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I’m Still Getting Over [SPOILER]’s Death in ‘Attack on Titan Final Season Part 3’

Promotional image for Attack on Titan Final Season Part 3

Major spoilers for Attack on Titan The Final Season THE FINAL CHAPTERS Special 1 below!

Attack on Titan is one of those shows where death is a given, and no character is safe. It’s been that kind of show since season one. But as we’ve now hung around the surviving characters for a literal decade, the losses have started to hit even harder than they did initially.

For me, the oomph quality of these hits are backed up by the fact that Attack on Titan has one of biggest and best casts of complex, badass women of not just shounen, but any action series, anywhere. I love them all deeply. I care for them immensely. I root for them with all my heart. I feel a deep kinship with them. My first-ever cosplay was Mikasa. When Sasha died in The Final Season Part 1, I was so upset that a miscommunication with my partner resulted in him thinking one of my real-life friends had died. (Remember, that season aired during winter 2020-2021—the second-coming of COVID.)

All of this is why Hange Zoë’s death in “THE FINAL CHAPTERS Special 1” really hit me hard. Hange’s always been one of my favorite Attack on Titan characters. She’s eccentric and proud of it. She’s one of the very few characters on the show who’s passionate about something other than killing or revenge. She’s smart, empathetic, and a total badass. And she got an eyepatch mid-series. Underneath glasses. GOAT status.

The episode aired a week ago, and I’m still thinking about it. But not necessarily because Hange’s death was an unforeseen tragedy. I hate to admit it, but given Hange’s leadership role and her possession of compassion, I figured she would meet her end before the series did. I had braced myself as best I could.

No, what really gets me about Hange’s death is that it struck me as the closest thing Attack on Titan has ever produced to “a happy death.”

Hange the hero

Levi telling Hange to dedicate her heart during Attack on Titan Final Season Part 3

There’s a history of fatal heroic sacrifices in Attack on Titan. The most notable is Hange’s predecessor as commander of the Survery Corps, Erwin Smith. Erwin, remember, died leading a suicide charge in an ultimately unsuccessful bid to kill the Beast Titan. (Armin sacrificed himself in that same battle, but was ultimately saved by Colossal Titan spinal fluid—yum.) Earlier in the series, Hannes, a Garrison officer first introduced to us as a cowardly drunk, died in a botched but heroic attempt to save Eren from the same titan who killed his mother.

So while there have been heroic sacrifices, those deaths are all the more tragic because none of them resulted in success. None of them—until Hange.

Hange’s sacrifice hits different than any other in Attack on Titan‘s run. Our remaining squad becomes pinned in after fuckwad Floch shows up and shoots holes into fuel tank of the airship everyone had just finished repairing—and just as the Rumbling comes in reach of the hanger. It’s obvious that someone needs to attempt the nearly impossible task of slowing down the Rumbling, to buy time to repair the ship. It’s equally obvious that person will not be coming back.

When Hange declares she’ll slow down the Rumbling, she’s completely confident. Unlike previous sacrifices, there’s not an hint of “this might not work” energy on her. She knows she can do it. And she knows exactly what she’s doing. Hell, she has her own heartbreakingly positive spin on it. Levi intercepts her, and Hange tells him, with a literal sparkle in her goddamn eye, “You understand, right, Levi? My turn’s come at last. I have the urge to make a supremely cool exit right now. Don’t stop what I’ve got going.”

It’s a very Hange thing to say. And it gently pokes fun at all the characters in Attack on Titan who have previously acted all tough before their own “supremely cool exits.” But Hange is unique among these supremely cool exits, because her sacrifice leads to an inarguable success. She single-handedly confronts this horrifying wall of colossal titans that no one else has even attempted to stop. She kills and topples enough of them to buy the squad the time they need to escape. It’s badass as hell.

Hange’s actual cause of death is, however, particularly brutal. Her cape eventually catches fire from the steam produced by the colossal titans’ bodies. She doesn’t bother to try to put it out. She doesn’t want to waste any time. She keeps fighting and lets the fire slowly spread to the rest of her clothes. The fire finally consumes her whole body. From the plane, our remaining contingent watch her lose consciousness and fall out of the air.

It’s heartbreaking. But you have to admit: Hange’s final act is supremely cool.

A favorite meets a triumphant end

Arguably, the most gutting part of this scene—and the reason you can argue this is Attack on Titan‘s version of “a happy death”—comes after the actual fight. Unlike any previous character, we see Hange transition into the afterlife. She wakes up in a ravaged post-Rumbling landscape, beneath a beautiful blue sky, screaming, “The flying boat!”

But Erwin’s there. And he says, “It left. Hange, you fulfilled your role.” Hange watches the plane fly away as she realizes she’s dead. There’s a moment of solemn silence. And then—”I’m tellin’ ya, I really had my hands full after being named commander. With Eren’s idiocy, that is.”

Erwin puts his hand on her back supportively. “Yeah, you had it tough. You can tell us all about it.” The official subtitles don’t include that Erwin’s Japanese line is closer to, “You can take your time telling us about it.” UGH. SNIFF.

Hange succeeded. Even better, we know that she knows she succeeded. In dying, she reunited with her old comrades, who are proud of her and support her. The studio and mangaka are assuring us that Hange’s okay now. No matter how you look at it, her death is the most triumphant Attack on Titan has ever given us. It’s also explicitly shows us that she attains peace. I’m … not … crying …

Hange’s death is also a surefire sign Attack on Titan is closing out. With both Hange and Sasha gone, the series’ only sources of levity are gone, too. The series can’t continue for too long without them, because it’s now tipped inescapably down the “dark with no counterbalance” path. It’s a fitting signal of what remains in this story: the grimmest possible scenario. To stop a massacre from killing everyone on earth, our remaining squad have already had to kill friends. But facing the need to kill their oldest childhood friend or be killed by him instead, while knowing that their new allies’ homeland is already leveled, is the grimmest possible level.

This remaining darkness is all the more reason why painting Hange’s sacrifice as a triumphant hero’s death is so important. I will miss her deeply. But I’m so proud of her.

(Featured image: MAPPA)

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Kirsten (she/her) is a musician, audio person, writer, and nerd. When not talking about One Piece or Zelda (among other anime and games), she's finding surprising ways to play the guitar.