Just getting screenshots of that titan for this post made my skin crawl. It’s not because of its unsettling grin, though that’s certainly creepy as all fuck. It’s the fact that its glowing red skin is evocative of the worst kind of sunburn, and I can’t help but wonder if it was duped into thinking that people have sunburn-healing properties when ingested. Anyway, shit gets fucked, it gets fucked incredibly dramatically to appropriately dramatic music, and it’s rather horrific, so read on.
The entire episode is presided over by the specter of Shit Gonna Get Fucked, to the point that it permeates every line of dialogue and every ominous shot aimed at the pre-break in wall. The protagonist talks about how shit’s going to be fucked, his mother tells him to stop talking about shit getting fucked because she knows if he has his way it’s going to get fucked at some point and doesn’t want him to be in the thick of it, and a friend of the protag is beaten up by neighborhood children for preaching that shit’s going to be fucked if they don’t start leaving the safety of the town. It’s almost too much, but it knows when to stop exhibiting the nervousness and borderline complacency of the townspeople so we can get a handle on the characters, and not just the attitudes that they’ve grown up immersed in.
It’s telling how much the threat of the titans has pervaded every facet of daily life in the town, to the extent that most of the people would much prefer not acknowledging that their lives can be snuffed out at any moment, most laboring under the delusion that everything is just fine. The wall, ultimately, is a fragile barrier separating the last vestiges of humanity from the all-consuming plague that is the titans, and it’s interesting how differently (and often implicitly) the people manifest their knowledge of this fact. Hell, that’d be a great premise by itself if it were played exceptionally well, but since the show promised skyhook battles with giants, that wouldn’t fly by itself here.
It’s not ignorance that makes broaching the subject of heading outside the wall and fighting the titans almost taboo, it’s the very real, very human fear of being devoured by beings much powerful than themselves. However, as the first few minutes and the first two paragraphs of this post point out, shit must get fucked very soon, and no amount of hiding behind the walls and whinging fatalistic sentiments will change that, especially when the walls are torn down in the blink of an eye.
Rather than feeling predictable though, that knowledge contributes to a growing sense of unease and anticipation, with the payoff being incredibly satisfying. There are more than a few flourishes of excellent direction and snappy, meaningful transitions that leave this attack visually arresting and disturbing in all the right ways. It’d almost be comical how rubble seems to conveniently find its way onto the poor people skittering away from the titans, but the tension and restraint that’s nurtured up to this point lend to a grave atmosphere that’s difficult to shake, even as it reaches the credits. It has a sort of disaster movie vibe, but uses it to prop up a greater purpose, like setting things up so the following image can happen.
It certainly helps that the titans themselves are creepy fuckers, seemingly only driven by the desire to eat the curiously similar, exponentially smaller creatures scattering away from their imposing figures. The only two that we get a good look at, one that looks like a human stripped of all skin, and another that looks like an extremely sunburned man whose skin is stretched to the point that he can’t stop smiling, are unnerving in the best possible way, and even the others that we see lumbering in at a distance are none too pretty. Just as nobody in the story has learned anything about the titans up to this point, the audience is left similarly flummoxed by their actions. It’s tough not to look at the giant in the header image and not immediately want to book a flight to the furthest inhabitable planet.
I can’t say I’m won over by our surrogate Meera Reed, Jojen Reed, and Bran Stark yet, or some of the lapses in animation that freeze bustling streets and crowded markets, but since both of these are likely so the struggles of our main characters will be spectacular later on, I guess I can forgive the first episode of an action series for not having the depth of the Pacific Ocean. I can hope I won’t be bitterly eating these words like so many overcooked coconut shrimp come a few weeks’ time, but I can’t wait to cover this week to week.