This week we had back-to-back episodes of Attack on Titan. For Episode 15, we finally got to see a deep dive into Zeke’s past, which revealed so much about not only his own motivations, but also Eren’s and Grisha’s. Zeke’s final plan, however, is completely different than anything I had imagined. And I think Grisha Jaeger is to blame for everything that’s happened.
This article will have spoilers for Season 4 Episode 15, but the article itself is manga-spoiler-free. Please don’t add spoilers from the manga in the comments. Thanks. 🙂
Grisha Played a Pivotal Role in How Both Eren & Zeke Turned Out
In the Jaeger family, it appears that history truly does repeat itself. Grisha repeated the mistakes of his own father with Zeke, as he had admitted in a previous episode last season. But now those mistakes are living on to haunt others too. We learned more about just how much Grisha’s mistake affected Zeke in Episode 15.Grisha repeated the mistakes of his father, leading Zeke to rebel just like Grisha did. Click To Tweet
You see, Grisha had once lamented how his own father had pushed him to adopt his ideology. By pushing him over and over with stories about how Titans had destroyed Marley thousands of years earlier, Grisha ultimately rebelled against his grandfather. He became an Eldian Restorationist. Later, when looking back on his life, Grisha admitted that he had done the same with Zeke.
Now we see exactly how that turned out. Grisha pushed Zeke, forcing him to read stories and study tales over and over again about how the Titans were innocent and Ymir could never have hurt anyone. He would never play baseball with Zeke or just have a normal father-son relationship with him. Instead, he yelled and screamed when he found out that Zeke might not become a Warrior candidate after all. He fought with Zeke’s mom over what was happening with their son, and haunted young Zeke.
As it turns out, even though Grisha truly believed his cause was important, he actually pushed Zeke in the opposite direction. Zeke ended up following in the footsteps of the Beast Titan’s host — the man who took time to play baseball with him and showed him true love. The man he later thought of as his true father.
— oinkawa (@oikawaears) March 21, 2021
We learned that Zeke hadn’t turned his parents into the Marleyans because he believed so deeply in their cause for Eldian independence. He turned them in because he believed they had never loved him, and he needed to save himself. And while he may have ultimately been correct in that assessment, he arrived at it because his father hadn’t shown him the love that Tom Ksaver did. (Let’s not ignore that the Beast Titan’s personality might have played a role too, but that’s discussed in the next section.)
— AoT Perfect Shots (@AoTshots) March 22, 2021
Grisha lamented this later in his life, realizing his mistake, and sought to correct this error with Eren (and also Mikasa.) He loved Eren and spent time with him just as a father-and-son. He didn’t even consider teaching Eren about his ideology and the truth (at least as he saw it) until Eren developed those feelings of seeking freedom himself.
Zeke’s True Motivation Is Finally Revealed
The way Reiner and Zeke got pressured because of their parents. pic.twitter.com/DVv5XJRXEj
— aiena☾︎ is trying to get venti (@nobarockugisaki) March 22, 2021
We finally learned Zeke’s true motivation. He’s not seeking the restoration of Eldians’ independence from Marley like Grisha was. Instead, he’s following Tom Ksaver’s cause: the long-term euthanization of all Eldians as the only means of ending the Titan power. In other words, ending their ability to reproduce.
Through Ksaver’s research, he learned that the Founding Titan can alter the very nature of Eldian physiology and even did so 600 years ago to make them immune to the plague. He wants to connect with Eren’s Founding Titan so Eren can alter the Eldians’ physiology once again and make them sterile. He believes this is the only way to end the Titan curse and free of all mankind once and for all.
But I personally think he’s mistaken. We’ve already seen how horribly the Marleyans treat the Eldians and even the people of the nations they have conquered. If the Marleyans ever control the world, even without the Titan power, they will cause pain and suffering all over again.
Also, is there truly no way to simply stop the propagation of the Titans’ power through the Founding Titan? We know a lot about the Titans, but we still don’t know how they began.
