Is all this meaningless?
Eren attempts to get the first strike on the Colossal Titan, but it disappears into a cloud of fog, and Eren misses. The new graduates and the rest of the corps are separated into two groups, with the weaker teams in front to delay the Titans, and the stronger teams in the back to ensure the evacuation of the citizens. The team latches onto Eren’s fake bravado, but they are surprised as they see Thomas attacked by an “unusual”-type of Titan that leaps great distances. The entire team is wiped out in a matter of minutes, and Armin, the last to be caught, loses hope and allows himself to be swallowed whole. Eren awakens from being knocked out to save him, and is eaten in Armin’s place.
Soon after the alarm is raised, we get to see the “inside wall” that the top recruits can live in when they graduate, and the difference in living standards is obvious. While the times are desperate, the ones that seize the opportunity and stand on top live comfortable lives. This is probably the first time we see something beyond the homely style of homes that were in most of the towns that are in the buffer-zones for the main wall. From what it looks like, the Imperial Police are treated very well, and the Police head is plenty friendly with the merchant in the episode. The perks are great, and with that, they can disregard the rest of the world outside. I feel that the head commanders tend to be on the inside, and this causes a division in thinking about the Corps as real people, as opposed to just troops to send out to be killed.
The Colossal Titan shows its sheer size when Eren swings around it to get to the spinal cord area. I find this was one of the major points of getting the scale into your head, that you can implant a rappel into the giant, and then having to avoid getting tangled, as as well as not missing. Eren, in this case, misses because the Titan disappears into a cloud of steam(?) and cannot be found. This is highly suspicious, as Titans don’t have any particularly special skills other than size and speed…unless they shrink…? That might be something to take into consideration, as Eren was injected with a suspicious fluid by his father in the second episode, and the fact that they can disappear and reappear so suddenly.
The terror is very real, and I’m not sure what to take from the humans taking on recruits now. In a flashback, you find out that the giants eat, but do not reproduce in a way that is known, as well as not being suited for the consumption of humans. They regenerate at fast speeds, and don’t die unless you attack the spinal cord.
The flashbacks cause me to have even more reason to suspect that the corps are just a redirection of attention for the citizens of the wall. It is implied that Armin joined the corps to see the outside world- books about the outside are forbidden, and discussion about the outside world is also forbidden. The book that belonged to Armin’s grandfather was hidden away, and as history has shown us, any society that seeks to hide its past is doomed to repeat those actions. Perhaps the past was hidden in the interests of a certain few, or as method of control of the people in the walls. The centuries that the wall has stood means something must be happening outside that is causing the sudden increase in attacks, and the Recon Corps has been the only group that has directly encountered the giants in that time.
I don’t fault Jean for wanting to get away, but the fact of the matter is that his anger does nothing to improve the situation at the moment. Armin has a breakdown, and is not even truly recovered by the time they get to the front line. It is this attitude that causes more people to die. It is perfectly fine to mess up (read: die), the worst thing you can do in a team setting is to be the direct influence on killing a teammate. The team of new recruits pretend to be brave, but they are genuinely surprised to lose a teammate so fast, causing a domino effect on the rest of the members. Armin just sits there and lets himself be eaten, so in a way, this is the reversal of the roles he was with Eren several years ago. Eren saves him, and imparts last words before being swallowed.
Despite the apparent finality of Eren’s demise, I find that Studio Wit did a brilliant job setting up the impact and horror of the situation.
I don’t think we’ll be seeing Eren for a while, so there will be time to explore the other characters, such as Mikasa and her role in the retreat.