Attack on Titan Season 4 Episode 22 left me in tears. “Thaw” (also known as Episode 81 on some streaming platforms) was a simpler episode in some ways compared to the last few. There weren’t any jaw-dropping, mind-exploding revelations this time around. Instead, we were left with the aftermath of Eren’s rage, as his friends and enemies alike sought to understand what was happening and grasp at what they can possibly do next. In the midst of the turmoil, an enemy that viewers had hated was turned into an ally, and characters’ true strength shown through.
This Attack on Titan Season 4 Episode 22 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.
The last few episodes left me processing and seeking out answers to questions about the Eldians’ background, the Founder, and the true powers of Zeke versus Eren. While there are still many questions left to answer, Episode 81 took a brief step back from the mythology and instead focused on the reality of Eren’s friends and enemies struggling to survive in a world of horror that was emerging all around them.
The true VIPs of the episode were many and unexpected. Rising to the top of that list were Gabi and Shaddis.
We Began By Seeing Eren’s Announcement from the Eldians of Marley’s Perspective
The episode began by repeating Eren’s announcement to the Subjects of Ymir, and then cut to an unexpected viewpoint of the Eldians in Marley, who had absolutely no idea what was happening on the other side of the sea. I’m glad we get to see that, as they too were victims of Marley’s persecution but are now going to be victims of Eren’s rage as well. Annie’s father’s perspective is the central focus, as he understand the repercussions. They are all going to die and it is going to be a horrifying death.
The Eldians of Marley are perhaps the most tragic group of all. They’ve been persecuted their entire lives, ever since King Fritz retreated behind the walls. The Tyburs were Eldians too, and they were in control of Marley. But it seems the family bought into Fritz’s desire to let the Eldians be persecuted and played their own role in allowing the persecution of their people, while they stayed safe in riches and seclusion.
Gabi Will Not Stop Fighting, Even if Reiner Gives Up
In the next scene, we see Gabi and Reiner struggling in the chaos of the unleashed Rumbling. Reiner always said that Eren would be the worst possible person to inherit the Founding Titan’s power. And while I never agreed with Reiner’s philosophies or his inability to pull away from Marley’s control, it seems that he was right about Eren. In fact, when the Founding Titan-in-Frieda confronted Grisha, it intimated that no human could handle having such raw power without becoming corrupted. Of course, the solution (the permanent persecution of the Eldians) is a twisted way to respond to that. But it appears that perhaps they were right, in a sense.
Reiner believes there is nothing they can do. He says the Founder’s power is absolute and Eren can control any Titan that he wants to control. (I’m divided on whether I believe this or not. About 100 years ago, there was a Titan civil war despite the Founding Titan having this power. So far we’ve seen Eren control Pure Titans when he had the Founding’s powers, but not the sentient warrior ones. And we also know from Zeke that even the Founding Titan’s ideology wasn’t passed along to him, because it only bound royal family behind the walls… I think there’s a chance that the Warrior Titans aren’t quite as bound to the Founding as the “propaganda” mythology stories would have us believe.)
Either way, Reiner first tells Gabi to warn the rest of the world, which Gabi quickly deduces is pointless. He tells her to give up, but Gabi is a fighter — for better or worse. Reiner should know that about his niece.
There’s an interesting scene where we see Gabi standing in front of a mirror and tying her hair into a bun — a scene that is interestingly parallel to the scene where Eren was imprisoned and stood in front of a mirror, tying his hair into a bun and telling himself to fight.
Here is a video of that scene with Eren, for comparison.
I’ve had a theory for awhile that Gabi might somehow inherit Eren’s Attack Titan, since she has that same rage-filled anger that drove Eren Krueger, Grisha, and Eren Yeager as kids. It seems like an odd theory in light of what’s happening now, but I’ve always wondered about it in the back of mind.
Connie Is Taking Matters Into His Own Hands
There were quite a few interesting callbacks in this episode, which is part of what made it such a beautiful (and haunting) work of art. The scene on the rooftop, where Connie, Jean, Mikasa, and Armin are discussing what to do next was one of those. They deduce that Eren has done all of this to protect the small group of people that he lives, and to hell with the rest of the world. Of course, Armin, Mikasa, Connie, and Jean aren’t really on board with this. But now they can see it’s happened.
But in the midst of all of this, Eren left the Pure Titans to run amok in the city. Did he do this deliberately so they wouldn’t be able to quickly try to stop him and his Colossal horde? Or did he simply forget about putting his friends in danger in the midst of his rage? Or does the Founder not actually even have the power to undo pure Titans? At the very least, he (or Zeke) should have the power to control them.
Falco hasn’t woken up yet, and there’s some talk about feeding him to someone like Pyxis. Armin argues that this will just continue the cycle of hate and they have to let Falco live. But Connie makes pretty much the first request he’s ever made in the series. He’s been visiting his mom in her Titan form for four years. He wants to feed Falco to her.
No one else is on board with this, but Connie is taking matters into his own hands. And no one really has the heart to stop him either.
I enjoyed reading one Redditor’s description of this scene. u/yoshiauditore wrote, “LMAO i posted dumb … theory a few weeks ago that maybe Falco would be captured and fed to revive someone like they [did] with Bertholt but i was thinking Pixis or Maybe even Levi BUT IMMA BE HONEST i never f**in CONSIDERED that MISSES F***IN SPRINGER may inherit one of the 9 titans! This actually kind of Hilarious to me, you do you Connie i totally support you in your ridiculous Endeavor.”
