With the Paths storyline of Chapters 119 to most of Chapter 123 coming to an end at Episode 21, Episode 23 of Attack on Titan’s final season, “Thaw”, kicks off with a cut to the present as our main characters and the world at large reacts to the Rumbling.
Directed by Hidekazu Hara and Kiō Igarashi, “Thaw” begins with the typical episode recap, before showing the reactions the Eldians in Liberio are having to Eren’s declaration about the Rumbling.
Among these Eldians is Annie’s father, a fitting choice concerning that the episode ends with the twist of her return.
Once we get these Eldians’ reactions, the scene then cuts to Reiner and Gabi, who are retreating from where Wall Maria used to be, as the Wall Titans are now marching.
Falco is nowhere to be seen and Reiner realizes that he was taken by Connie and Jean, before despairing that Eren will destroy the world, which hits him hard in particular because his original goal was to save it.
As Gabi leads him into a house to rest, Reiner suggests she finds Pieck and escape, telling her they have no hope of stopping Eren, before falling unconcious.
Gabi, however, is unwilling to accept this and, in a scene very similar to one where Eren told himself in the mirror to “fight”, Gabi also ties her hair up into a ponytail, followed by her declaring that she is coming for Falco.
The boy in question has indeed been captured by Jean, Connie, Mikasa and Armin, who are now all struggling with their conflicting thoughts about the Rumbling.
Jean states that he believes the people of the outside world brought this all upon themselves, yet his tone and wording highlight his confliction greatly.
Armin is much more forward with his doubts, declaring that Eren is going too far, which leads to Jean stating that Eren is committing this unprecedented genocide for them.
Before they can appropriately deal with the inner conflict this brings them, they notice that Zeke’s Titans are now on a rampage.
As they move to deal with them, Mikasa asks Jean what he intends to do with Falco.
Jean suggests feeding Falco to Commander Pyxis so he can come back as a Shifter but Connie interrupts, insisting his mother be the one who is saved, since there won’t need to be any fighting anymore because of the Rumbling.
An argument ensues when Armin suggests letting Falco live, so they can use him to negotiate with Reiner and the other Warriors, but they are again interrupted, this time by an attacking Titan, giving Connie the chance to kidnap Falco to save his mother.
And so begins what I think is one of the worst subplots in all of Attack on Titan, but the awful way that storyline unfolds is not for a few episodes at this point.
As Jean, Mikasa and Armin decide to focus on killing the Titans in Shiganshina, since there aren’t any walls left to contain them, the episode changes focus to Sasha’s family, who are fleeing from a Titanized Nile.
Kya ends up hitting her head and falling down some stairs, with Nile going right after her and no Sasha to save her this time.
It is at that moment that Gabi rushes in, freeing Nile from the misery of being a Titan, as she kills him with the anti-Titan rifle, saving Kya, who then sees her as Sasha.
This symbolic moment where Kya sees her sister in her killer is a controversial one in the fandom but one I like because of how it follows through on Gabi’s redemption.
Kya pays Gabi back in full for her rescue, covering for her when Jeagerists show up and recognize Gabi as the girl from Marley.
Niccolo and the rest of Sasha’s family also support Gabi, leading to the Jeagerists leading them to saftey.
During this time, Gabi and Kya have a heart to heart, where Gabi admits that she killed people for praise and that is her devil.
Niccolo follows this up by saying both he and Kya have devils within them as well, and the only way to escape them is to escape the forest, just like Mr Braus said.
Meanwhile, one of the soldiers who beat up Keith Shadis is about to be eaten by a Titan when who should come to rescue him but the man he beat up.
Shadis then heroically orders the trainees to follow him into battle, as the returning ost Barricades plays.
I was not expecting this theme to play this episode but I think it works fantastically.
As for Shadis, he is a character whose storyline I am excited to see play out in the final season because of how much I liked it in the manga.
One thing that I think is a downgrade from the manga, however, is the adaptation of the paneling in the next scene, where Mikasa kills a Titan that was going to eat Yelena.
In the manga, the shot cuts between Yelena’s horrified eyes and Mikasa’s determined ones, before revealing that Mikasa has killed the Titan that was about to kill Yelena, which then crashes into the building.
In the anime, however, the impact of this impressive paneling is lessened signficantly, with some of the shots being too quick, and new shots being placed in, like one of the Titan about to eat Yelena before Mikasa kills it.
We then see Jean leading the charge against the Titans in Shiganshina, with Shadis assisting as he and the trainees lead various Titans to where they will be easier to kill.
However, these are not just ordinary Titans but former comrades, a tragedy which becomes clear when Armin notices Commander Pyxis among the Titans and then puts him out of his misery, thanking him for helping them get this far and wishing that he rest in peace.
As the fight progresses, we see Mikasa save Louise, only for her admirer to be distracted by this and then get hit by a thunder spear explosion, her fate now unknown.
With the Titans in Shiganshina all killed, the survivors rest, with Onyankopon coming to Jean and reflecting on how his homeland will be destroyed.
Rubbing this painful moment in for him further is when everyone’s least favourite nationalist (or favourite depending on who you ask) Floch arrives with a smug look on his face to announce the Eldian Empire’s revival, placing Yelena, Onyankopon, and the rest of the volunteers under arrest.
As this is happening, Armin and Mikasa are led into a basement by Mr Braus and meet with Gabi, who begs them to give Falco back, only to be horrified when she learns what Connie plans to do with him.
She then begs further, asking if Eren can return Connie’s mother to normal on his own since he also removed Reiner’s Armour.
This causes Armin to realize that Eren removed all Titan hardening, meaning that Annie must be free.
Sure enough, the scene then cuts to Annie, now free from her crystal after 56 episodes, bringing an end to the episode.
Overall, “Thaw” is a great adaptation of Chapter 124, bringing back Annie well and depicting the fight in Shiganshina amazingly, with the return of the excellent ost Barricades.
“Thaw” saw the beginning of the Connie and Falco subplot, the storyline where Connie attempts to feed Falco to his mother to turn her back into a human.
As I said in the spoiler free section, this is one of my least favourite subplots of the entire series. The only one I can think of that is worse is the atrocious pregnancy subplot Historia recieved (if you can even call that degrading treatment of her character a subplot, since it never amounted to anything).
One of the big reasons for my dislike of the Connie subplot is how pointless it seems in the grand scheme of things.
The end of the world is literally happening and we are wasting time on Connie’s mother.
This has me hoping that the anime might make some changes to improve this subplot but I wouldn’t hold my breath, since this episode adapted a single chapter with no significant alterations.
The only slightly significant change I could find in this episode was that we actually see Louise get injured during the fight with the Titans in Shiganshina.
This was a nice addition because in the manga we don’t see her get injured, just the aftermath, so this bridges the gap well.
Unfortunately, at the end of that gap is another scene I do not like, the one where Mikasa completley ignores Louise dying in front of her and just wants her scarf back, making her extremely unlikeable.
Yeah, it’s safe to say I’m not looking forward to seeing the adaptation of Chapter 126, which is in my top five least favourite chapters of the series.
Oh, well, at least the adaptation of Chapter 125 “Sunset” was really good, and I will be sure to review that before Episode 24 is released.