This Attack on Titan review contains spoilers.
Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 18
“It’s hard to stay sane, living like this. It’s painful. I know that. But even so, we need to move forward.”
The previous episode of Attack on Titan focused heavily on stunning sequences of staggering violence and grueling sacrifices, but this week’s aftermath instead deals with the moral questions and different decisions that now have to be made in order to go on surviving. It’s proof that a comrade’s emotional betrayal or egotistical thinking can be just as debilitating as a physical barrage from a Titan. “Midnight Sun” is a moral uppercut that turns last week’s assault into an elegant one-two attack.
Before this installment really digs into its heavier territory and the conflict between the Scouts, it features a long overdue meeting between Eren and Zeke. Since Eren and company actually have the upper hand at the moment, Eren threatens Bertholdt’s life while he demands answers from Zeke, who he also realizes is the Beast Titan. Zeke is much more interested in playing mind games with Eren. Zeke tells Eren that Grisha brainwashed him and that he’s here to rescue him, not end his life. When Eren notes an eerie resemblance between Zeke and his father, it seems very likely that these two are long estranged siblings and that Grisha performed Titan experiments on his children. All of this will likely either get confirmed or denied when we finally get in that freaking basement, but all the evidence is pointing in that direction so far, which is some deliciously twisted shit.
Hange and her team also face some unfortunate setbacks with their interrogation of Reiner. He may be a limbless torso at this point, but he remains resistant for the most part. Hange does learn that the contents of this mysterious silver briefcase apparently contain a letter from Ymir that’s meant to be given to Historia, but the details and significance remain a mystery. Reiner’s conveniently kept alive because he can later be eaten by one of their Titans and absorb his powers, but it’s this strategy that leads to Zeke getting away with Reiner. Hange is considerably intimidating as she holds Reiner hostage and it’s nice to see her get highlighted here when other characters just shut down during this turmoil.
Attack on Titan does some crafty backtracking when it reveals that not only did Erwin survive his seemingly fatal attack, but somehow so did Armin. This may border on the realm of implausibility (which seems a little ridiculous on a show of this nature), but this decision immediately becomes excusable when it turns into a breaking point between the Survey Corps. This essentially turns into “Levi’s Choice,” when he has the ability to save either Erwin or Amin’s life with his Titan serum injection, but that choice means that the other must die.
The first half of Attack on Titan Season 3 ended with a tantalizing flash forward to some schism between our heroes that sees Mikasa and Levi come to blows. Such a course of events seemed impossible at the time, but the impulsive decisions that Levi makes in “Midnight Sun” in the name of “the greater good” is an extremely believable sequence of events that leads to that dissolution of the Scouts. These characters have finally been pushed far enough to reach this devastating turn of events and fracture of friendships.
The brief tease of this that happened in “Night of the Battle to Retake the Wall” was thrilling, but “Midnight Sun” really lets everyone go at it. Levi and Eren come to blows and Mikasa unsurprisingly explodes over this. The saddest thing here is that everyone is just arguing over why their friend deserves to live more and nobody wants either of these characters to die. There’s such a tragic core to this fight. Everyone reaches their breaking points and some moments are truly hard to watch, like when Eren is pulled away from Armin and removed from the situation.
I honestly don’t know who deserves this second chance more. Armin really went above and beyond for his death, but Erwin’s plan to help out Levi was arguably just as heroic and integral to the Scouts’ success. Based purely on past triumphs, Erwin is likely the more useful ally to save here (he also seems like he’d be the more comfortable of the two with becoming a Titan), but it’s far from a clear-cut decision. This is exactly what makes the episode’s central question so compelling. Audiences can easily go back and forth on who deserves this second chance more, which is why Erwin and Armin are the perfect individuals for this.
Levi and the rest of the Survey Corps struggle to reach a consensus on this matter, but then Eren brings up Amin’s lingering goal of seeing the ocean with him. This seems to strike a chord a with Levi and he even thinks back to Kenny’s last words about how important it is to have dreams. In what almost feels like a comical beat, Erwin deliriously reminds Levi that he also had a longstanding goal to reach the Jaeger basement and make his father proud. Curiously enough, both of these ailing characters did have future goals that they made clear fairly often.
The conclusion of “Midnight Sun” doesn’t jerk its audience around and turn Levi’s decision into a cliffhanger. Not only do we get to see Armin’s shiny, new Titan form, but he wastes no time in eating Bertholdt and therefore presumably gaining his Colossal Titan abilities (which is oddly poetic since these very abilities are what nearly killed him). This is also a highly disturbing moment for the series and really relishes in the crushing of Bertholdt’s head and body. On that note, the gruesome effects of warfare are on full display throughout the entire episode. Many characters are beaten and bloody and look like they’re apparitions from out of Hell.
Ultimately, the decision to save Armin makes sense and it’s hard to be that upset with Levi’s decision when he seems morosely at peace with the idea that Erwin deserves his rest and to get out of this fight. It’s also pretty damn exciting to think of Eren and Armin kicking ass as a Titan team or running across the beach into the ocean while in their Titan forms. There’s bound to be a very interesting dynamic moving forward. At this rate, Mikasa may even end up a Titan (although I sincerely hope that she doesn’t).
“Midnight Sun” is an exceptional follow-up to an episode that was so satisfying that whatever comes next could easily pale in comparison. This episode does not disappoint and even surpasses what comes before it in some ways. It even foregoes the opening title sequence so it can fit in as much of this major conflict as possible. It continues the season’s near-flawless second half and promises even more exciting events to come. Attack on Titan Season 3 is a freaking runaway train and the conclusion to all of this is going to be nuts.
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.