Does The Rumbling Prove That Eren Is Still Attack on Titan’s Hero?
The Final Chapters of Attack on Titan shine a little light on how Eren’s world-ending Rumbling might have a silver lining to salvation.
NOTE: This author has not read the Attack on Titan manga ending upon which the Attack on Titan anime ending will likely be based. The following article presents an educated theory on how the anime could end and not a certainty based on the manga.
“We took advantage of hate, instilled and fostered it, believing it would bring us salvation…As a result, that monster was born and now it’s marching our hatred right back toward us.”
It’s been a long wait for Attack on Titan fans since Eren’s bold condemnation of humanity resulted in his Rumbling reckoning where a horde of Colossal Titans were unleashed to trample the Earth. “The Final Chapters (Part One)” doesn’t shy away from the sheer destruction of Eren’s decision and the first 11 minutes of “Chapter 1- The Rumbling” is the most disturbing that Attack on Titan has ever been. Humanity’s panic at their lowest moments gets detailed, but the episode relishes the gratuitous annihilation of children like Ramzi. It’s a brutal sequence that beautifully bookends Attack on Titan with the series’ depiction of Titans as truly terrifying creatures of destruction.
The contrast here is that this leveling of humanity–a gesture that’s predicted to wipe out 80% of the world’s population–is engineered by a human himself, Eren Jaeger. This figure, who begins Attack on Titan committed to these monsters’ extinction now wields the strongest power of all, the Founding Titan, and uses it to wipe clean a world that can’t match Eren’s impossible expectations. With Eren’s former friends and Attack on Titan’s audience left wondering if he’s too far past the point of redemption, “The Final Chapters (Part One)” raises a curious point towards how Eren’s archvillainy is actually designed to create unity.
Ever since the start of Attack on Titan’s “final season,” the anime has teased the idea that the series’ heroic protagonist might actually be orchestrating something much more sinister. It’s a dangerous gambit for a series to pull off, let alone as effortlessly as it’s handled in Attack on Titan as if Eren is some Guy Fawkes-like revolutionary who’s already become the subject of legends. These final episodes have hit especially hard because the audience has been kept in the dark over Eren’s true intentions, which amplifies every betrayal and intricate Machiavellian step. The audience, just like Mikasa and Armin, refuse to believe that Eren has truly become the villain and that there’s not some bigger picture that he’s taken into consideration. Even after The Rumbling, a genocidal action that wipes out the world like some grandiose nuclear event, there’s a belief that Eren isn’t beyond the point of reason. That his human form can still be yanked out of this skeletal monster.
“The Final Chapters (Part One)” still hold back on giving any definitive answers over Eren’s actions, but what’s implied by the cryptic comments that he psychically blasts to the surviving Survey Corps may finally hint at a side to Eren’s plan where Paradis Island and the Eldians can exist in harmony with humanity. Armin and company are crestfallen when Eren intercepts their attempts to have a heart-to-heart with him by underlining the fact that the only way out of this is through his death. Reasoning is now out of the question and “The Final Chapters (Part Two)” very clearly set up a showdown against this top tier Titan.
A scenario where warriors of Paradis Island need to eliminate Eren may not seem like a happy ending, especially when it comes after the events of the Rumbling. However, one of the biggest revelations in “The Final Chapters (Part One)” is that Eren has left these special Eldians with the freedom to choose their fate. He’s allowed them agency rather than turning them into mindless beasts, which gives a glimmer of hope that Eren might actually wanr to be killed. There was a point where the sheer threat of the Rumbling seemed so apocalyptic that the aftermath was never considered, let alone if Eren can still be destroyed. Now the thought of the Founding Titan’s death doesn’t seem nearly as impossible, especially after the psychic breadcrumbs that Eren has left for his friends.
Freedom becomes the key to all of this and the whole reason that Eren has been pushed to the point of the Rumbling is because he feels like he’s been robbed by humanity and that they’ve denied him the freedom that he and Armin fantasized about from his picture book. Eren’s crusade has all been in the name of humanity’s freedom, but he’s blindsided by how it’s mankind’s fault for trapping him and forcing him into a life of death in the first place. The people that Eren fought for are even more restrictive over his freedom and fate than the monsters that he believed kept him at bay inside the walls of Eldia. Eren no longer views these people worthy of a freedom, hence the Rumbling, but these Eldian revolutionists still make the cut.
The other major tenet that’s been reinforced across the widening scope of Attack on Titan’s final season is that the Eldians of Paradis Island are truly hated beyond recognition and viewed as the ultimate problem for everything. This subtext has been present since the anime’s earliest seasons, but Attack on Titan’s sliding focus to other communities highlight the universal hatred that permeates for the “Eldian Devils.” The Eldians have taken significant leaps to open up their hearts to others and see the world through others’ perspectives, but even in these final episodes there are still civilians who blindly curse Eldia for the doom that’s headed their way.
Eren’s desire for true, unconditional freedom, and the seemingly impossible task of redeeming the Devils of Paradis Island elegantly dovetail together in what’s set up for Attack on Titan’s final installment. It looks like Eren’s stubborn drive towards the end of the world is designed so that Armin, Mikasa, and the rest of Paradis Island’s warriors become the ones who kill him and finally end this cataclysmic threat. It’s only through doing this, and the unimaginable destruction that occurs, can Eldians truly be forgiven and put on equal ground with the rest of the world. Eren has turned himself into the ultimate evil in order to unite his friends so that the world can recognize them for what they are–angels, not devils. Granted, all of this is predicated upon Eren’s defeat, but on some level he knows that his friends will accomplish their goal and become responsible for the uniting of humanity.
This is a complex route for Attack on Titan to take if it’s ultimately what comes to pass. Eren will technically have found a way to end war, unite the disparate population, and create a peaceful future. That being said, no one is saying that the ends justify the means here. Zeke’s euthanization plan is horrific for many of its own reasons, but it arguably would have created peace through substantially fewer deaths. The benefits of Zeke’s plan and how it may have been the lesser of two evils even gets addressed by Yelena in “The Final Chapters (Part One).” What’s important to understand is that peace and compliance through fear or a lack of resources never works. Zeke’s plan may have been successful for decades, if not centuries, but it’s only a band-aid since it’s still a world where cooperation is conditional and transactional.
Again, Eren wiping out much of the world’s population is several steps too far, but this level of devastation seems to provoke true change, humility, and understanding in the fractured nations of the world. The Rumbling’s advance on Fort Salta is chilling, but the speech that proceeds it where it’s acknowledged that this avalanche of hatred is their own creation and karmic retribution after a generation of propaganda is the perfect encapsulation of Attack on Titan’s themes. These are undeniably characters who have learned the error of their ways and are committed to living changed lives if they somehow survive this culling. It’s hard to say if Zeke, Yelena, Floch, Reiner, or any other revolutionist’s plans would have created such genuine empathy.
It won’t be until “Fall 2023” that Attack on Titan The Final Season: Part 3 officially concludes with “The Final Chapters (Part Two),” which will adapt the last handful of the manga’s material. Happiness is far from a guarantee as the acclaimed anime comes to a close, but there’s finally enough evidence behind Eren Jaeger’s polarizing actions that hint towards an ending for Attack on Titan that’s not purely death and humanity’s doom. Eren’s spirit deserves to find peace under the trees rather than a Founding Titan who roams an empty graveyard.
Attack on Titan The Final Chapters (Part One) is available to stream on Crunchyroll now. Part Two is set to arrive this fall.