“Retrospective” may possibly be the hardest episode of Attack on Titan that I’ve ever had to watch. It wasn’t just the violence, which was pretty standard for this series. Mostly, it was the knowledge that our rebel band had to be so cruel and bloodthirsty against people they had, until recently, considered friends and comrades.
One thing Attack on Titan really likes to hammer home is that the line between “good” and “evil” is often blurred. There are no easy answers. And though history proclaims otherwise, there are no winners in war. This is particularly reinforced in “Retrospective”, which features Mikasa, Conny, Jean, and Hange in close combat with former allies in order to help protect a world that would see them dead. Both sides are fighting for survival, but one side is fighting for their own, and one is fighting for everyone else’s.
That being said, this episode also featured probably some of the best fighting scenes of the season, if not the series. (I’m not going to lie, very little will top Levi’s moves from “Pain” for me. I still have dreams about that behind his back upside-down shotgun blast.) The Annie/Reiner combination, Mikasa roping two soldiers together then blowing them up with their Thunder Spear, Conny reminding everyone why he was one of the top 10 cadets of the 104th. We also got to see Falco’s Titan form, and I legitimately gasped when he transformed. He looked feral.
Let me praise these fight sequences a little bit more. Reiner stepping in front of Annie to take some Thunder Spears to the face? Annie can’t protect herself the way Reiner can, but she also has been in a crystal for the past four years. I really appreciated that her fear felt genuine. (Also, can we take a moment to point out what a game-changer those were? I remember when those were unveiled and what it meant for the Scouts, but to see them make mincemeat of Annie and Reiner, who were the biggest hurdles in season 1, is unbelievable.)
Mikasa inheriting the Ackerman title, stone-faced standing in a literal rain of blood? Can we think about how she must feel about this? Her moves are boss, but she won’t be feeling like a badass after this. The merciless violence she’s enacting on people she once called allies is necessary to save the world. But it’s a world that hates her people and wants them dead. She believes she’s doing the right thing; but then, so do the people that she’s killing.
There are moments when this show is unintentionally funny, and I think that Annie ruining Conny’s big dramatic moment was lowkey hilarious. He’s just gone through one of the most traumatizing moments in his life and has let loose this spine-chilling scream of agony… and here comes Annie, stomping on the aftermath. I don’t think it was supposed to be funny, but I laughed.
I have never really liked Floch, and lately he has seemed like a brainwashed nationalist who is way too eager to kill literally every other person on the planet. But when he was speaking to the Yeagerists, it wasn’t like he was wrong. If the Rumbling is stopped, odds are pretty good that all the other developed nations will unite to wipe Paradis off the map. Basically, fight now and potentially die, or don’t fight, and potentially die later.
Also, I don’t think he’s dead. Yes, he got shot and fell into the water, but we don’t see him dead. I have learned my lesson by now. If there’s no body, they’re not dead! My theory is that he stowed away on the skyboat, and he will make his reappearance at the most inopportune moment.
But then, if he is dead, that was a horrible way for him to go out. He had one last chance to stop the rebels, and he likely expected to die, but at least he would go out heroically. Instead, he was shot down and saw all of his efforts go to waste. Still, “Retrospective” was the first episode where I sat back and thought, “Huh, this dude is actually a good soldier.” The past few episodes have proven that he’s intelligent, but I appreciated his tactics in this episode. Too bad he’s fighting for the other side.
We also lost both Magath and Shadis in this episode. When I saw the train blow up, I did sit there wondering who it could be. Even knowing that Shadis was still in the wind, I never suspected him. It’s a special kind of awful that none of the rebels will know what he did for them. And even though I wasn’t overly fond of either character, I did tear up when I realized that they were not leaving that boat alive. I feel as though both men will be proud of the way they went out – protecting their students.
However, I have to say, I’m a little annoyed at Magath for his sacrifice. Like, yes, ok, he did have a point that they couldn’t leave the boat there for the Yeagerists to catch up to them. But at the same time, he is a ranking member of the Marleyan army who has spent time among the Eldians and understands that they aren’t all devils. I feel like his voice would have been an important one in whatever discussions will happen after everything is over. If there is any semblance of society remaining.
It feels a little ridiculous saying this, considering three (maybe two! show me Floch’s body) notable characters were killed in “Retrospective”, but the plot armor is getting a wee bit obvious. I mean, we did lose Sasha in the first half of season 4, but all of the rebels making it through that bloodbath without any of them getting seriously injured? (Except, of course, for Armin, who was shot last week. But he’s a Titan and can heal, so it doesn’t really count.) I don’t want any of these characters to die, but realistically someone would.
At the same time, I believe I pointed out last week that many of the Yeagerists don’t have the experience that Mikasa and the others do. None of them were there during the most difficult time to be a Scout, and I doubt any of them did much fighting until the attack on Liberio. Fighting experienced Scouts – Scouts who lived through some sh*t – was not going to be a walk in the park.
Still no Historia? You’re all fired.
Season 4 part 2 was billed as 12 episodes, which means that we only have one more episode left. There is way more than one episode of content left. Most fans seem certain that there will be a movie to wrap up the story. But from what I’m hearing from manga readers, even a movie may not be enough! Hopefully, we will soon get some sort of confirmation of how they’ll be ending the series. But I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out before 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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