The previous chapter of Attack on Titan hinted at Zeke’s past and motivations, and now we got the reveal of both of those with Chapter 114, “The Only Salvation.”
Most of the chapter is devoted to a flashback of Zeke’s childhood and the emotional abuse he suffered from his parents, along with him finding a new father figure in the previous Beast Titan, Tom Xaver, and how this all contributed to his motives.
“The Only Salvation” did a great job of making me sympathize with Zeke after seeing the treatment he has been subjected to all his life, especially in childhood.
Just like Reiner, Zeke is revealed to have been the weakest of the Warrior candidates when he enlisted.
He was also subjected to attempted brainwashing from both sides of his family.
Zeke’s parents wanted him to believe Eldia is a good thing while his grandparents wanted him to believe all of Marley’s propaganda.
Because of how both sides constantly tried to influence his decisions and worldview, Zeke rarely experienced love from his family in his childhood.
The way his parents, Dina and Grisha, treated him is borderline emotionally abusive.
Upon seeing that Zeke is weaker than the other Warrior candidates, Grisha storms off with Dina in pursuit, leaving Zeke to cry as he watches his parents leave him.
This would have cast Grisha in an extremely negative light had his past tragic experiences not been brought up in the chapter.
We see how the death of his sister influenced Grisha to the point of becoming like his father and neglecting his own son, which inevitably leads to his downfall.
So, Zeke did not receive any kind of love from his family and was in desperate need of a parental figure.
Enter stage right, the surprisingly kind Tom Xaver.
I had an idea coming into the chapter that Xaver would be working with Eren Kruger to manipulate Zeke and Grisha into following their plan, so it was surprising, in a good way, to see that Xaver was just a kind man who wanted what was best for Zeke.
And after seeing Zeke suffer so much emotional abuse from his family, it made me happy to see Xaver making it his personal mission to look out for him.
Xaver is also very likeable because of this and, even though he will probably not be featured after this chapter, he is still a character I will remember because of his personality and tragic backstory.
Xaver is basically Marley’s version of Hange, with him wanting to know the Titans’ secrets, and he has one of the most tragic backstories of the series.
He tells Zeke that he fell in love with and married a Marleyan woman, who did not know he was an Eldian, and had a child with her.
When his wife found out about him being Eldian, she killed herself and her child, once again highlighting the strong prejudice and hatred Marleyans have towards Eldians.
This made Xaver want to die, but in a “luxurious” way, which is why he became a Warrior.
However, then he met Zeke and saw his dead son in him, and, upon knowing his backstory, this is apparent when looking at how the two interact.
The scene where Xaver convinces Zeke to turn in his parents is the most emotional moment of the chapter.
I could feel Zeke’s pain when he said he would remember Xaver, even if he is turned into a Titan.
The following three panels of Xaver’s face are very striking because we can see what he is thinking just by looking at him.
In the first panel he is horrified by the thought that this might happen to Zeke, then in the second panel Xaver realizes he must convince Zeke to turn in his parents to keep him safe, and in the final panel we can see him accepting this.
These panels show how greatly Xaver cared for Zeke just through visuals and make him a very sympathetic character.
After the scene of Zeke turning in his parents, we get a flashforward of an older him playing catch with Xaver, before he is set to inherit his Beast Titan power.
Here, Xaver admits he has learned that the Founding Titan can change Eldian body compositions.
Influenced by the emotional abuse he suffered, and an event seen at the beginning of the chapter when Zeke and his family were yelled at by a racist Marleyan that they should stop having children, Zeke’s motives are revealed by what he says next.
He wonders if the Founding Titan could be used to sterilize all of the Eldians so there would be no more Titans.
This appears to be Zeke’s ultimate goal to bring peace to the world because it will stop Titans from killing people but also stop Marley from being able to wage war with them.
However, if this is his true motivation, then it is highly unlikely that Eren is on Zeke’s side.
Eren has always been about freedom and would not agree with sterilizing all Eldians.
Zeke seems to think Eren is on his side though, based on earlier chapters, so Eren is almost certainly manipulating him.
Either way, what “The Only Salvation” revealed about Zeke made me sympathize with him and gave me a greater understanding of his character.
The flashback was not all perfect, sadly, because I do think Zeke’s backstory is a little too similar to Reiner’s but, other than that, it was pretty great.
But this is not where the chapter ends, oh no.
After Zeke’s flashback we are taken back to the present with Zeke stuck as Levi’s captive, being continually tortured so he cannot transform.
It is here that the most shocking moment of the chapter happens, when Zeke, in an act of desperation, pulls his neck down hard, triggering the thunder spear impaled in his stomach.
The chapter ends with the explosion sending both Levi and two halves of Zeke flying, leaving us to wonder if either survived.
In all honesty though, I think both are still alive.
Zeke has a lot more story to give and Isayama makes a point of showing the front half of his body flying away from the explosion where it can possibly regenerate.
As for Levi, if he was going to die here, Isayama would have shown his dead body but all we get is a shot of him being thrown away from the explosion.
This said, he might have lost a limb because we do not get a clear shot of one of his arms and one of his legs, and there does seem to be a lot of blood trailing from Levi.
If Levi does lose a body part, then it is unlikely that we will see the stand off between him and Eren many of us have been hoping for, which is disappointing.
So, in conclusion, I am fairly certain both have survived.
Sure, it is pretty contrived for both to have survived the explosion at such close proximity but Reiner survived having his head blown off in the Shiganshina Arc so anything is possible.
Overall, I really enjoyed Chapter 114, “The Only Salvation.”
It made me finally understand Zeke’s motives and has me very excited to see what will happen to him and Levi next.