WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Chapter #137 of Attack on Titan, "Titans," by Hajime Isayama, Dezi Sienty and Alex Ko Ransom, now available in English from Kodansha.
As the final season of the TV adaptation grips anime fans everywhere, the Attack on Titan manga is merely a handful of pages away from its own conclusion. Chapter #137 appears to bring the series' final -- and grandest -- battle to a literal explosive finish, with at least one major casualty and a few other key characters' lives left hanging in the balance.
That casualty is Zeke Jeager, arguably the worst of the two evils the Jeager brothers came to represent. But it's unclear if his younger half-brother, Eren, the man who liberated both Ymir and the Founding Titan from their supernatural shackles to enact the Rumbling, has met the same fate.
Zeke's status had been somewhat uncertain since he made contact with Eren's blown-off head in Chapter #120. After yet another deadly encounter with Levi, Zeke was resurrected by the Founder, Ymir, and placed on a direct path to help Eren activate the Founding Titan's power. Catching Eren's head, both brothers were taken to the Path where they fought over command of Ymir, who'd been trapped there for centuries. Eren was the one to win her over, bringing him back to the physical world in the Founding Titan's body to unleash the tens of millions of Wall Titans on Paradis on the rest of the world. Meanwhile, Zeke took Ymir's place as the Path's new hostage where he's been ever since.
Armin's near-death experience was revealed in Chapter #136 to have lead him there also. Following on from this his conversation with Zeke in Chapter #137 is one of the most enlightening in Attack on Titan's history, as the eldest Jeager brother speculates on the true, scientific nature of the Titans and ponders the very meaning of existence. It's clear that his contempt for his own race extends to humanity in general, whom he sees little purpose in other than a desire to "multiply," like any other life form. Even when Armin reminds him, passionately, that there's a lot more to life than simply existing until death, Zeke refuses to renounce his original "euthanization" plot -- intended to bring about the end of the Eldian race and, by default, the Titans.
The short but meaningful discussion only compounds something we've known for some time: that Armin, whose faith in humanity has never wavered, is Attack on Titan's truest hero, and Zeke, who never had any to begin with, its worst villain. In the end, Zeke gets exactly what he's had coming to him. When he and Armin figure out a way to free themselves from the Path -- along with some of the past Titan inheritors they knew in life -- Zeke wastes no time in putting himself directly in Levi's crosshairs, ready to meet his end. The iconic Scout Captain decapitates the Beast Titan's final holder with the swift and clean precision he's known for, putting an end to their own personal war at long last.
After Jean triggers the explosives Pieck set at Eren's nape, Reiner's Armored Titan prevents the Founding Titan's spine -- the source of all Titan life -- from reattaching itself to Eren's head as Gabi observed the last time the two were separated. With the Rumbling halted, Armin is then left to play his part, transforming into the Colossal Titan one last time in the hope that the force of it will finish the job, but not before issuing a tearful good-bye to his oldest friend.
Unfortunately, as the chapter ends on this cliffhanger, readers will have a nervous month-long wait now to find out who makes it out alive. Mikasa, Levi, Annie, Jean, Conny, Gabi and Peick escape safely on Falco's Jaw Titan, but Armin, Reiner and most importantly, Eren, have yet to be confirmed alive or dead. Considering the size of the blast and the height the four of them are at, it would be a surprise if any of them survive -- especially Eren, who, following his first beheading, may have only been kept alive by the Founding Titan and Ymir's power alone. We're in Attack on Titan's endgame now, after all, and the price of victory is going to be higher than ever.