WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Chapter #138 of Attack on Titan, "A Long Dream," by Hajime Isayama, Dezi Sienty and Alex Ko Ransom, now available in English from Kodansha.
The Attack on Titan manga may only be a single chapter away from its conclusion, but creator Hajime Isayama still finds a way -- in the series' penultimate installment -- to twist the knife at the very last moment. Following the successful halting of Eren's Rumbling in Chapter #137, readers may have been expecting the following one, "A Long Dream," to be a matter of our heroes brushing the dust of war from their shoulders and picking up the pieces.
This, sadly, couldn't be further from the truth. Not only is Titan Eren still alive -- despite taking two hefty explosions from a bomb and the Colossal Titan's transformation, respectively -- but so is the shining centipede that lived in his body. As the previous chapter revealed, this strange, parasitic creature has secretly been the root of the Titans all along; the thing that first gave Ymir the power to live again and form a world-dominating empire. And it certainly won't go down without a fight. In Chapter #138, the Titan progenitor still has one last, desperate card to play to ensure its own survival -- and two of Attack on Titan's longest-serving heroes bear the brunt of it, as well as one newer character.
As Reiner's Armored Titan, Armin's Colossal Titan and Eren's new Titan form find their feet again, the former two, as well as the rest of the remaining Scouts and Warriors, realize that the real battle has just begun: the Final Boss fight, if you will. While Armin takes on Eren, Reiner makes for the centipede, but not before the creature emits a huge gas cloud right in front of Fort Salta. Connie realizes, too late, that the gas is the same kind that Zeke used to turn the Ragako villagers into ticking Titan time bombs. This means that everyone in the area, apart from Ackermans, Shifters and those that aren't Subjects of Ymir, will become a Titan at any moment.
While Levi forces Pieck and Mikasa to once again board Falco's flying Jaw Titan and assist Armin and Reiner, Jean and Connie watch on -- arms slung around each other's shoulders -- and, in a moment of gallows humor, Connie lays the blame on Jean for getting them "stuck with the job of saving the world." The next time we see these two veteran characters, they've succumbed to the centipede's gas, leaving Reiner, mustering all of his remaining energy to prevent the parasite from rejoining its host body, to look on in horror as he picks out their faces (along with Gabi's) in the Titan horde around him.
Just when we thought Connie and Jean had gotten a Get Out of Jail Free card, Attack on Titan does what it does best (or worst) and deals them the cruelest hand imaginable. At present, neither of these beloved Survey Corpsmen are dead but unless they, along with Gabi, each consume a Shifter, they will be trapped in Titan bodies forever, or killed by their friends. The only other glimmer of hope is the possibility that killing the centipede will, in turn, eliminate the Titan curse in all Eldians -- restoring them back to human form. While it is a well-worn cliché in fantasy media, fans will probably forgive Isayama for indulging in it if it means Connie and Jean can get the happy ending they deserve.