This leaves me with an uncomfortable question. Zeke may not be “free” either — just like Eren thinks Armin and Mikasa aren’t free. It’s possible the original Beast Titan always wanted to end the Titan line forever. Maybe Zeke wasn’t just following Ksaver’s ideology because Ksaver was like a father to him, but because of the Beast Titan’s personality taking him over. Zeke desperately wanted to wear the same glasses Ksaver used to wear; could that be a clue? Maybe all the hosts wore those glasses. This could be all about the Beast Titan, not Zeke or Ksaver.Are the glasses a clue that Zeke is also affected by his Titan's personality too? Click To Tweet
I’m Not Convinced Eren Is on Zeke’s Side
Zeke tearing up really gets me because it proved that more than anything else he really just wanted a normal family pic.twitter.com/YjPvyzi0xU
— Ezra (@localhangeluvr) March 21, 2021
I’m not convinced that Eren is on Zeke’s side and seeking the euthanization of all Eldians, like Zeke thinks he is. I think Eren has his own motivation that has nothing to do with Zeke’s plans. However, just like Zeke, he will say the right things to maintain his cover and gain the trust he needs to enact his ultimate plan, whatever that may be.Could Eren be conning Zeke like Zeke conned so many others? Click To Tweet
Part of the reason I think Eren is just playing along is that we didn’t hear him tell Zeke the full story of the night Grisha killed the Royal Family. Eren touched Historia and learned that Grisha begged the Royal Family to step in and save them before he took the Founding Titan. But Eren left that part out in order to show himself as more sympathetic to Zeke.
Of course, whether or not we learn if Eren might ultimately betray Zeke depends on if Zeke even survived the end of the episode. We saw him enact Levi’s trap, which should have killed him. But is he actually dead? And for that matter, how is Levi?
Unreliable Narrators Have Clouded This Show’s History
Unreliable narrators have clouded the history of Paradis and Marley, and there are still so many questions unanswered. Marleyans believe the Titans subjugated the people of the world, while the Eldians are convinced that the Founding Titan Ymir would never have done such a thing. The truth is likely somewhere in between.
We know that the Founding Titan’s ideology and personality subsumes its host for the most part, but it’s not clear how much of this is true for the other Titan personalities. Could Eren simply be re-enacting the “freedom call” that the Attack Titan always strives for? And what about the influence of the Warhammer Titan within him? Or did Zeke take on Ksaver’s ideology not because he was a loving father unlike Grisha, but because he was on the same “PATH” as Ksaver?
And how exactly were the Titans created by Ymir about 2,000 years ago? Was it nature? Was it science?
We also have questions about the Ackermans. Eren claims that their true nature was hidden from them too. But how is this possible if they are immune to the Founding Titan’s mind control? And if Mikasa truly was activated to protect Eren, mistakenly believing on a subconscious level that he already was the Founding Titan’s host, then what about Kenny and Levi? Was Kenny activated to protect Uri? Was Levi activated to protect Erwin in some kind of mistake?
And perhaps the greatest question of all: what exactly did happen between the Tyburs (aka Warhammer) and King Fritz more than 100 years ago? They concocted the Helos story. Whatever “truce” they agreed upon led King Fritz to abandon the entire world and hide behind the walls. He said if he (and his Eldians) ever fought again, it would mean the end of all Eldians, according to what the Owl told Grisha. Meanwhile, the Tyburs gained control of the Warhammer and all the other Titans but the Founding when the Great Titan War ended. And according to Grisha’s account, those other Titans didn’t start taking Warrior candidates to continue fighting until he was a child. So. Many. Questions.
How are we so close to the finale of Season 4? I’m still holding out hope for a second part, because there’s simply no way to wrap everything up next week. (And since apparently there are likely more than 20 more chapters to go in the manga, there’s a good reason why it feels like Attack on Titan can’t end yet.)