Attack on Titan Season 4 Episode 20 could very well be one of the best works of fiction ever presented. It was pure genius, from beginning to end. Although the topic was exceptionally serious, there were even moments of humor interjected where I found myself laughing out loud. But the storyline was so in-depth and so layered, I had to immediately watch the episode again to get a better understanding of what happened. (And, thus, why this review is later than normal.) Join me as I look back over Episode 79 and continue to process everything that happened.
This Attack on Titan Season 4 Episode 20 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.
In this episode, Zeke gave his little brother a guided tour through their father Grisha’s memories, in an attempt to free Eren from what he imagined was a life full of brain-washing. But instead, it was Zeke who had lessons to learn. His father really had loved him. His father hadn’t forgotten about him. And his father wasn’t the heartless man that Zeke had envisioned. Rather, he was responding to the power of the Attack Titan — a power Zeke didn’t even know existed — and he was being guided by Eren through some of his more difficult decisions. And as it turns out, Eren and Zeke are still just alike: Eren was also hiding his true powers from Zeke, just as Zeke had hidden his powers from Eren.
Traveling through Grisha’s memories is a long process. In fact, we learn from one of Eren’s comments early on that they’ve been reviewing Grisha’s memories “for years.” But since time is infinite and also instant in the Paths, I’m going to guess that very little time will have passed once they return to the real world. (If Eren is even able to return.)
The episode begins with Zeke controlling the narrative. He’s guiding Eren through memories even going back to when Eren was just a baby. But it doesn’t take long for their journey to take an unexpected turn.#AttackonTitan Season 4 Episode 20 was pure genius! Click To Tweet
A Quick Recap of Zeke’s Upbringing
Let’s review Zeke’s upbringing, just as a refresher to help us better understand this episode.
Grisha’s goal as a Restorationist was to restore the Eldian Empire and give freedom to the Eldian people. Grisha had felt this way ever since his sister was killed by the Marleyans. When he saw his father demeaning himself to the Marleyans after learning of her death, Grisha says, “I began to hate that man and my father so much that it made me dizzy. But more so, I cursed my own foolishness.” All of this (plus falling in love with Dina) pushed Grisha to become an Eldian Restorationist.
However, Grisha repeated his own father’s mistakes, as I explain in my Season 4 Episode 15 review. Grisha once lamented how his own father had pushed him to adopt his ideology, by sharing stories over and over about how the Titans had destroyed Marley. Later, when looking back on his life, Grisha admitted that he had done the same with Zeke, only in reverse. We learned in Season 3 that Grisha had told Zeke, as a child, that he must obey Marley without hesitation and faster than anyone else so he could rise the ranks as a Warrior candidate.
Then Season 4 Episode 15 showed us that Grisha had forced Zeke to read stories and study tales over and over again about how the Titans were innocent and Ymir could never have hurt anyone. He wouldn’t play baseball with Zeke or just have a normal father-son relationship with him. Instead, he screamed when he found out that Zeke might not become a Warrior candidate after all. With all that stress and angst, Zeke ended up turning to Tom Ksaver (then the Beast Titan’s host) for the fatherly love he didn’t get at home, and ended up adopting Ksaver’s ideology as his own.
Zeke turned the entire Restorationist group, including his parents, in to the Marleyan government, paving the way for him to gain a lot of power within the Marleyan government so he could fulfill his ultimate plan of sterilization.
After all of this, Grisha chose to raise Eren differently (which was perhaps easier in the world behind the walls than it would have been under the Marley’s close eye.)
So Zeke is carrying all of this with him. He expects to see that Eren was raised the same way that he was, and is shocked to learn that it isn’t true. Grisha raised Eren the opposite way, and yet Eren somehow ended up still adopting his dad’s ideology rather than Zeke’s.
Zeke’s Preconceived Ideas Start Falling Apart Quickly
I really enjoyed how this episode interjected some humor even with the subject being so serious and intense. My favorite example was when Eren pretended to be over his brainwashing really quickly, and told Zeke very sarcastically that he believed everything now and he was fine. Of course, Zeke saw right through the half-hearted attempt at persuasion. But it made me laugh out loud, nonetheless.
