Back in episode 22 in Season 3 of Attack on Titan, fans were left confused and intrigued by one particular moment.
During the memorial ceremony where each of the surviving scouts are receiving their medals from Queen Historia, our main hero Eren Jaeger is wondering what to do now that they know the truth about what is beyond the Walls.
While reflecting on this, Eren receives his medal from Queen Historia and kisses her hand as part of the ceremony protocol – there is a flash of static, and we see a flashback of Eren’s father Grisha Jaeger pleading with the then holder of the Founding Titan, Frieda Reiss, to kill all the titans that were at the time flooding through the break in Wall Maria.
Suddenly, the flashback is gone – and we see Eren frozen and mimicking his father’s desperate facial expression. Everyone is confused – including the audience.
What just happened to Eren – and what did he just see?
If you want to learn more about what happened in this very moment with Eren and how it affects the future of Attack on Titan, then we will go into detail about what happened, why, and what it means for our favorite characters.
However, beware – there are major spoilers ahead for the manga and the potential ending of the final season of Attack on Titan.
So…What Just Happened?
So Eren kisses Historia’s hand during the medal ceremony and receives a flashback of his father Grisha confronting the royal family.
Eren already knew that on the night the titans broke through Wall Maria, his father went to the royal family to steal the power of the Founding Titan, the most powerful Titan Shifter.
This was revealed earlier in Season 3 by Rod Reiss, who also revealed that Grisha attacked Frieda Reiss and stole her Founding Titan ability by devouring her.
Eren was distraught after learning his father had murdered Historia’s whole family, but by the time he kisses Historia’s hand, he has already come to terms with this.
What is new in this anime flashback is Grisha’s dialogue.
The dialogue reveals that Grisha’s entire plan was not to kill the royal family and take the Founding Titan like Eren and the others were previously told. Grisha Jaeger had first pleaded with Frieda Reiss to use the Founding Titan to put an end to the titans but Frieda Reiss, the holder of the Founding Titan, refused.
This is because she was bound by her ancestor’s ideology.
When the previous king Karl Fritz first erected the walls, he believed that his people (other Subjects of Ymir and people of Eldian descent) deserved to die for having the ability to turn into titans and their history of exploiting that ability to conquer the world.
So, every one of his descendants who inherited the Founding Titan also inherited his ideology – that the titans beyond the walls should exist, so they could one day kill all the people within the Walls, wiping Eldians from existence.
So, Frieda could not use the Founding Titan to stop the titans from killing more people.
We know from previous information that Grisha then transformed into the Attack Titan to battle Frieda and steal the Founding Titan’s ability to try and stop the titans himself.
Of course, the Founding Titan could only be used by someone of royal blood so Grisha, once he inherited the Founding Titan’s powers, could not use it either.
So the new information revealed in this scene is that Grisha’s original plan was to ask first, then steal the Founding Titan.
The issue is that this new information does not explain Eren’s reaction.
When we see Eren after the flashback, he looks very emotional. His facial expression is exactly like his fathers, suggesting a very strong connection between the two. Eren looks angry, distraught, and horrified all at the same time over some information that is fairly insignificant at this point.
So is there something else that went on there? Is there something more that the anime did not show us?
The Attack Titan’s Abilities
The rest of this article will contain serious anime spoilers. Unless you have completed the manga and seen the finale of Attack on Titan Season 4, do not keep reading if you don’t want the final ending spoiled.
Then let’s dive on into what Eren really saw when he kissed Historia’s hand.
Eren Jaeger is the current holder of the Attack Titan and the Founding Titan, two of the nine Titan Shifters. Eren has a lot of powerful potential and both the Attack Titan and the Founding Titan have their own unique abilities beyond just transforming into super strong giants with regenerative health.
The Founding Titan, as we know, has the ability to control titans but due to Karl Fritz’s ideology, those who share his royal bloodline cannot use this power and neither can anyone who does not have royal blood themselves.
Eren is able to use this ability when he comes into physical contact with someone with royal blood, like with Historia.
However, the Attack Titan also has its own unique abilities.
While all Titan Shifters have the ability to see the memories of the previous holders of their titan, the Attack Titan also has the ability to see the future memories of Attack Titan holders yet to come. This explains how Eren Kruger, the Attack Titan holder before Grisha, recognized the names Armin and Mikasa when neither had even been born yet. Eren Kruger had seen Eren Jaeger’s future memories before Eren Jaeger had even been born.
So, Eren also has the ability to see the future.
When Eren came into contact with Historia’s hand, he saw more than just his father pleading with Frieda Reiss to use the Founding Titan.
This is because the flashback seen in this Season 3 finale is still only a fragment of the whole event – but Eren saw the whole thing and was left disgusted by not only what had happened, but what he will do in the future.
The Truth Revealed
When Eren kissed Historia’s hand – he saw the whole events of that night when his father took the Founding Titan’s ability.
He saw, just like we did, Grisha pleading with Frieda to use the Founding Titan’s power.
What the flashback did not see was the rest of what Eren saw – Frieda refusing, explaining her ideology, and Grisha using the Attack Titan’s power to look into Eren’s future memories to discover that even if he did steal the Founding Titan, Grisha would not be able to use it.
Despite this, Grisha still vows to end the royal bloodline and steal the Founding Titan anyway – but he falters at the last moment, unable to kill all of Frieda’s innocent young siblings.
Eren sees what happens next – Grisha seeing the future memory of another Eren, an older Eren with long hair, encouraging Grisha to kill them all and take the Founding Titan anyway.
A future Eren uses the Attack Titan’s ability to send a message to his father, reminding him of his deceased sister and wife, and orders him to kill Historia’s family and steal the Founding Titan.
So in that flashback, current Eren sees the truth – that it was not his father who was responsible for stealing the Founding Titan, but it was Eren himself.
And that’s not all.
Future Eren also showed Grisha the future Eren will create using the Founding Titan’s powers. Future Eren showed Grisha that he will one day use the Founding Titan’s power to cause the Rumbling. He will awaken the Colossal Titans sleeping in the Walls and use them to crush 80% of the world, killing millions of people.
And by unlocking his father’s memories, Eren also saw the memories of his future self that had been shown to his father using the Attack Titan’s ability.
So when Eren kissed Historia’s hand in the Season 3 finale, what he really saw was his future self ordering his father to kill innocent children and steal the Founding Titan’s ability, so he could use it himself in the future to activate the Rumbling, and kill 80% of the world’s population.
Eren saw himself committing mass genocide on a mind-blowing scale and use his time-altering abilities as the Attack Titan holder to ensure it would happen.
That is why Eren’s face is so shocked and horrified – it is not just him reacting to something his father had done, he was reacting to his own future actions.
But why didn’t Eren change to the future if he was so disgusted?
Because before Eren unlocked his father’s memories of the future, he was concerned about the future of his friends. They had just discovered that they were not the last remnants of humanity, but instead the rest of humanity wanted them dead for who they were.
Outgunned and outmanned, there was no way they could fight for their right to live and survive – so Eren was shown the answer to survival through his future memories.
The only way for his friends to live freely and survive was to use the Rumbling to kill all of their oppressors: the rest of the world.
Even though he did not like the answer, Eren was prepared to do anything to keep his friends safe – including killing millions of innocent people.
So, Eren kept the vision a secret and told no one, ensuring that the future genocide would happen.
This short yet impactful scene is probably very easy to miss or underestimate at first, but it is actually far more important than anyone could imagine. This is the moment Eren Jaeger switches from the hero of the story to its most dangerous and ultimate villain.