This Attack on Titan review contains spoilers.
Attack on Titan Season 4 Episode 3
“Just keep moving…”
Attack on Titan’s new season has played with perspective in a surprising and satisfying way that’s kept the audience in the dark. A lot of this new season has focused on Falco Grice as he perseveres through Warrior Training and how he might be a Marleyan counterpart to Eren. However, “The Door of Hope” turns to Reiner’s past as a way to draw even more parallels and highlight that this new trainee may be able to accomplish what he can’t. “The Door of Hope” is all about the pain and suffering that Reiner has endured to get to where he is now, but it also looks to the cyclical nature of war. This episode tells Reiner’s story as if he’s destined to be the hero that will end all of this, but the audience knows better. It’s necessary to look so far into the past in order to better understand what awaits in the future.
Marleyan forces continue to prepare for their eventual attack on Paradis Island and there’s a compelling introduction that’s put together on the various Warrior soldiers and the different Titan powers that they all possess. It’s a helpful way to summarize what’s been presented in the first two episodes. It also turns the focus to Reiner, as he comes to terms with his new authority, but also a heavy burden that hangs over him. Reiner fights to not just save the future, but to also rewrite his past and do his family justice, even if his father won’t acknowledge it. Reiner builds himself up to be an invincible tool of destruction because he has to be, but it makes the truth that he learns cut him right to the core.
“The Door of Hope” largely spends time during Reiner’s youth when he was only Gabi’s age and just starting his own Warrior training alongside Bertholdt, Annie, and Marcel Galliard. Reiner is bursting with enthusiasm, but he struggles with the information that Marcel orchestrated for Reiner to inherit the Armored Titan purely so his own brother would be kept safe from this lifestyle. What’s particularly powerful about Marcel’s confession is that Reiner barely gets a chance to react to it before a stray Titan invades and Marcel changes Reiner’s life for a second time. Marcel sacrifices himself in place of Reiner and the valiant gesture, combined with the truth that Reiner has learned, leaves him more motivated than ever in his charge against Paradis Island and the Founding Titan.
Attack on Titan has devoted previous episodes to supporting characters and members of the opposing team, but “The Door of Hope” is the most drastic in this regard. It wants the audience to empathize with and understand Reiner’s plight, which might have previously seemed like an impossible task, but now feels as crystallized as the motivations that drive Eren, Levi, Mikasa, or any of the Survey Corps members.
Granted, it’s now easier to side with Marleyan forces, but Reiner’s situation is hardly unique. Every character in this series has faced substantial loss and carried the guilt of the kindness of others. Attack on Titan will still need to do more with Reiner and the other new Marleyan characters, but it’s incredible to see what the anime has already been able to accomplish in a mere three episodes. There are even glimpses into Reiner’s childhood that show that this narrative has been instilled in him for his entire life to the point that he’s never known anything else to believe in. “The Door of Hope” wants to demonstrate that Reiner is a victim of circumstance just as much as anyone else.
This season has not rushed the story, but even the slower moments are deeply intriguing because of the radically new playground that it all takes place within. Marcel’s death acts as the catalyst that really unites Reiner, Bertholdt and Annie and pushes them to reach the roles that they serve when the audience first meets them in Attack on Titan. “The Door of Hope” spans several years and continues to jump around in the past as it fills in the gaps to a story that the audience has only been privy to half of.
Some may be frustrated over the somewhat remedial nature of this episode and how it spends so much time in the past in order to cue up things that have already happened. It requires a little more patience on the audience’s part, but it’s really amazing how this new season adds greater depth to the content that parallels this in season two. It’s an easy moment, but it still hits like a ton of bricks when Reiner and Eren daydream about the future while they’re on opposite sides of the same wall. It’s scenes like these that pull from the show’s entire history that help these final installments make even more of an impact.
“The Door of Hope” is the most that Attack on Titan has felt like prequel series Better Call Saul when it comes to its storytelling. There’s still palpable suspense even though the audience ultimately knows what’s to come. It’s a tension that grows out of the anxiety of knowing how this house of cards all fans down and that all of Reiner and Annie’s work can all be for naught. Annie and Reiner argue over the best approach for their attack, which boils over into her kicking his ass on the subject. They’re distraught and lost, but it’s seriously chilling to see them on the opposite side of Wall Maria as they begin to plan their infiltration into the 104th division of the Training Corps. It’s the genesis of one of Attack on Titan’s biggest twists and it’s telling to learn that it’s Reiner who comes up with the slow infiltration plan that leaves the Survey Corps so dismantled.
The episode’s title is equally effective and it subtly reflects this season’s theme since the titular Door of Hope for these Marleyans is actually a gateway to destruction for Eren and those on the other side of Wall Maria. It’s a symbol for an optimistic future that we already know is broken. It’s the same kind of dread that’s conjured when Reiner proudly tells his Training Corps leader with full sincerity that he’s joined the military because he wants to “save humanity,” but that his vision for this goal is directly opposed to everyone around him. Attack on Titan has handled the anxiety that’s tied to secret moles and traitors, but it’s even scarier to get close with characters and get to know them as humans before they willingly deceive others. It makes exchanges like Reiner’s momentary pep talk to Eren become even more complex.
“The Door of Hope” is the least revelatory installment of Attack on Titan’s fourth season and it may play more like a refresher for some people since it spends so much time in the past. It’s by no means, however, a wasted episode and the work that it does for Eldia and how their mission intersects with the rest of the world still feels exciting and important. It’s clear that Attack on Titan’s concluding season wants to tell a gigantic story that pulls from different time periods and has many moving pieces. “The Door of Hope” continues to refine those skills as it sets up what’s to come in its mammoth final year, whether that’s hope or just another hell.