One of the big questions still bothering viewers after watching Attack on Titan Season 4 Episode 22 is whether Zeke is dead or alive. He was missing all through Episode 81 (“Thaw”) and that leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Here are the clues we have so far from the anime that point to Zeke’s fate.
The Show Dropped Clues That Zeke Might Not Be Around Any Longer
In my opinion, I think that Zeke is likely alive, simply because it seems highly unlikely that the show would kill him off-screen without any fanfare. He’s such an important character and one of the last remaining people in the royal bloodline, it’s hard to believe that he would just be killed off. However, this isn’t guaranteed. Attack on Titan is a dark show, and it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility to just kill off Zeke and let us know later that it happened. And the show certainly went out of its way during the most recent episode to hint over and over that he might be dead.
Yelena was the character who brought the question about Zeke to our attention throughout the episode, without knowing the answer. And it certainly appears from her point of view that she thinks he’s dead.
She mentioned that it made no sense that the Pure Titans were attacking her and other allies of Zeke, since Zeke was able to control them and had commanded them to do something else. The fact that they are now running wild and attacking everyone seemed to indicate that Zeke no longer had control of them.
Let’s not forget that although Eren and Zeke spent a lot of time together in the Paths, that time can essentially be “an instant” in real life. Eren spent years and years in the Paths with Zeke going through their father’s memories. But when he re-appeared, mere seconds had passed.
Did Zeke Lose His Will to Live?
Zeke was determined to change Eren’s mind. Although he’s been willing to sacrifice literally anyone else, even Falco, to reach his goal of sterilization, he was never willing to sacrifice Eren. Knowing now that Zeke was able to break the vow against war because he’s not part of the royal bloodline that was born inside the walls, there’s even a question of whether he could have simply eaten Eren and done all of this on his own.
But either way, we know that Zeke had a special affinity for Eren, believing him to be the victim of brainwashing, and refused to give up on his little brother. Is it possible that when he realized just how dark Eren’s plans were, and that he had lost, he simply lost his will to live? Is it possible that he was damaged during Eren’s transformation and no longer has an interest in regenerating, so he died?
We learned in an earlier episode that a Warrior Titan can only regenerate as long as he or she has the will to live. That was why Reiner didn’t regenerate until he heard Falco and Gabi calling for him. It’s possibly why the Founder Ymir died rather than healing when she was speared. So if Zeke has lost the will to live, nothing can regenerate him.
Could Zeke Have Been Burned Up When Eren Transformed?
One of the last times we saw Zeke in “real life,” he had caught Eren’s dismembered head in his hand and they were both instantly transported to the Paths. Zeke was still touching Eren when Eren transformed in real life after Ymir granted him her powers. It’s certainly possible that the heat of Eren’s transformation might have burned Zeke to a crisp, much like Colt was burned alive when Falco transformed.
However, unlike Colt, Zeke is already a Titan and has proven before that if Ymir is willing, he can be remade in the Paths even if he’s about to die. Of course, that raises the question of whether Ymir is even willing to rebuild someone from the royal bloodline anymore now that Eren has set her free. And what did it mean when she gave her power to Eren? Was it just to enact the Rumbling and she still holds the power otherwise? Or did she give everything over to him and now she couldn’t even remake Zeke in the Paths if she wanted to?
The anime makes it very clear that when the parasatic spinal cord attached itself to Eren, Zeke was still holding on to him.
Immediately after, it zooms in closely to Eren’s face, no longer showing Zeke. But as Eren wakes up, we see that Zeke is awake now too in the real world, and horrified.
Then we see Zeke engulfed in the glowing tentacles as Eren transforms.
So Zeke really could have been killed from being exposed to the power of Eren’s transformation. Or he might be fused with Eren now, or Eren might be holding on to him somehow. We don’t know if Ymir’s gift to Eren is permanent and Eren is basically the Founder now, or if it still relies on Eren being in physical contact with Zeke in order to maintain the connection. If it’s the latter, then Zeke might not be dead and Eren might simply be holding on to him.
As Zeke is engulfed in glowing tentacles, it’s the last time we see him. So Yelena is understandably concerned.
We later see Eren’s skull growing into the crazy multiple-legged gigantic creature (for lack of a better term), and Zeke is nowhere to be seen at that point.
We saw Zeke getting engulfed by Eren’s head attached to a glowing spine. Then we saw Eren’s head turn into just a skull that grows into a completely different creature, and Zeke is nowhere to be seen. I think something crazy happened to Zeke, but I have no idea if that means he’s alive or dead. The anime left us with enough clues to conclude in either direction.