The world is hell, as Armin observes. Eat or be eaten. This is the theme of the episode, which is beaten into us over and over again. Fight or the titans will eat you. Fight or your parents will be killed and you’ll be kidnapped. The strong eat the weak. Praying mantises eat butterflies. Humans eat chickens. Titans eat humans. Humans kill other humans.
Yet despite this depressing theme, I think the takeaway message from the episode was a more optimistic look on human nature. Sure, it’s fight or die. But no one has to fight alone. Armin’s friend offers him a hand up. Armin is there when Hannah’s boyfriend dies. Eren is there to save Mikasa. Mikasa is there to save Eren. Mikasa saves the villagers from the greedy merchant. Even the kidnappers have each other. No one needs to fight alone.
Up until this episode, I thought that in the past Mikasa was some badass and Eren was kind of a wimp. This episode’s most shocking twist, of course, is to reveal that Eren was actually even more badass than Mikasa. He went and assaulted three murderers’ stronghold single-handedly, murdering two of them? When he was what, eight years old?! Shit. I hope he isn’t really dead.
And to think it was actually Eren that turned Mikasa into this crazy fighter. It’s interesting how her muscles suddenly seemed to lose their limits and her toes became strong enough to break the floorboards. Her run to stab the guy in the back reminds me a lot of how that armored titan attacked the gate in the beginning. I wonder if Mikasa’s sudden burst in strength has something to do with the nature of the titans?
After this episode I’m much more sold on Mikasa and Eren’s relationship as well. An eternal friendship born out of a joint killing spree. Suddenly everything between the two of them is magically a hundred times more interesting. This is one instance of incest I could actually ship. (Although I am perfectly happy with a platonic relationship.)