This Attack on Titan review contains spoilers.
Attack on Titan Season 4 Episode 8
“Assassin’s Bullet” painfully explores the cost of war as losses for both Marley and Eldia accumulate. “Assassin’s Bullet” makes sure to properly honor the member of the Survey Corps that perishes, but the previous episode saw the Warriors in Marley lose even more people that were important to Gabi, Reiner, and the rest of Marley, yet Attack on Titan doesn’t even allow time for Marley to grieve. Perspective has been an integral component of this final season and it’s fascinating how the Attack on Titan’s treatment of these characters inherently informs who the audience is pushed to empathize towards.
The people of Marley aren’t allowed a chance to mourn their losses, but their pain crystalizes in a way that’s even more dangerous once Gabi’s vitriol boils over. In the end it’s technically Gabi who is holding the gun that takes away a life, but there’s someone else that put this bullet in motion much earlier. Attack on Titan’s newest episode highlights how there are multiple metaphorical assassins that are responsible for the latest fallout and it looks like there are many more bullets that are about to get fired.
After two episodes of heavy action, “Assassin’s Bullet” takes some time to catch its breath. However, this isn’t just a slower episode, it’s one that casts a cloud of dread over everyone. There are many moments where shots linger on characters staring at each other in appreciation or lengthy beats where the Survey Corps hug one another. This focus on emotion is rare for Attack on Titan and it’s a major red flag that danger is right around the corner. The title “Assassin’s Bullet” is designed to create tension and all of these elements work together once Gabi decides to board Eldia’s airship.
“Assassin’s Bullet” embraces warm shots of characters and close ups of connection, but it in turn uses these same tools to reflect disappointment. Scenes where characters joyfully smile upon reunion with their group are balanced with Levi’s rant about how much he hates Eren’s face and how it’s turned into a symbol of frustration. Attack on Titan has explored several enlightening angles for its story and characters, but a new one that this episode initiates is Eren losing the support of his own friends.
It’s strangely cathartic to watch Levi wail on Eren and berate him like he’s a spoiled brat because that’s exactly how he acted back in Liberio. This direction works so well and it’s significant to see Eren’s support staff start to leave him. It’s still early, but it doesn’t look like things are far off from the Survey Corps putting together a coup against Eren or him forcing everyone to follow his rule under duress. Forget about Eldia versus Marley. This could easily become a situation where it’s everyone versus Eren.
Another very smart touch is that–much like the people of Marley–the audience assumes that all of Eldia has been in on this bloody attack, but in fact it’s got a lot more to do with Eren’s superiority complex, which made him go rogue. This is the first time that we really get to see Eren and Levi together since the four years that have passed since the end of season three and it’s a brilliant idea to reveal that Levi seems to currently hate Eren. This apathy that begins to form within the Survey Corps makes the reveal that Zeke has secretly been working together with Levi and the Survey Corps hit even harder.
This alliance speaks to an even greater level of subterfuge and strategy. It feels like every character is actually three or four steps ahead of everyone else and just waiting for disparate individuals and events to align in order for them to move forward. It also casts what’s already been an unpredictable season in an even more mysterious light where nothing can be taken at face value and one side’s defeat may actually just be a piece of a larger plan that’s yet to fully materialize.
Gabi’s infiltration of the airship is a direct response of Eren and it’s very satisfying to see the series push the Gabi hero narrative even harder. She’s already accomplished more at her age than Eren had. She’s more of a prodigy than most of the Survey Corps. Her speech to Falco echoes so much of Eren’s earliest moments in the series and this cyclical and generational war is another aspect of this season that’s just so thematically fulfilling. I get chills when Gabi screams that she’s going to kill everyone of those island demons, just like how Eren did the same thing about her people back in the very first episode.
Gabi’s pain and desires are easy to distinguish, but Eren is someone that’s much harder to read. Sasha’s death appears to be a turning point for his character that could lead to his redemption, or just sinking further into a numbness. It’s honestly heartbreaking that Sasha’s last words are “meat” and it’s literally a perfect epitaph for her character. “Assassin’s Bullet” executes one of the most powerful moments from the entire season when Sasha’s last words appear to actually fracture Eren’s psyche. It’s incredible work, both in terms of character development and Eren’s vocal performance. He undeniably loses a part of himself here and there’s no going back.
“Assassin’s Bullet” is another triumphant episode from Attack on Titan’s final season that allows Eldia to lick its wounds, only to get its tongue cut off in the process. Characters continue to defy expectations, whether it’s through acts of bravery or secret double-crosses and somehow Attack on Titan manages to fit even more gunpowder into this filled keg. There are some very powerful characters that are about to execute some unbelievable attacks, but “Assassin’s Bullet” is an important reminder that at the end of the day we’re all just meat.
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