Traitors. Traitors! How could could Reiner and Bartholdt betray mankind? How could they start all this destruction that led to so many deaths, including those close to the cadets?
Episode 32 starts with a bang (and the animation and CGI stay awesome throughout) as the titan shifters collide. Eren Jaeger is of course especially angry about the revelation that Reiner is the Armored Titan and Bertholdt the Colossal. Their trespasses led to the death of Eren’s mother, which caused him to vow vengeance upon the titans. Eren is further infuriated because he admired Reiner so greatly, almost like he would a big brother. The reveal is not only shocking because of all the evil the two have caused; it’s also very personal.
I think we as viewers are supposed to be seeing through Eren’s eyes. He’s our primary hero, after all, and the shocking moments in Attack on Titan are so important to the series that if these past two episodes aren’t building wild and powerful emotions within us, they’re failing. We have to feel like Eren. And from seeing the reaction on Twitter and Instagram, where users have been referring to Reiner and Bertholdt as “traitors,” too, for the past two weeks, it seems the series has done the trick.
It’s strange then, to note, that Reiner and Bertholdt are not in fact, traitors – not at all. They are enemies.
Reiner and Bertholdt are spies. They are infiltrators. They very clearly (well almost certainly) did not decide to move over to the Titans, feeling that living as Titans would be better than being humans; they are on a side that is opposed to humankind, though for what reason, we don’t know (unless you’re a manga reader).
I’m reminded of the first time I met a certain guy who would become a member at my church. He was the center of attention and I could tell he loved it. I immediately disliked him; I thought he was all about himself, and everything I saw from him the next few months confirmed by initial judgment. Then one day, while riding the inter-campus bus, he boarded and sat next to me. We had a quick conversation, and I started to understand that maybe I had judged him wrong. We became closer, and two years later, he was a groomsman at my wedding.
Beyond the lessons of not judging a book by its cover (and learning not to jurge people at all), I learned about perspective. I saw my friend originally through judgmental, conservative, and jealous eyes; I didn’t see the real him. I didn’t take the time to try.
Eren is pressed for time when the great reveal is made in the show (he’s also just a teenager), so I don’t blame him for not thinking the situation through, nor for finding motivation through simple means rather than working out the complicated truth. And with Reiner and Bertholdt, after all the destruction they’ve caused, maybe their motivation and reason doesn’t matter.
Indeed, sometimes understanding another’s perspective doesn’t change the situation; in fact, it often doesn’t. But there’s one thing I know it does – when I’m trying to be a man of character, a man who truly loves others and is open to individuals of all different beliefs and backgrounds, I can come closer to being that kind of person. Without perspective, all I end up seeing is me, and that’s a poor view indeed.