Attack on Titan Final Season Part 3: Eren’s idea of Freedom, Choice, and the Question of Free Will

Eren pondering freedom and then falsely experiencing it (Image via Sportskeeda/Studio MAPPA)
Eren pondering freedom and then falsely experiencing it (Image via Sportskeeda/Studio MAPPA)

As Attack on Titan's final season nears its climax, many debates have sprung up over Eren Yeager's philosophies of freedom, choice, and if freedom will be involved. So many questions are being asked, comments are being debated, and things happening as the inevitable battle between Eren and the combined Marley and Paradis force draws near.

The questions, specifically, have a lot to do with Eren Yeager, what's pushed him this far, and what his endgame is. While many a theory has been tossed out from people who haven't read the manga, people who have are pointing out legitimate foreshadowing that's occurring. This article will attempt to do the same, dissecting Attack on Titan's main protagonists' viewpoints on freedom, the nature of free will, and if Eren truly had any choice in what's going on.

Disclaimer: As this article deals with the anime, there will be spoilers for recently released material as well as manga spoilers. Any opinions belong to the author.

Dissecting Eren Yeager's psyche in Attack on Titan's final season

Part one: Eren's ideas of freedom


Throughout Attack on Titan, freedom as a concept is brought up time and again. From characters like Ymir and Krista/Historia, to Sasha, to Eren himself, the concept means different things to different people. For Sasha, it meant having enough food as well as movement outside of the stifling forest she grew up in. For Historia, it meant writing her own story and living her own life.

For Eren, it means being able to leave the walls utterly unrestricted. Of course, over time this idea gets added onto. It was first leaving the walls and eradicating the Titans so that he wouldn't have to see someone else die. Then when Eren gained the Founder Ymir's memory, something snapped. His entire idea of freedom turned into if all our enemies present and future are dead, then we'll be truly free from oppression and fear.

Eren's vow, then and now (Image via Sportskeeda)
Eren's vow, then and now (Image via Sportskeeda)

Basically, it went from killing the inhuman giants that were eating people, destroying homes, and taking countless lives to committing mass genocide on a global scale. It doesn't help that Eren's psyche is completely fractured, as seen in the "Part One: The Rumbling" of Attack on Titan: The Final Season Part 3. Whereas the Rumbling is causing devastation, all Eren sees is a pretty blue sky and clouds.

His ideas of freedom are further twisted by the cycle of hatred and revenge that he finds himself, and all other subjects of Ymir stuck in. Eren thinks of himself as free whilst denying freedom to others, because he doesn't know any better and thinks the world won't leave Eldians and Paradis in peace unless there is no world. Some have theorized this makes Eren a well-intentioned extremist, but his actions and the death toll prove otherwise.

Part two: Choices

War is declared on two fronts (Image via Hajime Isayama/Kondansha)
War is declared on two fronts (Image via Hajime Isayama/Kondansha)

A big part of Attack on Titan is the choices made to get to the point where the conflict is presently happening. Everything from Marley's discrimination against the Eldians to the ancient bloody feud between the Eldian Empire and Marley has been one series of decisions after another that's caused death and bloodshed all around.

It would appear that nobody ever thought to just stop the cycle or slowly end the discrimination, as propaganda is put out constantly and memories are erased to ensure this status quo stays firmly affixed. For Marley's part, they've continued their campaign of slaughter and using the Titans to keep Paradis down.

In Paradis, the Church of the Walls and other nobles and military personnel pre-coups keep everyone in the dark about the truth of the world out of an avaricious need to keep power.

The question asked by Armin (Image via Studio MAPPA)
The question asked by Armin (Image via Studio MAPPA)

Naturally, this loops back around to the present day wherein the main characters will square off. Attack on Titan manga readers will know how this ends, with death and mayhem and a very rushed and last-minute explanation. But to be fair, the anime at least presents certain hints as to what's really going on. The choices that everyone has made have led to this outcome, but has Eren truly had any choice in the matter?

There are more than a few hints to suggest that Eren's choices aren't entirely his own. His own dead-eyed stare as they reached the sea from the end of the "Return to Shiganshina" arc already suggested something was wrong, making the moment of triumph very sinister as Eren thought the fight wasn't over. His actions in the "Marley" arc, in the Paths, and his ruminations about seeing the future point to Eren being more akin to a puppet of fate than an active agent.

Part three: Where does free will factor into this?

Eren when he started vs. when Fate took over (Image via Sportskeeda)
Eren when he started vs. when Fate took over (Image via Sportskeeda)

The question then becomes: how much of Eren's actions throughout Attack on Titan were his own choices? Does the concept of freedom of choice or free will play a role in anything that happens in the series? The latter question is easier to answer. Yes, free will does exist in Attack on Titan and a lot of decisions for both good and evil were made freely - The insanity of the Yeagerists, Zeke Yeager's actions, and the prior coup against the church and military that the Scouts were forced to carry out are all examples.

The former question, on the other hand, is complicated. To simplify it as much as possible, Eren Yeager was in full control of his own destiny and actions prior to sharing the Founder Ymir's memories with Historia during the "Return to Shinganshina" arc. Following that particularly traumatic experience, the manga detailed that Eren's mind was constantly assaulted by the past, present, and future all at once.

For all of Eren's statements and protestations to the contrary, he wasn't "free" at the time of the Rumbling. In actuality, he's trapped in a stagnant state where he's forever moving forward in one direction guided only by the whims of fate and a power he has no control over. Eren basically spells out that the only reason to stop the mass genocide is to kill him.

Now, to say that Attack on Titan makes everything Eren's fault would be more than a little unfair. Nothing that happened up until the counterattack on Marley can truly be blamed on him, and even that is suspect. Now, the journey into the Paths with Zeke where he could truly change things and didn't? That can probably be blamed on him, but again he never started the conflict in the first place. It was already going on long before he was born.

Attack on Titan has many layers to it, and Eren Yeager is just one of them. The series has shown discrimination, the futility of war, and now genocide on a mass scale. It should be obvious that Attack on Titan doesn't endorse any of these horrifying actions, nor does the creator.

The entire point of the whole diatribe on Eren's ideals, choice, and freedom is that the "sins of the father" rhetorical point about the next generation having to pay for their ancestor's sins isn't a good thing. Eren Yeager is a product of the conflict that exploded long before he was born, and it's no wonder he has twisted views on everything.

Quick Links