This Attack on Titan review contains spoilers.
Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 22
“What did we really find in that basement? Was it hope? Or despair?”
It can sometimes be hard to take a win for a win, which is exactly what Eren Jaeger and company struggle with in the final installment of Attack on Titan’s tremendous third season. This episode poses the question, “What did we really find in that basement? Was it hope? Or despair?” Now that all of this has been learned, are things honestly better or are they worse? The cost of this monumental knowledge and its repercussions get explored in this finale, but this will surely be one of the major themes of season four.
After such a busy final run of episodes, Attack on Titan’s season 3 finale, “To the Other Side of the Wall,” actually gets some time to breathe. It’s a strategy that works for the final chapter of this arc and after all of the severe disorder, these characters are more than deserving of an episode that allows for some reflection over everything that’s taken place, how far they’ve come, and where they’re heading.
The first half of this finale looks at the remaining fallout of the events and discoveries from within Shiganshina District. There’s serious unrest over whether the public should be informed over the revelations found in Grisha’s basement and even though this hesitation is understandable, they thankfully opt to let the truth be known.
As difficult as this may be for some people to handle, the decision to suppress this truth would make the government no better than the one that came before them or many of the villains from within Grisha’s stories. That being said, this episode is all about the power—for both better and worse—of the truth.
Large amounts of civilians do not handle the news well and there are already signs of paranoia and chaos cropping up within Wall Maria over what’s on the outside. The truth has strangely given their Boogeymen even more strength and even if the citizens within the Walls are now technically more informed, that doesn’t mean that their anxiety won’t birth false fears. Jean also chastises Floch for his brutal honesty with Hitch about Marlowe’s death, where the truth is once again shown to be a destructive force, just as much as it is a helpful one.
Another detail from the past that raises a significant rift during what should be a time of peace is the news that Armin survived in place of Erwin. This question has been handled from many different angles at this point, so some viewers may be sick of ringing this bell one last time, but it does feel important to get the outside forces of the Survey Corps’ opinion on this battle plan. It’s a tense moment and a lot of everyone’s anger comes from the fact that no one truly knows what the best decision would have been or how it will affect what’s to come. However, this drama between allies makes for a nice juxtaposition to the touching commencement ceremony that Historia throws for the Shiganshina survivors afterwards.
After “To the Other Side of the Wall” puts the events of the past few episodes to rest, it leaps forward in a way that conjures so much excitement and anticipation for what’s to come. Time significantly barrels ahead to nearly a year later and the many accomplishments of the Survey Corps are outlined. Hange’s blade-tastic Executioner From Hell mondo guillotine is used to wipe out all of the remaining Titans within Wall Maria, elevators are installed within the Walls and transportation beyond the Trost District makes a major boon, and the damage seen at Shiganshina District is repaired and it’s once again made hospitable. It’s a sweet glimpse of progress for a bunch of characters who have seen so much loss.
As Eren and the rest of the Survey Corps prepare to head beyond Wall Maria and reach Paradis Island, it feels a lot more natural that they’d take the time to heal their wounds and improve their infrastructure before jumping back into battle. A rushed seige for Marley would have been a disaster and it also allows for the Survey Corps to have improved in ways far beyond what’s been shown. There are likely plenty of surprises to be discovered.
The Survey Corps reach their destination of the ocean, with Paradis Island on the horizon, and it’s goddamned beautiful on every level. Everyone’s reactions to this new sight and accompanying wildlife are so heartwarming and the perfect reward for such a grueling season that’s featured this level of bloodshed (and it’s nice that Eren and Armin do actually get to share this experience together). It’s a very powerful decision to have the emotional sequence mostly play without music and let everyone’s awe speak for itself. Levi’s concern that the ocean may be poisonous or some kind of trap is also faultless characterization for someone who’s so built to be naturally alert that he’s even suspicious of water.
While this moment is one of playful victory for much of the Survey Corps, Eren is instead caught up in more philosophical quandaries. He wonders, “If we kill every last one of our enemies out there, will we finally be free then?” This is an even more depressing take on where our heroes are at than the aforementioned basement quote. Even though they continue to escape their cages and end up in a larger playground, the question of whether they can ever truly be free and win this war is a serious, yet legitimate, concern that everyone has been too busy to honestly consider. Victories don’t always translate to freedom and these characters are beginning to understand the nihilistic world they’re in.
Eren appreciates the futility of their struggle more so than anyone else due to how he’s experienced Grisha’s memories (the flash that he sees to Grisha’s encounter with the Historia family is also very powerful). Eren’s seen just how insurmountable their obstacle is. There’s another extremely unsettling take on “freedom” when Eren posits to Armin that freedom is what lies beyond the Walls, only for a shot of Fay’s mangled corpse from Gross’ dogs to follow it. It’s another brutal reminder that freedom is a double-edged sword.
“To the Other Side of the Wall” is a very satisfying conclusion to what’s been a beyond satisfying season of television. This year has in many ways been the culmination of everything that Attack on Titan’s been dealing with since its beginning and it’s been so satisfying to see this story come together. There’s an extremely strong foundation in place for season four.
On that note, there has been some speculation and doubt that the phenomenal WIT Studio may not return to animate the show’s fourth (and apparently final) season, but hopefully they’ll remain on board. Their work is always incredible, but the heights of Attack on Titan Season 3 are some of the best work they’ve ever done and the nicest that the show has ever looked.
See you on the other side of the ocean in 2020, guys.
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.