Welcome, one and all, to the first of my weekly episode reviews for Attack on Titan. Season three finally continues with The Town Where Everything Began, and I’m excited to dive into it, even if I am a week behind. The first half of the season saw some awesome moments and featured great storytelling, but I must admit, I missed the focus on human vs. Titan combat. That was one of the things that first got me interested in the series after all. Here, the series gave me a ton of stuff that I absolutely loved. Let’s take a look.
Looking Over Your Shoulder
The phrase ‘to look over your shoulder’ represents behavior that shows a nervousness that something may happen, tied into your past. For example, someone who committed a crime and hid it may live in fear and panic at every knock on their door, worried that it’s the police, finally catching up with them. In this instance though, that looking to the past served multiple purposes, which in most cases were positive.
Starting things off, we had Hange’s recap before the opening credits. This was kept short, but took us right back to Season One, as we ran through the effect that losing Wall Maria had on humanity. With one-third of our number losing their homes, the despair was understandable. When our leads fought back though, it sparked some hope, and that’s the driving force here. If Wall Maria can be reclaimed, that hope could rise. Humans could stop living in constant fear and truly fight back, armed with the belief that they can live again. This sets up the goal of this arc quite nicely, not just in terms of the inevitable battle here, but also moving forward. The series is no longer about defending against a nearly unstoppable threat, but about moving forward. We’re at a point now where the aim is to rebuild rather than maintain. I like that.
The memory of those early episodes was also used to provide an emotional kick for our main three too, as they spent a short spell remembering their childhoods. For Eren, this meant feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders. He knows that he’s pivotal to the plan and that in many ways, that leaves the future hope of humanity as his responsibility. I have to admit, I thought that seeing him shaking and worrying was a nice touch. Eren has always been driven, and the moments like this give him that little weakness that a hero needs. It also shows that he’s very much human. When his friends notice, tit’s Armin that steps in, and asks him if he’s ever been afraid of Titans. Armin takes us back to when Eren dove into a Titan’s mouth to save him, and Eren responds with memories of the book that Armin showed him when they were kids. This reminds Eren – and us – what drove him in the first place. He wants true freedom, and that fills him with strength. The scene did a great job of reaffirming the pair’s closeness and how they help each other too. Oddly, the reminiscing had less of an effect on Mikasa, with her moment being limited to recognizing the area via a shot of her childhood self collecting firewood. This was more for the audience, I think, reminding us how much things have changed for the protagonists since we first met them.
Armin-ed And Dangerous
I felt like this was a very strong episode for Armin. He’s always been the quieter of the protagonists, and certainly the least physically strong. His strength comes from his ability to reason and think things through, and that was rewarded here. After spotting a strange fire mark on top of the wall, he goes looking for evidence that the squad is – as they expected – not alone. This leads to the discovery of a used pot and three cups. With the speed that the team was traveling, anyone watching from atop the walls would have only had two minutes to hide, which would not have allowed the pot to cool like it had. So, he gives Armin control of a small squad to command as he wishes. While Armin initially panics at this, he does give them some logical orders: spread out to both sides of the wall and search the nearby houses for signs of people hiding. It’s here that Erwin points out that Armin has proven himself and that his mind is one of their greatest weapons. So, other people recognize his worth more than he does.
During the search, something starts eating at Armin, and he stops to think things through. Remember the theme of looking over your shoulder? Well, he remembers the Wall Titan in Stohess, and a possibility hits him. He calls everyone back to the Wall and explains that they need to start searching the Wall itself for alcoves that someone could hide in. The soldiers initially rebel as Armin is honest that it’s a hunch more than anything, but once he reasons that the Titans use powers beyond their imagination, so they can’t limit themselves to common sense approaches, Erwin steps in. He basically gets the troops under control and tells them to follow the chain of command. This sparks a little confidence in Armin, which was great. Perhaps he’ll start recognizing his own ability a little more now and become a more confident strategist?
The Best Laid Plans
So, the plan was to use Eren’s hardening ability to plug both the inner and outer gates. The idea is that doing so will isolate Shiganshina, allowing the Scouts to eliminate any Titans still inside. Things start off well too, with Eren easily plugging the outer gate. Though the team doesn’t see any Titans, we do get a brief shot of Reiner and Bertholdt watching from somewhere, cluing us into something being wrong.
Once Armin figures out that there could be people inside the Wall, things take a dire turn. First, a soldier finds an alcove, only for Reiner to kill him with one blow. As Reiner emerges, Levi dives into action and slams two blades into him, one through the throat and one through the torso. Remember that Armin said the Titans use powers in ways they couldn’t imagine? That bit of foreshadowing comes back to haunt them, as Levi realizes that Reiner is still alive and withdraws, letting the man fall to the ground. There, even though he should be dead from the wound, he shifts into Armored Titan form.
Then, the Beast Titan appears, flanked by his own squad of Titans. He launches a boulder at the Wall and blocks the inner gate. This was a calculated move as it meant that the squad members watching the horses are now trapped on the same side of the wall as the Titans, meaning that they won’t be able to bring them in and allow the squad members in Shiganshina to escape. The plan is clearly to wipe out the horses, and then take down the rest of the Scouts when they have no choice but to stand and fight. It’s there that the episode ends.
Things Yet To Come
The subtle theme of looking to the past was balanced with a few nods towards the future here too. The obvious one is that the next episode will likely see a big battle. We have the Beast Titan and his squad ready to take on one group of Scouts, and the Armored Titan is now out in the open with the other Scouts. That still leaves Bertholdt inside the Wall though, meaning the Colossal Titan is yet to come into play. That element of surprise – though I’m sure some of the Scouts will be expecting him – could well mean that the Titans have a back-up plan if this assault fails.
Erwin too gave us something to think about. He mentioned during the episode that any battle needs to be decisive, and you certainly get the impression at the end that he kinda expected something like this to happen and was ready to fight. Most interestingly though was a brief throwaway comment that he made earlier on. He said that the Titans weren’t the only ones hiding something, and revealed something on his hip. Perhaps the Scouts have a new weapon to try?
I liked the scene at the start where the squad found a sleeping Titan. This gave Hange a chance to talk about the new ones that walk at night using the moon for power, as it essentially reflects the light of the sun. That was a nice little bit of worldbuilding, I thought.
I’m glad to see Linked Horizon back doing the opening theme too. I wasn’t fond of the last one, as it felt like a poor fit for the overall tone of the season, so this was a welcome return for me. The background music is also as good as ever, with the heroic feel as Eren sped towards the first hole being a particular highlight. The new ending theme is fine, but when it comes to mellow ones, nothing beats the original ending for me.
Oh, and Wit Studio continues to shine in the animation front. I expect this to be even more prevalent as the battle kicks off.
So, those were my thoughts. But what about yourselves? Did you enjoy this episode? Do you agree or disagree with any of my observations? Let me know in the comments below.