|Three years ago... Back then, we still might've been able to change something.|
|— Armin Arlelt to a crystallized Annie Leonhart|
Three years ago, Paradis Island captured the crew of a Marleyan ship thanks to the assistance of the Anti-Marleyan Volunteers who betray their fellow crew members. With the Volunteers' help, the Scout Regiment learns what Marley's military capabilities are and are able to construct a port of their own. The Volunteers were assembled by Zeke Jaeger, who relays a plan to protect the Eldian people through them. Eren correctly concludes that Zeke has discovered how to work around Karl Fritz's vow to renounce war, and that the two of them together could use the threat of waking the Wall Titans to hold the rest of the world at bay.
In the present, Sasha Braus is mourned by her friends and family, including Nicolo, one of the captured Marleyans, who is now allowed to work as a chef. Wanting to connect with her grieving family, he invites them to eat where he works. Meanwhile, Levi shows Zeke where he will be staying, in a forest of giant trees, and Dot Pyxis has the Anti-Marleyan Volunteers detained in order to keep Zeke on a short leash. He is apologetic that he cannot afford to trust them given how helpful they have been the past few years. Armin is still saddened by the recent raid on Liberio, but feels they had no choice and compares it to Annie Leonhart's experience as he talks to her in her crystal.
Three years ago, a Marleyan ship approached Paradis Island and sent a team ashore. After not hearing from them for two hours, the captain prepares to send two additional teams, but before he can the Attack Titan lifts his ship into the air and carries it ashore. Hange Zoë then welcomes the Marleyan soldiers to Paradis, saying they are already friends with one of the soldiers who arrived as part of the earlier team.
Nicolo is terrified, however, and does not play along, shouting for his captain to go ahead and shoot. Even though the Attack Titan is watching their ship, the Marleyan captain is undaunted and prepares to shoot Hange, but is stopped by Yelena who shoots him first. Half the Marleyan crew turns against the rest, preventing them from interfering, and Yelena accepts Hange's invitation.
As Hange and Yelena meet in a tent, the other Scouts linger outside, distrustful of Yelena and wondering about her motivations. Armin Arlelt is hopeful though, finding Yelena's willingness to share information as lucky for them. Eren Jaeger agrees that they are lucky, because they stopped this landing by pure chance.
Inside the tent, Hange marvels over the mechanics of a pistol and Yelena briefs them on the size and scope of the Marleyan military, including aerial capability. Surprised that Marley could attack from the sky, Hange asks why they took so long to return. Yelena explains that the Pure Titans that had previously been unleashed would have hindered a land assault and that Marley is currently already at war with multiple countries. She is impressed that the people of Paradis seem to have rid themselves of all the Titans surrounding their Walls, and because they captured the Colossal and Female Titans, Marley's enemies took notice and declared war.
Hange guesses that Yelena and Onyankopon must be secret agents that have infiltrated the Marley army from conquered nations, but Yelena corrects them, saying that they were forced to become soldiers for Marley. They were close to losing hope when they met Zeke Jaeger. Yelena describes the moment like meeting a god, and under his command they shot their superiors. They call themselves the Anti-Marleyan Volunteers and their goal is to free the Eldian people.
Back inside the Walls, Hange formally reports Zeke's request to Historia Reiss and the rest of the military. There is immediate resistance, given Zeke's history as a Warrior, but Hange continues their report, relaying the requirements of Zeke's plan to save Eldians; the Founding Titan and a Titan of royal blood. However, he will only reveal the plan itself if his conditions are met.
Eren believes Zeke is telling the truth because the only time he was able to use the Founding Titan's power was when he touched a Titan of royal blood; Dina Fritz. Zeke must have figured out that it is a way to work around the vow renouncing war, and with that power they could wake the millions of Titans sleeping within the Walls.
Levi asks Eren why he did not let them know about this before, and Eren replies that he was protecting Historia, and did not want to risk her being turned into a Titan based on a hunch. He apologizes for the omission and Levi agrees to discuss it later. Hange, on hearing this, realizes that if what Eren says is true, then Zeke's plan holds up. The military is against housing Marleyan soldiers on the island, but Hange says they need the Volunteers to protect Paradis.
