Attack on Titan’s Zeke is placing his trust in Eren Yaeger, and while he might not realize it, this leap of faith reveals his biggest weakness.
With Zeke placing his complete and utter trust in Eren Yaeger, Attack on Titan reveals that even Beasts have weaknesses. Every character in the world of Attack on Titan occupies a moral gray area, but Zeke Yaeger is a complex man, even by those standards. A master of the “long game,” Zeke was the heir to Eldia’s royal line and the son of a Restorationist, whose mother and father intended would infiltrate the Marleyan army by becoming a Warrior Candidate. Alas, a young Zeke sold his parents out to protect himself and his grandparents. Finding an adoptive father figure in Mr. Ksaver (the former Beast Titan), Zeke resolved to end Eldian suffering permanently by reclaiming the Founding Titan and using its power to sterilize his race.
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Zeke’s genocidal plan must first overcome a hurdle put in place by King Fritz many years prior – the vow of renouncement that restricts royals from drawing out the Founding Titan’s full power. Because of Fritz’s vow, Zeke needs a non-royal Eldian to possess the Founder while he unlocks Ymir’s abilities with his DNA. His partner can then put the plan into motion, euthanizing all Eldians by removing their ability to reproduce. As Ksaver stresses, this person must be someone Zeke trusts without question, as they will be the one giving the fateful command. Despite holding the respect of many fellow Eldians in the military, Zeke chooses his brother, Eren Yaeger, and this decision reveals his biggest flaw.
By any metric, Zeke trusting Eren is a bad idea. Despite having the same father, the Yaeger brothers experienced wildly different upbringings. Eren was loved by Grisha, while Zeke was mistreated; Zeke sent his own parents to their deaths, whereas Eren watched his mother and father die; Zeke enjoyed a relatively comfortable life as one of the Nine Titans, while Eren lived in constant fear of his home being squashed by a giant naked monster. Moreover, Eren and Zeke know precious little about each other, only talking in person a handful of times, and for Zeke to trust a relative stranger is totally out of character. Until now, Zeke has been a strategic mastermind in Attack on Titan. He deceived the Marleyan military, and tricked Paradis islanders into drinking his spinal fluid. He’s also traditionally distrustful of others – subtly indicating to Reiner when Marley officers are bugging conversations, and even managing to escape Levi’s watchful eye. Why does Zeke drop his guard when it comes to Eren?
It doesn’t take a psychologist to see that Zeke’s issues stem from childhood. As a young boy, Zeke longed for affection from his parents, but Grisha and Dina (the former especially) saw their child only as a tool for restoring the Eldian Empire. Zeke spent his childhood feeling worthless and unloved, but upon learning that Grisha conceived another son on Paradis Island, Zeke finally began to feel hopeful. After hearing about Eren, Zeke believes his brother will understand the pain he went through, the pressure of being Grisha’s son, the loneliness of having an absent father, and how heavy the burden of “Eldia’s future” can be. Zeke should recognize that Eren has a catalog of different reasons to betray him, but the Beast Titan’s desire to find a sympathetic blood relative clouds his usually sharp judgement.
Whether Zeke’s trust in Eren really is misguided remains to be seen. The outcome won’t be revealed until the brothers finally make physical contact in Shiganshina. But there’s no question that Zeke is taking an illogical, emotionally-driven risk. Had the Beast Titan not been beset with daddy issues, he might’ve realized that stealing the Founding Titan from Eren and giving it to long-time friend like Colt or Reiner might’ve been a safer bet. Instead, Zeke took it upon himself to “save” Eren from the shadow of their father and leave his controversial sterilization plan in unpredictable hands. Will he come to regret that choice as Attack on Titan heads into its endgame?
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