It feels like a lifetime ago when we first saw the colossal titan peer over the wall. Before then, the world was a little simpler, and Eren was just a cheeky kid playing with his friends Mikasa and Armin.
Now, with the final season of Attack on Titan in full swing, Eren has changed. While many agree that there may not have been any good way out for our much-loved characters, Eren is now out on his own, an enemy of the people to who he was once closest.
How did we get here? Why is Eren evil now, after for so long looking like the hero? We take a look at some key moments throughout the story that shaped the show’s protagonist.
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Is Eren the Villain Now?
Attack on Titan’s final season is a great example of seeing morality from different perspectives. It’s true that most of the characters disagree with Eren’s approach, but it would be too simple to label him a villain.
Eren’s plan at the end of Attack on Titan was just one of many that were being explored, and none of them was particularly pleasant. It could be argued that whoever won out between Eren and Zeke would ultimately have been the story’s villain, despite both likely bringing an end to the long-running war.
Ultimately, it’s Eren that gets to enact his plan. So, for the rest of the characters, it’s he that is seen as the villain.
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What Episode Does Eren Turn Evil?
When Eren turns can be debated, as it’s unclear exactly when his plan ‘begins’ in the show. However, the first time he splits from everyone else and announces his final ambitions during his time in the Paths with Zeke, from episodes 78 to 80.
For many fans, the moment of realisation came in episode 79, when he convinced his father through shared memories to kill the Reiss family and seize the Founding Titan.
Still, his actions in the Paths are not a sudden decision but something he thought about long in advance. So, what drove him to force his father to start the chain of events?
1. Voices from the Future (or Past)
One of the biggest and most popular theories concerns Eren’s conversation with Ymir Fritz when in the Paths with Zeke.
When Eren convinces Ymir to give him the Founding Titan’s powers, he mentions that she may have sown the seeds for their meeting much earlier.
Eren: “Were you the one who led me here? You’ve been waiting this whole time. For 2,000 years… for someone.”
Considering that the episodes before this centred around manipulating memories, it’s not unbelievable to imagine Eren or Ymir, at some point, fed similar messages to the young Eren Jeager.
In fact, some think one of the opening scenes of the anime, where Eren awakes from a nightmare under a tree, might be the moment his world-ending plan is fed to him!
2. Driven by Rage
Eren is a very angry character, as I think we can all understand. The first few seasons are defined by his screaming outburst and bloodthirsty desire to kill all the titans.
Rage does two things for Eren. Firstly, it pushes him into dangerous situations, ultimately helping him and others to achieve what they do in the show. Secondly, it separates him from everyone else – with anger comes a single-mindedness that puts his ambitions above his relationships with others.
While he has certainly mellowed in the final season, it’s unlikely that anger has gone away.
There are many moments in the series where his anger boils over and threatens to become destructive. Many people have pointed to his fight with Annie as the Attack and Female Titans, where he screams that he’ll kill the world when he emerges victorious.
Perhaps the more poignant moment, however, is at the end of Season 3. Looking over the sea is a lifelong dream for him and his friends, and many of the other characters celebrate. However, Eren, in his tired voice that becomes common in the final season, looks out and asks if everyone beyond the sea needs to be killed for them to be free.
3. The Reluctant Hero
Throughout the story, Eren’s once simple goal of eliminating the titans becomes much more complex. It’s not just a case of cutting through titan napes; there are whole other nations hellbent on their destruction, and other people with titan abilities.
Perhaps more important than that, though, is his first encounters with other titan powers through Annie, Reiner and Bertholdt. Until then, he accepts being an important part of a shared ambition, but that revelation makes everything less clear.
After his interactions with Annie, Reiner and Bertholdt, and his newfound knowledge of the world, including his father’s lies and Mikasa’s Ackermann bloodline, you could forgive the boy for not wanting to trust anyone ever again.
After all this, Eren may see himself as an unlucky hero, cursed with a power that only he can use to save others, even if it leads to his death. It’s a price he’s willing to pay if it means his friends can live in peace.