There is so much to cover as Attack on Titan barrels ahead into its endgame, but “Judgment” is actually a relatively simple installment of the series and a slow ease back into this dreadful dystopia. The episode picks up immediately from Pieck’s unsuccessful coup to wipe out Eren, which has only empowered him with a more intense rage than ever before. The parallels and dichotomy between Eren Yeager and Reiner Braun made up some of the most compelling material from the first half of Attack on Titan’s final season. Their rivalry and what their opposing forces represent become the driving force behind “Judgment,” as both of these characters are prepared for whatever fallout accompanies their actions.
Eren is much more of a cipher in this premiere and honestly the opening and closing numbers do a better job at illustrating his current mental state. However, every punch that Reiner takes has real honorable intention behind it. He simply wants to end Eren’s suffering at the end of the day. He’s not driven by any delusions of grandeur or megalomaniacal fantasies. Reiner just longs for peace, after thousands of years of pain. Attack on Titan has orchestrated such magic with its villainization of Eren over the final season that it’s genuinely exciting when Reiner’s attack is reinforced by Porco, Pieck, Magath, and Marley seems to stand a fighting chance.
The action sequences in “Judgment” deliver, but what’s most impressive about them is just how sophisticated of a fighter Eren has become. He effortlessly wields multiple Titan powers at once to cater to the specific situation at hand and survive. Marley may have several Titans and a whole army to put up against Eren, but at this point he’s evolved into his own army. The dust is beginning to settle with Attack on Titan’s grander story and it’s amazing to see how Eren has grown from this passive child who was terrified of these monsters into a true Titan expert and arguably the best shifter that there’s ever been.
“Judgment” is mostly lost in the chaos of combat and it even includes some gorgeous aerial encounters as Marley’s forces attack from all angles. It’s highly enjoyable whenever a Titan punches another or when one of these monsters nearly gets their heads blown off, but some of the most interesting moments from the episode are the ones that stray away from action. Gabi’s mounting concern over Falco’s safety becomes more of an emotional throughline to this story than any worry that Mikasa may have over Eren. The brief glimpse of Zeke’s rebirth, his time with who is presumably Ymir, and the ethereal way in which “PATHS” works have major implications for not just the lore of Titans, but what’s to come with Zeke and Eren’s reunion.
“Judgment” teases a few fleeting moments of optimism, like when Pieck tells Gabi that this isn’t about Marley or Eldia anymore, but rather the individual people behind these arbitrary lines and what they ultimately care about. It’s absolutely essential that not everyone’s spirits are broken, but the general public seem to be lost. Onyankopon’s impassioned speech is a good distillation of how so many people don’t even believe in the cause that they’re fighting for anymore. It’s all just snowballed so impossibly out of control that a nation is forced into compliant complacency or execution.
This is of course no excuse for everything that’s happened, but Onyankopon’s malaise over where the world is at is easy to displace onto the entire Marleyan and Eldian population. Armin’s weak admission that Eren will use the Rumbling in a “good way” is just heartbreaking. Everyone’s too disgusted with the means that they’ve resorted to for success that the title of victor is more shameful than it is inspirational.
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