WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 4, Episode 8 of Attack on Titan, "Assassin's Bullet," now streaming on Crunchyroll, Funimation, Amazon Prime and Hulu.
Season 4, Episode 8 of Attack on Titan shatters the hearts of fans everywhere with the sudden and unexpected death of Sasha Blouse, one of the anime's most beloved supporting characters since the series' beginning. Gabi Braun, one of the Marleyan Warrior candidates, sneaks aboard the Survey Corps' retreating airship and opens fire with a rifle, immediately shooting Sasha.
The shock of this is felt not only by viewers but by the Survey Corps themselves, but Jean and Eren's reactions, in particular, are extremely important and revealing when compared to the rest of the Scouts.
Jean's reaction to Sasha's death is entirely appropriate. In the scene before Sasha's death, she shares a heartwarming moment with Jean and Conny. Conny reminds them that with them by his side, he can fight until the end. Although Sasha and Jean don't really comment sincerely, it's obvious that they feel the same. This makes it especially painful for the two of them when Sasha is taken down. Jean's initial reaction is strangely controlled, but he's clearly in an enormous amount of pain.
But it's how he reacts next that's key. The Scouts approach him with the apprehended Marleyans, Gabi and Falco. After beating the absolute tar out of them, the Scouts' suggestion is to simply toss them out the airship to their deaths. Even in the aftermath of losing one of his closest and oldest friends, Jean disapproves. He keeps a cool head, despite his pain, and points out that if they toss mere children to their death, the cycle of killing won't ever stop. His viewpoint represents the real theme of Season 4 and of Attack on Titan in general. Killing doesn't fix killing, whether it's Titans or humans.
Eren's reaction to Sasha's death, while different, is no less important, and may even bring fans a glimmer of hope for the protagonist. At first, when Jean brings the intruders to Captain Levi and the rest of the Survey Corps leaders, upon hearing the news that Sasha was shot, Eren simply has a blank stare, as if he's unaffected by it. This holds true to his demeanor in Season 4 so far as he ventures down a dark, relatively heartless path.
But when Conny comes in and announces that Sasha has died, Eren laughs at hearing that her last words were "Meat." This triggers a series of flashbacks in his mind about Sasha. His laughter turns to a grimace and heartbreak is visible in his eyes, especially since Jean mentions Sasha's death is really Eren's fault. Up until this point, Eren Yeager has spent Season 4 being apathetic, ruthless and uncaring. His reaction to Sasha's death is the closest he's been to his old self in a while. Maybe Sasha's death will inspire him to become a better version of himself again.
Both Jean and Eren's reactions to Sasha's death might possibly indicate the future conflicts the Survey Corps will face. Will Sasha's death destroy the morale of the Scouts now that they blame Eren for it? Will they even want to cooperate with his plans anymore?
Jean seems to embody the real moral of Attack on Titan, and in an ideal world, he could show Eren the right path. But considering how far Eren has already gone, is it too late to redeem himself?