In these two episodes, our hunters become the hunted.
I can’t believe I’m saying it, but wow, these two episodes of Attack on Titan were perhaps the best yet. I’m not sure if it’s just because the original material is really great (the Female Titan arc is my favorite arc in the series) or if it’s because Araki finally realized it was time to pick up the pace, but Attack on Titan had one vision to accomplish here, and it did it almost flawlessly.
We’ve seen so many Titans eat soldiers in the past 16 episodes that the sight of it is common, mundane, overdone and trite. Such scenes hold no significance or importance to me other than the fact that they’re like old messages being shoved down our throats: “War is dark! War is brutal! War is merciless!” We get it, Shingeki. We got the messages so many episodes ago. But here, there’s something different. It’s fear.
It’s not just any Titan blundering his way through the fields, recklessly trampling the houses down and picking up humans, making absolutely ridiculous faces while chomping down on the guts. The Female Titan, as Armin has noted, is completely different. It kills for the sake of killing, not out of a primal instinct. It enjoys what it does. It is just as savage as any regular Titan we’ve seen, but it’s even more brutal because there is a perverse pleasure it takes in slowly killing the soldiers that so desperately try to bring it down. All of them fail and all of them are killed, not eaten. From twirling a soldier around like it’s a mere plaything to kicking another miles into the air, the Female Titan is ruthless, brilliant, and incredibly dangerous. Our soldiers don’t even have time to scream (thank god in a way because my ears are tired of the screams). They are squashed like bugs, and for the first time, I really feel like humans are nothing but tiny insects, not just random animated characters meant to be devoured. And despite all of this, the Female Titan isn’t careless. It spares Armin’s life twice, even letting Jean go and not coming after them or Reiner when it could have easily killed them. This of course means that the Female Titan is someone we know all too well (take a guess, really) but it’s that idea of personal betrayal that causes even more fear.
I think what makes this much more frightening than our daily dose of Titan attack is that our hunters become the hunted, literally. The Scouting Legion sets a plan to explore the outside of the walls with a formation that nearly works. It is only because of the Female Titan that everything falls apart. I guess in a sense that this applies to every plan or situation Shingeki has created even for its minor and discarded cast, but two major significant differences are that this isn’t any cast – this is the main one that Shingeki prioritizes over everyone else, and that this Titan is not static. It learns, moves fast, is always on the run and is always transforming into something more dangerous than anyone expected. It’s an unknown factor. An anomaly. And anomalies are what can be the most terrifying if presented at the proper time.
In terms of larger purpose, I do think it’s a bit foolish of Erwin to think he can possibly trap the Female Titan in the Giant Forest when it’s a bulldozer that has crushed nearly half of his men already, but we’ve already heard that he’s the top commander because he’s willing to sacrifice men for his cause. At any rate, all of our team is in one danger or the other – Eren and Levi’s team are inches away from a deadly confrontation with the Female Titan as it finally catches up to them , and Mikasa, Connor, Armin, Jean, Sasha, Bert and Reiner are all forced to deal with the regular Titans as they guard the forest and are completely in the dark regarding mission information. Next week seems to only notch up the intensity again as Eren is forced to make a decision while watching his team get potentially slaughtered. It took weeks to get here, but Shingeki finally understands the concept of desperation and monstrosity; let’s just hope that it doesn’t slip out of its own grasp again and revert back to contrived grimdarkness.