But in the end, it’s Zeke who must lose his preconceived ideas of the truth. He’s lived so long with only his perspective that it’s unnerving to him to learn that things were not quite as he believed. It all begins when he realizes that his dad found the royal family’s Titan secret location years before he finally stole the Founding Titan. Grisha was following Kruger’s orders when he went to retrieve the Founding Titan, but as a doctor who was focused on saving lives, the path he was on was heartbreaking to him.
For a moment, in his grief at knowing what lay ahead, Grisha looked up and believed he saw Zeke watching him. Zeke was shocked. Eren even appeared shocked.
Then Eren and Zeke moved on to another memory. Of course, at this moment I was pretty confused about what was going on during this moment. (To his credit, my husband had guessed about Eren’s secret power several episodes prior. I actually dismissed his guess as being unlikely! Today I had to admit I was wrong, lol.)
Eren explains to his brother that since he was born, he has been always striving toward freedom. He was always ready to take away someone’s freedom before they could take his. (Eren Kruger told Grisha this previously — this is actually a driving trait of the Attack Titan.)
We see some more memories, and we finally get to the moment where Grisha is telling Eren that he will show him the basement when he returns. However, this time we can see Grisha’s face in that scene.
“When I get back, I’ll show you the basement I’ve kept secret all this time,” Grisha says, while looking at adult Eren watching him in the future.
If you look back at the scene as it was originally shown, we were never shown Grisha’s face while he was making the statement.
Now we know it’s because he was looking at someone else — future Eren — while he was talking, and not his present-day son. He was doing this at Eren’s behest, based on the future memories that Eren had shown him.
The Founding Titan’s Philosophy Is Revealed
There’s still a lot to all of this that I’m figuring out. But we finally learned the big secret behind the moment that Grisha confronted Frieda and the Reiss family. I always suspected there was more to what Eren saw than what he shared. But I hadn’t suspected he was the one ultimately driving Grisha’s attack.
But we learned even more than this during that scene, so let me take a step back.
Grisha confronts Frieda and the Reiss clan, begging them to step in and protect Paradis before the walls are broken down by the Marleyan Titans and many of them are eaten. He wants to stop untold suffering. (And how did he know this was going to happen? His future memories through Eren told him.)
Through this exchange, we learn that the Royal Founding Titans aren’t constantly controlled by King Fritz/the first Founding Titan. Sometimes they still have their own personalities, until they get subsumed by the original Founding Titan (who may or may not actually be King Fritz.) While Grisha is begging for help, this Titan takes over Frieda and speaks, as her eyes change from blue to purple.
“We mustn’t escape our sins,” she says. “Judgment day has come for the Subjects of Ymir. When it comes to great power, people are weak. I realized something from the Great Titan War: We mustn’t allow the Power of the Titans to fall into people’s hands. If the Founder’s power falls again into weak hands, the world shall again become hell. To save the world, we must accept our sins and welcome our ruin.”
[For a quick recap, here’s what we know about The Great Titan War… That war supposedly ended 100 years ago when a Tybur and King Fritz made a truce, leading Fritz to abandon the world and hide behind the walls. The Tyburs gained control of the Warhammer and the other Titans except the Founding when the war ended. Also, the shogun’s baby was left behind in Paradis when the Great War ended, and Mikasa is descended from this baby…]
Grisha argues against the Founding Titan’s ideology (which coincides more closely to Zeke’s plan), sharing that modern-day Paradisians are innocent and shouldn’t be punished for what their ancestors did, especially since they have no memory of it. (And during this argument, you can see that Eren is fuming at Frieda’s explanation.)
The Founding Titan replies, “No matter how much we repent, it won’t bring back any of the lives that Eldians stole. However, we can prevent more lives from being stolen beyond the walls. If we remain ignorant and accept the world’s hatred, it’s only us Eldians who need to die.”
