This Attack on Titan review contains spoilers.
Attack on Titan Season 4 Episode 19
“Now’s the time to make our dream come true…”
Ever since Zeke’s Beast Titan first started to speak he’s been one of the most fascinating figures in the series who has only gained more depth after the revelation that this antagonistic figure is actually Eren’s half-brother. The emotional tug of war that’s existed between Eren and Zeke has been one of the most intriguing relationships in Attack on Titan, largely because Eren is so often a stoic character who chooses to internally handle his stress. There’s seemingly a newfound trust that Eren’s found in Zeke, but the audience has been in the dark for over a season when it comes to Eren’s true intentions. “Two Brothers” is the culmination of one of the series’ most complex bonds and it results in a family reunion that people will be discussing all year.
Zeke shifts from violence to compassion when he warns Eren back in season three, “I know what you’re going through. We’re both victims of your father. You’ve been brainwashed by him.” This hangs heavy over Eren’s head, but his actions remain clouded in mystery. Eren has never been the type to talk out his problems with Armin and Mikasa or vent over his brother with any of the Survey Corps, and he’s only grown increasingly isolated.
Some characters–as well as viewers–remain in denial over Eren’s trajectory and all of this material is strengthened by Eren processing this trauma on his own, regardless of where his interests truly lie. There’s already so much pressure placed on Eren and Zeke’s quest to make contact, but this union also functions as an extremely cathartic moment for the series since Eren finally opens up about what he’s been planning and what he wants after dozens of episodes of subterfuge.
There’s a lot to digest in “Two Brothers,” especially since it feels like the payoff to what’s been brewing across the first two entries of the final season’s second half. However, arguably one of the most shocking events from the entire series takes place when Gabi successfully pulls off her long-distance rifle shot and cleanly blows Eren Jaeger’s head off. It’s an extremely striking visual for any anime series to depict a detailed Zapruder-style account of their main character’s assassination. “Two Brothers” lingers on the shocking violence and the enormity of these actions. Time literally freezes for these characters. It absolutely works and Attack on Titan deserves a lot of credit for their restraint in not going out on this seismic surprise as the cliffhanger ending to an episode. It’s all even more destabilizing that Eren’s execution occurs part-way through the episode and it’s just one of the many bombshells in “Two Brothers.”
Some may take exception to the fact that it’s Gabi who snipes out Eren, but it’s the logical evolution to over a season’s worth of character development. Gabi has been presented as an analogue to Eren ever since her first appearance and their parallel paths have only increasingly overlapped. Gabi reached genuine clarity back in last week’s “Sneak Attack,” but it’s Zeke’s refusal to show any mercy towards Falco that ultimately pulls the trigger that takes out Eren. Generations of Eldian and Marley conflict expel that bullet from its chamber. It’s gutting that the previous episode teases some sort of happy ending for Gabi and Falco, only to descend them further into darkness. Her tears as she decides to execute Eren are a fantastic touch.
Another satisfying wrinkle to Zeke’s decision to weaponize his scream and turn everyone who ingested his spinal fluid into mindless Titans is that it’s one set of brothers putting their goals above another. Colt Grice has worked so hard to secure Falco’s safety and leave him powerful enough to defend himself in the future. Colt’s wishes for Falco aren’t dissimilar to what Zeke hopes to achieve with Eren and the pain that he can relieve from him. These goals aren’t even directly in opposition with each other, but Zeke’s decision to scream and put Team Jaeger over the Grices reflects that possibly the wrong people are winning this war. Any plans for peace are merely self-preservation re-packaged as salvation.
Of course, Eren does not die and because Zeke is able to catch his head before he fully passes on they’re still able to accomplish what they set out to do. The time that “Two Brothers” spends in the “Coordinate” with Ymir Fritz is brief, but it’s an incredible change of pace that seems like it will be the backdrop for the next several episodes of the season. It’s morbidly ironic that all that it takes for Eren to open up and speak his mind is for his head to get blown off, but it’s liberating to watch him finally operate with no filter.
Eren’s nihilistic character development is still one of the greatest magic tricks that Attack on Titan has pulled off and this act is about to enter its “prestige” phase. As many may have expected, Eren hasn’t been completely honest with Zeke. His willingness to betray his brother either registers as devastating or exhilarating, depending on which side you fall, but more than anything it speaks to how Eren is only looking out for himself. Eldians, Marleyans, friends, family–they’re all just means to an end.
“Two Brothers” is destined to be one of the most talked about episodes of Attack on Titan and the actions of its characters finally push the series into what feels like the beginning of its real endgame. This final season’s previous episodes haven’t been a disappointment, but this is the entry that really moves things forward and advances beyond some flashy Titan carnage to the meaty psychological questions that give all of this pain purpose. Now that Eren and Zeke have made contact, these two brothers have the power to change the shape of the world. What could possibly go wrong?