Attack on Titan 4×16 Review: “Above and Below”

Above and Below
Zeke has a vision of Ymir as he lays dying.

I knew there was no way that “Above and Below” could be the last ever episode of Attack on Titan. Even without manga readers confirming that there are still another 20+ chapters to be adapted, there was simply way too much going on to be adequately resolved in only one episode. Thankfully, a second part of season 4 was confirmed earlier today at Anime Japan and is scheduled to release in “winter 2022” (which is hopefully, like, January).

Since we’re going to have more episodes after “Above and Below”, I’d better start talking about what happened in this episode. It was fairly obvious this wasn’t the final episode based on how much talking there was. It was clearly just setting up a bunch of cliffhangers that won’t be resolved for almost a year. After the insanity of last week’s double helping, I was expecting this episode to pack a little more of a punch. And it did – just not in the way I anticipated.

Let’s start with all the cliffhangers because I’m sure that’s what is on everyone’s mind. 

“Above and Below” opens with the aftermath of last week. Zeke, cut in half by the explosion, is lying in the field staring at flowers, wondering if he’s dying. Then he is rescued by a female Titan (who is probably one of the Titans protecting him from last week’s episode). His fate is currently unknown, as is Levi’s, who doesn’t appear at all in this episode. (If Levi dies, I riot.)

While Zeke is contemplating death, he has a vision of a little blonde girl. Fans are split on who this may have been a vision of, but the consensus seems to be that it’s the original Ymir.

Pieck, who was spotted several episodes ago, finally reappears. Give this girl an Oscar, because I did legitimately believe that she was willing to switch allegiances until I saw Porco in the crowd of soldiers and realized she was just playing Eren. Still, I do think that Pieck believes at least some of what she told Eren. She has to know that once Eldians are no longer useful to Marley, they’ll be cast aside. But she also has people she cares about in the invasion force, and she won’t turn on them.

I actually got really excited when I saw Porco in the crowd. It’s not that I want the Marley invasion force to win, even though I’m not sure how I feel about Eren right now. I was just so pumped that something was finally happening. It’s taken the entire season, but Marley has launched its counterattack, bringing airships to Paradis and ready to go after the Founding Titan again. 

Also, is Annie going to be in part 2? Because I cannot imagine that they would have shown her and mentioned her as often as they did and not intended to bring her back.

Above and Below Attack on Titan

I suspect that Eren recognized Porco in the crowd. He told Yelena he doesn’t trust Pieck, and I think he may have known that something was up when they went up on the roof, which is why he was ready to transform and reacted so quickly when Porco attacked.

It really bothers me how much everyone just accepts the genocide of an entire people, because in the end, that’s what it is. It seems like the best option and it would work out really well for literally everyone but Eldians, and as the Vulcans say, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” But I firmly believe there has to be a better way. As I mentioned last week, if the Founding Titan can rewrite Eldian DNA, I don’t know why they couldn’t just remove the ability to transform into Titans.

Yelena and the others don’t care because it isn’t them, but her sitting there talking about how the world will be at peace to an entire cell of people who are just supposed to be ok with a plan that will forcibly sterilize them is just… crass. It robs them of choice. That isn’t true freedom. Also, I have to believe that while Zeke’s soldiers are aware of the plan – and Eren, obviously – that the rest of the Yeagerists have no clue. I highly doubt that Floch would be so gung ho if he knew the plan was to essentially wipe them out.

I still believe Eren has his own plan; I do not think he trusts anyone at this point – not Zeke, not Yelena, not even Mikasa and Armin – and I think he has his own goals that he hasn’t shared with the class. But then, I wonder if Yeagerists like Floch know where Eren is up to, or do they just think they know what Eren is up to?

What is Eren up to?

Eren got a defender from an unlikely source. What’s left of the 104th is locked up in a cell. Armin and Mikasa are clearly still reeling from their encounter with Eren, and Connie and Jean are still playing catch up. When Armin reveals the reason why Eren beat him, Connie calls Eren a bunch of unflattering – and not undeserved – names. Jean, however, surprised me by speculating that Eren must have a reason for what he’s doing. I think he surprised everyone with that statement, but it’s something worth considering.

Some fans have the theory that Eren purposely pushed away Armin and Mikasa in order to protect them from whatever is coming, which is a perfectly valid theory. It’s very difficult to believe that Eren would just suddenly not care about his closest friends, and he did have a reaction to Sasha’s death, which suggests he isn’t completely lost to them. I don’t believe that they would have Jean saying something like that if we weren’t meant to think about it.

Above and Below Attack on Titan

And while we’re still in the jail cell, Armin sobbing and seeming to come over to their side is 100% a bluff. I think he saw how Yelena has completely drunk the Kool-Aid and believes that the only way he can help his friends is to pretend he’s on their side. I also think part of it is because he knows without a doubt that Eren would never actually agree to the plan, and he’s relieved that Eren may not be as far gone as they thought.

There is a reason, after all, that Levi chose to save Armin over Erwin, and it isn’t entirely due to him wanting to finally give Erwin some peace. Armin is a smart cookie, and I originally thought that Zeke was clever, too, but I’m starting to think that both Zeke and Yelena can be easily tricked by anyone who shows them the slightest bit of empathy.

Listen, y’all. That one glimpse of Historia in “Above and Below” is not enough Historia. I sincerely hope that in part 2 they give her something to do other than sitting there being pregnant. I don’t believe she would have gone along with Zeke’s plan willingly, so is she in on whatever Eren is planning?

“Above and Below” proves that on Attack on Titan, loyalties can shift at the drop of a hat. Pieck was ultimately lying, but Yelena’s meal with Pyxis shows that some of the military have switched sides, although they are essentially being forced to do so. Onyankopon’s betrayal stings a bit, but he does seem genuinely upset at the situation, and I don’t think he was faking his shock at learning about the spinal fluid in the wine. And he has a point when he brought up that the Paradisians put him under house arrest. I don’t think he necessarily agrees with what’s going on; I think he did what he felt he had to.

Pyxis had a particularly great point about how the Marleyan defectors seemed to be acting an awful lot like Marley, giving people colored armbands that designated how you were meant to be treated. Yelena said that they could learn from their enemy but, um, classism and segregation is not the thing you want to learn from your enemy.

Attack on Titan Season 4 really hammers home this notion of the cyclical nature of violence. We started this season in the middle of a battle, and we end it at the start of another battle.

We are left with still so many questions after “Above and Below”. Are Levi and Zeke alive? Will Annie return? What is Eren’s plan?

But the biggest question, as always, is will Jamie be able to hold out during the hiatus without succumbing to temptation and reading the manga?

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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1 thought on “Attack on Titan 4×16 Review: “Above and Below”

  1. I wasn’t worried about a Part 2 I thought they wanted to hype things up, they know some fans will go ahead and read the manga but will in any case watch it when it does come out. In my case I can be patient and just will avoid any YouTube or Twitter discussions of AoT til then. I waited a year between LOTR films and it was worth it, and as a Doctor Who fan there has been long waiting between seasons lately. I also waited for Star Wars which was ummm worth it sometimes not so much others (but let’s not dwell on that) I think this will be worth it. The conflict here is so complex as there are three sides at least now! Jean is on the right track thinking that Eren is up to something, Jelena is completely bonkers and I want to find out about Levi. Well lots of other shows to tide me over!

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