I am a Political Science graduate, major in International Relations and Foreign Service, with an interest in anime, religion and philosophy
Ignorance and cruelty define the struggle of the Attack on Titan series. From the unknown nature of the Titans to the overwhelming hatred of the world against the Eldian race, too many odds were against the survival of Paradis. However, these two elements happen to define the personal conflicts of our main characters.
"Savagery" encompasses the way Eren breaks off from his childhood friends and the brutality of Levi's story. Jun Shishido continues his line of directing action-packed episodes while being accompanied by a daring storyboard from Kazuyoshi Katayama, who has worked on series like The Big O. This has resulted in a fan favorite episode.
Am I Truly Free?
We begin with Eren's talk with his friends. As Armin and Mikasa try to reason with him, Eren declares to them that he is free. To prove this, he contrasts himself with his friends, whom he calls slaves. Armin inherited Bertholdt's love for Annie, and Mikasa's Ackerman lineage makes her subservient to the royal family, and by extension, the Founding Titan, that is to say Eren himself.
For four seasons, we have seen Eren's concern for his friends as he pursued vengeance against the Titans. With the truth of the world before him, he distances himself from them and now that gap is further widened by his derision of Armin's personality and Mikasa's bond with him.
It is with Mikasa that Eren is most harsh with. He spared no words of his disgust, even down to his expression. He sees her Ackerman heritage as an ugly thing, a contradiction to the free existence he lives by. Such words fell like sharp arrows in Mikasa's heart, causing her to question her choice to fight against the world's cruelty and then break down.
Angered by how Eren is hurting Mikasa, Armin lashes at him but Mikasa stops him. This seems to further Eren's point of how Mikasa is enslaved to him. Armin tries to fight back, attempting to get a hit but Eren proved too strong and won their conflict. The anime extends their scuffle to emphasize Eren's dominance over him in this situation. As Armin falls back, he calls out Eren for being the real slave, having used his freedom to hurt Mikasa. An angry Eren orders the Yeagerists to bring the two and Gabi to Shiganshina.
Here, we see that Eren might be telling half-truths. While he was annoyed by Mikasa's mothering of him, hate was too strong a word to describe his frustration. If anything, he wanted to be the one to protect her and prove his personal strength. The direction of the conversation was clear. Eren wanted his friends to stay out of his way so that he can pursue his goal of meeting Zeke and initiate the Rumbling. The macro-conflict against Marley has shaken the personal bonds of Eren and his friends, causing him to be totally separated from his friends and the audience. Ever since the start of this season, the anime has made it clear that this is not the same Eren we know. He is someone we have yet to truly know.
Before Lights Out, the Apetitan Strikes Back
Levi's frustration with the Yeagerist revolt forces him to make a choice. Zeke will inevitably meet Eren and the tide of war will go for the worst for Paradis. To prevent this, he ordered his men to find a Yeagerist and make him into a Titan that will eat Zeke.
After turning his back from Zeke, however, he sees the man escape and scream. The storyboard and animation of the scene make it as though the scream sent a gust towards Levi. From above and all around, he saw his comrades, one by one, falling down as they are enveloped in a familiar yellow light that brightens the whole forest.
Katayama's storyboard was daring in its execution. An abandoned book flipped by the wind rather than Zeke's fingers signals an unexpected turn. Zeke is zoomed out as he flees. The Scouts experience a shock inside of them, which causes them to slip off the massive branches and plummet into the sea of transformative light.
Recalling his decision to let them drink the wine, Levi looks around, still in disbelief. Yet he knows he has to make one choice. As the survivor of the story, he has lived through one promise, to live without regrets. Even as he saw his comrades in these monsters, he chose to kill them and pursue Zeke, the one who took their lives.
Best Fight Ever
I consider the recent clash between Levi and Zeke to be one of the best fights in terms of strategy and payoff. Building from their rivalry in Season 3, "Savagery" delivers an excellent bout of action in spite of production limitations while contrasting their differing views of life and humanity. Zeke was so distant from people that he had no qualms using his spinal fluid to turn fellow Eldians into human weapons just like him.
As he expressed his disdain of once again facing the indomitable Levi, Zeke transforms into the Beast Titan to try and kill him. Zeke clearly underestimated Levi's willingness to slaughter his Titanized comrades, something that had to be done.
The strategy used for the battle was what made it one of the best fights in the series. Minds were tested. Levi used the forest terrain for easier mobility but also to surround the massive Beast Titan with more obstacles. This meant he used Zeke's natural advantage against the giant monkey.
In the end, he was struck down by Thunder Spears, even as he protected his nape. Levi feels close to fulfilling his promise to Erwin as he takes the injured Zeke with him to be devoured by a Titan.
Down With the Old Guard
Keith Shadis is one of the most important side characters for the series. The Bystander who witnessed people rise to make change was in the midst of a great one. And it was started by the boy he believed was special. The Yeagerists under Eren have dared the recruits under Shadis to beat up the older man, who represents the older, "useless" generation.
Floch's speech rouses the recruits, who expressed doubt in the old ways of fighting now that their enemies were other humans. He calls on them to coppose the world's desire to exterminate Eldians. The fascist movement of Yeagerism once again calls to the golden age of imperialism by encouraging brute force.
Shadis' will was something that was tested all of his life. Now, as he faced Floch's challenge to the recruits, he chose to have the young bloods go at him so that they would not suffer for his sake. The older generation shields the new ones from the growing forest of violence, embodying Artur Blouse's promise for the children of the forest.
While Mikasa, Armin, and the others are taken prisoner, Levi cuts off Zeke's legs to prevent his escape. He was pinned down by a Thunder Spear, with a noose around his neck tied to the weapon as a deterrent. Laying down helpless, Zeke recalls his past and the mission he had to fulfill.
What is the true goal of Zeke Yeager? Why did he go so far as to go back on his word and harm fellow Eldians?