It’s the Alliance vs the Yeagerists!
Episode 26 finally gives us plenty of action, something that we’ve been waiting for in the last few episodes. However, it is in the moral dillemma present here that makes it dark and somewhat depressing.
First, the joint Alliance of Marley and the Survey Corps have to perform a daring rescue operation to save the Azumabito and their flying boat. But this does pose one huge problem: the fact that the Survey Corps would have to fight and kill their former comrades. Naturally, Armin and co would initially have misgivings about the plan.
Fortunately, the Marleyans are there. And in a shocking twist, Magath finally realizes that the cycle of hatred and violence really never ends, and that Marley had caused as much suffering as Eldia did in the past. It is an emotional scene when he apologizes to everyone, including the Warrior unit, for everything that Marley did. However, his point still remains: they still have to fight and kill in order to save the world. An interesting part here is how, much like Gabi, he humbles himself to beg the Survey Corps to commit another act of violence in order to protect the innocents.
But Armin still refuses, even when Reiner and Annie volunteered to take the brunt of the fighting; after all, they have had their fair share of killing Paradis soldiers. And in the case of Annie, we know she wouldn’t lose sleep over slaughtering the Yeagerists.
Thus, a compromise is made combining Armin’s plan with that of Marley. The rescue operation goes underway then with Armin and Connie trying to trick Floch into releasing the Azumabito and the flying boat. Unfortunately, Floch is far from stupid and realizes that something is wrong. This just proves why he became the leader of the Yeagerists. He is not just a capable fighter but a cunning and intelligent commander as well.
Eventually, the plan collapses from various factors. And while Mikasa leads a unit to rescue Kiyomi, Reiner and Annie take point as they begin their assault. It is so nostalgic seeing the two using their old ODM gear to transform into their Titan forms, which could be interpreted as them fully embracing their Eldia roots.
Meanwhile, things are not looking good for Armin and Connie who find themselves in front of two of their former comrades: Daz and Samuel. The scene is really heartbreaking as both sides never want to harm each other, but circumstances force them to take sides. It is eerily similar to how Marco met his end, especially with Samuel’s desperate pleas as Connie grapples with him. But as Connie tearfully admits, someone has to stain their hands. In the end, he has to kill his friends for the sake of the greater good, and the episode ends with his anguished cries.
Overall, episode 26 is a roller coaster ride. And by the end of it, watchers will be left with nothing but depression and pity for our beloved characters.
Episode score: 10/10.