This Attack on Titan review contains spoilers.
Attack on Titan Season 4 Episode 25
“We haven’t even tried to talk this out yet…”
Let’s talk about stew.
A dish of disparate ingredients that are slowly cooked together in a broth so that they collectively marinate and coalesce into one superior meal. Much like the delicious stew that the Jaegerist Resistance enjoys on what might be one of their final nights of peace, their new union consists of many unexpected elements that work together to make something successful, the sum of which is far greater than the individual ingredients on their own. Mikasa, Armin, Jean, Gabi, Reiner, Yelena…All of these warriors have struggled on their individual efforts, but the new wave of collaboration that washes over Attack on Titan’s heroes has finally cooked the ultimate meal for peace and salvation.
“Night of the End” is arguably the calmest episode of Attack on Titan’s final season. It plays out entirely over a modest campfire while characters spill their guts, heal their hearts, and consider the future. This episode is not the radical revenge mission that’s teased during the thrilling cliffhanger of last week’s “Pride,” but it’s an absolutely necessary step for these new allies to take before they’re thrown into the chaos of war together. Four seasons’ worth of grievances get relieved and it’s a radical revelation that they’ve only spent years trying to kill one another because they’ve never taken the time to genuinely talk and listen to each other. This transforms into one of the most grim rounds of “Never Have I Ever…” (“Never have I ever taken off a partner’s ODM gear and held him down while a Titan eats him…”) while stew is shared and irritations are expressed.
One of the more fascinating wrinkles to these past few episodes of Attack on Titan is that Eren has basically disappeared after his horrific Founding Titan metamorphosis. In Eren’s absence, everyone has had their moments in the spotlight, but Jean has progressively become the new de facto leader and protagonist, which pushes him to a temporary breaking point in “Night of the End.” This episode’s earnest fireside chat reiterates how every character has blood on their hands and a legitimate reason to hate someone else in the group. Jean has carried the pain of Marco’s death all the way back to the first season’s Battle of Trost, but he’s finally given closure here as Annie and Reiner explain their roles in Marco’s death.
This is devastating news for Jean to process and “Night of the End” is easily the character’s best episode. Surprisingly, this candid confession also turns into a cathartic moment for Reiner to heal. Marco’s death appears to be one of the first instances where Reiner questioned the nature of their mission and if he’s on the right side of this war. If Reiner and Marco simply had a conversation like these characters are doing now then who knows how many more lives could have been saved in the process. Reiner even admits that he slaughtered the Titan that ate Marco, convincing himself that this was some tribute towards this needlessly lost life. Jean has more to be upset about here, but another tragic parallel is drawn between characters since Marco’s death has also haunted Annie and Reiner, just in a different way than it has with Jean.
The personal grudges that have kept these characters apart in the past get discussed, but “Night of the End” also breaks down the broader picture of Eldia and Marley’s millennia of conflict. These characters begin to understand the futility in arguing over 2000 years of war when none of them were even there to witness the events in the first place. “No one wants genocide,” seems like a glib statement to make, but it’s something that characters repeatedly assure each other in the episode. The causal nature of this pointless war is reinforced by the knowledge that the Rumbling would never come to pass if Marley didn’t send Reiner, Annie, and Bertholdt to break down the walls, which results in Eren’s mother getting eaten by a Titan, which triggers his cyclical vengeance mission in the first place. None of this matters if generations from now the Eldians are still seen as Devils for the actions that they’re about to cause.
Yelena instigates a lot of these arguments as she stirs both the figurative and literal stewpot, which is what pushes everyone forward to reach this raw, but healthier place. A tiny detail about Yelena and her fabricated backstory also comes to light, but it speaks volumes for her desire to turn herself into a vital piece of history. It’s easier to live in a fantasy than to confront the cruel realities of the world. On that note, there’s a captivating sequence that appears to be a fantasy for Jean–although it’s possible that it’s a flash-forward–where he’s happily married to Mikasa and that they have a child of their own. Every time that Mikasa faithfully defends Eren’s genocide must sting Jean a little extra hard as a result.
Mikasa’s dedication to Eren remains one of the few cracks in this united front and no resolution is really reached here. It makes sense to not come to blows on this topic until it’s absolutely necessary, but it’s also deeply asinine to think that Eren can still be reasoned with when he’s already reached this destructive place. The Jaegerist Resistance can finally move forward, even if this solution is a Band-Aid for a gaping chest wound.
“Night of the End” is a subdued installment of Attack on Titan, but it doesn’t waste a single minute and there’s a palpable tension as the sunrise begins to loom and this temporary reprieve from war is over. It’s highly entertaining for an episode that’s purely conversation and it takes care of necessary business so that this alliance doesn’t feel forced after so many seasons of hatred between these characters.
“Night of the End” allows Attack on Titan’s final episodes to confidently stride forward, yet the groundwork is still laid for any possible disagreements that will tear these people apart at the worst possible moment. “Night of the End” is storytelling that’s thrilling in a way that’s completely different from the action that dominates Attack on Titan. “Night of the End” gets to the raw, vulnerable, human element of these characters before they move ahead into what could easily be their doom.