Attack on Titan Season 4 Episode 21 was a terrifying work of pure genius. “From You, 2000 Years Ago” (also known as Episode 80 on some streaming platforms) finally gave us a look at how the Titans were first created (or at least, how they were first created in this iteration, as far as we know.) The look into the Founder Ymir’s history was heartbreaking and horrifying. Equally startling, however, was learning of Eren’s ultimate solution.
This Attack on Titan Season 4 Episode 21 review will have spoilers for the newest episode, but the article itself is manga-spoiler-free beyond this episode. It’s written for anime-onlies, from the perspective of an anime-only viewer. For more anime-only discussions, join us on Discord or in our AoT Facebook page.
We Begin with Zeke & Eren Briefly Discussing the Memories They Saw
The episode began close to where it left off the week before. We saw a bit more detail on Grisha’s ferocious fight with the Reiss clan. How he quickly beat Freida and then killed everyone in the family but Rod Reiss. We saw his heartache again, upon seeing whatever glimpse of the future Eren had shown him, and then his reunion with Zeke as he begged him to stop Eren.
They’re flung back into the paths before Zeke witnesses Eren eating Grisha, and Zeke asks, “Did you push Father into fighting the King of the walls and the world?”
Zeke’s slowly realizing that his Restorationist dad was more like him in many ways than he knew. He wonders if Eren carefully showed their dad the memories “which suited you to alter the past.”
Up until now, fans have been saying that the Attack Titan’s power only allowed him to see the future, but not to actually alter the past. However, here Zeke thinks Eren could actually influence and change history.
Then Eren admits to something that I suspected last week — he could only do what he did (influencing Grisha) because Zeke brought him into their father’s memories. It was unlocking the Founding Titan’s power that allowed him to do what he just did.
Eren also admits, as we suspected, that he first glimpsed his future four years ago when he kissed Historia’s hand.
“I saw my own future through Dad’s memories,” Eren tells Zeke.
Zeke commands Ymir to stop the Eldians from ever reproducing again. Interestingly, this isn’t a “command-and-instantly-done” type of scenario. Ymir has to work with the sands at the Tree of Light in order to carry out the command.
It’s not clear why or how Eren can break free of the chains that bind him. Those were chains that Zeke had Ymir make, if I’m recalling correctly. It seems he’s able to break free out of sheer force of will. There’s a closeup shot of how he severed part of his hand to do it, and I have to wonder if that will come into play later somehow. If something will be made out of his hand or his blood that was left in this Path.
It’s hard to believe all of this happened just in the part before the intro song.
We Finally Learn Ymir’s Gut-Wrenching History
We finally learn the truth about Ymir’s gut-wrenching history. And if you thought the first Ymir we met had a tough past, the original Ymir’s past is even worse.
When Ymir was just a child, she was “always thinking about other people because she’s so kind,” Frieda told Historia. (Did Historia remember all of this once she started getting her memories back later, and just didn’t tell Eren?)
Ymir lived in a happy, peaceful village until a group of raiders led by the original Fritz came and violently subjugated all of them. We don’t know where these men originated from, only that they were violent and cruel.
“The world is full of pain and suffering, so you should live in a way to be helpful and loved by everybody,” Frieda says. We see a wedding that’s actually quite disturbing if you think about it. One of the leaders (likely Fritz) is marrying a member of Ymir’s tribe, probably against her will.
But Ymir’s fate, it appears, is to be mistreated by everyone. When a pig escaped, the entire village blamed Ymir so she would be punished instead of anyone else. They blamed a child and let her be sentenced to death just to save themselves. And the king refers to her violent death sentence as being “free.” (Is the genesis of the Attack Titan always seeking true freedom, perhaps?)
While she’s being chased, Ymir falls and drops blood on a flower. Her staring at it is very reminiscent to the scene where Zeke was dying and stared at the same type of flower, just before Ymir first appeared to him. While fleeing, she tries to hide inside a giant tree (which perhaps is giant only because it has the original Titan’s influence on its growth?) We learn that all those vague statements from people about Ymir touching the “source” of the titans actually involved falling into this underground pond and being taken over by a floating parasitic spine.
(If you saw the secret NHK trailer from Japan, bits and pieces of this scene were already shared.)
So the original Titan power is a parasitic alien creature that fuses with a human’s spine. It’s not even clear if this original creature even has a sentient mind of its own, as we certainly weren’t given any indication of this in the rest of Ymir’s story.
I had hoped that when Ymir achieved the power of the Titans, she would destroy her oppressors. But instead, she chose to remain oppressed and continue being their slave. This is so interesting to me. It parallels how the Warrior Titans of Marley continue to allow themselves to be subjugated by Marley, even fighting for them, even though they could easily overpower them if they banded together to do so.
My guess is that it’s all a product of brainwashing and Stockholm Syndrome. Ymir was oppressed by the evil Fritz regime and his Eldian tribe from the time she was a child, so she could not break free of them on her own. In the same way, Marley trains Warrior candidates from a young age so they will be similarly brainwashed.
The original King Fritz tells Ymir that with her powers, they “build roads, cultivated the wilds, and bridged mountains. My tribe, Eldia, has grown quite large. As a reward, I shall give you my seed.”
