This was certainly the least batshit crazy episode of Attack on Titan in a good while. Not coincidentally, it was also one of the best – I often like these sorts of “micro” rather than “macro” Shingeki eps. While it’s obviously true that Isayama is pretty bad at writing characters, he does have a certain ability to effectively portray the situations characters find themselves in. For me he’s on much firmer ground depicting the impact of war on individuals rather than the sociopolitical reasons behind it.
Speaking of characters, I’m heartily pleased to have Annie back. Even if her backstory kinda didn’t make sense (and sounded pretty much like every other Marleyan-Eldian backstory), Annie remains one of the relatively few genuinely interesting characters in Shingeki no Kyoujin. I don’t remember a lot about Hitch to be honest, but she didn’t annoy me as Annie’s verbal sparring partner here. Then fact that Annie was more or less conscious and hearing what others (like Hitch and Armin) were saying in her presence is quite the development, if not entirely unsurprising. I think anybody just waking up from that experience would be a bit crazy to be honest.
As for Armin, he’s clearly at wit’s end – it’s gotta be exhausting having dumb people rely on you to be the smart one all the time. While Armin comparing himself unfavorably to Erwin made me want to puke, he more or less behaved like himself here. In this situation he falls back on trying to do the decent thing as regards matters he can control, though he rather punts on matters he can’t (which there are a lot of at the moment). Chasing after Conny may be a bit self-indulgent in that it lets Armin abdicate responsibility for grand strategy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile in its own right.
My favorite moment of the episode, in fact, was Mikasa (rather plaintively) asking Armin “What should I do?”. Mikasa certainly isn’t a very complex or interesting character but this was a rare occasion where that was effectively used to generate some pathos. Mikasa has never done a lot of thinking for herself, and she’s pursued more or less one goal single-mindedly for her whole life. Now that’s gone, and she’s totally lost. Armin’s response was effective too – the last thing he feels like doing at the moment is taking responsibility for Mikasa’s life.
What can anybody do, really? Choose a side, maybe – but there doesn’t seem to be any obvious way to stop Eren’s genocide plan even if that’s the side one chooses. Political power plays seem rather petty in light of that, but that doesn’t mean the country won’t still rip itself out given its new power vacuum. A vacuum Floch moves to fill – adopting what I’m assuming is a complete bullshit story about being in league with Eren all along. Ideals don’t matter much to this guy – survival and power is his game, and it’s not like Eren is going to turn up and call him a liar anytime soon.
The one fly in the ointment is Levi being still alive, but given that was a mortal lock at least there’s no sense of surprise – just resignation. Like everyone else they’ll have to choose a side too, I suppose – and it’s actually sort of interesting to ponder where they’ll come down on this whole destroying the world thing. Both of them have behaved pretty much like extremists during the entire series, but this is taking extremism to its theoretical extreme.