This Attack on Titan review contains spoilers
Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 8
“I might be humanity’s enemy, but I’m your ally…”
Attack on Titan Season 3 has turned out to be an immensely cathartic experience due to how it’s finally playing nice with some of the series’ oldest and biggest questions. This year’s influx of answers is great, but “Outside the Walls of Orvud District” is a particularly successful episode not because of what it reveals, but because Eren finally gets to do something! Eren’s entire role so far in this season has been that of the helpless and unconscious hostage.
At times it’s hard to remember that this passive liability is actually the show’s protagonist. “Outside the Walls of Orvud District” not only gets Eren back in action and reunites him with Levi’s squad, but the entire episode is about him taking control of his destiny and being given the opportunity to take the lead, even if he doesn’t exactly know what he’s doing. It’s a messy, emotional stance to take towards battle (and it’s basically the opposite of Levi’s more precise, surgical tactics), but it’s just thrilling to get Eren calling some shots and selflessly heading into the fray.
The episode begins in the aftermath of Rod Reiss’ Titan transformation where everyone is eager to escape from the collapsing cave that they’re holed up in. Admittedly, “topless wimp crybaby” Eren takes some time to find his fighting spirit and remember that he’s a warrior. He still whines far too much about giving up and being a failure to humanity, but it’s the tight situation that everyone’s boxed in with this collapsing deathtrap and a quickly growing Titan that manages to break Eren out of his self-hating stupor.
There’s a truly touching moment when all of the Scouts reiterate that they’ve been in worse situations than this in the past and that these kinds of problems have always been solved by teamwork, not just one hotshot hero. This feeling of camaraderie inspires Eren to be his best self, but it’s only appropriate that the decision of what to do next must be decided by Eren and Eren alone. Everyone’s fate in this dire scenario comes down to their ability to trust Eren’s choice here, whether it’s to fight, surrender, or some bizarre alternative.
So thank God that Eren chooses to turn into a Titan and opt for a gargantuan death match instead of calmly singing Kumbaya with his friends as they’re buried alive in rubble.
Eren chooses to bite down into one of Rod Reiss’ mysterious Titan vials (that’s labeled “Armor”) and hopes that the results will prepare him for the impossible fight that lies ahead. It turns out that this new Hardening ability that’s now in Eren’s arsenal is exactly the sort of advantage that the Scouts need to survive underground. Eren’s Titan essentially grows into a loadbearing ice-skeletal version of itself that provides ideal cover for cave collapse. It’s also confirmed that this is the skill that erected the protective district walls in the first place, so Eren’s future as a professional wall repairer looms closer!
This transformation also provides yet another opportunity for human Eren to get tugged out of his larger Titan self in disturbing fashion. By the way, the ensuing line, “That’s what I call Hardening,” could have carried a lot more flair if they went with a more jovial, “Now that’swhat I call Hardening!” Actually, moving forward, after each new Titan ability is used some character should always follow the transformation with a, “Now that’s what I call…” identifier.
A lot of this episode just banks on the spectacle of both of the Titan transformations that take place, but there’s also a ton of insight provided towards Rod Reiss and Grisha Yeager actions. Rod Reiss is desperate to reclaim the power of the Founding Titan and he’s operating under the same mindset of the First King who firmly believed that humanity could not remove themselves from under the Titans’ rule.
However, when Armin, Mikasa and the rest of the Scouts start thinking about the deeds of Eren’s father, they begin to think that he might not have been as much of a monster as they initially thought. The way in which Dr. Yeager used his own son as a weapon of destruction is reprehensible, but they deduce that his intention was to instill Eren with the Founding Titan ability and remove it from the Reisses.
That being said, there’s still the firm belief that Reiss family blood is needed to properly activate the Founding Titan ability, but now the Scouts wonder if that’s really the case. Perhaps Eren’s father injected him with this Titan skill because he knows that there isanother way for Eren to access its powers and that he can save humanity from the Titans in the process. The key that Grisha gave his son likely leads to the final piece of this complicated puzzle. This is still very much a theory in progress, but it does hint at the trajectory of the next few episodes and puts Eren’s ominous basement back on everyone’s radar.
Eren is left with a lofty risk when Rod Reiss turns himself into a new Titan of unheard of proportions that even makes the Colossal Titan look like a child. The physical appearance of Titans typically leaves a lot to be desired, but Rod’s Titan transformation is fifty shades of grotesque. It’s a tremendous eyesore that gains additional points in the weird category due to its malformed limbs, caterpillar-esque mid-section, and how it crawls on its stomach and drags its face through the ground.
The intense heat that it radiates also isn’t exactly normal. It’s been a while since an Abnormal Titan has caused some trouble and this new one does not disappoint. This is the kind of Titan that David Cronenberg would design. And to think, this is the beast that Rod wanted his daughter to turn into!
The episode’s final act revolves around the discussion of whether it’s worth keeping Rod Reiss alive in his human form in order to acquire his abilities and learn more about the Founding Titan, or if keeping him alive is too much of a liability due to his brainwashing abilities and opportunity to eat Eren. It’s a risky decision to make, but it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when it’s clear that Rod Reiss needs to be eliminated.
It’s appreciated here that Historia recognizes that it’s important that her father dies and his damage ends (although it takes her some time to come around on the matter). It’s the only way that the Reiss name can be properly reclaimed and Historia welcomes the responsibility and challenge. She’s a goddamn queen by the conclusion of the episode and she can hopefully rule the walled districts with a lot more integrity than the Reisses that came before her. Her speech that she gives to Eren about how she’s always just wanted to help those that are in need, regardless of their affiliation, is exactly the sort of mark of integrity that’s fundamental in royalty.
“Outside the Walls of Orvud District” is a productive episode that gets the characters to a useful new position, but it’s over in an instant and it feels like more could happen. The installment takes its time before Eren’s transformation and even though it’s powerful material, a faster pace could result in the episode covering a little more ground. In spite of this, there’s still plenty to get excited about in this episode and it provides some satisfying development for Eren as a whole. “Outside the Walls of Orvud District” may shy away from busy action scenes, but with Eren now rescued, the shadow government out of power, and the gang officially all back together, it feels like the next chapter of this arc is ready to begin and that Attack on Titan has never been more prepared.
Now let’s take on that big-ass, gross Titan!
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.