Something’s always bugged me about this scene that the show insists on reusing every time Jean thinks about Marco. No matter how I look at it, it’s Levi with no lips and a pronounced lack of life, not Freckles McGee who sizes Jean’s personality up. I don’t find it disturbing as much as I do really uncanny that Levi seems to have the expression of a dead guy permanently stenciled on his face.
More relevantly, Shingeki no Kyojin continues flitting between Jean’s arc being entirely inconsequential, and just being mostly inconsequential. This episode falls into the latter category, where his choice of whether to stay and get munched into human giblets or leave and survive is made more prominent than Eren finding his place in a division of eccentrics and psychos. And maybe now they can finally put Jean’s dwelling on Marco to rest.
To join the Recon Corps would require not only a probable loss of life, but to confront the knowledge that everyone else thinks it’s a fucking stupid idea. Even the rest of Jean’s friends that opt to stay do so with immense trepidation. The human element of the series has been getting a lot of love in the past few episodes, and that moment, where Jean and his friends join the Recon Corps despite the overwhelming pressure to leave, is effective at conveying that there’s no turning back.
Still, despite the overwhelming chance of death, it is nice that the Recon Corps does look out for its recruits by placing them in the safest place and giving them the least specialized roles to perform—while by no means inconsequential, they can be done competently by just about everyone else. It’s definitely the most dangerous branch to be a part of, but seeing steps taken to minimize unnecessary deaths, and giving a clear sense of purpose, goes a long way toward keeping troop numbers swollen and morale from plummeting.
This episode being crescendo of Jean’s subdued character arc does, unfortunately, show where other development has fallen flat. Most glaring is Annie, whose personality hasn’t extended past being the most composed of her group. Where Jean gets the true test of his resolve, Annie doesn’t get much of anything. Thus far, she’s been made into less a person and more an overarching concept of a determined soldier, safe in her choices, comparatively free of insecurities. When I feel that she could have contributed just as much as Jean, this is an underwhelming direction to take her in that hopefully will be fleshed out a bit more in the future.
There’s also been something of a more optimistic tone that’s accompanied the change in OP. Where the episodes set to the first OP were all back against the wall frantic struggling against a superior titan force, these are more affirming of the military’s actions. People are no longer seeing soldiers off with glazed stares and silent dread, but with a real sense of hope, even if they’re going off to their inevitable gruesome deaths at the hands of the first female titan. No doubt this positive change in tone is going to revert back to grimdarkness as soon as the female titan makes her appearance, but for now, things are looking up. And hey, stuff’s going to happen next episode!