan.
Another great moment is when Eren strategically uses his hardening ability to increase the power of his impacts. He’s come a very long way as a fighter and Eren is easily able to overpower Reiner after only having one previous match against him. Eren does solid work against Reiner and gets out a lot of his pent up frustrations and issues out in the process, but it’s actually the rest of the Survey Corp that do the most damage here with the debut of the titular “Thunder Spears.”
There is nothing that’s not awesome about these new weapons that Hange and her team recently developed. It operates like a harpoon of sorts that is powerful enough to penetrate the beefy skin of the Armored Titan. After that point, the spear separates from its user and releases a tremendous electrical current into whoever it’s pierced. These weapons work sowell against Reiner and it’s a little incredible how this impossible threat is now so easily overcome. They blind the bastard and function like a smooth effective Titan-killing machine. Every time a Titan explodes after an ol’ fashioned neck nape nicking is very rewarding, but when Reiner blows up it really feels great. It’s such a beautiful moment of teamwork for the Survey Corps where everyone gets to contribute a little.
Reiner’s defeat works all the better due to how Attack on Titan never shows the development of the Thunder Spears and allows their first appearance to come as a surprise. It’d otherwise be a less effective reveal. Also, kudos to Hange and her team. I hope this is the first of many new radical weapons that the Survey Corps put to use to defeat the increasingly weird Titans that they encounter. On the topic of such things, it’s strongly hinted that Reiner and Bertholdt have another intelligent unique Titan among their ranks. The ultra gross “quadruped” crawling Titan is easily the episode’s most distressing visual and I’m already shuddering over its next appearance.
Attack on Titan usually excels at filling their chaotic battles with plenty of smaller, human character moments. That’s no exception here and one of the more powerful moments of “Thunder Spears” is Levi’s built up resentment towards himself over how he couldn’t successfully kill Reiner last week. He promises Erwin that he’ll eliminate Bertholdt in his Beast Titan form to make amends and knowing that this runs through his head during combat makes each of his attacks hit harder. Very few people work harder than Levi and absolutely no one is let down by him, so to see this level of disappointment in him speaks volumes.
Curiously, this also organically leads to some insight into Reiner himself. His near-death experience courtesy of Levi causes him to re-evaluate his mission and his priorities. It’s appreciated to get Reiner’s side of this onslaught, especially since it looks like this may be the end of him. It’s a helpful reminder that there’s a lotgoing on here. Several generations of history are coming to a head and everyone views themselves as the main character. Even Erwin temporarily experiences a crisis of faith where he wanders off course in order to do the memory of his father justice (although you know we’re still going to get into the Jaeger basement sooner than later).
Attack on Titan’s regular themes of freedom, regret, and generational fate are also present here as Shiganshina District gets torn to shreds. It helps to see the show connect these story beats to deeper topics so this is as much of a philosophical battle as it is a physical one. Once again, the show doesn’t slack when it comes to the animation and Attack on Titan guarantees that this showdown between Eren and the Survey Corps against Reiner’s Armored Titan looks beautiful. The way in which Reiner tosses Eren through buildings or how the Thunder Spears explode and blow viscera out of Reiner’s face are just some of many visual highlights from this busy episode.
“Thunder Spears” is an impressive mix of everything that this show does so well and it hints at an even more exciting trajectory for the rest of the season than last week’s premiere. This episode closes the book on a number of long-running conflicts, but also throws a whole lot more into the fire. It’s encouraging to see that Attack on Titan has found a tempo that allows them to eliminate their threats and still have plenty more on the horizon. It feels like the series is about to jump into some bewildering new territory with all of the discoveries that are being made and what’s even better is that the Survey Corps have never been more prepared.
Bring it on.
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.