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.
The final season of any action-oriented TV show is almost duty-bound to cull its main cast. Attack on Titan's newest episode, "Assassin's Bullet," proves the anime will honor this expectation, with a long-time member of the Survey Corps -- and a firm fan-favorite -- being suddenly gunned down. Episode 8 of Season 4 is the last time we'll see Sasha Blouse in action, and her loss not only mars the Scouts' incredible victory Marley, but it also warns the audience not to assume that any member of the series' main cast is safe at any given moment.
This isn't to say, of course, that Attack on Titan fans aren't more than used to the anime's characters barely making it out of each battle with their lives. Armin Alert alone has escaped the jaws of what seemed like certain death twice over the course of the series (once quite literally). Meanwhile, central characters like Bertolt, Ymir, and most notably, Erwin Smith, have met untimely ends in the line of duty. But Sasha's death is an especially cruel one, even by creator Hajime Isayama's standards.
In Episode 8, the Scouts have nothing more to do in Marley's Internment Zone than make a hasty retreat in their airship. Though Reiner stops Eren from eating Porco Galliard and adding the Jaw Titan to his collection of Shifter powers, he and the Scouts have gotten more than what they needed from their enemy already. Eren has claimed the War Hammer Titan as his prize, along with putting the fear of, well, him into his enemies; meanwhile, Levi is revealed to have smuggled Zeke onto their getaway vehicle -- who we learn helped the Islanders coordinate this entire attack.
But an incensed Gabi simply cannot let them get away scot-free. Despite Falco's efforts to stop her, she shoots Lobov of the Survey Corps and uses his dangling ODM wire to ascend to the airship with Falco reluctantly in-tow. As the Scouts, post-victory, have their guard down, no one notices the two kids sneak through the open door until Gabi shoots Sasha through the chest from behind. Just to make sure the death really stings, moments before, an elated Conny had embraced her and Jean and sighed with relief that they'd made it through another fight. He may as well have signed her death warrant with that sweet temptation of fate.
Sasha doesn't get to go out in a blaze of glory as Erwin did. Instead, Attack on Titan does what it does best, highlighting the randomness of violence and the ongoing problem of a world driven by perpetual cycles of revenge. And naturally, a character as carefree as Sasha would be the first major casualty of the current season, setting the tone for things to come.
Though Gabi is too young and angry (rightfully so, it should be noted) to realize it, what she's done is a pretty serious offense, even from a military standpoint: opening fire on an enemy who is retreating is at best, cowardly, and at worst, just plain murderous. As it's likely too late for either she or Falco to be taken back home, they're now at the mercy of people whom they've just pissed off in the most extreme way imaginable. Despite all her training, Gabi didn't think her actions through for one second. Zeke simply labels them as "miscalculations" in his plan, implying he won't stand up for them, either. In other words, the young Warriors may be about to get a taste of what the older generation faced almost a decade ago: venturing into the heart of an unknown world.
Sasha's death will be hard to swallow for long-time fans but it has just opened up a very interesting avenue for some of Attack on Titan's new characters. Whether or not Gabi finds atonement or further punishment on the Island is something that, in retrospect, could add meaning to the hole she just blew through the hearts of the Survey Corps.