In Season 4 Episode 4 of Attack on Titan, the name “Kruger” resurfaces during a conversation between the wounded veteran and an old man. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Eren Kruger is a callback to a previous episode from last season.
This article will have spoilers for Season 4 Episode 4, but the article itself is manga-spoiler-free. Please don’t add spoilers from the manga in the comments. Thanks. :)
The Owl’s Name Was Also Eren Kruger
During a discussion with Dr. Jaeger at the hospital in Season 4 Episode 4, Eren tells him that his name is “Kruger.” It’s not just an innocent name that Eren picked out of nowhere. Eren Kruger has a long history with his family.
In case you don’t recall, Eren Kruger was the real name of “The Owl” who sent Eren’s dad on his original mission to Paradis. Eren Kruger was a Marleyan officer who was secretly an Eldian spy. He was the founder of the Restorationist movement and he had the “Attack Titan” power. A doctor faked his blood tests so his true Eldian heritage wouldn’t be known (learn more in the wiki here.)
In order to keep his deep cover, Eren Kruger had to perform atrocities, including allowing fellow Eldians to be tortured and turned mercilessly into mindless titans. He was the one that found Grisha and Fay Jaeger outside of the internment zone, which ultimately led to Fay’s horrific death. At some point after this, according to the wiki, Kruger inherited the Attack Titan. He decided that Grisha would be the one to inherit his titan power because of Grisha’s anger at the Marleyans over his sister’s death. (It’s not clear who had the attack titan power before Kruger.)
During the last moments of his life, Kruger and Grisha watched as other Eldians were thrown off the wall and turned into titans. But when it was Grisha’s turn, Kruger pushed the Marleyan Gross off the wall instead, revealing that he was The Owl. He then turned into the Attack Titan and destroyed the rest of the Marleyans who were there and could have given away his secret. That’s when Kruger gave Grisha the final mission of entering the Walls and taking the Founding Titan’s powers — but doing so by having the Attack Titan’s powers himself. This was already Grisha’s mission for the Restorationists when he and his wife Dina (of royal blood) had taken over the movement. But when his son Zeke turned him in to the Marleyans, that mission died. Thanks to Kruger, it became his mission again.
Kruger told Grisha that he was near the end of the 13-year lifespan allotted once becoming a titan and could not do the mission himself. He said he was pulled into the movement after his own father tried to subvert the Marleyans in a different movement but failed. The Marleyans burned his dad alive as punishment.
“Those who inherit the power of the Nine Titans perish in 13 years,” he told Grisha. “I inherited this power 13 years ago.”
He said the 13-year lifespan exists because they are all connected to the original Founding Titan Ymir Fritz, who only lived 13 years after obtaining her own powers. Just before injecting Grisha with the titan serum, Kruger urged Grisha to complete his mission for the sake of “Armin and Mikasa.” This was one of the few times we’ve been given hints that titans may be so interconnected that they have memories of their future titan hosts. Kruger had Eren’s memories, who would inherit his power in two generations. Some guess that Falco displayed the same “future memories” in Season 4 Episode 1.
All of this makes it very fitting and symbolic that Eren, while undercover, is referring to himself as Kruger. Perhaps he feels that he, too, bears some guilt for atrocities he had to perform in order to achieve his mission. Perhaps he feels some type of sympathy now for Reiner after going undercover himself. For whatever reason, he has taken on his predecessor’s name, although his mission is quite the opposite. Kruger wanted the Founding Titan so that the Eldians could throw off the control of the Marleyans. But the Eldians did not look kindly on the people of Paradis, feeling like those people had abandoned their own kind. Eren wants to overthrow the Marleyans also, after they used the power of the titans to destroy so many of his own people. But his feelings toward the Eldians of Marley are less clear.