The retreat is sounded, and the survivors gather the fallen and flee. As the forest of death fades from view, all must face what they have lost, in Attack On Titan episode 22: “The Defeated-The 57th Exterior Scouting Mission, part 6.”
[Warning! Spoilers for Attack On Titan episodes 1-22 Below!]
Man, this was hard to watch. As the final installment of the series’ darkest arc to date, episode 22 brings the story of the 57th Exterior Scouting Mission to a tragic close. The title of this episode is “The Defeated”, and that’s where the focus lies: on the battered, demoralized survivors. Surprisingly, the cliffhanger with Eren and the Female Titan is resolved well before the halfway mark, and the rest of the runtime is mostly action free. Instead, we see each of the main cast’s coming to gripes with the terrible calamity that has befallen them.
As they load the bodies of their dead comrades into carts and prepare to retreat, each Scout deals with their situation in different ways. Jean is in a mild state of shock, Sasha unconvincingly tries to life Connie’s spirits, and oddly enough it is Armin who seems the most collected and calm. Captain Levy puts up a stony façade and focuses on his duties, but he is clearly hurting inside, especially when Petra’s oblivious father reveals she had feelings for him. As for Eren, he is perhaps at his lowest point yet; all that effort, all those deaths, and they have nothing to show for it. His Titan abilities didn’t change anything, and if she and Levy hadn’t rescued him, he’d still be in the Female Titan’s maw. His feelings of sorrow and powerlessness are further compounded when they reach the city, and he sees those two children. A boy and a girl, the same age as he and Mikasa where five years ago, with the boy cheering for the Scouts, just as he did. This fantastic scene really emphasizes, for both Eren and the audience, the naivety of his childhood view of the Scouts, and how those kids will someday have their illusions shattered, just as he did.
That scene, and the whole episode, would not have worked half as well as it did without the exemplary cinematography of this episode, which is some of the series’ best. Continuing the high quality of last episode, “The Defeated” is animated beautifully, with equal attention being given to the action scenes and quieter moments. The English voice cast continues to be stellar, with Trina Nishimura’s Mikasa leaving an impression in particular. Even the opening theme song is perfect, with its heroic bombast becoming bitterly ironic.
Episode 22 is much less action packed than the episodes immediately preceding it, but no less emotionally devastating. As Eren lies weeping in the wagon, we are left wondering if things could get any worse. The Female Titan is still out there, after all, and something tells me she isn’t finished with our heroes. Even after all that has happened, this struggle is far from over.
[Spoilers End Here]
Grade: 4.0 out of 5
Attack On Titan is aired every Saturday at 11:30 pm PST on Adult Swim, and is available for streaming on Funimation.