'Attack on Titan' Season 3 Starts With a Murder Mystery in "Smoke Signal"

Laying the groundwork for a more political story.

Season 3 of everyone’s favorite giants vs. humans anime kicked off with a grisly murder mystery. After being put into protective custody by Hange Zoë after the events of Attack on Titan Season 2, Pastor Nick was tortured and murdered. The identity of his assailants and the enigmatic serial killer they’re probably connected to set the stage for a greater conspiracy and conflict that’ll last all season.

Spoilers follow for the Attack on Titan Season 3 premiere: “Smoke Signal”

There’s nary a Titan in sight throughout all of “Smoke Signals,” except for a botched experiment midway through during which Eren tries and fails to transform fully into his Titan form. Hange Zoë crying for someone to sketch Eren’s skinless face is prime Attack on Titan macabre humor, but it’s shortlived as the premiere prefers political intrigue to outright action.

Pastor Nick, the Order of the Walls priest who gave the gang information in Season 2, had been in protective custody at the Trost District military barracks. Hange Zoë learns that he’s been tortured and murdered by the military police, but why would the crown want information from Pastor Nick?

Captain Levi and Pastor Nick in 'Attack on Titan' Season 2.
Captain Levi and Pastor Nick in 'Attack on Titan' Season 2.

For reasons that still seem murky, the central government wants both Eren and Historia (formerly Christa) — Eren for his power and Historia probably because she has a claim to the throne as the illegitimate child of Rod Reiss. The Season 3 premiere spends a lot of time catching the viewer up on these sometimes barely comprehensible political machinations while avoiding action.

Acting on behalf of the crown, those soldiers tortured Pastor Nick hoping to find out where they could find Eren and Historia. This is why Captain Levi has everyone hiding out in a remote cabin when Season 3 starts.

All of this sets the stage for a new kind of warfare in Attack on Titan Season 3 that pits the Scout Regiment against the rest of the military.

Levi moves everyone back to Trost District, where they let Jean and Armin pose as Historia and Eren to bait and track amateur kidnappers. Mikasa gets a badass moment taking the captors down, but the episode ends with a surprise attack from Kenny the Ripper, who easily kills Nifa and almost gets Captain Levi as well.

Kenny the Ripper in 'Attack on Titan' Season 3.
Kenny the Ripper in 'Attack on Titan' Season 3.

Levi claims to have lived with Kenny the Ripper when he was younger, and he explains that Kenny slit the throat of over 100 members of the military police in his career of murder. But because he was so good at avoiding capture, he’s regarded as an urban legend.

It’s not immediately clear in the anime, but Kenny is also a member of the military police working for the crown. His short-term goal is to capture Historia and Eren and to eliminate Levi and the rest of his squad. And if there’s anybody that could compet with Levi in terms of skill, it’s this guy.

Attack on Titan Season 3, Episode 2, “Pain” airs on July 29.

Media via Funimation