Gabi & Kaya’s Scene Was Gut-Wrenching & Beautiful
Gabi took steps toward redeeming herself in this episode. Kaya has hated Gabi with a deep fury since she learned that she killed her sister Sasha. Sasha’s parents forgave Gabi to try to end the cycle of hate. But as they are fleeing from Pure Titans in the city, Kaya gets cornered. Sasha’s dad doesn’t want to lose another daughter, and he’s screaming to try to get to her while Niccolo holds him back. It’s gut-wrenching to see Kaya reflect back on how a Titan almost killed her once before, and now she’s going to die. (And worst yet, it’s Nile’s Titan — the man who had saved Falco earlier.)
But then Gabi risks her own life to kill the Titan, just like Sasha did for Kaya all those years earlier. She killed Sasha, but she’s taking on the protector role that Sasha would have played if she had been there. In turn, Sasha’s family protects Gabi and pretends she did not fire the gun when Paradis soldiers arrive. Even Niccolo — who wanted Gabi dead just a few episodes ago — covers for her. It’s a beautiful story of redemption, love, and forgiveness. And a haunting warning about the evil that resides inside all of them. By admitting it, however, they humble themselves and open the door for true peace.
But Where Is Zeke?
While everyone struggles with the fallout of Eren’s rumbling, Yelena is the only character possessed with a different question: where is Zeke? Zeke should be able to control the Pure Titans. If he was there, he would never let them threaten Yelena’s life. But Zeke is nowhere to be seen.
We know from Eren’s transformation that if he was able to return, he would have only been gone for an instant.
Some people are theorizing that Eren may have control over him somehow. Some think that even though Ymir gave Eren her power, he still needs to be physically in contact with Zeke. Others think that he might have Zeke trapped in the Paths. Still others believe that Zeke’s body might have been burned up when Eren transformed, since he was touching Eren when it happened. Others think that Zeke might have simply lost the will to live after seeing what happened to his brother. The anime has told us that a warrior Titan must have the will to live in order to regenerate. (Which might be why Ymir the Founder died after she was speared in the last episode.)
Pyxis Was Gut-Wrenching
Most of my subheads for this review are basically, “This Broke My Heart” and “So Did This.” But in the aftermath of the start of an apocalyptic event, this will indeed account for most of my feelings.
And Pyxis was no exception.
When he appeared on the building in his Titan form, and Armin knew he had to take him out, it was gut-wrenching.
And then we had the flashback scene of Pyxis and how he cared for the group… That just made it so much worse, but I’m glad they gave him the sendoff that they did.
Shaddis Was an Unexpected Hero
Shaddis was an unexpected hero of this episode. He came back to the very people who had beaten them and rallied them back, reminding them of their training and how it was time to get back out there and fight.
Floch certainly didn’t do that. He took those same people and abandoned them, simply reveling in the deaths that Eren’s Rumbling is going to create.
But Shaddis emerged the hero. It’s even more touching when you think of his past. He was in love with Eren’s mother at one point and close friends with Grisha. He tried to stop Eren from even entering the Survey Corps, but was unsuccessful. He felt like his entire life was just him being a mediocre leader who never had true success like Erwin, and that he was just destined to be a bystander. But instead, at this moment when he was truly needed, he rose to the occasion and helped stop the people in Paradis from being wiped out by the chaos that Eren had left behind.
Onkankopon’s Scene Was Quietly Heartbreaking
Onyankopon’s quieter scenes also broke my heart. In the past, he spoke about how he believed “God” loved diversity of life and varying views and appearances. But now Eren is wiping all that out, including his homeland. His quiet heartbreak is palpable. 🥺
Gabi’s Cries for Falco Left Me Crying
I was already near tears during Onyankopon’s scene, and Gabi’s last scene left me crying. She asks the questions we all were asking about Eren being able to transform pure Titans back to normal. She understands the pain that Connie must have gone through, but she begs for the life of her friend, Falco. And she begs Armin as if he has some control over the matter — as if he can somehow reach Eren. But if he could, Armin would have tried to stop all of this from happening too.
Her begging for Falco’s life, begging to find some loophole, reminded me of Mikasa and Eren begging for Armin’s life when Levi was trying to decide if Erwin or Armin would inherit Colossal. There is nothing anyone can do in this case, however, unless Gabi herself is somehow able to beat Connie there and intervene. No one can save Falco. Although I have a tough time imagining that Falco will be disposed of at this point in the story, it didn’t make me feel any less heartbroken for Gabi. And the fact that I do feel so heartbroken for her shows how genius this show is, considering that we were all just hating on her so recently.
Annie Is Back
At the very end, we learn that when Eren undid the hardening of the walls, it also undid all the hardening abilities that were ever created. So Reiner can no longer use his armored powers, and Annie can’t either. Against her own will, she’s released from her shell to a relentlessly chaotic world that is very different from when she left.
I have a tough time picturing Annie playing any kind of major role at this point. But it feels good to know they aren’t leaving her as a loose end.
Now we simply still need to find out what happened to Levi.
This episode gets a 10 out of 10 from me. It was haunting, heartbreaking, and beautifully animated and written. It brought tears to my eyes, and had some telling callbacks to previous episodes. This truly is the best show on TV right now.
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