There is so much to unpack here, and it gets pretty confusing. First, I’m not sure why the Founding Titan is so certain that as long as the Eldians behind the wall are persecuted, the Titans won’t hurt anyone else. Most of the Titans, at least at the beginning of this series, existed outside of the wall and were controlled by the Marleyan government (which was secretly under the control of the Tybur Family aka the Warhammer Titan.) The only way any of this makes sense is to think that the Tybur family agreed with King Fritz that Eldians need to be persecuted forever, so they are using Marley to persecute the Eldians outside the wall as part of that truce, while also using those same Eldians to persecute the Eldians inside the wall. (How confusing is that? It all boils down to: the Tybur family and King Fritz agreed to use their powers to keep all the Eldians persecuted forever. That’s my guess.)
But it still doesn’t make sense, because Marley ended up deciding to gain the Founding Titan for themselves, which surely would cause a lot of people to suffer all over again as they tried to oppress the world. So how exactly is this ideology of inaction saving lives at all? King Fritz must be insane to some degree, and just wants the Eldians to suffer (not really caring how the rest of humanity suffers at the same time.) He and the Reiss family must also have been ignorant about the royal bloodline that escaped outside thew all, else they would be concerned about the Founding Titan’s power escaping.
My head hurts.
The Founding Titan Isn’t All Powerful
We also learn that the Founding Titan is no longer all powerful. The ideology that overcomes anyone of royal blood who holds the Founding Titan prevents them from accessing all of the Founder’s true powers. And people without royal blood can’t access it anyway. We do have one unanswered question here… Was Zeke’s statement last week true? Has he truly found a loophole that lets him access the full extent of the Founder’s powers?
Eren Is the Man Behind the Curtain 🤯
The Attack Titan has been the man behind the curtain all this time.
Grisha tells Frieda, “Each of the Nine Titans has its own special trait… For ages the inheritors of the Attack Titan have never bowed to anyone, and I know the reason why: to fight the King’s self righteousness. Yes. We were led by our memories all for this moment. The Attack Titan can glimpse into the memories of its future inheritors. In other words, it’s able to know the future.”
Beyond this power, it appears that Eren can manipulate the power better than anyone before him. Is it because he is the first Attack Titan to have contact with the royal bloodline? Or the first Attack Titan to also possess the Founding Titan? Whichever is the case, I’m guessing he first accessed his enhanced ability when he kissed Historia’s hand. And that’s why he seems to have a greater power than Grisha or Eren Kruger.
As a result, Grisha appears to be taking orders from Eren. During the encounter with Frieda, Eren stepped in and showed Grisha memories of his past and future in order to convince him to wipe out the royal bloodline. And later, Grisha comments on how Eren didn’t show him everything that he knew, but only select parts. (For example, Eren never let Grisha see that his wife Carla had died when the wall was broken, or Grisha might never gone to confront the Reiss family in the first place.)
So while the Attack Titan hosts can glimpse their successor’s memories, Eren is the one who can selectively choose which of the memories they are able to see. Isn’t that interesting?
In the end, Zeke is confronted with the knowledge that Eren is more powerful than he had ever guessed, and was holding back on him all this time. And as we learned last week, Zeke was doing the same to Eren. But with such a convoluted game the two brothers are playing, which will come out on top?
Grisha tells Zeke that from now on, Eren is going to win. And he weeps openly, hugging Zeke and telling him that he loves his son. He can see Zeke because he is glimpsing Eren’s memory of visiting him with Zeke. And through that memory, he apologizes to Zeke for everything he did wrong.
“I saw Eren’s memories of what comes next… But I never imagined it would be so terrible,” he says.
And while hugging Zeke, he begs: “Please, stop Eren.”
And that’s when we see someone that I first assumed was a younger Eren, but now I’m not so sure. We see a flash of him before Eren and Zeke are pushed out of the memories and back into the Paths.
Who is he?!
And with that heartbreaking, chilling confrontation, the episode ends. We are still left not knowing what Eren’s ultimate plan is. But whatever it is, people will likely die in the process of bringing it to pass.