Attack on Titan 4×20 Review: “Memories of the Future”

Memories of the Future Attack on Titan

Oh, I see how it is. These final episodes of Attack on Titan are just going to repeatedly flip the script. Everything I thought I knew about this show changed after finding out what Grisha was hiding in the basement. Now “Memories of the Future” has gone and done it again.

“Memories of the Future” is a weird kind of flashback episode. Zeke takes Eren on a trip down memory lane through Eren’s own childhood as an attempt to prove that Grisha was brainwashing him. However, as Zeke fast-forwards his way through Grisha’s memories, he learns that even though Grisha never gave up on his goal to find the Founding Titan, he didn’t bring Eren into any of it.

I actually find it a little funny that Zeke, without knowing anything of what Eren’s childhood was like, just assumed that it was the same as his. It’s been established that Zeke is clever, but something like this proves that even smart people can be overcome by their own implicit bias. I have two sisters. We share both parents, and each one of us essentially had a different dad, because the way he parented changed with each child.

It’s not that ridiculous for Zeke to assume that Grisha would get more zealous after what happened. But it’s pretty clear that even if Eren had flat out told him (which it sounds like he may have), Zeke would refuse to believe him. I wonder if this revelation will make Zeke reevaluate his worldview.

What “Memories of the Future” does is make you sit back and rethink your stance on Attack on Titan‘s protagonist. Again. I have already been struggling to reconcile the Eren of season 4 with the Eren of earlier seasons. Now we come to find out that it was Eren who pushed Grisha to eat Freida and murder the Reiss family. Eren, using the Attack Titan’s ability to see the memories of all its inheritors, is able to manipulate Grisha from years in the future.

Not only is Eren able to just waltz through his father’s memories, but he is also apparently skilled enough at this to control what he shows to Grisha. After killing the Reiss family, Grisha asks Eren why he won’t show him everything. This implies that Eren showed Grisha just enough to stir his emotions and convince him that killing the Reiss family was justified. Was Rod spared just so that he would lead them to Historia?

Memories of the Future Attack on Titan

Eren having this ability makes some other things make sense. In the scene with Grisha and Kruger on the wall, Kruger mentions Armin and Mikasa, even though Grisha would have no idea who they are yet. Also, I hadn’t caught this on my own, but someone pointed out that Kruger at one point becomes Eren. (It happens at about 9:45 in that linked video.)

You have to wonder if the nature of this power means that previous holders of the Attack Titan could be manipulated by whoever inherited it after them. With Eren declaring that he is as he’s always been and he will never be controlled, that seems to indicate that he is the last holder of the Attack Titan.

“Memories of the Future” demonstrates that Attack on Titan operates within a closed time loop. The past is dictated by the future. Eren has the Attack Titan and Founding Titan because Grisha gave them to him. Grisha gave them to him because Eren manipulated him into doing so. We may not have known that, but that is how it always happened. 

In other words, Zeke taking Eren through Grisha’s memories in order to sway him to his side is actually what makes everything that’s happened in this series possible. This is the kind of next-level planning some writers only dream of. This is literal 4D chess right here.

My mind is literally blown right now. It’s clear that this is a recent development. Past!Eren never seemed like someone who knew what was going on. Is it because he’s at the Coordinate, the place where all Paths converge? Did he learn something during his undercover stay in Marley? I’ve seen speculation that he unlocked the ability when he kissed Historia’s hand at the end of season 3, which is why we are shown that brief flash of it in this episode. It certainly would explain why Eren is such a downer at the Scouts’ beach vacation and his abrupt personality change in season 4.

Speaking of, where is Historia? I’m getting very angry that one of our core characters has spent the entire fourth season barefoot and pregnant somewhere.

I am a little bummed out that “the truth” we learned in “Memories of the Future” wasn’t the truth from the creation of Eldia, but the truth about Grisha. Until this episode, we never saw the full conversation between Freida and Grisha. We made our assumptions based on how other characters, namely Eren, reacted. Freida’s speech about atoning for their sins still makes me grind my teeth, but it’s absolutely chilling knowing that Grisha did not want to kill children and was forced into doing so by his own son.

Next week’s episode title seems to imply that we will be learning the truth. But then, I also thought that about this episode. So who knows, at this point.

Memories of the Future Attack on Titan

Everything in this episode – the music, the framing, Eren’s stone-dead stare – is trying to make Eren look like the villain. He certainly isn’t doing himself any favors. Eren has always wanted to make his enemies pay, and it seems he views everyone outside Paradis as his enemy.

But this is one of those morally ambiguous moments where you have to sit back and wonder if the ends justify the means. We don’t know the ends yet. But if Grisha hadn’t passed on the Attack and Founding Titans to Eren, Annie, Bertholdt, and Reiner would have just run roughshod over everyone. Marley may have ended up regaining the Founding Titan. And it isn’t like Marley is a bastion of righteousness, so who knows what they would have done with it?

Learning that the Attack Titan is able to see the future, it makes me wonder if any of the other Titans (other than the Founding Titan, of course) have special abilities like that?

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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