Attack on Titan Season 4 Episode 9 was amazing, just as every episode has been this season. Today we got to look back on what has happened in the last three years that brought us Yelena and Onyankopon, and the doubt clouding the minds of the Survey Corps about where they are in the current battle. While there are still some unanswered questions about Zeke, today’s episode illuminated quite a bit that had been in the shadows before.
This is a Season 4 Episode 9 review. As such, it will have spoilers for Season 4 Episode 9, but the article itself is manga-spoiler-free. Please don’t add spoilers from the manga in the comments. Thanks. :)
What Path Could They Have Chosen?
The episode began with a focus on Armin, as he wondered if they could have done something three years earlier to change where they’ve ended up. I recently re-watched Season 1 Episode 1, and was reminded of how Armin has been a pacifist all of his life. He would always choose the path that brings the fewest deaths and the greatest diplomacy if he could, so the actions he had to take in the most recent battle have truly torn him up inside.
I’m not sure if they could have done anything differently. Since Zeke is nearing the end of his life, they only had a limited time to take advantage of his subterfuge. And Marley, by conquering the other countries, was growing stronger by the day. Considering that Willy Tybur declared war on Paradis just before Eren attacked, I don’t see how they could have done anything differently.
This episode focused quite a bit on military strategy. We started by seeing Mikasa, Armin, and others discussing how vulnerable Paradis is to a straight-on attack from Marley. They have to do something, because even with the two Titans that they have, they’re overly vulnerable if Marley attacked them directly. In fact, it was very lucky for Paradis that Marley had to postpone its attack when the other countries in the world attacked them.
As Yelena explained to Hange, Marley had 1 million soldiers, a Navy with three fleets (each with 21 battleships), and aerial attack squads too. But ironically, the Pure Titans they released to keep Eldians behind the walls also served to protect the Eldians. Yelena and Hange’s discussion was fascinating because both were impressed with the other side. Hange couldn’t believe the military prowess that Marley had, while Yelena couldn’t believe the skills that the Eldians had in defeating the Titans.
However, the knowledge of Marley’s military might made their need to take action that much more urgent. I’m not sure if there could have been another path.
Hange Was Perfect in This Episode
We spent much of the episode flashing back to three years ago, where we saw the Marleyan scout mission that started it all. We had learned before that the initial scout ships never returned, although Yelena did return later as a spy who trapped Pieck and Porco. Now we see that the ships really didn’t get very far at all before Eren and the rest quickly captured them.
I absolutely adored Hange in this episode. Her lighthearted attitude about welcoming the Marleyans before she realized the intense hate they have for the “filthy Eldians” was priceless. Next to Sasha (😭) she is truly one of my favorite characters. The first time that she and Yelena met really told us a lot about Yelena’s character. She took out the Marleyan who was going to try to kill Hange, because her loyalty is to Zeke above everyone else.
Yelena’s Roots Revealed
We also learned that Yelena is not an Eldian, like I had previously thought. She is a Zeke supporter, but not because of her innate belief in Eldians’ need to be free. Rather, she was from one of the conquered nations and, as she told Hange: “We were powerless. Marley took our homes and forced us to be soldiers. We were close to losing hope at ever striking back. Until we met him. A Titan that the people of the world feared, calling it a devil. But I saw something completely different. A god. One that gave hope to the powerless. Under Zeke Jaeger’s command, we shot our superiors… We’re the Anti-Marleyan Volunteers. Our goal: To free the Eldian people.”
It’s not clear how long Zeke has been secretly working against the Marleyan government, but it has apparently been a long time. Three years ago, he was already deeply involved in undermining them, as Yelena had been a recruit for quite some time. He was finding quite a few of his allies in the people that Marley conquered, who wanted to be free just like the Eldians. I found that to be an interesting disclosure. Just how long has Zeke not been fully allied with Marley? Since he was a child, considering that he never told them that he was of royal blood?
Zeke’s plan involves using both the Founding Titan and a Titan with royal blood (himself.) Although Zeke’s angle isn’t completely clear, Eren personally believes this is to activate the Rumbling as the only means of granting freedom to all Eldians. They can get around the “vow against war” that King Fritz took by allowing Eren to access that power, since he has no royal blood within him. Armin, however, wishes there was another way because if they start the Rumbling, then they will truly be the “devils” that the Marleyans always feared.
Eren responded that the world already sees them as monsters and they aren’t wrong. However, Armin still can’t let go of the idea that they might undo some of that brainwashing if they just had the time.
Meanwhile, they’re keeping a short leash on Zeke, and I don’t blame them. He’s not exactly trustworthy, even if he is the most valuable ally they have. He’s not on anyone’s “side” but his own and he’ll do whatever it takes to free all the Eldians. But how will that pan out for people like Levi, who are not Eldian?
I’m guessing this distrust is what led the Paradisians to pull guns on Yelena and her people again, despite working on their side for so long. With Zeke in the picture again, it puts everyone’s true loyalties back at risk.
The most surprising part to me was seeing Gabi still hating on Eren Jaeger, apparently not affected at all by the knowledge that Zeke planned everything with him. This points to just how tough it would be to undo that brainwashing.
We also finally got an answer to where Annie has been. She’s still encased in her crystallized shell. I wonder if she would return if Zeke tried to talk to her?
Nicolo’s Story Is Heartbreaking & Heartwarming All at Once
It was interesting to see how Nicolo was the hostage that Hange and Levi had with them during the initial encounter, and then to see how he changed over time. I know this happened with more than one character, but Nicolo’s story was the most poignant for me. He immediately took on the role of being a chef, which endeared him to Sasha. Although there was no hint given that he and Sasha ever were more than friends, it was also obvious that Nicolo loved her deeply and was crushed by her death. I laughed out loud when he offered to feed her parents, and Sasha’s dad wanted to make sure the meal was free. That was a much-needed moment of levity.
Seeing one of the Eldians of Paradis beating Nicolo really hurt my heart, because it showed the cycle continuing. The hate that so many Marleyans have for the Eldians of Paradis is reflected in the hate that some Eldians of Paradis have for the Marleyans. And much of this is because of the lie that the Tyburs spread, just so they could have an excuse to keep sending Titans to attack the people of Paradis.
In the end, I hold the Tyburs to blame for where everyone is right now. Just like King Fritz wiped the minds of his people so they would forget that any other humans existed, the Tyburs wiped the minds of their people through propaganda and lies. I guess it’s not a surprise that King Fritz and the head Tybur at the time were able to come to a truce between the two of them.