This Attack on Titan review contains spoilers.
Attack on Titan: Season 3, Episode 5
“In this cramped world that we humans have, one spark will engulf all in no time.”
“Thou shall not prioritize one’s own gain over the longevity of humanity.” This is the clause in the Charter of Humanity that Erwin is supposedly in violation of by his refusal to hand Eren over to the government. This clause becomes the centerpiece of the episode in many ways and the actions of most of the major players in this installment get filtered through this consideration.
It seems like such a basic principle that most people in this series follow, but it’s interesting to see how this rule reframes the characters in new lights. In the same sense, it’s amazing how the power of this principle can completely turn the tables. This episode begins with Erwin moments away from execution and by the end of it all he couldn’t be in a more comfortable position.
One of the more notable details about “Reply” is that even though the episode utilizes a slow, methodical pace, there’s an insane amount that actually happens. This allows the episode the benefit of not feeling overcrowded with material and that it can really let its scenes breathe, but there’s still very much a strong sense of accomplishment by the conclusion.
For instance, the start of the episode is consumed with a lengthy argument by Erwin where he pleads the glories of the Scout Regiment and why they’re a necessary organization in order for humanity to survive. It’s a touching monologue where the audience really gets to understand why Erwin does what he does and how he views his work. It’s even more significant because no one really asks him for such a defense of the Scouts, but this intense dose of passion allows the audience to continue to entertain the idea that Erwin still might meet his end here.
Unsurprisingly, Erwin’s speech falls on deaf ears and it doesn’t make a dent in his death sentence. However, what the government does respond to loud and clear is the news that there’s been a Titan breach. A beautiful scene transpires here that makes for strong evidence that Attack on Titan is a show that’s just as good at deep, philosophical conversations as it is at gonzo action scenes. This perfectly timed Titan breach occurs and the Scouts prepare to rush into action, only for the government to tell all of them to stay put and let half of the population die instead of put the people inside Wall Mina at risk.
The government was already heavily in violation of the Charter of Humanity before this point, but this is a huge example of its hypocrisy and eating its own words just as it is about to execute Erwin for doing exactly that. Hypocrisy aside, it’s also enlightening to hear these two very different sects of people argue on what to do in this emergency and it’s really boggling how blind and cowardly the government’s response is.
The brilliance behind this recent Titan attack and the government’s follow-up is that it’s actually all a lie and been designed as a morality test by Commander Pyxis. In one swift motion Pyxis makes a strong case for MVP as this wise mind game is explicitly used as the spark to launch a coup d’etat and finally overthrow these empty leaders.
It’s immensely satisfying to watch everything blow up in the government’s face and see it get beaten at its own game. Furthermore, this mental manipulation of the state arguably works better than Erwin pulling off some flashy action sequence to avoid his assassination. That’s the expected, cliché route to go down and it’s so much cooler to see him defeat these guys without even drawing blood.
It’s shocking, yet all too perfect, that the government remains resistant and becomes even more stubborn once Pyxis catches it in the middle of its corruption. The leaders don’t even attempt to make excuses, which speaks to the arrogance and confidence of this government. It’s considerably telling that their fake king turns out to literally be asleep through this whole debacle. If there’s ever been a perfect metaphor for the ineffectiveness of this government, then it’s that.
In spite of the clear victory, Erwin and company don’t take an opportunity to celebrate after their government takedown. They instead continue to wear somber attitudes and mope through success. They’re already worried about what’s to come of humanity and the bigger picture that lies outside of these walls. Levi, Hange, and the Scout crew in the woods are considerably more chipper about the good news, but they’re also consumed with the fact that Eren and Historia are still abducted.
The final act of the episode basically sets up the early system of the community’s new government, with Premier Zachary currently the de facto leader (who honestly isn’t a bad choice). The Scouts and the public seem to accept these transitions, but the Reiss family is still out there, and the Scouts are now largely aware of the Royal family’s complicated lineage and history.
“Reply” is an episode that works so well because of its efficient structure. Apparently Attack on Titan creator Hajime Isayama seriously regretted the slow pace of this Uprising Arc in the manga, so to streamline this takedown in an efficient, kick-ass fashion in the anime is a whole lot better than sticking to the source material and losing three or four episodes on this stuff. This season’s episodes have had a trend of going out on exciting notes and “Reply” definitely gets the audience anxious for the thrilling developments that lie ahead and that a return to action may not be far away.
With the recent revelation that Titans acquire their abilities by eating other Titans, it looks like the show is getting ready to explain how the first Titans were therefore able to acquire their powers. Not only that, but the origins of Eren’s Titan abilities and how his father may be involved appear to finally be within grasp as well.
Next week, get ready for a whole lot of daddy issues.
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 and his perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.