Attack on Titan Season 4 Episode 20 Review: Memories of the Future
Eren and Zeke take a walk down memory lane as they relitigate the sins of their father to figure out the fate of the future.
This Attack on Titan review contains spoilers.
Attack on Titan Season 4 Episode 20
“Before I save the world, I want to save you.”
Last week’s “Two Brothers” is easily one of the strongest episodes of Attack on Titan that’s ever been produced, which puts a lot of pressure on whatever follows. Another action-heavy installment would be the wrong approach after this chaotic high, so the more muted and reflective structure that’s adopted in “Memories of the Future” functions as the perfect cool down period after watching Eren’s head get blown off.
“Memories of the Future” is a very patient episode and it’s almost entirely spent in the past, or the nebulous timeless space that is “Paths.” This culminates in a huge twist regarding the Jaegers as Attack on Titan delivers its swan song on this tortured family. Eren and Zeke wrestle with their pasts, which turns into a gripping examination of nature versus nurture, as the sins of Grisha Jaeger get reassessed for one last time.
There’s always been a schism between Eren and Zeke. These two siblings have lived markedly different lives, but in “Memories of the Future” it’s Zeke’s turn to learn just how contrasting their upbringings really were. Eren hasn’t been brainwashed and forced to view himself as a weapon at an early age. In fact, he’s been showered with love, friends, and all of the fixtures of a normal existence that Zeke lacked. It’s tragic to consider that Zeke’s only real friend during his youth was Tom Ksaver, who also had to double as a positive father figure for the boy.
Eren and Zeke both come from different backgrounds, yet they’ve still arrived at this same point in their lives. What’s fascinating here is that Zeke has grown into a sympathetic figure because of the destructive path he’s been led down by Grisha, whereas Eren shifts into a more callous and terrifying individual because he’s pushed to this point of war on his own. This all grows even more complicated and incestuous when it comes to light that Grisha isn’t responsible for Eren’s decisions, but oddly, Eren is responsible for his father’s actions.
“Memories of the Future” slowly morphs into a horror movie once Eren and Zeke visit the most pivotal memory of all, Grisha’s execution of the Reiss family. This is the catalyst to the generations of war that have consumed the series since its start, so it’s a major shock to the system when Grisha chooses not to commit murder and effectively doesn’t draw first blood. It teases a future that won’t be lost in needless bloodshed, only for Eren to be the one who talks his father into committing these executions. Eren is responsible for all of this.
The twisted irony of this episode is that Zeke’s aim is to convince Eren of the truth, only for it to open up his own eyes. Eren remains several steps ahead of his brother and he’s the one who’s been pulling the strings for generations, even if it’s been through subconscious ripples across time. It’s heartbreaking that Zeke believes that he finally understands his brother and has gained an ally, but in reality they’ve never been more distant. Eren transforms from victim to abuser in a matter of seconds before Zeke’s eyes. It sets up a rich dynamic for what’s to come as these two brothers will be forced to inevitably take each other out. Eren’s observation that Zeke remains haunted by Grisha and continues to act in response to him is also incredibly astute and demonstrates not only the different ways in which trauma lingers, but also that perceived freedom can still be a form of reactionary codependence.
These revelations hit hard, but it’s a testament to Attack on Titan’s tremendous character development that a heartfelt hug between Zeke and Grisha evokes genuine pathos and becomes the episode’s highlight. These are figures that the series has taught audiences to hate for years and now it’s Eren who’s the awkward interloper who ruins this cathartic moment. The contrast between the first interaction between Eren and the Beast Titan, versus where they’re at now, is staggering.
“Memories of the Future” is a fascinating Attack on Titan episode that recontextualizes the past in shocking ways. This emphasis on backstory might wear thin on those that are hungry to learn what’s ahead in the War for Paradis, but it feels necessary to answer these questions and properly connect the past to the future as lines get increasingly blurred.
The overarching message in “Memories of the Future,” which each member of the Jaeger family processes in wildly different ways, is to accept your sins and to not pass the blame. It’s not a complicated virtue to follow, but it becomes impossible for someone like Eren who’s grown blind to his mistakes. Eren and Zeke still need to fight for Founding Titan supremacy and it doesn’t look like they’re going to resolve the matter with a game of baseball.