Later, the Volunteers use their wireless radio to bait incoming Marleyan ships into a trap, allowing Armin's Colossal Titan to destroy their ships and the Scouts to capture the surviving soldiers who jump and swim to safety.
The Scouts learn that their world is more complex, and though they have enemies across the sea, they have allies as well. Among their discoveries is seafood, prepared by Nicolo, who Yelena describes as a master of Marleyan cooking. Sasha Braus devours multiple lobsters with gusto and declares Nicolo a "food genius," much to his shock.
As Eren practices shooting with a rifle, Armin informs him that the port is almost done, thanks to the help of the Marleyan engineers. It was difficult at first due to the lack of trust, but Armin is encouraged to see that given time, it is possible for both sides to see the other as people and they can understand one another. Eren asks if Armin is able to see Bertholdt Hoover's memories and Armin admits that he can, but has not seen anything helpful. Zeke has less than three years left, and Eren is concerned that they are running out of time. Armin agrees and asks if threatening to use the Rumbling is the only way to protect Eldians. That would make them into the devils that the rest of the world already thinks of them as. He would rather talk first to clear up misconceptions.
Eren, however, does not see any misconceptions; the world is not wrong for seeing them as monsters who can turn into Titans. Mikasa Ackermann says that there are some Marleyans who like them, and begins to suggest that given time there could be more. Eren agrees, but to buy them the time, they need to keep the world at bay.
In the present, ruminating over the loss of Sasha, Armin wonders if there could have been another way. He thought he understood Eren, but does not know anymore. Meanwhile at her grave, Jean Kirschtein and Conny Springer stop Nicolo from being beaten by a member of the Military Police and ask if he is okay. Nicolo is broken up by her death and the two plus Mikasa explain what happened. Jean apologizes for letting his guard down and Nicolo wonders why he bothers since all he did for her was cook food. Conny comforts him, thanking him for letting Sasha eat such wonderful food.
Their gathering is interrupted by the arrival of the Braus family, who have also come to grieve. Nicolo introduces himself to Sasha's father, telling him how much Sasha loved his food, and invites her family to dine where he works, on the house. Her father agrees.
Elsewhere, Zeke and Levi ride a carriage through town, and Zeke notices that the press is calling their recent battle a victory. He calls ignorance a scary thing and asks about meeting Eren. Levi tells him not to be in a hurry, and that they have a fine hotel for him. In Dot Pyxis's office, Yelena has laid out all the Titan serum the Anti-Marleyan Volunteers were able to steal from Marley, and says that Paradis will have trouble reproducing it. However, Pyxis believes that it is enough for them to manage. He wishes he could properly thank them, but with Zeke present he needs to keep him on a short leash and has the Volunteers detained.
The "hotel" for Zeke turns out to be a forest of giant trees devoid of boulders for him to use in his titan form and helpful for omni-directional mobility gear. Zeke asks if he may should Gabi and Falco this natural wonder to which Levi responds that whether they get to see the sights depends upon him. Meanwhile, while she and Falco are being detained in a cell, Gabi vows to kill Eren with a hateful face while biting her right thumb.
At this time, Armin concludes that whether they helped Eren or not, the worst would have happened regardless. Still, they killed a lot of people, including civilians, but unless they destroyed the port in Liberio, Marley would have been able to retaliate. Because of what they did, there is no longer any hope for peace, but they did not have a choice. Armin compares it to what it must have been like for Annie Leonhart as he speaks to her in her crystal.
In his cell, Eren tells himself that the only way to win is to fight.
Currently Publicly Available Information
Formed to investigate Paradis Island after the Operation to Retake the Founding Titan had failed. The first fleet embarked in 851. Over the following three years, approximately 4600 soldiers aboard a total of 32 scout ships and destroyers were sent to Paradis Island. However, not a single one has returned to Marley to this day.
Characters in order of appearance
- This episode was originally planned to air on March 7, 2021 in the United States on the Toonami programming block, but it was pushed back a week following a major snowstorm in Texas which resulted in a shutdown of its power grid, which in effect caused production delays for Funimation's English dub. Adult Swim showed a rerun of the prior week's episode in its place.