Attack on Titan Season 4 Episode 23 Review: Sunset

More unrest pulls the nation further apart, but the emergence of an old enemy might by the heroes’ best hope for survival on Attack on Titan.

Attack On Titan Season 4 Episode 23 Horse Ride
Photo: Funimation Entertainment

This Attack on Titan review contains spoilers.

Attack on Titan Season 4 Episode 23

“I’m fully aware that I’ve committed irredeemable sins. If it’s for returning to my father I won’t hesitate to repeat what I did.”

The last time that Annie Leonhart was a focal point in Attack on Titan was when Eren was raining blows upon her Female Titan. Eren yells out during this tense season one showdown that he will “destroy the world,” yet in this moment his words feel inspirational and function as an early glimpse of Eren’s acceptance over his role as a hero. Boy, can a lot change over the course of four seasons…

It’s now enlightening to revisit this scene in the context of Attack on Titan‘s final season, specifically this episode, and view Eren and Annie’s old fight from the completely opposite perspective. Eren has followed through on his ferocious threat and in the face of complete destruction it’s perhaps Annie, dejected Warrior and crystalized outcast, who is humanity’s best hope to stop Eren’s actions and save the world. And that’s the beauty of Attack on Titan, a series where every single character is culpable, because when everyone is a devil in the eyes of someone else then nobody is a devil. After so much loss and tragedy, the people of Attack on Titan might finally be ready to heed this advice and embrace what makes them all alike rather than condemn each other’s differences.

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This final season of Attack on Titan continues to be a masterpiece in patient, slow burn, serialized storytelling, but the big turn in “Sunset” is drastic even for this show. Annie Leonhart heads into her hardened crystal security blanket all the way back in season one’s “Wall: Raid on Stohess District, Part 3.” Periodic glimpses of Annie have been provided in this interim time, but she’s largely filled the role of silent audience surrogate. The emergence of more powerful Titans has even made her once-mighty Female Titan seem tame in comparison. 

Most Attack on Titan fans likely weren’t expecting Annie to return to the fray in a significant capacity, let alone as an ally, but it’s another piece of perfectly symmetrical storytelling that proves how hard this series has worked to lay the proper themes, even during its “simpler times.” The first two seasons of Attack on Titan were never weak, but it’s shocking how much stronger they become after returning to them with the knowledge of this final season’s revelations. “Sunset” alone will have audiences eager to return to every previous Annie scene now that her character has properly opened up.

A lot of “Sunset” is a two-hander between Annie Leonhart and Hitch Dreyse, two characters that the audience has gotten comfortable seeing on the sidelines of battle. Annie’s fortuitous backstory doesn’t come as a huge surprise and she’s yet another character who’s been pulled in different directions by Eldian and Marleyan forces. Annie is taught to view these two sides of herself as competing extremes, but her childhood is another example where Marleyan and Eldian peace could have created a hero, not a humanized weapon. Like most of Attack on Titan’s characters, Annie has years of brainwashing to override, but she emerges from her crystal cocoon ready to heal the world, not further fracture it.

Annie’s adoptive father trains her to be a ruthless Warrior, which mirrors Eren and Zeke’s own past with Grisha, but he learns to value the personal over the universal. The pride that Annie’s father feels for her ascension on the battlefield soon pales in importance to his desire for Annie to simply come home, safe, and to be able to appreciate the time that he has left with his daughter. This sweet thought becomes Annie’s guiding light during her crystal imprisonment, but it’s also reflective of the entire nation’s pain. 

Every single person has someone like Annie’s father who cares about them and wants to see them return home. It’s heartbreaking that these genuine bonds can get forgotten when in the face of conflict and how the desire to conquer often seems more important than what really matters. It’s also crucial to understand that Attack on Titan’s characters have been forced to become increasingly reactionary as this war escalates, but Annie has patiently been listening for the last four years 

Annie’s reintroduction might initially seem superfluous, especially since she’s been out of the game for so long (she’s even from a pre-Thunder Spears world), yet it’s clever how “Sunset” positions Annie’s hibernation as an unexpected superpower. This final season is full of characters that act out of fear and panic as their primary motivators. Connie’s decision to masquerade his feeding session with Falco as a helpful trip to the hospital is a perfect example of the rash decisions that fear triggers in the helpless. 

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The doomsday clock’s bell now tolls so loudly that nobody has actually taken a second to truly think about what’s going on and how to head into a triumphant tomorrow. Annie is in a unique position since the past few years have left her only able to reflect on the past and formulate a plan for the future. If anyone has a possible solution on how to overcome the Rumbling, it might be Annie as opposed to any of the Warriors who have actually been locked in extended combat.

The majority of “Sunset” focuses on Annie getting brought up to speed on the world’s changes, but some of the episode’s most powerful material concentrates on the tension and unrest that consumes Liberio following Eren’s horrific transformation. The Jaegerists and the Anti-Marleyan Volunteers have never been more frayed and Floch only further rips apart the seams with his extreme dedication to his cause.

Floch callously executes an Anti-Marleyan soldier, boasts that Eren’s latest actions against Zeke are completely in line with their plan, and that their homeland is a lost cause. Eldian support is the only hope for survival. Everyone is terrified by Floch’s resolve, but his declaration that pride is not something that’s worth dying over stings even harder. It’s a harsh echo of what Annie’s father tried to instill in her, but stripped of any sentimentality and hope. Pride is all that some of these characters have left at this point.

These doubts and insecurities spill over to Armin and Mikasa, who aren’t given a ton to do in “Sunset,” but their scene together reiterates the free-floating guilt that consumes the rest of the episode. Mikasa and Armin have experienced so much hardship and it’s likely that they’re still in shock over Eren’s recent Founding Titan metamorphosis. They’re both incredibly raw in this moment and unable to let themselves off the hook, even if everyone else already has. 

It’s difficult to watch Armin shrink away from responsibility, but every false move that he makes stings doubly hard because he can’t help but hold himself up to the standards of Erwin Smith. Erwin is able to gain an immortal perfection because of his death on the battlefield whereas Armin is a constant subject of ridicule. Mikasa experiences a similar crisis of conscience when she realizes that her discarded scarf is now gone. Even if Mikasa wanted to embrace this old security blanket, it’s now too late for her to return to the status quo. Eren has released all of the Titans from their hardened states, but it seems as if Mikasa and Armin’s hearts have only become colder and more solidified as everything else thaws.

These last few episodes of Attack on Titan have been in a class all on their own and it remains fascinating to see how everyone tries to pick up the pieces and remain optimistic following Eren’s seismic transformation. “Sunset” provides further crucial development, both in the past and the present, but it still feels as if it drags its feet in several areas. This installment could have tackled a little more, especially since so much of its focus is lost in the past. However, after several episodes of meticulous baby steps it now feels as if Attack on Titan’s narrative is ready to take confident strides forward to the Rumbling and beyond.

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Oh, and Levi “refuses to die” Ackerman is fucking back! And if he still believes that “the best discipline is pain” then he should be as regimented as a monk by now.


4 out of 5