WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 4, Episode 14 of Attack on Titan, "Savagery," now streaming on Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
Even out of all the actual explosiveness on Attack on Titan's final season, few moments can compare to the quiet devastation of Eren telling Mikasa that he's "always hated" her. Episode 14 is titled "Savagery," and it's easy to point to Eren and Armin's fisticuffs and Levi's slaughter of his Titan-turned comrades in the woods as the reason for this. But really, Eren's words -- much like Zeke's Beast Titan shout -- are as volatile as any physical manifestation of savagery.
Episode 13 ended with Eren dropping by, unexpectedly, to Nicolo's restaurant to talk to Mikasa and Armin while his Jeagerist cult took Hange and others prisoner. What has become his usual dead-eyed stare, coupled with a cut across his palm threatening to unleash his Titan transformation, were enough of an indication that this was not a friendly visit. But just how unfriendly things were about to get most viewers would not have been prepared for. And yet, despite the conviction behind his cutting words, how seriously should we take Eren?
Eren's conversation with his two childhood friends boils down to two interesting revelations. Having gotten a far greater understanding of Titan history and mechanics from Zeke, Eren explains Armin's sudden fascination with the crystallized Annie as being a remnant of the Colossal Titan's previous holder, Bertolt, who had feelings for his fellow Warrior. By digging through Bertolt's memories, Eren claims Armin's loyalty has been compromised. This one rings true. (The question of whether or not something similar has befallen Eren, who has not one but three Titans knocking around inside him, goes unasked.)
But this is overshadowed by what he then drops on Mikasa concerning her Ackerman bloodline. One of the most mysterious and rare families in Attack on Titan, we knew already that Ackermans are as strong as some fully-fledged Titans, immune to becoming them, and persecuted on Paradis for standing against the Eldian royal family. Eren adds one more supposedly missing piece: as Ackermans were bred to be the protectors of kings and queens, they have a built-in loyalty to their designated charges. Mikasa's was activated when Eren commanded her to fight back against her attackers on the day they met as children. This unwittingly made Eren the thing Mikasa was genetically programmed to protect. In other words, the thing Eren claims to "hate" the most -- a slave.
Other than Zeke's own credibility as a Titan expert (thanks to Tom Ksaver), Eren's evidence is the fact Mikasa suffers frequent headaches incentivizing her to protect him, demonstrated moments later by her preventing Armin from striking Eren out of anger. It certainly appears conclusive, but then again, it's also easy to sell a lie by weaving a bit of truth into it. We know how much Mikasa adores Eren, and she has lightning-fast instincts. The headaches could easily be circumstantial; stress-related.
Skeptically, it's also hard to believe how much knowledge Zeke could have considering the Ackerman line seems to be exclusive to Paradis. When would he, Tom or anyone else from Marley have had a chance to study them? Their Titan knowledge comes first-hand, from possessing Shifters and turning Eldians into Pure Titans. Do they have a secret Ackerman test subject stashed away somewhere?
Beyond this, it's hard to believe that Eren would find it more important to take a pit stop like this before seeking out Zeke. Even if he really has disowned his two closest friends, why is it so important for them to know that? If Eren had always been this villainous, you could say it's in-character. But as flashbacks have reminded us, it wasn't that long ago that Eren told Armin and Mikasa -- among the other former Cadets he trained with -- that they were the most important people to him. Sure, Zeke's purported information might have caused his brother to question his relationship with them, but you'd think he'd be smarter than to take such a master manipulator at his word.
Eren might not be as cerebral as Armin but he's not stupid. Tactically, it could be argued he's simply trying to inflict some psychological damage on two of his biggest threats on the eve of battle: Armin as the Colossal Titan and Mikasa as one of the military's best fighters. But by that logic, why not continue to leave them in the dark about his state of mind? Making them even less endeared to him -- to the point that Armin, of all people, would throw a punch his way -- only makes them more inclined to hurt or even kill him, which is non-sensical. Eren's not the posturing type, after all. Instead, the more likely answer is that Eren, as strange as it sounds, is trying to soften the blow.
Everything that Eren has done, from the start of the Liberio raid to now, have been the actions of a lone wolf, not a team player. He knows the path he has to walk, for whatever reason, is one he can only do with Zeke, and that his former allies will try to stop him. Therefore, "Savagery" is all about being cruel to be kind. By pushing the people he loves the most away, Eren might be deliberately making the tough choices they have to make all the easier.