Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 2 Review: Pain

Levi’s battle against Kenny and his troops intensifies as the fight for Eren and Historia takes a difficult turn!

This Attack on Titan review contains spoilers

Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 2

“All of us…We’re not good people anymore.”

There’s a lot to enjoy in this episode of Attack on Titan, but perhaps the reason that “Pain” works so well is because it feels like an expanded, more intense version of Attack on Titan’s season premiere, which is definitely not a bad thing. If “Smoke Signal” was a taste of what this new season has to offer, then “Pain” is the first bite of the main course.

After the last episode made its introductions and dropped us back into this world, “Pain” starts to really have some fun and get moving. The episode picks up on the climactic fight between Levi and Kenny the Ripper that ended the previous entry. 

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Levi faces a large amount of pressure to not only be able to stand up to this intimidating figure from his past, but to also keep his team safe and protect Eren and Historia from the enemy. That puts a lot on his shoulders and there isn’t a moment in “Pain” where it doesn’t feel like Levi isn’t crushed down by all of that weight.

Levi is typically someone that can complete any challenge and excels where others fail, so the stakes and pressure that are present from Kenny the Ripper and his squad’s attack aren’t lost on him when he comes home short of a victory. Not only might this be one of Levi’s first significant losses, but it also happens to come at the worst possible time when the most is on the line, too.

In spite of how Levi and Kenny share such an intense history together, they’ve never actually faced off against each other in combat. So while this battle is quite exciting for the audience, especially with such a lengthy wait between seasons, it also carries the same degree of expectations between Levi and Kenny. 

This duel has been a long time coming and weirdly feels reminiscent of the harsh history shared between Stephen King’s gunslinger, Roland Deschain, and his mentor, Cort. However, it already looks like Levi and Kenny’s relationship is prepared to go to deeper territory than King’s characters, which is saying something.

3D maneuver gear scenes are prominent during this battle and even though they have always been a highlight, they’ve really upped the game for this season and are especially incredible now. It’s bonkers to watch Levi’s versatility and creativity with how he uses the cables and his equipment to evade attack. 

Attack on Titan is a series that is full of very cool sequences as well as many moments where Levi gets to be badass, yet Levi’s 3D aerial maneuver work in “Pain” is without comparison some of the most impressive, beautiful work the series has ever done. The choreography during his chase with Kenny that ends in a bar is eye-melting stuff.

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On that note, this entire episode is such animated bliss and seems to act as proof that the premiere wasn’t a fluke. The entire season is going to look incredible and while it might not seem like that big of a deal, it does manage to make moments like everything Levi does look a whole lot more awesome. It does make a difference.

“Pain” offers up bit of a closer look at Levi’s archenemy, Kenny. He’s like if Robocop happened to be a cowboy, which is honestly an idea that I’m surprised has never been done by anybody else before. His aesthetic is a mash-up of sensibilities that speaks to his messy past, but it also just looks damn cool for a character design. While audiences still just get a taste of who Kenny really is, they also get to meet his crew in this episode (think of them as his own personal Black Order). 

It’s great to spend time with this unhinged Bizarro version of Levi, but it’s such a good decision to staff him with a hit squad rather than make his attack one-on-one. It not only allows more casualties to take place, but his team is just as proficient as he is and they make Levi’s squad feel overwhelmed. It should be a lot of fun to individually spend time with all of these new madmen.

Throughout this attack Levi attempts to keep his squad in check and gives orders to Armin, Jean, and Mikasa as he attempts to juggle all of these balls and not have everything go up in flames. His team does a good enough job and survive, but it’s truly Levi that gets the lion’s share of the demolition done. It’s hard to not view the rest of his team as liabilities at times. There’s a staggering sequence where Levi goes into berserker mode and takes out a number of Kenny’s troops with scary precision.

In spite of Levi’s skills and dedication, Kenny and his crew still complete their task of capturing Eren and Historia. Thankfully Levi gets some collateral of his own and succeeds in capturing one of Kenny’s squad members, but his interrogation attempts get him nowhere. All of this scratches the surface of some interesting, more profound questions when the hostage, Sannes, explains what he and his people are trying to do and that Levi and company seem more excited about torture than some of the most evil people he’s ever met. 

“Who’s the real monster?” is not a new question for Attack on Titan, but it’s still satisfying to see it get pointed at Levi here in a fresh way. Sannes is totally deranged with his convictions, but the irony isn’t lost on Levi that Sannes is as committed to his cause as he is to his own.

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While Levi and his team regroup and figure out what to do next, the episode allows some of the series’ typical dread and nihilism to seep into everyone’s actions. This isn’t the first time that Eren’s been kidnapped, but the gang feels especially down about their technical “defeat” after what’s gone done as of late. 

Armin finds himself in a particularly dark place as he’s recently taken a life in combat in order to keep his allies alive. While someone like Levi may view that as the cost of war, Armin struggles with his latest development as a fighter. He’s not exactly excited about his dark turn.

“Pain” succeeds as a strong follow-up to the season’s exceptional premiere and the episode ends in a satisfying place where Levi’s team at least knows where to go and there’s the promise of more answers in the form of Historia’s connection to the Reiss family. 

The real selling point of this episode is the action, but it still progresses the overall story and deepens the intrigue between Levi and Kenny. In a season with 25 episodes it wouldn’t be unusual for Attack on Titan to slow down its pace, but at least at this point it continues to operate with a Titan’s stride.

Now, off on the road to Rod Reiss (try saying that three times fast)!

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4 out of 5