With a title like “Assassin’s Bullet”, you knew someone was going to die during this episode. And yes, people have been dying during the entire series – it’s kind of the whole point – but they’re usually nameless redshirts or characters we’ve only seen a few times. Character death hits a little differently when it’s one of the core group.
Well, considering the events of “Assassin’s Bullet”, and the introduction I wrote, I feel obligated to start this review with an homage to the lovely Sasha Braus, who started off as a one-note potato joke and became a valued and respected member of the Scouts. I will admit that when I saw the title of this week’s episode during the preview last week, I did not expect it would be Sasha who would die.
Death is an ever-present force in Attack on Titan. Characters have been brutally dying since the very first episode of this show. But for a series with such a high body count, very few of those have been members of the core group. Main characters are often given plot armor (some to a ridiculous degree), but for a show like this, especially given the current circumstances, it would be unrealistic if they didn’t lose someone important.
Not that we haven’t lost people on this journey. And I’m not just talking about the countless one-off or nameless characters who sacrificed themselves for what turned out to be a lie. We lost Marco, but that was early enough that it didn’t have quite the same impact. (Not to mention that we didn’t learn exactly what happened for a long while after.) Bertholdt was “the bad guy” so his death was expected, because obviously the bad guys die in this kind of story. Ymir died off-screen. Armin died but came back as a Titan. And then, of course, there was Erwin, who went out like the boss that he was.
But Sasha’s death in “Assassin’s Bullet” feels pointless, and perhaps it’s meant to. War is pointless, after all, and that’s one of the overlying messages of Attack on Titan. Sasha was killed when they thought they were safe, shot by a brainwashed child soldier who sneaked aboard their transport. And of course, this was right after Connie had that whole mini-speech about how glad he was they had all made it through the battle. They let their guard down, and now Sasha is gone. She didn’t even get a heroic death; she was shot in the back, surrounded by her comrades.
One thing about Sasha’s death is that it proves Eren isn’t quite as detached as he’s appeared in these past few episodes. You can see that the rest of the 104th is gutted by Sasha’s death. Connie is shaking, Mikasa and Armin are inconsolable, Jean is barely struggling to hold it together, even Levi and Hange were visibly affected by the news. But Eren sat there stone-faced until he learned that Sasha’s last word was “meat”. Eren’s response to grief seems to be hysterical laughter – it was the same when Hannes died back in season 2 – but you can still see that brief glimpse of rage in his eyes.
I think it wasn’t until the events of “Assassin’s Bullet” that Eren realized his plan was going to get people he cared about killed. Maybe he thought he was desensitized to death to the point where he wouldn’t be affected. Maybe it honestly didn’t occur to him that he was endangering his friends. But it’s clear that Jean, at least, blames Eren for Sasha’s death. Eren probably blames himself as well.
On a similar note, Armin’s face when he held out a hand to help Eren into the zeppelin was expressionless. There was no relief, no joyous reunion. He clearly resents that Eren forced his hand and made him kill so many people.
The titular assassin’s bullet came from Gabi’s gun, which honestly isn’t that much of a surprise. She grabbed her gun and took off after the zeppelin at the end of last week’s episode, and she’s a zealot who wholly believes the propaganda she’s been fed all of her life. After the way she stupidly charged into battle in the first episode of the season, it makes sense she would risk her life avenging her friends.
Gabi’s role is a perfect example of why Marley uses the children as soldiers. Sasha had the opportunity during the assault to take Gabi out, and she didn’t. Lobov had the same chance and also didn’t take it. Both of them were killed because they looked at Gabi and saw a child. But Gabi is a soldier – a brainwashed soldier, but a soldier nonetheless. Enemies will hesitate to kill her, but she will not show them the same mercy. It’s an effective tactic.
She has completely internalized all of the Marley propaganda about evil Eldians. It’s not even the way she views the residents of Paradis, it’s in the way she talks about living her own life. She talks about working so hard to prove that she’s “one of the good ones” so that people won’t spit on her when she leaves the internment zone. She talks about being proud of her armband. It never even occurs to her that perhaps the people spitting on her are the bad people, and she shouldn’t have to work so hard to reduce their ire because she didn’t do anything to provoke it in the first place. It never occurs to her that she shouldn’t have to wear the armband at all.
I’m not quite sure how to take the scenes between Gabi and Falco in “Assassin’s Bullet”. I think that Falco is struggling to reconcile what he’s been told all of his life to what he learned from Eren. When he knew Eren as Kruger they obviously became friendly, if Falco was willing to run errands for him. And he witnessed the entire conversation between Eren and Reiner, where I was convinced that Eren wanted to bring an end to the violence right up until the moment he transformed into his Titan form. I think Falco looked at Gabi, swearing to end all the island devils, and realized it might not be that simple anymore. Maybe it was never that simple.
Falco saw Reiner’s regret. He saw the guilt that Reiner has hoisted on himself for everything that’s happened. Falco brings up to Gabi that Eren didn’t attack for no reason – Marley attacked them first, and people died because of it. Perhaps Falco is just now understanding that this is a vicious cycle and it has to end somehow.
One of the biggest not-surprising surprises of “Assassin’s Bullet” was that Zeke was indeed in on the entire plan. In fact, it seems as though most of the plan was Zeke’s in the first place and Eren went rogue. There were enough hints throughout season 4 that Zeke’s loyalties had shifted, so it was a reasonable conclusion to draw. But just how long has he been planning this?
He’s definitely been up to something for this entire season, at least. We learned he’s been hiding his royal blood from the Marleyan brass, which they no doubt would have been thrilled to know. He indicated that he knew they were being spied on when he was discussing invasion plans with the other Warriors. He was being spied on in the first place. He was led away before the assault and separated from Porco and Pieck. But if you look back, he may have been planning this for a long time. There was a conversation between Eren and Zeke in season 3 that most people probably assumed was Zeke trying to lure Eren to his side. But now, knowing what Zeke was planning, that conversation reads a little differently. There’s also the fact that the missing scout ships Marley sent to Paradis actually defected and joined the rebels. This explains how they got a zeppelin and where the mysterious pilot is from.
There is also still plenty of confusion as to what Zeke’s motivation is. In “Assassin’s Bullet”, it’s clear that Levi still doesn’t trust Zeke. After all, Zeke has killed hundreds, probably thousands, of Paradisians. I talk about “shifting loyalties” but it’s entirely possible that Zeke has no loyalties at all and is only out for himself. Perhaps he has a fatalistic “burn the world down” outlook on life and is leading everyone to their deaths.
But I worry. Zeke mentions they now have the Founding Titan and a person of royal blood (aside from Historia, who is obviously back in Paradis). Eren currently has the Founding Titan power (along with Attack and War Hammer), so the only way it can be accessed by a member of the royal family is for him to be eaten by a member of the royal family. Does Zeke intend to eat Eren? What is the ultimate plan?
“Assassin’s Bullet” had a lot for us to digest, and this is one of the first episodes where when it ended I was legitimately surprised because it felt so fast. I am absolutely living for this season of Attack on Titan, and I cannot wait to see what happens next.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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