This Attack on Titan review contains spoilers.
Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 16
“I just have no idea…what to do…”
Attack on Titan’s sprawling battle around Wall Maria and within the Shiganshina District has gone back and forth for its warring sides. It’s debatable if the Survey Corps and the Titans were evenly matched here, but they’ve both experienced severe moments of victory where it’s felt like this could be anyone’s battle.
Nope. Not any more.
“Perfect Game” sees the Survey Corps in full-on panic mode as they scramble to stay afloat and still find a way to handle the Titans after Bertholdt’s surprise transformation into the Colossal Titan. The heroes are very much on the defensive through this episode and struggle to realize the full scope of the situation that they’re caught in. The Titans are always terrifying creatures, but they’re even more intimidating here because of how well they execute their destructive plan.
Attack on Titan has always been effective with its depictions of how war effects people and chisels them into someone new, but “Perfect Game” looks deeply at how the trauma and intensity of battle causes some individuals to step up into positions of leadership and others to fall apart and freeze when it’s time for action. Connie for instance, seems to temporarily lose his mind and snap over the current devastation that’s wiping out Shiganshina (although Mikasa swoops in without missing a beat to take his Thunder Spears).
Armin also finds himself unable to inspire his troops and formulate any sort of useful plan against the Colossal Titan, so he defers over to Jean to take the lead. Armin is overdue for some moments of empowerment, so his actions here are disappointing, if not still realistic. Jean’s reluctant to lead this attack and really doesn’t have any better ideas than Armin, but he’s at least able to move forward and do something. Jean also makes it very clear to Armin that while he’ll lead the troops, he’s not going to solve this Colossal Titan problem and that Armin still better come through in the end with a strategy.
The situation is just as bleak on the other side of Wall Maria with Levi and the remaining Squads that are around him. The teams try to give an exhausted Levi an opportunity to rest, but that quickly goes out the window when a flurry of rocks decimates most of the troops around him. The Beast Titan leads this attack with the Quadrupedal Titan and it’s a particularly gruesome onslaught. Boulders are such blunt, brutal weapons and in many ways it’s more upsetting to see people die being crushed by them than it is to get eaten by a Titan. Levi survives, but he’s out of tricks at this point.
These events indicate to some degree that the Beast Titan may be the one who’s actually the mastermind behind this attack. He’s still someone that we know barely anything about, let alone his motives here, but his presence alongside Reiner and Bertholdt works. Even though Eren is in his Titan form during this attack, Bertholdt’s Colossal Titan pays him no mind and just destroys as much of Eren’s hometown as possible.
Armin watches Jean launch an ineffective attack and it briefly looks like Eren might be able to turn the tables here when he holds onto the Colossal Titan’s leg and temporarily stalls him. What looks like it might be a decent strategy against the monster actually turns into a gigantic mistake. The Colossal Titan kicks Eren’s Titan off his leg, as if he was an insect, and spends him flying atop the wall, rendering him unconscious. So now the Survey Corps don’t even have a Titan on their side for support
Attack on Titan has delivered episodes like this before, but the big difference in “Perfect Game” is that instead of the good guys turning things around at the mid-way point, their situation actually goes from bad to worse. The Survey Corps descends fully into hell and one of the bleaker installments of the series to come around in some time. It’s a very surprising moment when it becomes clear that the “Perfect Game” that the episode’s title refers to is for the Titans, not the Survey Corps.
Both of the Survey Corps’ factions on the opposite sides of the wall carry out their few remaining moves to abysmal results. Mikasa valiantly fires her Thunder Spears at Bertholdt’s neck, but he anticipates the attack and deflects them with an expulsion of hot steam. Not only does it wreck Mikasa’s attack, but the steam also burns a ton of people, which is harrowing stuff and nearly as extreme as the boulder deaths. This is already an extremely shitty situation, but then just to rub more salt in the wound, Reiner’s Armored Titan gets back his fighting spirit and re-joins the fray. It’s a position that’s almost hilariously discouraging. If Connie’s mind hadn’t already snapped, it would now.
There are some very thoughtful conversations between Erwin’s miscellaneous troops about why they fight and if they’re just throwing away their lives for nothing that really help underscore the episode’s themes. We understand the toll that this stress takes on people like Eren, Levi, and Mikasa, but this more common perspective shows the fears of the everyman. It helps break down the many different perspectives that are present in this battle.
The only glimmer of hope through all of this is that Erwin has a strategy that may work to take out the Beast Titan, but it’s a kamikaze mission that will almost certainly kill him and his new recruits. Erwin’s plan is to launch a direct attack at the Beast Titan that’s used as a distraction so Levi can secretly maneuver over to him and eliminate the target. The conditions are so dispiriting that Levi doesn’t try to dissuade Erwin of this plan and he too understands that they truly may not have any other options here. In what’s a very chaotic installment of the series, these calm discussions between Levi and Erwin help ground the entry and slow things down.
In an episode that’s full of telling character moments, perhaps the most satisfying one is that Erwin reveals that his only regret as he heads into this suicide attack is that he never found out what was in Eren’s basement and couldn’t do his father’s spirit justice. In spite of those unresolved answers, Erwin understands the importance of the greater good. It remains to be seen if his sacrifice will be enough for Levi to succeed, but he goes out in as honorable a way as possible.
Attack on Titan always looks incredible, but the horseback sequences that conclude the episode look especially stunning. There’s a ton of action that “Perfect Game” gets through, but it manages to allow each of these busy set pieces to breathe and showcase different aspects of battle without any compromises. The Beast Titan’s initial boulder barrage at Levi’s Squad is gorgeous and the Colossal Titan’s rampage through Shiganshina looks as beautiful as it is emotionally crushing.
“Perfect Game” is a dark episode that doesn’t hold back with its overwhelming sense of defeat. It’s somewhat refreshing to see such utter devastation and some real stakes present as the Titans level the playing field, but it’s also a fascinating episode because of how people react to these losses. The final scene of the episode is incredibly uplifting and one of the most powerful moments from the entire series, even if it does end in total carnage. Eren and company have never been so backed into a corner and it’s extremely exciting to think about who may get out of this alive and where this massive culling is heading.
Now let’s get to that freaking basement for Erwin’s sake!
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.