Soooo, now we learn that the original Eldians weren’t people who could carry Titan blood at all, but were rather the tribe that was part of this devil leader’s reign. So the original Eldians truly were “devils,” but not in the sense that Marley views them.
Together with the Eldian raiders, they sought to “annihilate the vile people of Marley.”
Ymir had three daughters: Maria, Rose, and Sina.Yes, the walls of Paradis (which a different King Fritz had built nearly 1,800 years later) are named after the three children of Ymir.
Ymir was always the king’s “slave” bearing him children, never his wife. She ultimately gave her life when someone tried to kill her and died, 13 years after she first obtained the Titan’s power. King Fritz, being a true evil devil, had her own daughters eat her corpse in an attempt to maintain her Titan power. Apparently it worked. You can see Ymir looking at the Light Tree in the Titan afterlife and seeing three branches coming out of it at first.
On his death bed, Fritz commands them to bear children and multiply so “Ymir’s blood must be passed on.”
“If my daughters die, feed their spines to my grandchildren,” he commands.
Things get a little confusing at this point, and I’m hoping the anime explains it more later. We know that eating the spinal fluid is the only way to pass on the power of the Nine Titans, but that any “Eldian” can turn into a Titan. We also know that only those with Royal Blood can command the power of the Founding Titan (which is one of the original nine) and any Eldian (but only Eldians) have the potential to turn into Titans. So what does this mean? At what point did the Royal Family discover that “eating the spines” only passed on sentient Titan power for nine lines? And why exactly is one of those Titans the most powerful?
One guess (Theory #1) is that all of Ymir’s descendants are of the Royal Bloodline, and only they can command the Founding Titan. However, any of Ymir’s relatives (i.e. cousins, second cousins, anyone from her village who was related to her) has the capability of turning into a Titan, even if they aren’t descended from the first Fritz.
Another possibility (Theory #2) is that Eldians, as we know them today, are all actual descendants of Ymir and not just offshoot relatives. But the Royal Bloodline would be descendants of Ymir that continued to reproduce only with descendants of King Fritz, so kind of an “inbred” bloodline. However, this really doesn’t make a lot of sense. Neither theory makes complete sense, but at this time I’m going with Theory 1 rather than Theory 2.
Either way, Ymir’s Stockholm syndrome continued in death, and she felt like she could only take orders from people directly descended from King Fritz (which brings me back to Theory #1 again.)
We learn that Ymir has not just been making the nine Titans over and over in the afterlife, but she’s been building the pure Titans too. She’s basically in a hell in her afterlife.
Eren’s Plan Is Confusing & Shocking
Eren’s plan is confusing. Ymir is struggling to create Titans, stuck in an endless hell of building them with small buckets of sand. When Eren learns of this, and Fritz’s plan to dominate the world with Titans for all eternity, he yells, “I’ll end it!”
He hugs Ymir and asks her, “I’ll put and end to this world! Give me your strength!”
This confuses me a bit, because we learn that he plans to demolish the world outside of Paradis with the Rumbling. However, won’t Ymir still be bound to build Titans if he does this and there is a Titan War one day among the Eldians? Because we already know the Eldians had their own civil war with even more suffering. Is he planning to end the power of the Titans after the world is destroyed, but not before it’s destroyed as Zeke wants to do?
“You’re not a slave,” Eren tells her. “You’re not a god! You’re just a person! You don’t have to bow to anyone! You can decide! It’s your choice. You get to choose! Do you wanna stay here for eternity or should I end this?! Were you the one who led me here? You’ve been waiting this whole time. For 2,000 years. For someone.”
Ymir hands her power over to Eren, and we see him transform in the real world using that same Titan spine that originally latched onto Eren. I’m guessing that he now has the full Founder Titan power (which would be even greater than the Founding Titan power.)
Eren enacts the Rumbling and it looks like Commander Magath and Floch might have died as the walls came falling.
Eren quickly transforms into something that is completely different than what he was before. He has an endless line of vertebra and is huge.
Armin desperately tries to cling to the belief that Eren is only taking down Marley, but he eventually realizes that he enacted the Rumbling with more walls than necessary. He is going to destroy the world.
Eren uses his Founding Titan powers to call all the Subjects of Ymir into the path with him so he can tell them his plans. We see Mikasa, Armin, Jean, Connie, Reiner, Gabi, Pieck, Falco (not in Titan form), the Commandant, the businessman who helped them overthrow the government, Floch (he’s alive), Historia, and a lot of other people.
“I’ve undone the hardening of Paradis Island’s walls and the Titan buried within have begun their march. My goal is to protect the people of Paradis Island, the place I was born. However, the world wants to exterminate my people and not just on the island. They will not stop until every last Subject of Ymir is dead. I refuse to let them. The Wall Titans will trample every inch of the world beyond this island until every last life beyond our shores is wiped out.”
So Eren is intent on genocide — destroying the entire world and leaving only Paradis behind. His plan really isn’t any better than Zeke’s, and will in fact lead to more suffering. Neither plan is the right one in this situation. This show has also shown us that cruelty seems to be the driving power behind this world.
It’s a mind-bending episode. Overall, I’d rate it 10 out of 10, but I’ll still need more time to process it.