Context has always been somewhat of an issue for Shingeki no Kyojin. While it’s extremely competent, entire stretches of episodes can zoom by with dramatic moments that elicit more laughs than empathy, due to a lack of attachment to the goings on. To remedy this, the series takes this episode to dissect its entire reason for existing, and lays its still-bleeding innards in front of the characters to examine. It reminds us that humanity is the underdog protagonist in an 80’s sports film that overcomes all adversity, except the rival rich kid team is several times their size and has an insatiable lust for eating people, and the adversity needing to be overcome is being eaten.
There seems to be a general pattern in this show as to the behavior of the soldiers, and it’s gotten a bit wearisome. First comes panic, then despair, then some brave soul pulls them out of their own weeping asses to (wo)man up and fight back the titans, usually accompanied by a soaring orchestral piece. Not that the end result isn’t always spectacular, but the setup has been relatively unchanged since the very first episode, albeit sped along to assuage the feeling of déjà vu. The series has always struggled with maintaining the weight of its situations, and nothing, short of having a fiery speech delivered by Dot Pixis, would have changed that.
Luckily, the brave soul giving the speech in this episode is indeed Dot fucking Pixis, a man so magnificent that his voice carries to a panicked crowd from the top of a huge fucking wall, a voice oozing with enough gravitas to conjure the series’ best tracks from the ether, and aurally skullfuck the meek and frightened sheep into frenzied action. He lays every cold, hard fact on the table and doesn’t shy away from the truth, contextualizing elements and plot points that started to feel stretched to the breaking point by neglect; this is the first time that I didn’t feel a noticeable clunk as the tone switched gears. Maybe it’s the shift to a larger scale than Eren and his immediate social circle, or maybe it’s because Dot Pixis was the missing magical ingredient in an already tasty dish, but something about this felt fluid in a way that hasn’t quite been achieved before.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Araki knew it was going to be another episode of yelling exposition, so he decided to at least use it as an opportunity to push the best that the soundtrack had to offer onto the audience. Every critical thought that dared to crop up was instantly supplanted by admiration for the sound direction, because holy fuck on a fuckbiscuit this is probably the best that the series has so far, and I’ll probably buy the soundtrack just because of its use here. While far from understated, it’s woven well into each scene to give the simmering tension just that much more of a push while Pixis bombards the crowd with aural testosterone shots.
I think that Shingeki no Kyojin has found just the right way to pad the moments between fights when Eren’s growth (pardon the pun) isn’t in need of developing: Dot Pixis screaming an inspirational speech with the backing of thunderous war drums, and Eren burning away the show’s budget in fluid movement gear sequences. Granted, Eren’s sudden endeavor to redecorate a roof with Mikasa’s innards was pretty fucking abrupt, but at least it beats ending the episode with Eren becoming Skeletor.